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Romantic Era Essay, Research Paper


When we think of romance or romantic we often associate the term

with love. People talk about how they want their significant others to be

more ?romantic?. But what does the term ?romantic? really mean. Does it

mean giving flowers, spending an evening alone by candlelight, bringing

home extravagant gifts, or reciting beautiful poetry. Within today?s

society it can mean any one of those things and many more. But in the

late eighteenth, early nineteenth century (1780-1830)Romance was

considered something different altogether. To the Romantics of this era

romance was a way of life. It was their whole life. Romance was their

way of expressing themselves to the fullest as they rejected the old ways

and ideas. This is a far cry from our idea of romance today.

The Romantic Era, otherwise known as the Age of Emotion,

represented a radical reaction to the political, social, intellectual, and

artistic climate of the 18th century, which saw itself as the Age of Reason.

It was a reaction against a view of the physical world increasingly

dominated by science, and a rebellion against the emphasis on the material

and on ?common sense?. Romantics believed that their real links were

with Nature rather than with the urban social existence. This was one of

the many qualities that set the Romantic poets apart from earlier poets.

In Nature they saw beauty, and out of this came their inspiration. Each

Romantic poet tended to have his own individual views on Nature. For

some Natures inspiration was subject matter in and of itself. Others

gave Nature moral qualities, while still others used Nature as a means of

discussing their personal crisis. While Nature was often the topic of

poetry for romantics it was Imagination that was the key to their poetry.

The Imagination was no longer just a faculty for creating fictions. For

the Romantics it was a means by which they could communicate truth,

and as different as the poets of this era were they all shared the belief in

the importance of Imagination. What they did not share was the religious

beliefs and social truths of their society. For the first time in English

Literature the poets failed to find Christianity satisfying. Through

Imagination, romantic poets were able to seek out their own concept of

spiritual truth. In actuality Imagination was the key to their existence.

They believed that without it they were nothing, and with it they could

glimpse the inner most secrets of the Universe. It was John Keats that

once wrote ? I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the Heart?s

affections, and the Imagination?. The Romantics fascination with

Imagination also accounts for another of their concerns-childhood. They

believed that children saw things more clearly than adults did. Children

did not have reason, habit, and customs to cloud their innocent minds.

They valued the freshness and immediacy of child like intuition over

adult reasoning and experience. Another favorite subject of the Romantic

poets was the poet himself. Examples of this would be Wordsworth?s The

Prelude, or Byron?s Don Juan. In these poems the poet expressed the

world as he experienced it. For the Romantic artist the individual was a

being of infinite potential. When discussing the Romantic Era we must

remember that the term ?Romantic? itself was not applied to any of these

poets during their lifetime, either by others or by themselves. The

importance of this was that they were not consciously following any

school of thought and not trying to prove any particular theory. The

very essence of the Romantic Movement was not the rebellion against

society, rules, and conformity; the very essence was the poems themselves.

As a society today we have lost the vision, the power of words, and

the imagination the romantic poets once shared. We have distorted the

term romantic to mean something shallow in comparison to what it once

meant. We have, in a sense, become exactly what the romantics fought

so hard against. A society based on materialism, ignoring the beauty of

nature around us. ?Romantic? literature today consists of steamy

romance novels that have little or no imagination. The plot consists of,

Man meets Woman, Man and Woman fight, Man and Women have sex,

Man and Woman realize they are in love, and live happily ever after.

Obviously this is not great Romantic literature, but this is what our

society considers Romantic. At what point did we loose our ability to

appreciate Nature and use our imagination. The Romantic poets were

correct in their assumption that children see things more clearly than

adults do. In their childlike simplicity they are still able to use their

imaginations and explore worlds yet undiscovered. Even the Bible says

to be, not childish, but childlike. But as our society continues circling in

the mad whirlwind of materialism, one day even the child?s imagination

may be no more. The great Romantic poets are long past, their poetry

never to be forgotten, and their passion never to be rekindled.

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