Wordsworth, Blake, Shelly and Other Greats of the Romantic Era Term Paper

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Romantic Era

The years in which the Romantic Era had its great impact -- roughly 1789 through 1832 -- were years in which there were "intense political, social, and cultural upheavals," according to Professor Shannon Heath at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville (Heath, 2009). The beginning of the Romantic Era actually is traced to the French Revolution, and though that tumultuous event was not in England, William Wordsworth and others sympathized with the French Revolution -- at least at the beginning of the Revolution.

The demands for democracy in the Era were manifested through poems that reflected solidarity with principles of "equality and individuality," Heath explains. The principles of fairness and equality were needed in England as well as in France, and Heath suggests that poets were not just responding to revolutions but rather were critiquing English government. According to Giovanni Pellegrino the struggles for democracy and the "political and social problems of the time" in England caused romantic poet to "withdraw into himself indulging in introspection and meditation" (Pellegrino, 2011). Moreover, the "egotism and individualism" of the poet in the romantic period led to a "…constant intrusion of the poet himself into his work," Pellegrino writes. For the first time ever in literature, "the poet spoke of himself, of his joys and fears, of his melancholy and triumphs of his passions and his rebellions" (Pellegrino, p. 2).

Percy Shelly's "Ode to the West Wind"

Shelly used the metaphor of the wind -- and all that it does -- to reflect his passion for reform and revolution. The wind in this poem is the driver for change, and there is no doubt that Shelly was drawn into the consciousness of revolution and change, and in the fourth canto of this poem it becomes clear that the poem is about him, not just about seasons and leaves.
In his first lines he personalizes the poem: "If I were a dead leaf thou mightiest bear; If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee…" and in the fourth canto he uses personal pronouns nine times. In the first three cantos Shelly uses the words "cloud," "leaf," and "wave," as linked to the "wind"; but in the fourth canto those nouns are linked to the poet. He prays that he will be lifted up above the "thorns of life" because he is bleeding. He doesn't mention God but clearly these lines are meant as an appeal to a higher authority: "As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need. Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud! I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed." There cannot be new life without death and rebirth, and he is alluding to the revolutions going on in the world when he mentions the years that have passed and "chained and bowed" apparently refers to the many years people have lived under dictatorships, some imprisoned fighting for freedom.

William Blake's "The Tyger"

The "Tyger" in the Romantic Era uses thirteen questions and appears to be dealing with spiritual issues and issues that were mysterious. Since was considered one of the fiercest and most feared wild animals, so it is reasonable to assume Blake used the Tyger image to make the point that God should be feared. "What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry?" The poet asks. In the minds of people living in England in the Romantic Era who else but God would have an "immortal hand or eye" -- and who else but God would live in the….....

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