William Wordsworth’s Ode on Intimations of Immortality

English: Google books. Poem's title page from ...

English: Google books. Poem’s title page from volume two, cropped and joined onto one image by User:Ottava Rima. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Wordsworth arranged his poems for publication, he placed the Ode entitled “Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” at the end, as if he regarded it as the crown of his creative life.

The three parts of the Ode deal with a crisis, an explanation, and a consolation, and in all three parts Wordsworth speaks of what is most important and most original in his poetry. The Ode’s unusual form is matched by its unusual language. The stately metrical form is matched by a stately use of words. Wordsworth seems to have decided that his subjects was so important that it must be treated in what was for him an unusual manner, and for it he fashioned his own style. Because the Ode lies outside Wordsworth’s usual range, it doesn’t perhaps realize its ambitious aims. He, who had known moments of visionary splendor, found that he knew them no more, and that is a loss which no poet can take lightly, or however comforting his consolations may be, accept in a calm, philosophic spirit. But Wordsworth was so determined not to surrender to circumstances that he made his Ode more confidant than was perhaps warranted by the mood which first set him to work. Continue Reading: Romantic Era: A Comparative Study on Wordsworth’s Ode on Intimations of Immortality & Coleridge’s Dejection

Are the Romantic Poets, Poets of Nature???

English: Samuel Taylor Coleridge at age 42. Fr...

English: Samuel Taylor Coleridge at age 42. Français : Samuel Taylor Coleridge à 42 ans. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before going into this critical discussion about Romantic poetry, let me briefly introduce romanticism and the theory of romantic poets about poetry.Romanticism comes from “romance” which is the term used by romantic poets in France who relied on their imagination that is able to create a new reality and not as a tool to escape from reality. The stress is on the individual and not on the society (believe in capacities of man). In other words, English Romantics who adopted this movement  believed that there must be a departure of the static (rigid conventions) of the 18th century. This movement is not a sudden  change it is a part of a chain, although French and German poets had a direct influence on the English romantic movement, because poetry is poetry which has roots.

The romantic movement is supported by a certain romantic theory, which backs up the romantic trend. In their theory, English Romantics gave a great importance to imagination (fundamental role). For the English Romantics the belief in imagination was like the belief in individual self. Mind is the central point and governing factor and the most vital activity of the mind is imagination. They believed when they exercised imagination, they partake of the divine activity of God. Romantics combine imagination and truth because their creations are inspired and controlled by a peculiar insight. What matters to the Romantics was an insight into the nature of things. They refused Lock’s (an English philosopher) limitation of perception to physical objects because it robbed the mind of its most essential function (perceive & create). Romantics wanted to explore the world of spirit. Visible things are not everything unless they are related to an embracing power.  They believed that through imagination and insight they could understand the things of spirit and present them in poetry.  Therefore, it was this search of an unseen world which awakened the inspiration of the romantics and made poets of them. In nature Romantic poets found their initial inspiration. It wasn’t everything to them, but they would have been nothing without it.

Coleridge classified imagination onto primary and secondary imagination; they differ only in degree. To Coleridge, poetry is the product of the secondary imagination. He believed that imagination partakes of the divine activity of God. Imagination is related to truth and reality and connected with a special insight. It sees things to which the ordinary intelligence is blind. Coleridge believed that insight and imagination are inseparable; they complete each other. Moreover, Coleridge had a deep trust in imagination as something which gives a shape to life. He believes that nature live in us, and it is we who create all that matter in it. Coleridge is a little hampered by the presence of an external world and feels in some way he must conform to it. But when his creative genius is at work, it brushes these hesitations aside. He thought that the task of poetry is to convey the mystery of life. He was fascinated by the notion of unearthly powers and it was their influence he sought to catch. He believes that life is ruled by powers which can’t be fully understood. The result is a poetry more mysterious.

English: A portrait of William Wordsworth. Thi...

English: A portrait of William Wordsworth. This is apparently an 1873 reproduction of an 1839 watercolor by Margaret Gillies (1803-1887) Deutsch: William Wordsworth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In any study on William Wordsworth’s poetry, we are faced with the following: “He is a romantic poet.” In fact, he is a romantic poet, but when we say “romantic”, the danger lies in   understanding that romantic means: the poet imagines, contemplates, meditates, and creates an illusion. But, when we study William Wordsworth’s definition of poetry, we see that he has to abide to a theory because the poem is a practice of the theory he believes in.  Wordsworth agreed with Coleridge about the distinction between imagination and fancy. He believed that imagination is the most important gift a poet can have; he didn’t relate reason to anything, but he insisted that the inspired insight is itself rational. As for Coleridge’s conception of the external world, Wordsworth disagreed with him. He accepted its independent existence and insisted that imagination must in some sense conform to it. Wordsworth believed that imagination must somehow be related to the external world because that world is not dead but living and has its own soul which is distinct from the soul of man. Therefore, man’s task is to connect with this soul because his life is shaped by nature. Wordsworth also believed that he helped this soul of nature to become closer to man and could show how the external world and the individual mind fits each other. As concerning nature, it was the source of his inspiration. He sought for a state in which the soul of nature should be united with the soul of man.

Many critics say  the following “William Wordsworth is the poet of nature.” However, when we read his poetry, we find out that in many lines he insisted that he is the poet of men. Even when it is a question of nature, if we ask Wordsworth himself, he says: “The mind of man creates half what it sees.” Therefore, when we say that he’s the poet of nature, the risk would be that one may think  he is a poet who describes nature and in that he is diminishing the estimation of Wordsworth because poetry does not describe but create. Many critics think that Wordsworth is a poet of nature because he says: “I’m a worshiper of nature. Accordingly, many readers misunderstand this statement. When critics say that Wordsworth is a poet of nature, they  mislead the readers of Wordsworth’s poetry. Moreover, saying that he is the poet of nature is dangerous because we will think that his poetry is about nature, or it is the mirror of nature. If we consider that the definition is true then the statement is wrong. If poetry is about nature then it is a reflection of nature. However, to Wordsworth nature was the source of his inspiration, and he could not deny to it an existence at least as powerful as man’s . He didn’t go so far as other romantics in relegating reasons to an inferior position. He preferred to give a new dignity to the word and to insist that inspired insight itself rational.

English: Title page from: Wordsworth, William ...

English: Title page from: Wordsworth, William and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Lyrical Ballads, with a few other poems. London: Printed for J. & A. Arch, 1798. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

William Wordsworth repeatedly described all good poetry as, at the moment of composition, “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” Thus, he located the source of a poem not in the outer world, but in the individual poet, and specified that the essential materials of a poem were not external people and events, but the inner feelings of the author, or at any rate, external objects only after these have been transformed or irradiated by the authors feelings. But to Wordsworth, although the composition of poem originates from “emotion recollected in tranquility,” and maybe preceded and followed by reflection, the immediate act of composition must be spontaneous-that is, arising from impulse, and free from all rules and the artful manipulation of means to foreseen ends-if the product is to be a genuine poem. In his Preface to Lyrical Ballads Wordsworth wrote that “I have at all times endeavored to look steadily at my subject”; and in a supplementary Essay he complained that from Dryden through Pope there is scarcely an image from external nature “from which it can be inferred that the eye of the poet had been steadily fixed on his object.” Therefore, because of the prominence of landscape in this period, “Romantic poetry” has to the popular mind become almost synonymous with “nature poetry.” Neither Romantic theory nor practice, however, justifies the opinion that the aim of this poetry was description for its own sake. Wordsworth in fact insisted that the ability to observe and describe objects accurately, although a necessary, is not at all a sufficient condition for poetry, “as its exercise supposes all the higher qualities of the mind to be passive, and in a state of subjection to external objects.” And while most of the great Romantic lyrics – Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey, The Daffodils, and Ode: Intimations of Immortality; Coleridge’s Frost at Midnight, Kubla Khan, and Dejection; Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind, Keats’s Nightingale- begin with an aspect or change of aspect in the natural scene, this serves only as stimulus to the most characteristics human activity, that of thinking. Romantic poems are in fact meditative poems, in which the presented scene usually serves to raise an emotional problem or personal crisis whose development and resolution constitute the organizing principle of the poem and not to describe this natural scene. As Wordsworth said in his Prospectus to The Recluse, not nature, but “the Mind of Man” is “my haunt, and the main region of my song.”

Kubla Khan a Controversial Poem.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kubla Khan
By Samuel Taylor Coleridge

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately Pleasure-Dome decree,
Where Alph, the sacred river ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers was girdled ’round,
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But, oh! That deep, romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill, athwart a cedarn cover:
A savage place! As holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath the waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her Demon Lover!
And from this chasm with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this Earth in fast, thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced,
Amid whose swift, half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail;
And ‘midst these dancing rocks at once and ever,
It flung up momently the sacred river!
Five miles meandering with ever a mazy motion,
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean.
And ‘mid this tumult, Kublai heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

The shadow of the Dome of Pleasure
Floated midway on the waves,
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device:
A sunny Pleasure-Dome with caves of ice!

A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such deep delight ‘twould win me
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome within the air!
That sunny dome, those caves of ice,
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry: “Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle ’round him thrice,
And close your eyes in holy dread:
For he on honeydew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise!”

English: Draft of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's po...

English: Draft of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem Kubla Khan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kubla Khan is a poem written by Coleridge. It is a controversial poem. However, the shortcut is found in the Biographia Literaria in which the critic Coleridge reestablished a concept of poetry. In it, he made emphasis on “asemblance of truth” that is a resemblance of reality. Therefore, he is supposed, as he mentioned in his Biographia Literaria, to make a resemblance of truth which provides or procures the shadows of imagination, the willing suspension of disbelief for the moment of reading the poem which constitutes the poetic faith. Therefore, in the poem, we are supposed to find objects or subjects which look like reality; however, taking in consideration that the world of the poem differs from that of reality.

There is difference between Coleridge and Wordsworth in this issue, for Coleridge criticizes Wordsworth for having too much matter of factness in his poetry. Almost, reality is found in the poetry of Wordsworth, where as Coleridge believes that there must be a resemblance only in the matter of the chosen topics for poetry. Moreover, Coleridge believes that informative poetry such as that of Wordsworth, is a product of fancy. He divides the imagination into two parts: secondary and primary. The primary imagination is that power in man which perceives and recognizes objects; the secondary imagination acts on these initial perceptions to … Continue Reading: Romantic Era: A Critical analysis of Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

A Critical View on William Wordsworth’s poem “The Daffodils”

I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud

I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud (Photo credit: katerha)

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed–and gazed–but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

Deutsch: William Wordsworth 1770-1850 englisch...

Deutsch: William Wordsworth 1770-1850 englischer Poet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All critics believe when they come to study this poem that Wordsworth is describing the flowers. Conventional criticism believe that while he was walking, he came to a bunch of daffodils. They believe that the poem is nothing more than a description. However, I believe that Wordsworth did not meet the daffodils when he wrote this poem, a good poet doesn’t need to see the daffodils to write about them.

In his “Preface to Lyrical Ballad” he says that a poet is not in need for external stimulus so that he could write a poem. This means that whenever we meet a poem, we shouldn’t understand that the poem is the product of a certain definite occasion. Wordsworth may have seen but also he could write the poem even if he didn’t see the daffodils. He can write with or without a stimulus. Seeing the daffodils or not is an external factor and shouldn’t be considered in evaluating the poem. This has nothing with the evaluation of the poem. The first impression about the title is that the first lines would be about the daffodils. In this case it will appear that Wordsworth is describing the daffodils. This is not the function of poetry because Wordsworth say that poetry is the “Spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings recollected at tranquility”. So, the lines are not about the daffodils, and even if they are, the poet is not reproducing nature. The purpose of poetry is never to imitate nature, because if it is an imitation, then it wouldn’t be poetry according to Wordsworth. This is what is conveyed in his preface. “Poetry has no purpose, if there is a purpose, it should be a worthy one”. There are two contradictory cases, either poetry has a purpose or not. If poetry has a purpose, then Wordsworth would be describing, but as proved in the lines, he is not describing the flowers. The worthy purpose is not describing the daffodils, so there is another story behind the title.                                              Continue Reading: Romantic Era: A Critical View on William Wordsworth’s poem “The Daffodils”

The Romantic Age

 

Percy Bysshe Shelley imbibed his radical philo...

Percy Bysshe Shelley imbibed his radical philosophy from William Godwin’s Political Justice. (Amelia Curran, 1819) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Romantic era poetry rejects neoclassicism and the Enlightenment. It is characterized by individualism and subjectivity, emotion, and the pastoral. There is a preoccupation with the poet as genius and the hero’s inner struggles and passions. Although definitions of the term vary, Romanticism continues to exert considerable influence over Western thought and art but should not be confused with contemporary notions of what is romantic. Nearly every country has produced Romantic poets.

A wide-sweeping artistic and philosophical movement that began in the late 18th century in Germany, Romanticism arrived in different countries at different times. The complexity and multiplicity of the movement is reflected in the varied definitions of the term, causing American scholar A.O. Lovejoy to remark that romantic means so many things that it means nothing at all by itself. Although love can be a subject of Romantic era poetry, Romanticism has little in common with what is popularly considered to be romantic.

Generally Romanticism was a reaction to the Enlightenment and continues to exert influence over Western ideas and thoughts. Romantic era poetry exalts the individual; the poet becomes a prophet or moral leader who gives voice to the common man and nature. Rather than adhere to conventional forms, romantic era poetry created new modes of expression and a dynamic language to articulate how a personal experience becomes a representative one of all human experience.

The artist and poet William Blake, who lived i...

Nature is a substantial presence in Romantic era poetry, functioning as a teacher and companion. The poets viewed their art as mediation between humanity and nature and would set their human dramas on her stage. The Romantic wanderer and vicariously the reader would learn his or her place in the universe by journeying through nature’s dark spaces and exotic dream lands. The mysterious, monstrous, and strange are all Romantic era poetic predilections.

Generally Romantic era poetry emphasized intuition and imagination over reason, everyday language over inscrutable poetic form, and the pastoral over the urban. Imagination is the gateway to transcendence, and the poet filters powerful emotions and emotive responses, translating them into an accessible poetic form. The arguably extreme idealism of Romantic era poetry characterized by a search for immortality, perfection, and pure love was often in conflict with the realities of everyday life.

Some of the most well-known Romantic era poets include William Wordsworth, Robert Burns, and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allan Poe, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow are representative American Romantic poets. The movement also included accomplished female poets like Mary Shelley, Mary Robinson, and Charlotte Turner Smith.

English: Cropped portrait of Mary Shelley

English: Cropped portrait of Mary Shelley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Romanticism as a movement lasted well into the 20th century, and its ideals and themes in poetry have yet to completely die out. Aspects of Romanticism can be found in many subsequent movements, including surrealism and French symbolism. Some literary theorists have begun to question the Romantic perception of the poet as a genius and individual creator. Instead, they argue that a poem is part of a web or archive or other texts and the poet is one of a collective of voices limited by the boundaries of language.