The Romantic Philosophy In The Poetry Of William Wordsworth And Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Project and Seminar Material for Philosophy

The Romantic Philosophy In The Poetry Of William Wordsworth And Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Chapter One

1.0 Introduction

The early Romantic period coincides with what is often called the “Age of Revolutions” including of course, the American (1778) and the French (1789) revolutions an age of upheavals in political, economic and social traditions. The age which witnessed the initial transformations of the industrial revolution.

The take off of Romantic Movement in English Language is set in the year 1798 when William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, publish of their poem called “Lyrical Ballads”. Though, these two lake-side poets wrote the poetic book, they have different view of the way poetry is seen, unlike William Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge had an inspiration towards the supernatural, the mystic and the occult.

A revolutionary energy was also at the core of Romanticism, which quite consciously set out to transform not only the theory and practice of poetry (and all art) but the very way we perceive the world. Some of its major precepts have survival into the twenteth century and still affect our contemporary period.

Romantic writers generally see themselves as reacting against the thought and literary practices of the preceding century. The Romantist’s major subject matter is the beauty and satisfactions derive from nature. Romantists believe in naturalism and realism in the place of morality. They believe that man should not be conformed or stereotyped to one norm of code rather derive pleasure from what he derive from nature. Be that as it may, more emphasis is not laid on the thematic study of Romantic poetry rather that the beauty is derived in its form following the theory of arts for art’s sake.

“Nature” meant many things to the Romantics, it was often presented as itself a work of art, constructed by a divine imagination, in emblematic language, for example, throughout “song of myself”, Whitman makes a practice of presenting common place items in nature… “ants”, “heap’d stones”, and “poke-weed” as containing divine elements and he refers to the “grass” as a natural “hieroglyphic”, “the handkerchief of the lord”. While particular perspectives with regards to nature varied considerably; nature is perceived as a healing power, a source of subject and image, a refuge from the artificial constructs of civilization, including artificial language, the prevailing views accorded nature the status of an organically unified whole. It was viewed as “organic”, rather than as in the scientific or rationalist view, as a system of “mechanical” laws, for romanticism displaced the rationalist view of the universe as a machine (e.g., the deistic image of a clock) with the analogue of an “organic” image, a living tree or mankind itself. At the same time, Romantics gave greater attention both describing natural phenomena accurately and to capturing “sensuous nuance” and this is as true of Romantic landscape painting. Accuracy of observation, however, was not sought for its own sake. Romantic nature poetry is essentially poetry of meditation.

1.2 Purpose of the study

The purpose of this research work is to introduce to the reader what Romantic poetry is all about. The researcher aims at portraying critically the works of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge as they are both Romantic and emotional writers. The product of imagination and emotion will be showed in their poetry. These two poets championed the values of human being politically and value-wise. The writers store for freedom of thought without any act of selfishness.

The Study also focuses on the age of Romanticism and its impact in the society. It showcases the power of nature on man with reference to William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge selected poems.

1.3 Scope of THE study

This research work will be limited to the major ideas of the Romantists based on nature, the nature of poetry of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, selected poems of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge will be analysed.

1.4 Justification of the study

This research work is embarked upon to show the natural essence of the Romantic writers. Romantic writers as it can be seen in the poetry of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge finds happiness in isolating themselves from this world to the other world of nature full of peace, joy, happiness, health, love and sympathy. To them, the only source of comfort is a nature.

There have been researchers on issues and topics relating to nature but this study is showcasing the element of nature in the poetry of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge as they are both lover of nature.

1.5 Methodology

The researcher will source for materials from libraries and internet. The major study is taking a critical look at selected poetry of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge based on the writing of the Romantics and their ideology.

The theory to be used for this research work is “The Romantic Theory” as both poets are Romantic writers.

Romanticism emphasized intuition, imagination and feeling, to a point that has led to some Romantic thinkers being accused of irrationalism. Romanticism focuses on nature: a place from society’s judgement and restrictions. Romanticism blossomed after the age of rationalism, a time that focused on handwork and scientific reasoning.

The Romantic Movement developed the idea of the absolute originality and artistic inspiration by the individual genius which performs a “creation from nothingness” this is the so-called Romantic ideology of literary authorship which created the notion of plagiarism and the guilt of derivativeness. This idea is often called “Romantic Originality”. The Romantic Poets’ turned their beliefs on originality into “The institution of originality”. The English poet John Milton, which lived in the 17th Century, was part of the origin of the concept.

1.6 Authorial Background Of William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

William Wordsworth was born in 1770 at Cockermouth in Cumberland. He grew up in the Lake District, the beautiful area of mountains, lakes and streams near the Scottish borders in North West England. The natural beauty and grandeur of this area was a major source of inspiration for Wordsworth throughout his life.

His mother died when he was eight and his father died when he was thirteen. Like his friend Samuel Coleridge, Wordsworth was denied the blessing and comfort of a happy home. The considerable sum of money left to the children was withheld for some years for legal reasons, but William Wordsworth was nevertheless able to attend Cambridge University in 1787, where he found the curriculum boring. In 1790, he made a tour through France to the Alps with a fellow student travelling on foot like a peddler. He witnessed the Great Revolution of 1787-1890 in France.

In 1802, Wordsworth finally inherited the money let to him by his father and married a childhood friend from the Lake District, Mary Hutchinson.

Disaster followed in 1802, his favourite brother, John, a ship captain was drowned at sea. In 1810, the friendship between Wordsworth and Coleridge was broken by an open quarrel. Offsetting the sadness of these middle years however was the steady growth of Wordsworth reputation as a poet.

William Wordsworth’s major work was his autobiographical poem titled “the prelude” completed in 1805. He continued to make changes and it was not published until his death.

William Wordsworth died by re-aggravating a case of pleurisy on 23 April, 1850, and was buried at St. Oswald’s Church in Grasmere. His widow Mary published his lengthy autobiographical poem to Coleridge as the prelude several months after his death.

1.7 Authorial Background Of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born on 21 October 1772 in the country town of Ottery St. Mary, Devon, England. Samuel’s father, the Reverend John Coleridge (1718-1781) was a respected vicar of the parish and headmaster of Henry VIII’s Free Grammar School at Ottery. After the death of Samuel’s father, he was sent to Christ’s Hospital, a charity School founded in the 16th century in Greyfriars, London where he remained throughout his childhood, studying and writing poetry.

Throughout life, Coleridge idealized his father as pious and innocent, while his relationship with his mother was more problematic. His childhood was characterized by attention seeking, which has been linked to his dependent personality as an adult. He was rarely allowed to return home during the school term, and this distance from his family at such a turbulent time proved emotionally damaging. He later wrote of his loneliness at school in the poem “Frost at Midnight”. He attended Jesus College, Cambridge from 1791-1794. In 1792, he won the Browne Gold Medal for an Ode that he wrote on the slave trade.

In 1798, Coleridge and Wordsworth published a joint volume of poetry, “Lyrical Ballads” which proved to be the starting point for the English Romantic Movement.

In 1800, he returned to England and shortly thereafter settled with his family and friends at Keswick in the Lake District of Cumberland to be near Grasmere, where Wordsworth had moved. Soon, however, he was beset by marital problems, illnesses, increased opium dependency, tensions with Wordsworth and a lack of confidence in his poetic powers, all which fuelled the composition of dejection: An Ode and an intensification of his philosophical studies. He died in 1834 on the 25 of July in Highgate.

The Romantic Philosophy In The Poetry Of William Wordsworth And Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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