Romantic Period, writers shared an appreciation for nature. Capturing the essence of enjoying nature in writing became of utmost importance for these writers as they focused on emotion and imagination to help them create pleasing literature. We can see these characteristics in Percy Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind,” John Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale,” and William Wordsworth’s “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey.” These poets capture the essence of the Romantic era because they bring attention to nature, pointing toward exploration of human emotion. This combination allowed them to raise awareness of the mind through literature and while literature became the vehicle through which they explored.
In “Ode to a Nightingale,” the poet uses his imagination as he begins to dwell on the nightingale’s song. He experiences powerful emotions as he considers the bird’s song and he feels as though he is losing his identity as he continues to listen. The song stimulates his mind and it makes him consider things otherworldly. The poet says the song makes his heart “ache” (Keats 1) and his it numbs his wits. These things bring the poet into a sublime experience as he sees the pain in beauty through this simple song. The song exists above the trees while men sit beneath such trees only to “hear each other moan” (24). He considers how his own imagination might “cheat” (73) him as loses sense of all time and space listening to the song. This kind of thinking show us the personal emotion the poet brings to the table because it causes him to ponder an “easeful death” (52) to avoid worldly the suffering. He thinks of escaping the world “unseen” (19-20), telling the bird he “will fly to thee” (31) on the light and airy wings of poetry. Here we see how something simple like a bird’s song can capture the imagination and inspire verse.
In “Ode to the West Wind,” Percy Shelley demonstrates characteristics of the Romantic Period because he, too, is reaching for an otherworldly experience. The poet begins with personifying autumn by becoming aware of its “being” (Shelley 1). This being brings forth change and opens the door for a new season. The poet appreciates nature as he verifies the existence of the winds, saying they “Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing” (4). He claims he thoughts resemble “winged seeds” (7) seen through each passing season. The winds symbolize change in our lives and our inability to do much about that change. The West wind might be a fragment of the poet’s imagination as he waits in winter but he knows spring will come and it only takes a piece of his imagination to bring it back to him. It is as if he kept the memory of spring alive in his memory to get him through the winter months. This poem captures how much we can depend on our imagination to help us remember and look forward with hope.
In “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey,” William Wordsworth makes a distinct connection with his mind and nature. Upon revisiting a valley, he realizes how things have changed. The most fascinating thing is how the things that have changed are mainly within him. With age, he discovers a haunting memory that did not exist before. Changes seems to be everywhere when he writes, “The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood, / Their colours and their forms, were then to me / An appetite; a feeling and a love” (Wordsworth 78-80). He realizes how “time has past, / And all its aching joys are now no more” (83-4). These lines tell us that nature has experienced change as well as the poet. Seeing things from a different perspective alters his experience of nature. He says has learned to “look on nature, not as in the hour / Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes / The still, sad music of humanity” (90-91). The poem registers a moment of awakening or revelation for the poet as he realizes that he still loves nature but he must accept the fact that change has occurred. This poem shows us how change affects everything. From our minds to our memories to our experiences, it change is unavoidable yet significant.
The Romantic writers took time to examine their spirits when they studied other things. Their minds were just as important as the world around them. They were especially fond of nature and they wanted to understand it in every way. Through their art, they attempted to grasp the beauty and mystery of nature and couple it with the fascination of their minds. Nature attracted each poet and they were open to the experience, which gave them an opportunity to be and write. They were able to compose because they did not allow the trappings of life to chain them. They gave themselves over to the experience and from that, they were able to create poetry that shows a distinct connection between the body and nature. The Romantics were not of this world; they were creatures of imagination lost in the wonder of nature.
Wordsworth, William. “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey.” The Norton
Anthology of English Literature. Vol I.M.H. Abrams, ed. New York W.W. Norton
and Company. 1986. Print.
Keats, John. “Ode to a Nightingale.” English Romantic Writers. New York: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich, Publishers. 1967. Print.
Shelley, Percy Blythe. “Ode to the West Wind.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature.
Vol. II. New York W.W. Norton and Company. 1986. Print.
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