Characteristics of Romantic Poet Essay

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¶ … Romantic poet

The Characteristics of the Romantic Poet

Among the aspects of the Romantic Movement in England may be listed: sensibility; primitivism; love of nature; sympathetic interest in the past, especially the medieval; mysticism; individualism; romanticism criticism; and a reaction against whatever characterized neoclassicism." -- Holman and Harmon, Definitions from a Handbook to Literature, Sixth Edition.

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Simply reviewing this listing of the characteristics of the Romantic Movement in English literature demonstrates how the characteristics of the movement and perhaps equally importantly the assumed persona of the Romantic poet might be so attractive to a member of the Harlem Renaissance. First and perhaps foremost, the intense primitivism of Romanticism, which in England manifested itself in an idealization of the pastoral, made a profound claim for the validity of a black man or woman to 'speak' even if he or she was not part of the conventional European tradition. In the "Negro Speaks of Rivers" like Langston Hughes, the 'voice' of the Negro poet assumed by the author, is eternal, and waxes eloquent upon his purer, primitive life and connection to nature that seems to make him, by implication, a more 'authentic' American than the American status whites who oppress him: "I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep./I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it./I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln/went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy / bosom turn all golden in the sunset."

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This primitive sense of always having 'been there,' but having been eternally ignored is also seen in "Negro," when Hughes declares: "when the grand clock stops, undoubtedly so will you," regarding the history of his 'race.' Hughes' sense of alienation from the tradition of wealthy, European poets is also more defiant, but still commensurate with the 20th century Irish primitivist W.B. Yeats' declaration for the Irish poor in: "He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven": "I, being poor, have only my dreams;/I have spread my dreams under your feet;/Tread softly because you tread on my dreams." second characteristic common to European Romanticism is that of a melancholy lack of hopefulness about the future. This is clearly seen in the Irish Yeats poem quoted above. Yet Langston Hughes declares in the "Negro Mother": "All you dark children in the world out there, / Remember my sweat, my pain, my despair." However, Hughes, rather stewing in misery about the past says: "Look ever upward at the sun and the stars." Thus, the European Romantic posture of melancholy and looking at the purer, better past, is tempered by the knowledge that the oppression African-Americans experience in the present, in America is less hurtful than it was before.

Thus the essential, third quality of alienation from present-day society and history of the Romantic subject, self-consciously assumed by early noble British Romantics like Lord Byron and Percy Shelley, was real and unwilled by black men like Langston Hughes but also viewed in a less despairing light. The hopeless alienation characteristic of white Romantic subjectivity was still manifested as late as Robert Frost, a 20th century American poet with an intense romantic sensibility. When musing if the world will perish by fire or ice, Frost writes: "I think I know enough of hate / to say that for destruction ice/Is also great/and would suffice." The poet Frost, assuming a Romantic posture of alienation, envisions the destruction of the world, either by fire or ice, but for Hughes, although this alienation is adopted in "The Negro Mother," because blacks have been set free from bondage, this is a sign, however tenuous, that hope exists even in a cruel world.

Some 20th century white authors, like… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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