Thesis: Romantic Movement Explored in the Poetry

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¶ … Romantic Movement Explored

in the Poetry of Keats and Shelley

At the heart of Romantic literature is the desire to experience life fully without restraint. Emotion and imagination hold hands in an effort to capture the most subtle essence of being alive and the poets during this literary movement illustrate how significant emotion and imagination are to being alive. When Charles Baudelaire suggests that the word Romanticism is directly linked to modern art because it explores "intimacy, spirituality, color, aspiration towards the infinite, expressed by every means available to the arts," he is correct to aim his comment at the Romantics because they were about so much more than simply writing. In fact, it could be said that the writing was the result of the experience for many of the Romantic poets. Their goal was to experience life completely and writing allows them to not only do this but share their experience with others as well. Two writers that exemplify the Romantic writers are John Keats and Percy Shelley. These poets became intimate with their life experiences and it was their experiences that caused them to see life from another perspective. It did not matter that these experiences seemed trivial. Two poems that represent this notion are Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind" and Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale." Each poem delves into the experience of being alive with an intimacy that represents the poets' desire to enhance the very aspect of being alive.

In Keats' poem, "Ode to a Nightingale," we see the poet experimenting with his sensibilities. The poem relies upon the experience to propel the reader into the poet's mind. Sight and hearing become invaluable tools for the poet as he attempts to be understood through the simple process of witnessing a birdsong. Imagination plays heavily in poem as the poet allows himself to fall hypnotized by the song. The song prompts the poet to consider his life and his identity and it leads him down a path that is not of this earth. The song causes his heart to ache and hit wits to become numbed. The song is leading him to sublime surroundings while he contemplates the beauty of nature. He states, "In some melodious plot/Of beechen green, and shadows numberless, / Singest of summer in full-throated ease" (Keats 8-10), indicating the power of the song to cause him to fall into a dream-like condition. Part of the poet's experience includes the ache that is accompanied with the notion that he is just a man. This thought brings a sense of pain and loss as he realizes that men cannot duplicate this type of song and the best they can do is sit beneath the trees and "hear each other moan" (24). Recognizing that the simplest of things, such as a bird singing, is significant because it is contrast to the busy action of the world. The poet even considers how his imagination could "cheat" (73) him while he listens to the song. Life and death fill the poet's mind as he thinks of an "easeful death" (52) to escape the suffering that plagues the world. He thinks of leaving the world and tells the bird he "will fly to thee" (31) on wings of poetry. Critic Karl Wentersdorf suggests "Ode to a Nightingale" "develops the concept that the idealized situations so often presented in poetry are far removed from the grim realities of life, with its weariness, disappointments, illness, and death" (Wentersdorf). The poet must capture all aspects of the experience, not just the positive, more appealing aspects. The experience is cut short as the bird flies away, leaving the poet to wonder if the experience was real at all. The power of the experience and the expression of every emotion associated with it represent the inquisitive mood of the Romantic.

Shelley's poem, "Ode to the West Wind," is another poem that explores an experience that takes the poet to another realm.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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