Romanticism Handout

English 203

Dr. Fike



Dates of the Romantic Period:  1798-1832






More dates:









Ways of categorizing the Romantic poets:












Myths about Romanticism:




What Romanticism IS:






Group Exercise:


Does each of the following quotations illustrate the principles of Romanticism that you just learned?  Why or why not?  Work in groups for 10 minutes and see if you can work out an answer.


"The business of a poet," said Imlack, "is to examine, not the individual, but the species; to remark general properties and large appearances.  He does not number the streaks of the tulip, or describe the different shades in the verdure of the forest:  he is to exhibit in his portraits of nature such prominent and striking features, as recall the original to every mind; and must neglect the minuter discriminations, which one may have remarked, and another have neglected, for those characteristics which are alike obvious to vigilance and carelessness."


--Samuel Johnson, The History of Rasselas, Chapter X (1759)



O could I flow like thee, and make thy stream

My great example, as it is my theme!

Though deep, yet clear, though gentle, yet not dull,

Strong without rage, without ore-flowing full.


--Sir John Denham, "Cooper's Hill" (1642)



                                Therefore am I still

A lover of the meadows and the woods,

And mountains; and of all that we behold

From this green earth; of all the mighty world

Of eye, and ear,--both what they half create,

And what perceive; well pleased to recognize

In nature and the language of the sense

The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,

The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul

Of all my moral being. 


--William Wordsworth, "Tintern Abbey" (1798)



Paper Topics:


1.  What is innocence or experience, and how does a particular poem illustrate your definition?

2.  What is Blake saying about nature and imagination.  Focus on a specific poem or pair of poems.

3.  Questions on "London":

        a.  What things in the first two stanzas suggest restriction or control?

        b.  What things relate to blackness?

        c.  What do "blast" and "blight" mean?  What parallels are there?  Why "hearse"?

        d.  How are contraries at work here?




Note:  You will find a helpful summary of the Romantic period at the following website:  One of the key statements you will find there is as follows:  “Romantic poets presented a theory of poetry in direct opposition to representative eighteenth-century theories of poetry as imitative of human life and nature by suggesting that poetic inspiration was located not outside in nature, but inside the poet's mind, in a ‘spontaneous’ emotional response.”