Influences of the British Romantics

The Romantic Era saw the emphasis on logical reasoning change to the emphasis on feelings and impulse. Poems became less impersonal and subjective, highlighting imagination. Poetry became a way to express feeling, and not analyse it (like the metaphysical poets). It transformed into a gateway to transcendent experience. And so, the poetry written by famous Romantic poets like William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, talked about the influence Nature had over them and how it made them feel. In “Tintern Abbey”, Wordsworth revisits Nature, explaining how he loves Nature even as a grown man because of the way it captured him when he was younger. Each stanza emitted a different theme, and most importantly, a different mood.

The term “Romanticism” itself entails an idealization of Nature. The beauty seen in Nature is eternal and healing, according to these poets. It comes from the term “romance”, used by poets in France to escape from reality. Wordsworth himself claimed, “I am a worshipper of Nature”. However, this does not mean that Wordsworth is a poet of Nature and only writes poems about Nature. It only means that Wordsworth looks to Nature for inspiration. “Resolution and Independence” is one such poem that displays this quality. Wordsworth focuses on the empowerment he feels through Nature.

Romantics also drew inspiration from other sources. Freedom from oppression and individualism are only a few of these sources. Individualism and freedom of expression was one of the main concepts the Romantics believed in.  Wordsworth repeatedly said that poetry was  “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”. The metaphysical poets, with their emphasis on casuistry and evasive reasoning was different from the Romantic poets, who approached their problems by directing them with their emotions and the healing powers of Nature. Freedom from oppression is another theme recurrent in romantic poetry. W.B Yeats writes in “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death,” where he addresses the hypocrisy of the British use of Irish soldiers in World War I.

Religion influenced the Romantics considerably as well.  Shelley’s “The Necessity of Atheism” and Wordsworth’s” Ode: Intimations of Immortality” are both works that came out during this time. This could be because of the religious atmosphere during that time. The British Church propagated Anglican Christianity, and suppressed all other forms of religion. However, this suppression brought about many other forms of religion and spirituality. Pantheism, or the belief that there is only one all- encompassing God; Atheism were only a few of the alternate forms that rose. Romantics like Shelley questioned the religion of Christianity as well, and he argues that there is no empirical evidence for the existence of God. Wordsworth does not openly talk about religion. Nevertheless, many of his poems show that he may be a follower of Pantheism. In Tintern Abbey, he says that nature is “the anchor of my purest thoughts”, which might reflect the fact that he does not believe in Christianity. Therefore, Nature could be said to be a source of spiritual inspiration to the Romantics as well.