Romantici inglesi



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• WilliamWordsworth, A certain colouring of imagination
• Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Poetry and imagination
• Percy Bysshe Shelley, Something divine
• John Keats, The poetical character
William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
A certain colouring of imagination (Poetry and the poet)
Extract from the Preface to Lyrical Ballads
The preface to the second edition of Lyrical Ballads (1800), is considered the Manifesto of English Romanticism. In it Wordsworth expressed a new concept of poetry, which emphasized the authenticity of rustic life, the use of simple language and the importance of emotions and imagination.

According to the content, the text can be divided into four sections:
1. The subject of poetry : The author’s aim was to choose events and situations from common life and to make them interesting through “a certain colouring of imagination”. The subject of poetry is low and rustic life with its elementary but durable feelings.
2. The language: The language of poetry is that commonly used by men though purified from its defects. The writer thinks contemporary poets are remote from common life; they do not share their feelings and opinions with the other men, and express themselves arbitrarily.
3. The poet: Compared with common men, the poet has greater sensibility and enthusiasm, and a great knowledge of human nature.
4. Poetry: Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings. It originates from emotion recollected in tranquillity.
Man and nature are closely connected; nature has permanence in itself, it inspires simple and spontaneous passions and elementary feelings. The poet should aspire to such essentiality, free from the influence of social conventions.
The revolutionary message of the Preface lies in the new concept of poetry.

The process of poetic creation can be summarized into the following steps:
• Sensory experience
• Emotion
• Recollection in tranquillity
• Contemplation of the emotion
• Production of a kindred (=similar) emotion
• Beginning of the poetic composition.

Wordsworth clearly rejects neo-classical poetry. When referring to the new poetry he uses the expression “common life” opposed to the separation from common life of neo-classical poetry.
Simplicity and primary laws of nature of new poetry are opposed to caprice, arbitrariness and fickle tastes of neo-classical poetry.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)
Poetry and imagination from Biographia Literaria (Chapters XIII and XIV)
The aim of the writer is to demonstrate his thesis about poetry and poet’s aim.
The text is a short essay on poetic theory written in a formal, informative, objective and instructive kind of language. The narrator’s voice is inside the text.

These passages contain a short account of the origins of the Lyrical Ballads and the poet’s statement about the existence of a “primary” and a “secondary” imagination.
• Primary imagination is creative and original.
• Secondary imagination is creative, voluntary and vital.

Coleridge gives a definition of fancy: it is a kind of logical faculty, a sort of memory outside time and space; it receives materials, ready made from the law of associations, and aggregates them.

Powers of poetry: poetry is the power of exciting the sympathy of the reader by a faithful contact with nature, and of giving the interest of novelty by means of imagination. The charm given by moonlight or sunset over a familiar landscape is given as an example.

Subject matter of poetry: supernatural incidents, and characters and incidents from ordinary life.

The idea of Lyrical Ballads (comparison between Coleridge and Wordsworth):
Poetry should deal with
Supernatural persons and characters
Things from ordinary life
To give them a semblance of truth
To give them the charm of novelty
Means adopted
The willing suspension of disbelief which is the poetic
Man’s attention is directed to the loveliness and wonders of nature.
Poet’s task: the poet has to bring the soul of man into action with the help of imagination.

Definition of imagination: imagination is put into action by the use of will and understanding and it is controlled by them; it has the faculty of reconciling opposite and discordant qualities.

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)
Something divine, taken from A Defence of Poetry
This extract, taken from A defence of Poetry, deals with the nature of poetry and its relationship to imagination.
The essay A Defence of Poetry was written in 1821 but published only posthumously in 1840. It was originally intended to be a reply to a pamphlet by the novelist Thomas Peacock (1785-1866), The Four Ages of Poetry (1821), where he humorously stated that poetry was useless in an age of scientific progress. What results is something different from a mere answer to Peacock; it is an exalted defence of the honours of poetry and the imagination.

Poetry is “the record of the best and the happiest moments of the happiest and best minds”; its function is to make immortal what is best and beautiful in the world. Moreover, poetry is the expression of the imagination. Unlike reason, which is analytic and mechanical, the imagination is synthetic and organic; it works for man’s moral good and allows a man to put himself in the place of others. Although all men possess imagination in some degree, this faculty is pre-eminent in poets.

The poet is simply a man whose faculties are exceptionally great: he is endowed with the most delicate sensibility. Since he is able to express essential truth in the form of beauty, from which all men of uncorrupted taste receive pleasure, the poet is not only the inventor of the arts, but the law-giver and the founder of civil society. Without him the beauty of order and that of holiness would have never been perceived; and if their beauty had been never perceived, they would never have been desired. The poet is even a prophet, because by seeing the present as it really is, he perceives in it the seeds of the future.
John Keats (1795-1821)
The poetical character, taken from A letter to Richard Wood house (October 27, 1818)
This text is part of a Letter to Richard Woodhouse in which it is used a formal, elevated and abstract kind of language. Keats makes an analysis of “the poetical character”, from which it is possible to grasp Keats’s ideas on the features of the poet.

He makes a distinction between two types of poet.

• The first kind of poet is defined as wordsworthian or egotistical sublime; he is a thing per se and stands alone, that is, his personality is so rich that he projects himself on the world of nature and men.
• The second kind of poet is defined as camelion Poet; he is a person who has no self, no character. He differs from other creatures because he identifies himself with what is darkness and light, what is foul and what is fair, he enjoys opposite characters. He is compared to a camelion, an animal that camouflages with the environment where it is, because they both identify with the surrounding.