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Thread: An Organized Discussion of the Romantics

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    An Organized Discussion of the Romantics

    The purpose of this thread is to create a discussion setting for the study of the Romantics. To allow for an organized and effective discussion we will be imposing the following structure:

    1) The poets will be studied in the order proposed by the user Alexander III, i.e.

    Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, Coleridge, Keats, Blake

    2) Each poet will have a discussion leader, who will be solely responsible for making the selections.

    OrphanPip expressed willingness to lead the discussion on Wordsworth, but I do not know the level of his interest. If he would like he could get the ball rolling, or else we will choose someone else.

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    Original Poster Buh4Bee's Avatar
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    Excellent! Where will the sources come from?

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    Registered User Sebas. Melmoth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ktm5124 View Post
    The purpose of this thread is to create a discussion setting for the study of the Romantics Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, Coleridge, Keats, Blake.

    Okay, you're talkin' early British Romantics there--(as contrasted with German Romantics and later French and British Romantics).

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    in angulo cum libro Petrarch's Love's Avatar
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    An organized discussion on these forums? One that does not eventually morph into a discussion of elitism with frequent references to Harry Potter and Dan Brown, or lapse into oblivion because it is being lead by an absent minded, overworked graduate student? Count me in! I love the British Romantics. Keats is my favorite, but Wordsworth is a close second. I'm happy to join in the discussion whenever the organized ones commence posting.

    "In rime sparse il suono/ di quei sospiri ond' io nudriva 'l core/ in sul mio primo giovenile errore"~ Francesco Petrarca
    "Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can."~ Jane Austen

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    Dance Magic Dance OrphanPip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sebas. Melmoth View Post
    Okay, you're talkin' early British Romantics there--(as contrasted with German Romantics and later French and British Romantics).
    Ya we established that we would be discussing the British Romantics, this has a few advantages, mainly the fact that translations are often not public domain so it is difficult to make the poems accessible to everyone for free.

    @Jersea: For me at least I'll post poems or put a link up for longer stuff.

    OKies since I volunteered to do Wordsworth, I guess I'll jump right in.

    The beginnings of Romanticism in England are often put at the feet of Wordsworth and Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads. When the collection was reprinted Wordsworth provided a preface that explained the philosophy behind the poems.

    The entire preface can be read here for those interested:

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Prefac...yrical_Ballads

    The preface can be summarized into a few key arguments, without going into too much depth. The first is that most suitable subject matter for poetry is the everyday experiences of everyday people. Secondly, he argued that poetry should be written in a language used by real men, distancing himself from the use of rhyme and the other complex trapping of early Augustine poetry. Instead, Wordsworth extols the virtues of rhythm in language and argues that simple, plain language is better for expressing the natural order of things. Thirdly, he says that the basic everyday experiences have to be written about in a way that makes them revealing of human nature.

    There's also a good deal written in the preface about the role of the poet, mainly that poets are special visionary prophets almost. You can read that if you want, but I think it's not too relevant to the Lyrical Ballads. It would be more relevant if we want to discuss the very long autobiographical Prelude.

    Working with the second edition of the Lyrical Ballads from 1800, the best known poems from the work are often called collectively the Lucy poems, "Tintern Abbey" is of great importance too, so I think those will be the poems we'll begin with. If anyone else has suggestions please feel free to give them.

    The first of the Lucy poems in the collection:

    Quote Originally Posted by Strange fits of passion I have known
    And I will dare to tell,
    But in the Lover's ear alone,
    What once to me befell.

    When she I loved looked every day
    Fresh as a rose in June,
    I to her cottage bent my way,
    Beneath an evening moon.

    Upon the moon I fixed my eye,
    All over the wide lea;
    With quickening pace my horse drew nigh
    Those paths so dear to me.

    And now we reached the orchard-plot;
    And, as we climbed the hill,
    The sinking moon to Lucy's cot
    Came near, and nearer still.

    In one of those sweet dreams I slept,
    Kind Nature's gentlest boon!
    And all the while my eyes I kept
    On the descending moon.

    My horse moved on; hoof after hoof
    He raised, and never stopped:
    When down behind the cottage roof,
    At once, the bright moon dropped.

    What fond and wayward thoughts will slide
    Into a Lover's head!
    "O mercy!" to myself I cried,
    "If Lucy should be dead!"
    I think pertinent questions we could ask is if Wordsworth is achieving what he sets out to do according to the Preface. Ignore the fact that Wordsworth complains about the use of rhyme, then chooses to write a ballad, a rhyming form.
    Last edited by OrphanPip; 07-30-2010 at 08:02 PM.

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    Of Subatomic Importance Quark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ktm5124 View Post
    The purpose of this thread is to create a discussion setting for the study of the Romantics. To allow for an organized and effective discussion we will be imposing the following structure:
    Nicely done, ktm. I think you have quite a few posters' interest. Some of them seem half-way intelligent, too. So long as Virgil doesn't come in and screw it up, you should have a good discussion.

    Quote Originally Posted by OrphanPip View Post
    I think pertinent questions we could ask is if Wordsworth is achieving what he sets out to do according to the Preface. Ignore the fact that Wordsworth complains about the use of rhyme, then chooses to write a ballad, a rhyming form.
    The Preface does seem to beg that question. Is Lyrical Ballads really so revolutionary as Wordsworth indicates? I think you've hit on a good starting place OrphanPip, and I'll post a response in a day or two. Right now, I have to go reread the collection. I wasn't expecting the thread to start so immediately, as the idea for it was floated out just a couple of days ago.
    "Par instants je suis le Pauvre Navire
    [...] Par instants je meurs la mort du Pecheur
    [...] O mais! par instants"

    --"Birds in the Night" by Paul Verlaine (1844-1896). Join the discussion here: http://www.online-literature.com/for...5&goto=newpost

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    Good stuff all round.

    The Lyrical Ballads is clearly the best place to start with Wordsworth. Was it was revolutionary as Wordsworth claimed? I think that much of its "revolutionary" nature came to the adverse reaction it received, which caused a few ripples, as opposed to the actual poems themselves. I think that the question of taking "everyday" people as subjects is not really the issue here, the issue is in the mode in which he depicted them, in very reduced language which for many clearly weakens the poetry. For instance Wilde said "there is much in Wordsworth we have to dismiss" which sort of sums up the general opinion and reaction to The Lyrical Ballads pretty well in all respects.

    With that said there is also some good poetry here - as previously mentioned "Tintern Abbey" the best of them them all for me, as well as other bits and pieces of quality. I don't think that anyone was dismissing Wordsworth as a poet at all, just some of the more obviously weaker aspects of his "experiment" and in the mode in which they were delivered.

    I'll certainly contribute later if I may, when I find the time, but I must work and I am absolutely burning for a coffee.

    Oscar Wilde (1854-1900).

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    Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.

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    I hope we may include Michael in the discussion of Wordsworth's poetry. It is moving and compassionate without lapsing into sentimentality.

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    Ah, thank you so much OrphanPip. I am off to a chess tournament right now, but I hope to make a post later tonight or tomorrow.

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    An interestng looking thread. It'll be a good refresher for me. Thanks Ktm and Orphan.

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    in angulo cum libro Petrarch's Love's Avatar
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    Thanks for starting things off, OrphanPip!

    The preface can be summarized into a few key arguments, without going into too much depth. The first is that most suitable subject matter for poetry is the everyday experiences of everyday people. Secondly, he argued that poetry should be written in a language used by real men, distancing himself from the use of rhyme and the other complex trapping of early Augustine poetry. Instead, Wordsworth extols the virtues of rhythm in language and argues that simple, plain language is better for expressing the natural order of things. Thirdly, he says that the basic everyday experiences have to be written about in a way that makes them revealing of human nature.

    There's also a good deal written in the preface about the role of the poet, mainly that poets are special visionary prophets almost. You can read that if you want, but I think it's not too relevant to the Lyrical Ballads. It would be more relevant if we want to discuss the very long autobiographical Prelude.

    Working with the second edition of the Lyrical Ballads from 1800, the best known poems from the work are often called collectively the Lucy poems, "Tintern Abbey" is of great importance too, so I think those will be the poems we'll begin with. If anyone else has suggestions please feel free to give them.

    The first of the Lucy poems in the collection:

    I think pertinent questions we could ask is if Wordsworth is achieving what he sets out to do according to the Preface. Ignore the fact that Wordsworth complains about the use of rhyme, then chooses to write a ballad, a rhyming form.
    Some very good opening questions, and a nice way to start off discussion. I should say at the opening of this discussion that, while I've read a great deal of the poetry from the Romantics, I've done almost no formal study in this period and hadn't read the preface to Lyrical Ballads since my undergraduate years. Like all defenses and generalized manifestos of poetry, I imagine there are many gaps between the theory he maps out on a generalized level in the preface and the practice of his own poetry. Few if any have ever followed their own idealized doctrine perfectly in practice. (This is certainly true, for example of Sidney, who breaks several rules outlined in his Defense of Poesy when penning his own verse.) However, I will start in this post by first bringing up what I think is an historical difficulty in terms of fully coming to grips with the preface, and then thinking through a few of the ways I do see him practicing what he preaches.

    I think the very first thing we would need to know more about in order to properly address OrphanPip's question is exactly what the context of the preface is. Having just re-read it, it's apparent to me that much is defense and/or polemic aimed at a certain way of thinking about and writing poetry that he takes for granted people would be familiar with at the time. Without being a person in the late 18th/early 19th century (or a scholar who has read intensively in that period) to whom it would be clear what he is reacting against, I am finding it difficult to assess exactly what it is he's proposing or to what degree he is or is not succeeding.

    For example, all that talk about prose-like verse seems to be much less about rhyme (which is what we generally think of as making poetry sound like prose) and much more about diction and the sort of words, metaphors and turns of phrase employed. He illustrates the sort of thing he's against more clearly in the appendix to the preface, available here: http://www.english.upenn.edu/~mgamer...s/lbprose.html and quotes a few examples, one of which I'll reproduce here for comparison:

    Quote Originally Posted by Wordsworth
    By way of immediate example, take the following of Dr. Johnson.

    "Turn on the prudent Ant thy heedless eyes,
    Observe her labours, Sluggard, and be wise;
    No stern command, no monitory voice,
    Prescribes her duties, or directs her choice;
    Yet timely provident she hastes away,
    To snatch the blessings of a plenteous day;
    When fruitful Summer loads the teeming plain,
    She crops the harvest and she stores the grain.
    How long, shall sloth usurp thy useless hours,
    Unnerve thy vigour, and enchain thy powers?
    While artful shades thy downy couch enclose,
    And soft solicitation courts repose,
    Amidst the drowsy charms of dull delight,
    Year chases year with unremitted flight,
    Till want now following, fraudulent and slow,
    Shall spring to seize thee, like an ambushed foe."
    [The Ant]

    From this hubbub of words pass to the original, "Go to the Ant, thou Sluggard, consider her ways, and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, 0 Sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep. So shall thy poverty come as one that travaileth, and thy want as an armed man." Proverbs, chap. 6th.
    Thus, in his concern about poetry being composed in the "language of men" he seems to be waging a debate about what might be called high, special or traditional language versus the language of his own times. This is, of course, a debate that crops up frequently across the history of literature, most radically when it came to the shift of the literary and scholarly language from Latin to the various "vulgar" tongues, but also again and again within debates about English poetry. There's a constant back and forth over when drawing on older language, or specialized forms of language is productive and when it is better for a poet to stick to the sort of diction he might expect to hear from people he talks with daily. Within the Renaissance, for example, (my own period of specialization) the 16th century poet, Edmund Spenser, favored forging an English epic poetry filled with conscious archaisms that rooted the language in its own past traditions, while the 17th century poet, John Milton tended to avoid such archaisms in favor of more familiar English words written in blank verse. (Though one is quick to point out, Milton employs these English words using a distinctly Italian/Latinate style of diction that makes his verse sound like anything but common prose of the day.)

    In comparison to some 18th century verse I've read (and again, I'm no expert here) the Lucy poem that OrphanPip posted does seem to be a fairly successful example of a poem that, for the most part, avoids intentionally archaic, artful or contorted diction and syntax within the context of the time in which it was written. Certainly there are few, if any, words that strike me as especially unusual or consciously allusive or artful, and with a few small exceptions the syntactical construction is relatively straightforward even by modern standards. If one ignored the rhyme, one could easily read as prose a stanza like this one: "Upon the moon I fixed my eye all over the wide lea; With quickening pace my horse drew nigh those paths so dear to me." Yes, a prose writer would probably write "I fixed my eye upon the moon" (at least these days. I'm trying to think if "upon the moon I fixed..." would be a more common construction in 18th/19th century prose). However, it's much less contrived than other poetry I've read around the time, and may well have struck contemporaries as significantly more "prose-like." Perhaps someone else on this thread can speak more knowledgeably than I regarding the historical context, however?

    Before signing off, I also wanted to open up one of the other major points he makes in the preface as regards his subject matter. He is very interested in his poems serving a distinct purpose: "to illustrate the manner in which our feelings and ideas are associated in a state of excitement." This seems to be referring to what we often talk about as the great sense of interiority that pervades the Romantic style. In relation to the poem posted and others in the Lyrical Ballads I was especially interested in his premise with regard to poetry "that the feeling therein developed gives importance to the action and situation and not the action and situation to the feeling." This strikes me as a very accurate description of the way a poem like "Strange fits of passion have I known" works. The events in the poem, in which the man is taking a ride through a moonlit scene to visit a beautiful girl he's in love with, are not especially interesting. What grips the reader is those final lines in which the thought comes to him: "If Lucy should be dead!" The poem is constructed in such a way that this fear is presented as an interior feeling that shifts the way we interpret the actions of the poem, which at first seemed to be setting us up for an account of his ride to Lucy's cottage. The reader following this poem with some expectation that the "action and situation" are going to be the interesting part of this poem, that the surprising thing will be something that happens when he and his horse arrive at the cottage, will need to shift gears when the surprise of the poem turns out to be what is going on in the mind of the poem's speaker. The last lines of the poem place an emphasis on feeling and interior thought as the things most important to pay attention to and to grapple with. There is no concrete event that calls for attention and interpretation. Instead there is merely this sense, this fear on the part of the speaker, and it is all the more troubling and effective as a final line than, say, the speaker finding his girlfriend dead because it is unclear whether this is a thought that emerges from some sort of real expectation that she may be dead, or is simply an unfounded anxiety on the part of a man riding through a lonely and suggestive night landscape, or the constant obsession of a mind that's gone a bit over the edge. It makes the reader contemplate the way emotions come about within a person's mind: what motivates, stirs, creates a feeling for someone. The final line also, along with the inimitable opening line, helps to position the group of Lucy poems more generally as poems that will be very much about the feelings of their speaker.

    So there are some thoughts on my end for now. I'll be interested to see what other people post.
    Last edited by Petrarch's Love; 07-31-2010 at 08:47 PM.

    "In rime sparse il suono/ di quei sospiri ond' io nudriva 'l core/ in sul mio primo giovenile errore"~ Francesco Petrarca
    "Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can."~ Jane Austen

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    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    It's funny - before you get jumpy, you mention that you want to look at things in an organized manner, yet you put the poets in a rather awkward order - certainly chronology makes the most sense in this regard... The French Revolution-inspired poets, and the second generation poets have a very different feel - Blake and Wordsworth and Coleridge are like another movement. In all honesty, having participated in poetry bookclubs on this forum, I can say now that the proposed structure will not have enough people to carry it forward, and is overcomplicated - there are maybe only 10 people who really post on the poetry board seriously, and if you have 6 leaders, ultimately the material is rather thin - democratic sort of mutual enjoyment has proven time and again to be the most suitable method of conversation on these boards - it comes down to it being a few friends chatting on a certain poem they each find interesting as being the best moments these forums generally have.
    Last edited by JBI; 07-31-2010 at 10:03 PM.

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    Dance Magic Dance OrphanPip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JBI View Post
    It's funny - before you get jumpy, you mention that you want to look at things in an organized manner, yet you put the poets in a rather awkward order - certainly chronology makes the most sense in this regard... The French Revolution-inspired poets, and the second generation poets have a very different feel - Blake and Wordsworth and Coleridge are like another movement.
    There's a reason for that, people just wanted to change things up rather than put Coleridge and Wordsworth together, and Blake's complexity seems to have scared people into putting him at the end.

    I agree a chronological order is more intuitive, but a variety in the discussion may make it easier for people to keep up with it longer.

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    Organized is such a unfit word... Byron is not exactly akim to Keats or Shelley, who was considerable under influence of french revolution as well. If anyone wants they can link any group of those 6... the contemplative, the rebels, the philosophical, the anti-Pope, drug users, the metaphysics... all will make sense, all will be irrelevant. I also think talking about them without German poetry makes no much sense...

    Anyways, Lyricall Ballads is indeed revolutionary. Somehow, I think of the effect of Duchamps Fountain. The thematic deslocation is very relevant.

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    Dance Magic Dance OrphanPip's Avatar
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    Anyway, do half the people on this forum just troll for threads they can disagree with? For f*ck sake people, discussing specifically English poets makes it so people don't have to buy translations, or struggle to find them online. Moreover, most of the forum members are more familiar with English Romantics. The thread when the thing was being organized would have been the appropriate place to air complaints.

    f.y.i. Organized means it was pre-organized, how this was going to be done was established before hand, how is organized "such an unfit" word. Take your knee-jerk, pedantic responses and shove them. If we were to read every single Romantic, and their influences, we would be at this for years.

    I wanted to leave an opportunity for some other people to post after Petrarch, but it's mostly been the usual Litnet fair of *****ing and moaning about any given thing.

    Petrarch's Love makes some very good points. I think she is right that a poem like "Strange fits of passion have I known" is a lot more prosaic than a lot of other poetry from the period, and Wordsworth himself does a good job of illustrating that its language is much simpler than earlier poems.

    She also makes a good point about the use of the ending with relation to Wordsworth's professed desire to make us contemplate human emotion. My experience discussing that poem with others is that it really does engender a variety of interpretations, we can't help but wonder what's going on in the head of that guy, especially given we know very little about Lucy. I think something similar happens in "She dwelt among the untrodden ways."

    Quote Originally Posted by Wordsworth
    She dwelt among the untrodden ways

    Beside the springs of Dove,

    A maid whom there were none to praise

    And very few to love;


    A violet by a mossy stone

    Half hidden from the eye!

    - Fair as a star when only one

    Is shining in the sky.


    She lived unknown, and few could know

    When Lucy ceased to be;

    But she is in her grave, and, oh,

    The difference to me!
    We're lead to think a bit about what happened to Lucy, but even more so we wonder what the relationship with the speaker was. Lucy is used consistently in the poems as a sort of undefined love interest of the speaker, we learn very little about her, and she is essentially a device used by Wordsworth to explore emotions related to unrequited love.

    For those who want to read the other Lucy poems: "I travelled among unknown men", "Three years she grew in sun and shower", and "A slumber did my spirit seal." A quick google search will find all three easily.
    Last edited by OrphanPip; 08-01-2010 at 02:29 PM.

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