Essay Enlightenment & Romanticism:
The Relationship between Nature and the Mind in Coleridge’s and Wordsworth’s Poetry
The topic of nature and how it was treated in poetry is one of the most discussed questions when talking about the period of Romanticism. William Wordsworth andmuel Taylor were contemporaries and many critics say, that both share many parallels in their lives as Romantic poets as well as in their private lives; others although claim „that the two men destroyed each other as writers“ (Ulmer, 190). They were the founders of a newfound sensibility in writing, because they turned away from the traditional style of poetry. Instead, especially Wordsworth, introduced a poetic expression that was much more based on simplicity and conventionality using the language of nature (cf. McKusick, 4). This is meant as a language, which is understandable by everybody because it is closer to the common language at that time, but also meant nature as a motif in poetry. Without these two authors it would be hard to understand and comprehend the period of Romanticism.
In this essay I want to describe what the contemporary poets Wordsworth and Coleridge had in common concerning their use of nature in their poetry. First, I will therefore look at the importance of nature in that literary period in general, I will then introduce facts bout Wordsworth’s life and poetry. After that I will examine how Coleridge’s poetry differs from that, to then come a conclusion about these two outstanding poets. For closer analysis I will refer to the poemsFrost at Midnight(1798) bymuel Coleridge andLines composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798by William Wordsworth, which were written in the same year and deal with similar topics.
Nature had become a serious topic of the Romantic period during the Industrial Revolution. Before that, people had looked on nature more as a resource to be harvested rather than as something to respect. But in the 18th century a new middle-class formed itself in the cities. The workers longed for recreation outside of the grey and crowded cities and found the possibility for it in nature (cf. Moore). Romantic poets treated nature in their poems as something adorable and true; they found in it the place for self-realisation and transcendence for their souls.
Wordsworth and Coleridge both centred most of their poems around natural themes. Nevertheless, they acted out of different motivations. While Wordsworth thinks of nature as an essential part of human life, especially in childhood, Coleridge associates the experience in nature as something special, as the ideal in the real, as part of the imagination. The different childhood of these two poets underlie this attitude.
In the following I will refer to this poem by using the short version „Tintern Abbey“ only.
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- Jana Brueske (Autor), 2009, The Relationship between Nature and the Mind in Coleridge’s and Wordsworth’s Poetry, München, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/156596