POETRY OF SENSIBILITY
The poetry of sensibility can be considered as a forerunner to Romanticism. It contains elements of both Neoclassicism and Romanticism. Like Neoclassicism, it sticks to the form and special style of language but is against rationalism espoused by the Enlightenment. This kind of poetry tends to evoke sympathy in readers talking about deep emotional, moving experiences of human life.
Nature, feelings, and sense perception are of great importance. It often contains reflections about death. It can be said that poetry of sensibility opened people’s eyes to the beauty of nature. Representatives of this poetry are James Thomson (Winter), Thomas Gray(Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard), Oliver Goldsmith (The Deserted Village), George Crabbe (The Village), Robert Burns (To a Mouse), and William Blake (Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience).
Romanticism was an international artistic and philosophical movement proceeded by Neoclassicism (the Age of Enlightenment) and inspired by French Revolution. It was a breakaway from tradition and conventions. The beginning of the Romantic Period was marked by Lyrical Ballads (1798) and it lasted to 1832(death of Sir Walter Scott), internationally even to 1870.
Romanticism redefined people’s view of self and the world. In its works, it echoed fears, hopes, and aspirations of middle and low-class people (and not aristocracy anymore). Romanticism had a very personal viewpoint on the world (subjectiveness). Individual and its place in the world becomes one of the central themes. For Romantics, imagination is the supreme faculty of the mind.
It is the source of inspiration and creative power; it enables humans to reconcile the oppositions in the world. Nature was the work of art created by divine imagination; it was a healing power offering escape from civilization, industrialization, and artificiality. Romantics considered nature as organic (and not a system of mechanic laws like by rationalists).
In the desire to express ‘’the inexpressible’’ they often used symbolism and mythology. They emphasized the importance of intuition, instincts, and feelings (and not logic and reason) in act of creation, as Wordsworth said, ‘’all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings’’. The Romantics illuminated the inner world.
Poetry was very personal and subjective, it talked about the internal journey and the development of the self, which made the artist a hero, the speaker, and the poet was one. The romantic hero was an outcast or overachiever. There was also a special type of Romantic hero – the Byronic hero (based on Byron’s semi-autobiographical work Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage).
Romantics were also interested in the exotic in time (e.g. the Middle Ages) and place (far-away countries), the supernatural (Gothic genre), and in developing the folklore, culture, language, customs, and traditions of their own country.
They used simple, everyday, local-colored language. They liked to experiment and mix genres. The Romantic artist in society was either socially and politically conscious or influential & living a withdrawal life. The most important English Romantics were Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats.