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Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851). Leigh Hunt, a close friend, wrote the couplet that sums up Shelley ’ s place in history: And Shelley, four fam ’ d, --for her parents, her lord, And the poor lone impossible monster abhorr ’ d. The Romantic Period (1790-1850)

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Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851)

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Leigh Hunt, a close friend, wrote the couplet that sums up Shelley’s place in history:

  • And Shelley, four fam’d, --for her parents, her lord,
  • And the poor lone impossible monster abhorr’d

The Romantic Period (1790-1850)

For our purposes, the Romantic Period is considered a literary movement that took place in Britain between 1790-1850. It developed, in part, as a reaction to the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was a period that focused on reason, order, balance, harmony, intellect, science, technology, philosophy, and rationalism throughout the 18th century.


Why do these dates define the Romantic Period?1790: publication of Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads 1850: death of Wordsworth


The Romantics focus on:

the self/individual,

the individual experience

` the imaginative,

the irrational,

the personal,

the spontaneous,

the emotional,

the visionary, and

the transcendental.


Characteristics of the Romantics are:

  • deep appreciation of nature and its beauty
  • understanding that the imagination leads to spiritual truth
  • belief in the triumph of emotion and the senses over reason and the intellect
  • focus on the self
  • examination of human personality
  • view of the artist as an individual creator with individual style and creative spirit

William Blake (1757-1827)an engraver and poet

1789 Songs of Innocence

innocence is found in the individual’s childhood

poetry influenced by children's songs, ballads, and hymns

Blake writes about an innocence that can survive horrible conditions (“The Chimney Sweeper”)

1794 Songs of Experience

scathing social commentary (“The Sick Rose”)

many are companion poems to poems in The Songs of Innocence (“The Tyger”)


The Chimney Sweeper

When my mother died I was very young,

And my father sold me while yet my tongue,

Could scarcely cry weep weep weep weep,

So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep.

Theres little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head

That curled like a lambs back was shav'd, so I said.

Hush Tom never mind it, for when your head's bare,

You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair

And so he was quiet. & that very night.

As Tom was a sleeping he had such a sight

That thousands of sweepers Dick, Joe, Ned, & Jack

Were all of them lock'd up in coffins of black,


And by came an Angel who had a bright keyAnd he open'd the coffins & set them all free.Then down a green plain leaping laughing they runAnd wash in a river and shine in the Sun.Then naked & white, all their bags left behind.They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind.And the Angel told Tom, if he'd be a good boy,He'd have God for his father & never want joy.And so Tom awoke and we rose in the darkAnd got with our bags & our brushes to work.Tho' the morning was cold, Tom was happy & warmSo if all do their duty, they need not fear harm. 1789


The Chimney-Sweeper

A little black thing among the snow,

Crying! 'weep! weep!' in notes of woe!

'Where are thy father and mother? Say!' -

'They are both gone up to the church to pray.

'Because I was happy upon the heath,

And smiled among the winter's snow,

They clothed me in the clothes of death,

And taught me to sing the notes of woe.

'And because I am happy and dance and sing,

They think they have done me no injury,

And are gone to praise God and His priest and king,

Who made up a heaven of our misery.'


William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

  • 1798 Lyrical Ballads, With a Few Other Poems
  • His poems were to focus on ordinary life
  • in the “Preface to the 2nd edition,” Wordsworth explains his belief that poetry should reflect common life -- he doesn’t want to use artificial language
  • focus on country life -- a response to the increased corruptions of commerce and industrialization in the cities; he writes about the influence of nature on humans (“Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey”)

The World is too Much with Us

The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,

The winds that will be howling at all hours,

And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;

It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be

A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; (1)

So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, (2)

Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;

Have sight of Proteus (3) rising from the sea;

Or hear old Triton (4) blow his wreathed horn. 1807

(1) Brought up in an outdated religion.

(2) Meadow.

(3) Greek sea god capable of taking many shapes.

(4) Another sea god, often depicted as trumpeting on a shell.


Lines Written in Early Spring

I heard a thousand blended notes,

While in a grove I sate reclined,

In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts

Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link

The human soul that through me ran;

And much it grieved my heart to think

What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,

The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;

And 'tis my faith that every flower

Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,

Their thoughts I cannot measure: --

But the least motion which they made,

It seemed a thrill of pleasure.


The budding twigs spread out their fan,

To catch the breezy air;

And I must think, do all I can,

That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,

If such be Nature's holy plan,

Have I not reason to lament

What man has made of man? 1798


London, 1802

MILTON! thou should'st be living at this hour:

England hath need of thee: she is a fen

Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,

Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,

Have forfeited their ancient English dower

Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;

Oh! raise us up, return to us again;

And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.

Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart:

Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea: 10

Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,

So didst thou travel on life's common way,

In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart

The lowliest duties on herself did lay. 1807


Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)1798 Lyrical Ballads, With a Few Other PoemsColeridge’s poems were to focus on the supernatural -- using the supernatural helps Coleridge get at psychological revelations (inner workings of the mind) (think of “The Rime of The Ancient Mariner”)


IT is an ancient Mariner,

And he stoppeth one of three.

'By thy long beard and glittering eye,

Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?

The Bridegroom's doors are opened wide, 5

And I am next of kin;

The guests are met, the feast is set:

May'st hear the merry din.'


The Wedding-Guest he beat his breast,

Yet he cannot choose but hear;

And thus spake on that ancient man,

The bright-eyed Mariner. 40

The ship drawn by a storm toward the South Pole. 'And now the Storm-blast came, and he

Was tyrannous and strong:

He struck with his o'ertaking wings,

And chased us south along.


At length did cross an Albatross,

Thorough the fog it came;

As if it had been a Christian soul, 65

We hail'd it in God's name.

It ate the food it ne'er had eat,

And round and round it flew.

The ice did split with a thunder-fit;

The helmsman steer'd us through! 70

And a good south wind sprung up behind;

The Albatross did follow,

And every day, for food or play,

Came to the mariners' hollo!


And I had done an hellish thing,

And it would work 'em woe:

For all averr'd, I had kill'd the bird

That made the breeze to blow.

Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay, 95

That made the breeze to blow!

Nor dim nor red, like God's own head,

The glorious Sun uprist:

Then all averr'd, I had kill'd the bird

That brought the fog and mist. 100

'Twas right, said they, such birds to slay,

That bring the fog and mist.


The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,

The furrow follow'd free;

We were the first that ever burst 105

Into that silent sea.

Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,

'Twas sad as sad could be;

And we did speak only to break

The silence of the sea!


Day after day, day after day, 115

We stuck, nor breath nor motion;

As idle as a painted ship

Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, everywhere,

And all the boards did shrink; 120

Water, water, everywhere,

Nor any drop to drink.

The very deep did rot: O Christ!

That ever this should be!

Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs 125

Upon the slimy sea.


Are those her ribs through which the Sun 185

Did peer, as through a grate?

And is that Woman all her crew?

Is that a Death? and are there two?

Is Death that Woman's mate?

Her lips were red, her looks were free, 190

Her locks were yellow as gold:

Her skin was as white as leprosy,

The Nightmare Life-in-Death was she,

Who thicks man's blood with cold.

The naked hulk alongside came, 195

And the twain were casting dice;

"The game is done! I've won! I've won!"

Quoth she, and whistles thrice.


One after one, by the star-dogg'd Moon,

Too quick for groan or sigh,

Each turn'd his face with a ghastly pang, 215

And cursed me with his eye.

Four times fifty living men

(And I heard nor sigh nor groan),

With heavy thump, a lifeless lump,

They dropp'd down one by one. 220

The souls did from their bodies fly—

They fled to bliss or woe!

And every soul, it pass'd me by

Like the whizz of my crossbow!'


The many men, so beautiful!

And they all dead did lie:

And a thousand thousand slimy things

Lived on; and so did I. 240

I look'd upon the rotting sea,

And drew my eyes away;

I look'd upon the rotting deck,

And there the dead men lay.

I look'd to heaven, and tried to pray; 245

But or ever a prayer had gusht,

A wicked whisper came, and made

My heart as dry as dust.


Beyond the shadow of the ship,

I watch'd the water-snakes:

They moved in tracks of shining white, 275

And when they rear'd, the elfish light

Fell off in hoary flakes.

Within the shadow of the ship

I watch'd their rich attire:

Blue, glossy green, and velvet black, 280

They coil'd and swam; and every track

Was a flash of golden fire.


O happy living things! no tongue

Their beauty might declare:

A spring of love gush'd from my heart, 285

And I bless'd them unaware:

Sure my kind saint took pity on me,

And I bless'd them unaware.

The selfsame moment I could pray;

And from my neck so free 290

The Albatross fell off, and sank

Like lead into the sea.


"Is it he?" quoth one, "is this the man?

By Him who died on cross, 400

With his cruel bow he laid full low

The harmless Albatross.

The Spirit who bideth by himself

In the land of mist and snow,

He loved the bird that loved the man 405

Who shot him with his bow."

The other was a softer voice,

As soft as honey-dew:

Quoth he, "The man hath penance done,

And penance more will do."


All fix'd on me their stony eyes,

That in the Moon did glitter.

The pang, the curse, with which they died,

Had never pass'd away: 440

I could not draw my eyes from theirs,

Nor turn them up to pray.

And now this spell was snapt: once more

I viewed the ocean green,

And look'd far forth, yet little saw 445

Of what had else been seen—


"O shrieve me, shrieve me, holy man!" 575

The Hermit cross'd his brow.

"Say quick," quoth he, "I bid thee say—

What manner of man art thou?"

Forthwith this frame of mine was wrench'd

With a woful agony, 580

Which forced me to begin my tale;

And then it left me free.

Since then, at an uncertain hour,

That agony returns:

And till my ghastly tale is told, 585

This heart within me burns.


I pass, like night, from land to land;

I have strange power of speech;

That moment that his face I see,

I know the man that must hear me: 590

To him my tale I teach.

What loud uproar bursts from that door!

The wedding-guests are there:

But in the garden-bower the bride

And bride-maids singing are: 595

And hark the little vesper bell,

Which biddeth me to prayer!

O Wedding-Guest! this soul hath been

Alone on a wide, wide sea:

So lonely 'twas, that God Himself 600

Scarce seeméd there to be.


Farewell, farewell! but this I tell

To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!

He prayeth well, who loveth well

Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best 615

All things both great and small;

For the dear God who loveth us,

He made and loveth all.'

The Mariner, whose eye is bright,

Whose beard with age is hoar, 620

Is gone: and now the Wedding-Guest

Turn'd from the bridegroom's door.

He went like one that hath been stunn'd,

And is of sense forlorn:

A sadder and a wiser man 625

He rose the morrow morn.