Studium anglistiky na KAA UPOL

(3) Second Wave of Romanticism.

(Influence of Antiquity, Lyricism, Passion, and Reason; P. B. Shelley, G. G. Byron, and J. Keats).


T h e  B r i t i s h  R o m a n t i c  P e r i o d  (1785 - 1830)

[See "Background for Topics 2-5..."]


P e r c y  B y s s h e  S h e l l e y  ( 1 7 9 2 – 1 8 2 2 )

L i f e :

= a radical nonconformist in every aspect of his (a) life and (b) thought:

(a) married against his conviction of marriage = a tyrannical and degrading institution

(a) left his wife (= a future suicide) for Mary Wollstonecraft-Godwin (1797 – 1851); denied the custody of their 2 children

(b) loved philos. and scorned orthodoxy

(b) dedicated his life to a war against injustice and oppression

- led a restless life x but: settled in Ita. for his last 2 y. > found contentment

- ‘The Pisan Circle’ = a group of friends around him in Ita., incl. G. G. Byron for a time

W o r k :

< his tragic experience of the death of 2 of his 3 children, the following apathy and self-absorption of his wife, and the consequent deterioration of their relationship

< his awareness of the lack of audience

< his extensive study of philos. incl. Plato (c. 427 – 347 BC), Neoplatonists, and Br. empirical philos.

- adherent of ‘sceptical idealism’ = limitation of all knowledge to valid reasoning based on sense-experience [see “Mont Blanc” (1816)]

N o n - f i c t i o n :

The Necessity of Atheism (1810):

= a pamphlet challenging God’s existence = cannot be proved on empirical grounds

- in collab. with Thomas Jefferson Hogg (1792 – 1862)

> expelled from Oxford

Address to the Irish People (1812): a pamphlet calling for the Cath. emancipation and amelioration of the oppressed and poverty-stricken people of Ir.

A Philosophical View of Reform (1819): a penetrating political essay

A Defence of Poetry (1821):

= an essay asserting the social function of poetry and the prophetic role of the poet

- the criterion of literary value = a political improvement

- dismissed the distinction btw poets x prose writers: the irrational power of the imagination should diminish the utilitarian view of art

P o e t r y :

= associated with the ‘Satanic School’

Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem (1813):

= an allegorical dream-vision poem

- described the journey through space of the disembodied soul of the mortal maiden Ianthe and the fairy queen Mab revealing her the past, present, and future states of the human world

- the woeful past = a product of one human error after another > the dreadful present = a corruption by the institutions of king, priests, and statesmen > the utopian future = a human blessedness achieved by a secular (x not relig.) apocalypse

Alastor; or, The Spirit of Solitude (1816):

- on a young idealist poet discovering the human love too late

<=> against the Wordsworthian egotism

The Revolt of Islam (1818):

- on the heroic x but: doomed struggle for liberation of a brother and sister against the oppressions of the Ottoman Empire

- condemned oriental despotism

- reflected on the failure of the Fr. Rev. and on the present state of Br.

The Mask of Anarchy (1819):

= a visionary poem calling for the proletarian rev. against the Br. repression

< inspired by ‘The Peterloo Massacre’ (1819)

Peter Bell the Third (1819): a witty satire on W. Wordsworth

Epipsychidion (1820): a rhapsodic vision of love = a spiritual union beyond earthly limits

Adonais (1821): an elegiac tribute to the dead J. Keats = the triumphing hero even in the face of death

D r a m a :

- ‘lyrical drama’ = minimises theatrical action in favour of a dramatic repres. of imaginative motivation (Prometheus Unbound and Hellas)

The Cenci (1819):

= a tragedy

< a true story of the It. Renaissance: a monstrous father violates his daughter, she murders him

Prometheus Unbound (1820):

= a ‘lyrical drama’

- paralleled Prometheus to J. Milton’s Satan x but: treated him as ‘a moral being far superior to his God’ (<=> W. Blake)

- described his battle against despair and arbitrary tyranny > his achievement of a heightened state of consciousness = a liberation of both body / spirit from enemies both internal / external

- concl.: Jupiter overthrown and P. reunited with Asia

- concl. act: a lyrical celebration of the triumph of the rev. = marked by the triumph of song

Hellas (1822):

= a ‘lyrical drama’

< inspired by the Gr. rebellion against the Ottoman oppressors

- concl.: a possibility of a cyclical succession of one bloody rev. upon another

Also wrote following poems of distinction:

“Ode to the West Wind”: on his characteristic high x but: ordered passion

“Mont Blanc”: a meditation on the natural world, expressed his view of the narrow limits of what human can know with certainty

L o r d  G e o r g e  G o r d o n  B y r o n  ( 1 7 8 8 – 1 8 2 4 )

L i f e :

= marked by complicated relationships: fights with his mother when together x affectionate correspondence when apart, an incestuous relation with his half-sister, promiscuity, etc.

- led a restless life, travelled extensively, for a time a member of P. B. Shelley’s ‘Pisan Circle’

- died after a series of feverish attacks while assisting in the Gr. war for independence from the Turks

W o r k :

- his lifetime: immensely pop. = the prototype of literary Romanticism x now: consid. the least consequential of the great Romantic poets, compared to the innovations of W. Wordsworth, S. T. Coleridge, P. B. Shelley, or J. Keats

> J. W. Goethe, Herman Melville (1819 – 91), & oth.

‘ T h e B y r o n i c H e r o ’ :

= his chief contrib. to the Romanticism

- 1st sketched in the opening canto of Childe Harold (1812 – 18) > developed in Manfred (1817)

= an archrebel in a non-political form

- an alien, mysterious, and gloomy spirit superior in his passions and powers to the common run of humanity

- driven by an enormous, nameless guilt twd an inevitable doom

- absolutely self-reliant in his isolation, pursuing his own ends accord. to his self-generated moral code against any opposition, human or supernatural

- with a strong erotic interest

<=> Heathcliff of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847), Ahab of H. Melville’s Moby-Dick (1851), & oth.

> ‘Byronism’ = the attitude of ‘titanic cosmic self-assertion’ helped to form Friedrich Nietzsche’s (1844 – 1900) concept of the Superman

P o e t r y :

= associated with the ‘Satanic School’

(a) old-fashioned lyrics in neo-classic style:

“Written after Swimming from Sestos to Abydos”: in the gentlemanly mode of witty extemporisation and epigram

“She walks in beauty” and “Stanzas for Music”: in the Cavalier tradition of the elaborate development of a compliment to a lady

(b) political poems:

- preocc.: not nature x but: public life, recent history, Br. politics, Eur. nationalism stirred by the Fr. Rev., etc.

= the public role of a commentator on his times

Hours of Idleness (1807):

= early conventional lyric verse

> treated harshly by the Edinburgh Review (1802 – 1929)

English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (1809):

< a verse reply to the criticism of the former coll.

= a brilliant but tactless satire ridiculing his important poetic contemporaries

- in the couplet style of the late 18th c. followers of Alexander Pope (1688 – 1744, author of Rape of the Lock)

Childe Harold (1812 – 18):

= an account of his adventurous 2-y. excursion through southern Eur. and Asia Minor

- described the western Mediterranean scarred by war = the ‘sad relic’ of Gr. under Ottoman misrule

- protagonist = melancholic and misanthropic aristocratic exile

> an immediate success (B.: ‘I awoke one morning and found myself famous.’)

Beppo (1818): a short preview of the narrative style and stanza of Don Juan (1819 – 24)

Don Juan (1819 – 24):

= a satire against modern civilisation

- deconstructed the myths of the supposed glory of war, of fidelity in love, of the Rousseauistic faith in human goodness, of the picturesque and educative journey across Eur., etc.

- described Juan’s adventures and misadventures and accomp. them by the narrator’s worldly-wise commentary

- in a neo-classic style = shared many of the aims and methods of A. Pope

- in the colloquial ‘ottava rima’ = allowed for a variety of both expression and mood, for both satire and sentiment, etc.; but: adapted the orig. 8-line / 11-syllable to 8 / 10

The Vision of Judgement (1821):

= a devastating satire on the life and death of George III

< a mock on R. Southey’s A Vision of Judgement = the toadying poem on the death of G. III

D r a m a :

Manfred (1817) and The Two Foscari (1821): poetic tragedies

Cain (1821), Sardanapalus (1821), and Marino Faliero: poetic ‘closet tragedies’

J o h n  K e a t s  ( 1 7 9 5 – 1 8 2 1 )

L i f e :

- an apothecary-surgeon

- befriended Leigh Hunt (1784 – 1859) > introd. to W. Hazlitt, C. Lamb, and P. B. Shelley > encouraged to abandon medicine for poetry

- fell in love with Fanny Brawne x but: his dedication to poetry, poverty, and growing illness made marriage impossible and love a torment

- his mother, then brother (attended by him) died of TBC => foreboded his own early death

- stopped writing at 24, died at 26

W o r k :

= associated with the ‘Cockney School’

- poetry of a slow-paced, gracious movement

- sensuous descriptions: combined all the senses to give the total apprehension of an experience

- delight at the sheer existence of things outside himself: capable to identify with external objects, animate or inanimate

- all experience as a tangle of inseparable x but: irreconcilable opposites: melancholy in delight, pleasure in pain, and love as an approximation to death

- inclined equally twd a life of indolence x life of thought, imaginative dream world x the pressing actual one

- ‘Negative Capability’ = ‘when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason’ < example of William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)

< wrestled with the problem of evil and suffering also in his life (K.: ‘the world is full of misery and heartbreak, pain, sickness and oppression’)

“On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” (1816):

= a sonnet of enthusiasm marking his discovery of George Chapman’s (ca 1559 – 1634) transl. of The Iliad

> 1st announced as a major talent

> estbl. (together with W. Wordsworth) as a major Romantic craftsman in the sonnet form

“Sleep and Poetry” (1816): a layout of his program deliberately modelled on the careers of the greatest poets (K.: ‘for ten years, that I may overwhelm / Myself in poesy; so I may do the deed / That my own soul has to itself decreed’)

Endymion: A Poetic Romance (1818):

= a profuse allegory of a mortal’s quest for an ideal feminine counterpart and a flawless happiness beyond earthly possibilities

> criticized by Tory-motivated reviewers, attacked as a member of the ‘Cockney School’ (= L. Hunt’s radical lit. circle in London)

Hyperion (1818):

= an epic poem modelled on J. Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667)

- achieved the Miltonic manner > abandoned the poem as a threat to his individuality > decided to write independently

Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St Agnes, and Other Poems (1820):

> “Lamia”, a narrative poem contrasting the beautiful F half-serpent Lamia x an aged, rational philos. Apollonius = juxtaposing illusion x reality, the ideal x the actual, feeling x thought

> “Isabella”, a narrative poem drawing on a story of 2 tragic lovers by Giovanni Boccaccio (1313 – 75)

> “The Eve of St Agnes”, a narrative poem of a medieval setting and intense contrasts: cold x warmth, dark x light, hardness x softness, noise x stillness, cruelty x love; its protagonist Madeline’s hopes set on a superstition x the concl. lovers’ escape ‘into the storm’ > a return to suggestions of sickness, death, and penitence

> “Ode to Psyche”, on the Soul ‘as distinguished from an Intelligence’

> “Ode to a Nightingale”, on the contrast of the ‘full-throated ease’ of the bird’s song x the aching ‘numbness’ of the human observer

> “Ode on Melancholy, on the interrelationship of joy x sorrow

> “Ode on a Grecian Urn”, on an imagined Attic vase with scenes of bucolic lovers x a pagan sacrifice

> “Ode to Autumn”, on autumn = the season of fulfilment x decay, an intensification of life x the inevitable ageing and dying

> “Ode on Idolence”, posthum.

The Fall of Hyperion (posthum., 1856):

= the epic Hyperion reworked into a dream vision

- retold the story of the resistance of the last of the Titans against the coming new order of the Gods

- a prefatory vision on the infl. of suffering on the imagination of a poet: the visionary requires to experience pain

Also wrote following poems of distinction:

“La Belle Dame Sans Merci”: a ballad on the idea of fairy enthralment

“On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Again”


Abrams, Meyer Howard, ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993.

Barnard, Robert. Stručné dějiny anglické literatury. Praha: Brána, 1997.

Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. New York: Clarendon Press, 1994.

Other Sources

Jelínková, Ema. Semináře: Britská literatura 1. ZS 2004/05.


© 2008-2015 Všechna práva vyhrazena.