Ans. The eighteenth century-the Age of pope and Johnson was dominated by the tyranny of Reason. Augustan Poetry was satiric, and realistic and reflected the Urban culture. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, there was a strong reaction against neo-classical trends in poetry. Late eighteenth-century poets were dissatisfied with the ideals of ‘wit’ and Common sense, There was too much of Classicism, too much of Pope. The lyrical note was almost unheard of. And so there was a strong urge for the Romantic Revival. The period (1740- 1800) covered by the middle and later stages of the eighteenth century manifests some tendencies towards a new order of romanticism, a new mode of imaginative sensibility.
The period is one of transition and is, however disturbed and confusing. We have anticipations of the Romantic Revival. There is evidence among the poets of the transition of a growing love for nature for its own sake, and a growing, if somewhat sentimental, fondness for the countryside. There is research into archaic literary forms, such as the ballad. The publication of Percy’s Reliques (1765), which contained some of the oldest and most beautiful specimens of ballad-literature, is a landmark in the history of the Romantic movement.Short notes on Precursors of the Romantic Revival
We notice a search after the new Romanticism-a return to nature, an enlightened sympathy for the poor and oppressed, a revolt against the conventional literary technique (particularly, the heroic couplet) and a fresh treatment of romantic themes.
Thomson, Collins, Gray, Shenstone, Cowper, Burns, Blake, Chatterton and even Oliver Goldsmith and Crabbe may be called heralds of the truly romantic age of poetry.
The English lyric or English Poetry in the late eighteenth century
James Thomson (1700-1748) in The Seasons expresses a love of nature for its own sake. If the Pope keeps the reader’s attention fixed on society, there was growing up in the eighteenth-century interest in nature for its own sake. The Seasons is a blank verse poem consisting of a descriptive passage. The Castle of Indolence is an allegorical poem by Thomson, written in Spenserian stanzas. It gives a description of a lotus-land, into which world-weary souls may escape.
Thomas Gray (1716-71) was among the most learned men of his time. Though he was a classical scholar, his popular “Elegy written in The Country Churchyard is romantic because of its note of sadness and delicate imaginative spirit. In Dr. Johnson’s memorable words, “The Churchyard” abounds with images which find a mirror in every mind and with sentiments to which every bosom must return an echo. The Elegy was highly popular because of its note of meditative melancholy.
William Collins (1721-59) is a transitional poet. In his poetry, we find traces of two kinds of poetry-romantic and classical. In his poetry, we find conventional diction and the use of abstractions. But the most distinctive side of his mind shows a fondness for magical shadows. His ode to Evening has a Keatsian quality or feeling for the beauties of Nature’s form, color, and atmosphere. As in Gray, we find a note of melancholy in his poetry.
William Cowper (1731-1800) anticipates the Romantic Revival by reason of his acute sensitivity. In The Task, there appears for the first time in English poetry a note of tragic self-pity, which anticipates Shelley, George Crabbe (1754-1832), bridges two eras. In The Village, he uses the technique of Pope’s heroic couplet to describe the humble life advocated by Wordsworth. In Oliver Goldsmith’s The Deserted Village, we have a sentimental fondness for rural life and culture and rural people.
The poems of Thomas Chatterton (1752-70) the juvenile poet considerably influenced Coleridge, particularly in his sense of wonder. He is remembered for The Battle of Hastings and The Songs of Aella.Short notes on Precursors of the Romantic Revival
With the appearance of Robert Bums, the Scottish poet, we have the down of Romanticism, Bums presented to man in the state of nature. He expressed his faith in the dignity of man.
The rank’s but the guinea’s stamp.
‘A Man’s a Man for a That’
He is well-known for his celebration of love in the lines:
My love is like a red, red rose.
His lyrics have the note of that first fine careless rapture that comes of itself like the linnet’s song. Burns expresses sympathy with animal life.
With William Blake (1757-1827) we step right across the threshold into the circle of Romantic movement. Blake saw the world with the first fresh wonder of a child. In his poetry, we have the Renaissance of wonder. He was the first English poet who felt the influence of the call for ‘back to nature’ with under-lay Romanticism. He glorified the imagination as divine. He was the poet of childhood. He had the vision of a mystic. He declared his aim to be:
Precursors of the romantic revival
To see the world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wildflower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour.
He expressed his dissatisfaction with the artificial quality of Augustan poetry-
The languid strings do scarcely move
The sound is forced, the notes are few.
As a poet Blake is at his best in his “Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience.” These poems are important both for the charming simplicity and spontaneity of utterance. If”Songs of Innocence” are full of optimism, “Sons of Experience” are pessimistic. In these songs, “Wisdom speaks with the voice of a child.”Short notes on Precursors of the Romantic Revival
Romantic revival in English literature
Blake is important as a liberator of the human spirit and the imagination. He carried the anti-Augustan revolt farther than the Romantics. Like Wordsworth, he valued the unsophisticated feelings of the natural man. Like Shelley, he sang of the free spirit of man. He was a champion of the poor and downtrodden. He was the last great poet of the eighteenth century and at the same time he was the first poet who heralded the dawn of Romanticism, Swinburne has rightly said that the school of poetry which we call Romantic was founded at midnight by William Blake and fortified at sunrise by William Wordsworth, Indeed, Blake was the greatest of the pre-Romantic poets.precursors of the romantic revival