The first and second generation
The most important poets of the first generation have been Wordsworth and Coleridge. The first one thought that observation of nature could give moral lessons. The second one had a peculiar imagination creating fantastic or dream like worlds. Both poets believed in the natural other: in their opinion people had to look for harmony between natural and human sphere. The second wave of Romantic Poets criticized Coleridge and Wordsworth, in particular Byron, Keats and Shelley because their poetic consciousness is more complex. Second generation of poets made clear ironic distance between the “I” of the poems and the “I” who writes. Byron, Keats and Shelley separated art from life.
William Wordsworth was born in 1770 in the Lake District of north-western England. In 1790 he went on a walking tour: he visited France, Alps and Italy, and he came back to France for a year in 1791. Wordsworth was enthusiastic about democracy; in fact he supported the French Revolution. When he was in London, in 1795, he met Godwin, a famous philosopher and the poet Coleridge, having an important friendship with him. The two poets had, in fact, similar ideas about poetry and love. The “terror period”, of 1793-94, created in Wordsworth a disillusion about the Revolution. He spent the last 30 years of his life in the Lake District, writing and revising his works. His most famous works are the ‘travelogues’, published in 1793 and the ‘Lyrical Ballads’, written with Coleridge in 1798. Two years later he published a second edition of ‘Lyrical Ballads’, including the prose reform “Preface”. In 1805 he published the “Prelude”, a narrative poem that reflected on his youth and on the Revolution. The last two poems (published in 1807-14) are “Poems in two Volumes” and the “Excursion”. Wordsworth dead in 1805.
The Lyrical Ballads
The opera “Lyrical Ballads” had three editions: the first one was published by Wordsworth and Byron in 1798; the second one (1800) includes the Wordsworth’s “Preface”; the third one was published in 1802. Coleridge, in 1817, wrote a “Biographia Literaria” describing the origins of Lyrical Ballads.
The “Preface” to Lyrical Ballads reflects Wordsworth’s poetry: it is concerned by the poet with the everyday world and the influence the memory on the present. In fact he often talked about people in close contact with nature. Wordsworth used a language which reflected simplicity: it must be similar to the simple language of men. Although Coleridge firstly agreed with Wordsworth , by 1802 he changed his mind, explaining his opinion in his “Biographia Literaria”.
“I wandered lonely as a Cloud”
The poetry themes is the pleasure that the poet feels looking to the daffodils dancing on the wind. Wordsworth wanders to contemplate the landscape as a cloud and he looks to a daffodils army dancing and waving on the wind. The imagine of the flowers has been by poet like many dancer moving their heads. They shine like stars on the Via Latea. The poets feels glad seeing these flowers dancing and shining more than the waves that look like a caress. This vision can be felt only by the sensitive animus of sensitive men. Also is a comfort because in the sad moment the poet thinks about daffodils dance, and he feels happy.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born in Devon in 1772. In 1797 he moved to Somerset where he met Wordsworth becoming close friend with him. At first the two poets agreed with French Revolution but after they were horrified by the bloodshed of the terror. In 1800 they both settled in the Lake District, but they had all argument so Coleridge moved to London where he stayed until death in 1834. The most important workers are “Kubla Khan”, “Lyrical Ballads” written with Wordsworth, “The Rime of the Ancient mariner and Biographia Lietaraia”.
Primary and Secondary imagination
In the “Biographia Literaria” Coleridge talks about the role of imagination. There are two types of imagination: primary and secondary. The first one is the agent of all perception, while the second one is stronger because it makes the poet able to unify the chaotic elements of the world.
“The rime of the Ancient Mariner”
The rime of ancient mariner is divided into seven parts, each introduced by a short summary of the story. It tells the story of a mariner who commits a crime of killing an albatross and of his following punishment. The story is told by the mariner himself who recounts his sad story. A course falls on the ship: horrible serpent-like creatures appear, and then a phantom ship arrives and kills all the mariners, except the protagonist who will have to tell the tale. Moreover he must bear the burden of guilt for the rest of his days: for this he tells the story to the people teaching the respect for all nature’s creatures. In poem realistic and supernatural events coexist. A bird kills according to mythology is considered a sacrilege, and the presence of spirits and sea-monsters give magical atmosphere. It’s reinforced by the language, with a frequent use of sound effects; it imitates the language of medieval ballads. In the end the sea-voyage represents the parable of mankind, the original sin. The poem is a representation of the conflict between nature and man.