British Romantic Literature
IGNOU BEGC 109 Solved Free Assignment
BEGC 109 Solved Free Assignment July 2023 & January 2024
Q. 1. Define ‘Romantic Litureature’ explaining the origin of the term ‘Romantic’, giving various definitions, and clucidating salient features of romanticism.
Ans. The Romantic Period started in 1798 with the publication of Lyrical Ballads by Wordsworth and Coleridge, and ended in 1832 when Sir Walter Scott died.
The Reform Bill extending the right to vote to the middle class and labourers was also passed in 1832. The period saw England shifting from being a primarily agricultural to a modern industrialized society.
The owners of industrial units got the balance of power from the land-owning aristocracy. They employed large numbers of people. The period also saw various revolutions which had far-reaching consequences to England.
The American Revolution led to the Declaration of Independence (1776) by the thirteen colonies and the French Revolution had impact on the whole of Western Europe. IGNOU BEGC 109 Solved Free Assignment
Liberals and radicals in England supported the French Revolution. The Declaration of the Rights of Man by the French National Assembly was welcomed.
In his Reflection on the Revolution in France (1790), Edmund Burke disapproved the events in France. In his Rights of Man (1791-92), Tom Paine issued a spirited rejoinder to Burke.
In his Rights of Man (1791- 92), Tom Paine pleaded for a democratic republic for England by peaceful or violent means. William Godwin’s Inquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793) had a great impact on Wordsworth, Shelley and others.
Godwin made a prediction that eventually all property would be distributed equally and all government would disappear.
Later events in the French Revolution, notably the execution time beings of the royal family, the guillotine of innocent people during the Reign of Terror, and Napoleon’s dictatorship disenchanted the early supporters.
During this period, there was a revolutionary change in the means and pace of production with the invention of James Watt’s steam engine which replaced wind and water as sources of energy in 1765. IGNOU BEGC 109 Solved Free Assignment
People became either owners and traders or wage earners without property. The people were divided into the rich and the poor. Introduction of more machinery into industry led to more unemployment.
The economic depression in 1815 was caused by the decline in wartime demand for manufactured goods. There were agitations and riots by the working class and the ruling class responded with more repressive measures.
The Reform Bill fulfilled the political aspirations of some sections of people. Developments in other spheres included Capt.
James Cook circumnavigated the globe (1768-71) and discovered Australia and the Sandwich Islands. IGNOU BEGC 109 Solved Free Assignment
Fascinating accounts of life in the South Seas led to a re-thinking on the nature of society and the political systems. Ocean travel became safer with Cook’s accurate charting of the coastlines.
Commerce got a boost with the exploitation of new markets in India and elsewhere. The communications networks also developed.
The period saw the growth of pamphlets as an effective means for debates controversial issues.
The debate on the French Revolution was conducted through pamphlets. Later the pamphlet was replaced by the periodical for debate on political issues.
Parliamentary reform was inspired by the achievement of the middle class in France. Public opinion in England favoured representation to big towns leading to the passage of the Reform Bill. IGNOU BEGC 109 Solved Free Assignment
The idea of revolution had an impact on the Romantic Movement from the beginning. The French Revolution was the great divide and the beginning of a new era in the history of mankind.
In his book, The Spirit of the Age, William Hazlitt: “There was a mighty ferment in the heads of statesmen and poets, kings and people…..It was a time of promise, a renewal of the world and of letters”.
The French Revolution and the new slogans of liberty, equality and fraternity promised a free and egalitarian society.
The period saw abolition of monarchy and feudal structure. The field of literature saw the writing of lyrics, odes and ballads instead of the genres of the epic and the tragedy. IGNOU BEGC 109 Solved Free Assignment
In language, the speech of the common people replaced the cultivated speech of the elite. In terms of themes, poets and writers prefer more commonplace incidents in place of great events.
The period saw democratization of literature in genre, in language, in themes and in characters.
Definition of Romanticism
Romanticism has been defined various ways as F.L. Lucas counted as many as 11,396 definitions. The term has been derived from the word ‘Rome’. Three main languages in Europe during the seventh and eighth centuries were:
(i) Lingua Latina: the language of the scholars,
(ii) Lingua Barbara: the language of Germanic tribes, and
(iii) Lingua Romanarustica: a group of vulgar Latin dialects from which the Romance languages such as French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Rumanian have been derived.
The term ‘Romantic’ is related to the Romance languages. It was first used in the late 17th century to describe paintings. with certain bizarre qualities.
Le Tourneur referred to Shakespeare as a romantic writer because the playwright was not a neo- classical writer. A romantic writer has his own uniqueness.
In the Age of Reason, writers represented their age. The Romantics differ from them. Goethe defined “classic” as good health and “romantic” as sickness.
Madame de Stael stressed the medieval and Christian qualities in German romantic literature which she introduced into France around 1800.
These features were in contrast to rationalism and agnosticism of the Augustal period or the Age of Reason. IGNOU BEGC 109 Solved Free Assignment
For her, the new literature celebrated an open heart and ended which she said the aridity of the eighteenth century. German poet Heine had an opposite view. According to Victor Hugo, romanticism implies ‘liberalism in literature’.
Romanticism tends to see the individual at the very center of all life and all experience. The individual is the priority of the art and literature.
Thrall and his associates say, romanticism gives importance to the creative imagination that tends to speak a nobler truth than facts or logics.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Romanticism spread through most of Western Europe affecting art, music, literature, philosophy, religion and politics.
Salient Features of Romanticism
Romanticism is a contrast to Neo-classical theory of poetry which believes in artificial conventions, literary tradition and poetic establishment. According to the Neo-classical theory, poetry is an imitation and acquired by training.
They say poets instruct and please. For them, art is a mirror and gives a reflection of life. The Romantics says the poet himself is the source of poetry. Wordsworth says poetry is a “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”.
It is an inborn gift and not something that can be acquired. Poetry is the expression of emotion and imagination. IGNOU BEGC 109 Solved Free Assignment
Romantics discard the traditional view that poetry is a painstaking effort. Blake says poetry comes from inspiration, vision and prophecy. Keats says poetry should come “as naturally as the leaves of a tree”.
Romantic poets employ innovative themes, forms, language and style in their poetry.
For example, Wordsworth wrote about lowly and eccentric characters like an idiot boy’ or ‘a leech gatherer’.
Coleridge uses supernatural themes as in The Ancient Mariner and Keats often deals with “far away and long ago” exotic places and forgotten events.
The Romantics got inspiration from folk literature and the literature of the Middle Ages and classical antiquity.
They also use symbolist techniques, especially by Blake and Shelley. “West Wind” and “Skylark” examples of this. The Romantic poets use external nature instead of humanity as the poetic subject-matter.
They describe landscape and its aspects. Wordsworth saw in nature the power to chasten and subdue. Neoclassic poetry is written on other people like Alexander Pope’s “The Rape of Lock”. IGNOU BEGC 109 Solved Free Assignment
Romantic poetry is highly subjective. They also had a fascination for solitary figures, social non-conformists, outcasts and rebels such as Prometheus, Cain, Don Juan and Satan.
They use everyday speech of ordinary people instead of lofty poetic diction. The Romantic poets use new metres and stanzas instead of traditional forms. They wrote ballads and sonnets.
They discarded the heroic couplets and used Spenserian stanza and other experimental verse forms. They idealised the rural life.
They also included in their poems the wild, the irregular and the grotesque in nature and art. For them, incest is not a taboo theme.
They did not pay any hid to tradition and decorum. Classicism and Romanticism are anti-thetical. IGNOU BEGC 109 Solved Free Assignment
Classicism deals with social, formal, intellectual and static, whereas Romanticism focuses on individual, informal, emotional and dynamic.
Joseph Addison’s ‘Sir Roger’ is a basic human type. But the Romantics took their cue from Rousseau who said, “If I’m not better than other people, at least I’m different”.
The Neo-classical writers were focus on conformity, formality, acceptance of approved standards and patterns of behaviour.
Careful workmanship is the hallmark of classicism. Classicism focuses on the intellectual, romanticism on the emotional.
The former describes static scenes in Greek sculpture whereas the latter catch the transient moments.
Keat’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn” depicts the activities of people etched on a static urn. The Romantic Movement can be called a revolutionary movement.
Q. 3. What is the relationship between innocence and experience as Blake sees it?
Ans. The ‘Songs of Innocence and Experience’, a collection of poems first printed by Blake himself in 1789, are written in childlike rhythms and rhyming patterns.
They are deeply political and conveys complex emotions and comments on social vices. IGNOU BEGC 109 Solved Free Assignment
These poems deal with social injustices like poverty, child labour and abuse through images and imagery of everyday life, children, nature, animals and flowers.
Julian Walker says these songs can be seen in relation with the development of children’s literature as a genre.
In the 18th century, children’s literature developed as a genre and it had become a profitable business by the middle of the century.
Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience look like traditional 18th century verse for children.
They challenge and overturn many of the ideas and conventions contained in children’s literature. They explore complex ideas about childhood, morality and religion. IGNOU BEGC 109 Solved Free Assignment
Various ideas and constructions of childhood led to various types of children’s literature proliferated at this time.
The Christian morality of ‘original sin’ believes children were perceived as inherently evil who had to be redeemed by training and punishment to become good Christians.
John Locke held the idea that the child’s mind was perceived as an impressionable blank slate, to be carefully managed to create obedient, law abiding citizens.
Jean Jacques Rousseau thought of children as distinct entities, different from adults. The Romantics held that childhood is the ideal human state of pre-lapsarian innocence and adult- hood as necessarily corrupt, characterised by a loss of innocence.
Literature for children included emblem books where animal anecdotes administered moral lessons, natural history books dealt with flora and fauna and school and hornbooks that displayed both the alphabets and Biblical texts on a wooden paddle covered with transparent horn.
These developed later into spelling and grammar textbooks and instructional books, most of which were illustrated, just like Blake’s works. However, Blake went against these widely prevalent children’s literature and subverted it.
Blake does not offer a moral resolution. His poetry elicits a respect for the duality of natural world and of existence. IGNOU BEGC 109 Solved Free Assignment
Michael Phillips makes a comment on the illustration on the title page of the Songs of Innocence which depicts two children standing at the knee of their nurse or mother reading from a book, out of doors, in a garden or the countryside.
The style of the Songs of Innocence and Experience is simple and direct, but the language and the rhythms are painstakingly crafted and the ideas they explore are often deceptively complex.
This combination of the traditional with the unfamiliar is consonant with Blake’s perpetual interest in reconsidering and reframing the assumptions of human thought and social behaviour.
Q. 4. What is the difference between the language of poetry and the language of prose in Wordsworth’s view? It is valid?
Ans. In the “Preface” to the second edition of Lyrical Ballads (1800), Wordsworth enumerates on a number of key elements of poetry including the nature of poetry, the creation of poetry, the impact of the poem on the reader and the difference between the language of prose and the language of poetry.
(a) Subject-matter: Wordsworth chooses the incidents and situations from common life. He believes that rustic and humble life is better suited for “the essential passions of the heart”.
According to him, the emotions of the rural people are simpler, purer and perhaps better than those of the city-dwellers. IGNOU BEGC 109 Solved Free Assignment
He thought that people living in the midst of nature have a better moral attitude, and they become part of the sense of divinity present in nature.
(b) Language: Wordsworth prefers to use “a selection of language really used by men”. He was against the so-called poetic diction of an earlier generation.
Wordsworth states that “simple and unelaborated expressions” as his choice: “My purpose was to imitate, and as far as possible, to adopt the very language of men; and such personifications (of abstract ideas) do not make any natural or regular part of that language.”
He believes that the aim of the poet is to correct men’s feelings and to render these feelings more consonant with eternal nature.
A poet provides us with spiritual exercises to give us new feelings and make our feelings more sane and pure. IGNOU BEGC 109 Solved Free Assignment
(c) Difference between the language of poetry and the language of prose: He says: “It may be safely affirmed that there neither is, nor can be, any essential difference between the language of prose and metrical composition.”
According to Wordsworth metre is a kind of restraining influence. By its regularity, metre holds passion in check.
Also, metre seems to give poetry a kind of unreality: “The end of poetry is to produce excitement in co-existence with an overbalance of pleasure…
Now the co- presence of something regular…cannot, but have great efficacy in tempering and restraining the passion by an intertexture of ordinary feeling, and of feeling not strictly and necessarily connected with the passion”.
Coleridge questions Wordsworth’s views on metre and the language of poetry.
(d) Creative Process: Wordsworth says poetry is the “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”. He says: “it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity. IGNOU BEGC 109 Solved Free Assignment
The emotion is contemplated till, by a species of reaction, the tranquillity gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind.
In this mood successful composition generally begins, and in a mood similar to this it is carried on.”
(e) Poets: The Romantics give a high place to the poet; they endow him with the ability to speak to other men. Wordsworth writes: “He (the poet) is a man speaking to men; a man, it is true, endowed with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness, who has a greater knowledge of human nature, and a comprehensive soul than are supposed to be common among mankind”,
A poet is related to other men who have the same ingredients, but the poet has them in greater measure.
Wordsworth says: “It may be safely affirmed that there neither is, nor can be, any essential difference between the language of prose and metrical composition.” This may not be valid. IGNOU BEGC 109 Solved Free Assignment
Poetry has different langauge from the prose in the sense that poets have for ages been giging emphasis to rhythm and rhyme in verse.
Q. 5. What is the justification for calling Keats the “Poet”? Give a reasened answer.
Ans. Keats deserves to be called the “Poet’s Poet” because of his achievement as a poet and his wide-ranging and ever- growing influence. In three years, Keats used a variety of poetic forms; romance in “Hyperion” and “The Eve of St.
Agnes”, epic in Hyperion. He wrote different kinds of lyric: hymn in Hymn to Pan, the ballad in La Belle Dame Sans Merci, the sonnet in On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer and in the famous odes.
Lamia was composed in heroic couplets in the manner of Dryden. The Pre-Raphaelite movement owes its origin to Keats’s La Belle Dame Sans Merci. Browning, Tennyson, Hopkins and Yeats have also acknowledged their debt to Keats.
John Keats was dedicated to poetry and strove hard to achieve the essence of poetry. Keats is called the “Poet’s Poet”. IGNOU BEGC 109 Solved Free Assignment
He wrote his most important poems during January-September in 1819. They included: The Eve of St. Agnes, La Belle Dame Sans Merci and all the six great odes and Lamia. His “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” is his poetic efflorescence.
In “Sleep and Poetry”, he wrote about his poetic aspirations and dedication to poetry. “Endymion” was written to compete with Shelley in writing a long poem. “Hyperion” was an ambitious venture a la “Paradise Lost”.
Keats presents all experience as a mass of inseparable and irreconcilable opposites. Melancholy dwells with Beauty and the dividing line between love and death is thin.
He believes that the great end of poetry is “that it should be a friend To sooth the cares and lift the thoughts of man.” Keats’s letters are an “indi-spensable accompaniment to (his) poetry”.
They have some of his germinal ideas such as “negative capability”. In a letter to his brothers, he says: “The excellence of every art in its intensity, capable of making all disagreeable evaporate, from their being in close relationship with Beauty and Truth”. IGNOU BEGC 109 Solved Free Assignment
His letters also show his concern for suffering and evil in the World. He does not accept traditional philosophy or institutional religion as an adequate palliative for the “complexity and contradictions of experience.”
Not many poets including Shakespeare and Milton could write such distinguished poetry at the age of twenty-four when Keats’s poetic career practically came to an end.
Keats published fifty-four poems in his life-time, another ninety-six works were published posthumously; his letters number around 300.
This is an unmatched achievement in a brief period of three years. Keats tried a variety of poetic forms – romance in “Hyperion” and “The Eve of St.
Agnes”, epic in Hyperion. He wrote different kinds of lyric: hymn in Hymn to Pan, the ballad in La Belle Dame Sans Merci, the sonnet in On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer and in the famous odes. IGNOU BEGC 109 Solved Free Assignment
Lamia was composed in heroic couplets in the manner of Dryden. The Pre-Raphaelite movement owes its origin to Keats’s La Belle Dame Sans Merci.
Browning, Tennyson, Hopkins and Yeats have also acknowledged their debt to Keats.
Q. 9. Discuss the development of thought in ‘Ode to Nightingale’.
Ans. Ode to Nightingale has eight stanzas. The poem’s movement is related to the poet’s movement:
(a) From the ideal happy world of the nightingale to the dull mundane world of pain, misery and suffering.
(b) From a state of ecstasy to a state of forlornness (desolation).
In the first four stanzas, the poet tries to identify with the bird and its song and in the later four stanzas, his emphasis is on the poet’s separateness from the bird. The first section has the bird and it is absent in the later part.
The poet in a state of uncomfort- able drowsiness envies the imagined happiness of the nightingale. IGNOU BEGC 109 Solved Free Assignment
Keats longs for a draught of wine which would take him out of himself and allow him to join his existence with that of the bird.
The wine would put him in a state in which he would no longer be himself, aware that life is full of pain, that the young die, the old suffer, and that just to think about life brings sorrow and despair.
But wine is not needed to enable him to escape. His imagination will serve just as well.
As soon as he realizes this, he is, in spirit, lifted up above the trees and can see the moon and the stars even though where he is physically there is only a glimmer- ing of light.
He cannot see what flowers are growing around him, but from their odour and from his knowledge of what flowers should be in bloom at the time he can guess.
In the darkness he listens to the nightingale. Now, he feels, it would be a rich experience to die, “to cease upon the midnight with no pain” while the bird would continue to sing ecstatically. IGNOU BEGC 109 Solved Free Assignment
Many a time, he confesses, he has been “half in love with easeful Death”. The nightingale is free from the human fate of having to die.
The song of the nightingale that he is listening to was heard in ancient times by emperor and peasant.
Perhaps even Ruth (whose story is told in the Old Testament) heard it. “Forlorn”. the last word of the preceding stanza, brings Keats in the concluding stanza back to consciousness of what he is and where he is.
He cannot escape even with the help of the imagination. The singing of the bird grows fainter and dies away.
The experience he has had seems so strange and confusing that he is not sure whether it was a vision or a daydream. He is even uncertain whether he is asleep or awake.