Features of Romantic Poetry Which Make it Different from the Neo-Classical Poetry

Updated June 22, 2022

Romantic Poetry evolved as a movement against the Neo-Classical Age Poetry. Hence, features of Romantic Poetry are very much distinct. The Poets such as William Wordsworth, P. B. Shelley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Lord Byron and some others introduced a kind of poetry that was different in Style, Subject and Sensibilities from that of John Dryden and Alexandar Pope.

Literary legends also term Romantic Poetry as “the Return to Nature” that lasted around 1800-1850. The romantic poets stressed on imagination, passion, emotion, nature and lives of common men which became the features of Romantic poetry. While Neo-classical poets stressed on reason and diction contrasted with Romantic poets.

The romantic poetry of this age also laid special emphasis on humanitarianism, fraternity, equality, liberty and freedom of the individual. Seeking relief from the uneasy restlessness of the 18th century into the life of Middle Ages is another important feature of the romantic poetry. Many of these features transitioned into later era Victorian Poetry.

The Features of the Romantic Poetry

The literary analysts point out certain attributes and identify them to be features of Romantic poetry. Broadly, the poetry of romantic age was a free style writing and it was not governed by set rules unlike neoclassical age poetry. Breaking off the set poetic lines of neoclassical and diving into infinite space was the norm for Romantic poetry. Majorly, you would see following characteristics of poetry in romanticism era:

(a) Reaction against the Neo-Classicism

The beginning of Romantic poetry was the movement against the Neo-classical poetry. It was marked by a strong reaction and protest against the bondage of set standard and custom. Neo-Classical poetry was the product of intellect and reason, while the Romantic poetry is more the product of emotion. So, Romantic poetry contrasts clearly with neo-classical poetry.

 (b) Emotions was key to Romantic Poetry

Romantic poetry abounds in emotion. The romantic poets stressed on expressing subjective emotions and it is usually the poets’ personal experience and introspection that takes the form of poem. For instance, Wordsworth’s description of a lonely, beautiful girl singing a folk song while reaping in the fields becomes his famous poem ‘the Solitary Reaper”.

Similarly, “daffodils” is a poem by Wordsworth that describes the beauty of a stretch beautiful flowers that the poet is reminded of while sitting in his room, many days after he had visited this scenery. The romantic poets chose to express emotions of a wide variety through their poems, something that was completely absent during the Neo-Classical Poetry.

(c) Melancholic Tone

It is one of the essential element of the Romantic poetry. Romantic poets often puts it in their poems. Even, it is an important source of inspiration for the Romantic poets. In ‘”ode to a Nightingale, Keats wrote:

……………………………………………for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain.

(d) Imagination Was Prominent in Romantic Poetry

Apart from emotions, the Poets of Romanticism also indulged in plenty of imagination and mysticism in their poems. Coleridge is highly regarded for his intense imaginative powers. The poet called it “willing suspension of disbelief’ that led him to create poems about the weird, the supernatural, and the obscure.

Works of Samuel Coleridge such as ‘The Rime of Ancient Mariners’ and Kubla Khan’ showcase the poet’s brilliance in recreating a world of imagination that has compelling characters and unbelievable settings. In the words of John Keats: “What the imagination seizes as beauty must be truth.

The Romantic poets used “ a certain colouring of imagination” to present ordinary subjects as unusual, mystical and sometimes supernatural.

(e) Nature was Central to Romantic Poetry

Another important feature of Romantic poetry is nature. The Romantic poets shifted away from the concrete and crammed city lanes to meadows, seas, mountains and valleys. The poets pick up different aspects of nature and put it in a new form every time. But nature remains the spirit of all Romantic Poetry. Wordsworth is popularly known as “a poet of nature”.

Wordsworth’s poems represent a spiritual bonding with Mother Nature who is a gentle, nurturing force for all mankind. Keats sees a sense of beauty in nature and his many ‘Odes’ reflect his poetic sensibilities. The world of nature in Shelley’s poetry is wilder, and sometimes crueler. In all, the romantic poets took to Nature for inspiration, instruction and imagination.

(f) Supernaturalism

You can very easily trace the Supernatural element in most of the poems of Romantic era. For instance, Samuel Taylor Coleridge is the leading romantic poet and “kubla khan” by him is full of supernatural elements.

(f) Common Diction (Easily Comprehensible)

Romantic poetry is also distinguished with its diction. The poets wrote “in a selection of language really used by men”. Written mostly in a melancholic tone, Romantic Poetry is marked by “simplicity of diction”. The poets made generous use of personification, imagery and comparison but the language was easy to understand for common man.

The Romantic poets argued that the diction of Neo-classical poetry was beyond comprehension for the commoners and became prosaic to a great extent. Hence, The romantic poets discarded the redundant language of Dryden and Pope and began straightforward use of language and meter. But the poets ensured that the rustic language was not inferior or vulgar, rather rhythmic expressive.

Romantic Poetry in Conclusion

To conclude, it can be said that it was an effort to escape the pretentious intellectualism of the Augustan Era. The poets included “the primary laws of our nature” to highlight the “essential passions of the heart” by using “low and rustic life”. To the mix, they also added the liberal ideologies of the French Revolution (1789). So, Romantic Poetry brought in a new era of simplistic, mystical and lyrical poems that served to provide “immediate pleasure” to the readers.

Publication of Lyrical Ballad’ by William Wordsworth in 1798 marks the beginning of the romantic poetry. The Lyrical Ballads was a collection of the new style of poetry composed by Wordsworth and Coleridge. These poems were in everyday language and took up a wide range of subjects including birds, mariners, landscape and such others.

In the Preface of Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth pointed out poetry as: “Poetry is spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotions recollected in tranquility.” Obviously, the observations of Wordsworth speaks a whole lot of things about Romanticism.

Questions Mostly Asked on Features of Romantic Poetry

Q. What are the Main Features of the Romantic Poetry?

Ans: (a) Reaction against the Neo Classicism (b) Emotions (c) Melancholic Tone (d) Imagination (e) Supernaturalism (f) Nature are the main features of the Romantic poetry.

Q. What are the 5 Characteristics of Romanticism?

Ans: (a) Emotions (b) Melancholic Tone (c) Imagination (d) Supernaturalism (e) Nature are the five characteristics of romanticism

Q. What is Romanticism and what are the Characteristics of Romantic poetry?

Ans: Romanticism was the movement of artistic, literary, musical and intellectual that originated towards the end of the 18th century, and attained its peak in 1850. The romantic poetry of this age laid special emphasis on humanitarianism, fraternity, equality, liberty and freedom of the individual. The characteristics of romanticism are- (a) Emotions (b) Melancholic Tone (c) Imagination (d) Supernaturalism (e) Nature

Q. What are Three Elements Typically Found in Romantic poetry?

Ans: Nature, Imagination and Sublime are the three elements that typically found in romantic poetry.

Q. What are the Six Characteristics of Romanticism?

Ans: (i) Glorification of Nature (ii) Awareness and Acceptance of Emotions (iii) Celebration of Artistic Creativity and Imagination (iv) Emphasis on Aesthetic Beauty (v) Spiritual and Supernatural Elements (vi) Vivid Sensory Descriptions are The six characteristics of Romanticism.

Q. What are the Main Themes of Romanticism?

Ans: The main themes of the Romanticism are: (i) Revolution, democracy, and republicanism (ii) The Sublime and Transcendence (iii) The power of the imagination, genius, and the source of inspiration (iv) Nature and the Natural

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