-"Love and Death" by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Love prevails over death, emotions
govern life and thought, and the will of the human spirit is valued
over logic and reason-such was the cultural philosophy that dominated
the mid-eighteenth century to the mid-nineteenth century. Christened
the Romantic Movement, it flourished in Europe and America for approximately
a hundred years, during which time it swept away tradition in literature,
painting, sculpture, drama, music, opera, and ballet.
The Romantic Movement first
took root in Germany and then England in the 1780s. With the decline
of Neoclassicism and the Enlightenment, and the American and French
Revolutions, the movement shook the rest of Europe and lighted across
the seas in the second wave to America. The ideals and tenets were
the exact opposite of Neoclassicism, which emphasized order, logic,
emotional restraint, balance, science, and reason. However, as the
industrial revolution gained its footing in England, and cities began
to grow, the ideals were reevaluated and emotions, individuality,
and nature overshadowed Neoclassicism.
The entomology of the word "romantic"
is also of some interest. It was first used to describe medieval romances
in the mid-1600s. After that, however, "romantic" was associated
with anything that opposed truth and fact. Later the term connoted
with the opposition to reason by German and British poets of the late
18th century. Now, the term describes the entire literary and artistic
The movement was extremely popular
in literature. In America, Romanticism was defined by the "five
I's:" inspiration, intuition, innocence, imagination, and inner
experience. These tenets gave rise to many Romantic writers, who stressed
the innate goodness of man, favored the individual over the group,
revered nature, and rebelled against political authority. Thus, the
Romantic hero-youthful, innocent, intuitive, in touch with nature
and out of touch with civilization-was created These authors were
met with some resistance by the Dark Romantics, which declared humans
inherently evil and acknowledged guilt and sin. But all Romantics
believed in signs and symbols in human and natural events and considered
intuition the superior of logic and reason. Nature was also a particularly
common subject and is consistently used in American Transcendentalism
and British poetry and prose. Thus the written word was an important
tool in conveying the ideals of the Romantic movement.
In art, the movement stretched
from 1800 to 1850. It can be described as highly imaginative, emotional,
and visionary. Romantic artists constantly desired to show the mysterious
and wild aspects of nature, and were motivated by passion, drama,
and melancholy. Specifically, this was demonstrated by the Pre-Raphaelite
Brotherhood in England. In music, the movement was concentrated in
1828 and 1880 and spanned from 1789 to 1914. Individuality, intensity
of feeling, sweetly gloomy tones (morbidezza), optimism, and nationalism
were displayed by Romantic composers in the production of operas,
ballets, and symphonies.
Overall, Romanticism cannot
be succinctly defined-only loosely translated, for no amount of words
can describe the creativity and power of any particular movement.
But the spirit of Romanticism has and will influence countless generations
Romanticism. Ed. Paul Brians. March 1998. Washington State U. 21 Sept. 2000 <http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~brians/hum_303/romanticism.html>
Tennyson, Alfred Lord. "Love and Death." Biography, anthology and poems of 19th Century British and American Poets. June. 2001. <http://www.2020site.org/poetry/>
Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2001
Noyes, Russell. English Romantic Poetry and Prose. New York: Oxford University Press, 1956.