The term “Romanticism” has been defined by several authors and critic in their own way. Some calls it “addition of strangeness to beauty” while Watts Dunton defines it as “the renaissance of wonder”. All such definitions are unsatisfactory and very much partial and do not give a complete view. It therefore would be more logical to consider only the salient features of English Romantic Poetry which serves the real purpose. As we know all Romantic Literature is subjective in nature. Thus it is an expression of the soul of the artist. The poet gives free expression to his emotions. Romantic Poetry is marked by extravagance. It’s a free hand to fancy and imagination. The poet is free to write on any theme or form. It is one of the prime reasons that we get a great variety of Romantic Poetry. The Romantic Poet is gifted and sensitive enough to feel and view what a common man would not ever experience. Poetry for him is not any craft or tool but it means to give vent to his powerful inner passion. The Romantic Poet tends to get more carried away by his spontaneous passion and imagination than anything else. As the Romantic poet is very much alive to the wonder, mystery, beauty and the presence of unseen powers in nature, so is his poetry. The unseen transcendental world seems more real to him then the real world itself. He is overwhelmed by the stories of fairies, ghost and witchcraft. His poetry reflects an expression of his wonder which he perceives in his imagination. Supernaturalism is a core element in Romantic inspiration. The Romantic Poets are not the people who follow conventional rules of writing poetry. They are dissatisfied with conventions and traditions of the time or with the circumstances of their life. This is one of the reasons that Romantic Poets are pessimistic in tone. They may revolt against the existing circumstances. They may desire to reform those circumstances or if not so possible they try to escape into an imaginative world which is far away from reality. William Blake in describing his painting “The Ancient Briton” says that-
“The strong Man represents the human sublime. The Beautiful Man represents the human pathetic, which was in the wars of Eden divided into male and female. The Ugly Man represents the human reason. They were originally one man, who was fourfold; he was self divided, and his real humanity slain on the stems of generation, and the form of the fourth was like the Son of God. How he became divided is a subject of great sublimity and pathos. The artist has written it under inspiration, and will, if God please, publish it; it is voluminous, and contains the ancient history of Britain, and the world of Satan and of Adam.
Blake is a kind of Poet who knows the songs of innocence and experience equally well. He is a Romantic Poet who has his own ways to analyze his world of imagination. He perceives nature in a unique way and compares the tiger with the Christ. This free imagination is one of the greatest features of Romanticism. Poets are lost in experiencing the forms of nature. Romantic Poetry represents Romantic era. It is a movement which originated in the end of 18th century. It was a reaction against Enlightenment. William Wordsworth and S.T.Coleridge said about their conception of poetry in the preface of Lyrical Ballads that-
“I have said before that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin in emotion recollected in tranquility: the emotion is contemplated till, by a species of reaction, the tranquility 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.”
Thus poetry is a kind of re imagination and it is not easy to compose. For Romantic Poets like Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats and Byron composition of Poetry was a kind of interaction between their inner world and the outer world. In the work On Poesy or Art, S.T.Coleridge sees art as the “mediatress between, and reconciler of nature and man”. We can say that it is one of the most prominent themes of English Romantic Poetry. It is achieved only through the sublime. This sublimity is achieved by the use of description and language which excites emotions and thoughts. Neoclassical Poetry is the product of reason and intellect but Romantic Poetry is purely emotional. Thus we can say that it is a reaction against neoclassicism. In Romantic Poetry we can find nostalgia at the centre and thus medievalism is one of the chief characteristics of Romantic Poetry. In the poems of John Keats we can find numerous references to Greek Literature. Thus we can also say that there is Hellenism in Romantic Poetry. The subject matter or the theme in Neoclassical Poetry was objective but in case of Romantic Poetry we can find the theme is always subjective.