A beginner's guide to Romantic Poetry
Jennie Mills | 20 March 2016

No, don’t roll your eyes and look away, I’m not about to educate you on the cheese and corn we find in Valentine’s Day cards, what I’m referring to here is a far more sophisticated type of poetry. These roses are to be read, and the violets, well, surely they’re violet not blue?


The Romantic era in literature began in the late 18th Century and stemmed from a group of poets’ reaction to the ideals of the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ which had become more prominent due to the great progress and advancement of science throughout the century. Disregarding these ideals, the Romantic poets preferred topics powered by emotion and personal experience rather than logic and didacticism – their approach to literature was revolutionary, possibly reflecting the political events occurring in France at the time.


Not to be confused with lower case ‘r’ romanticism, Romantic literature does not especially focus on the subject matter of love or passion – typical themes include isolation and nature: “I wandered lonely as a cloud” as well as oppression, and the lugubrious stories of individuals with particularly unfortunate lives, for example “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In an example of the impact the Romantic era still has today, “The Rime” contains the somewhat familiar lines now used in a more well known phrase: “Water, water, everywhere/Ne any drop to drink.”


The ‘Big Six’ – the most renowned writers of the Romantic era – typically includes the poets: Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley and Keats, however other, less famous, writers are now considered writers of the Romantic era, including women. Their work has influenced and continues to influence more modern writers, and is still appreciated and studied by the audiences of today.

James Routledge 2016