Love and Romanticism
From Herrick to Shelly it has been an eventful week of Romanticism poetry. Each poet is unique and has his/her own style of writing and subjects. You have Andrew Marvell writing about love and lust in his poem “To His Coy Mistress” and then you also have Coleridge and the ancient Mariner. Yet many of these poems share a very common theme of Romanticism: love.
Before the Romantics you had one of the greatest poets of all time Shakespeare who was also known to use love as common theme in his works. For example lets look at the infamous Sonnet 18 and its use of nature and love. The idea of a summer’s day and the visual of summer is used to complement the woman of Shakespeare’s poem and is praised to be “more lovely and more temperate,” making nature a complement of her rather than she in nature. In addition to his early works such as Sonnet 18 in sonnets like Sonnet 60 we get the comparison of nature to time and love. “Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, so do our minutes hasten to their end.” In Shakespeare nature is the backdrop to life and his interpretation of love, its used to add beauty and romance to his poems.
One of the most shortest but memorable poems I read this week was “Upon Julia’s Clothes” by Robert Herrick. He goes to describe a heartfelt ode to Julia and his silent declaration of love. It is quite obvious that he is hung up on her and is unable to express his love to her. The line that stands out to me especially from Herrick is where he writes “that liquefaction of her clothes” while it could be argued that he did the same this as Shakespeare to make a metaphor of her clothes melting off, I argue that Herrick sees Julia as the light of his eyes so to speak and therefor making her his world and his view of nature and beauty is defined by Julia. Therefore Julia is his entire world and his center for love and nature.
Another poet of this era who was a well known “mad-whore” as we stated in class today was Lord Byron. His poem “She Walks in Beauty” rumored to be about his cousin follows the traditional Romanticism view of love and beauty. Byron was well known as ladies man and was often a man of lust rather than love. Even in his poem he mainly discusses the appearance of this beauty emphasizing on “that cheek… that brow… the similes,” all of which are in addition to the “raven tress” that we discussed as being the description of her hair. While in the end he states this being love yet to me to seems to be more about lust than love.
But who is to say all love poems are as lovely as Herrick’s? Keats’ poem “Modern Love” was another favorite of mine this week as it critiqued the idea of love and what it really does to a person. He begins the poem by demanding, “what is love?” and then goes on to express the foolishness of those in love. From my understanding in class Keats was often misunderstood among critics and other writers of his time. His poem is the first of read of this era to go against the norm of being all lovey dovey, and I think is interesting to see a Romanticist author bring down the idea of love. My favorite quote from this poem is where he states it is no reason why such agonies” which does raise the question why put ones self though so much pain and agony in the name of love? It’s an idea that probably wasn’t discussed among writers seeing as most of them only wrote of love, but to me that’s what made this poem so interesting.
Love the key theme of so many works of this era of literature but the levels of love and the inspiration from Shakespeare is so vast and can range from true love, to lust, to a hate of love. This range of works is what makes the Romanticism era so remarkable.