Early Romantic Poetry

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Early Romantic Poetry Early Romantic Poetry In the second half of the 18th century, a new sensibility became manifest in poetry and a new generation of poets began to arise.
Even if they didn't lay down a precise programme of rules, they established new trends which paved the way for the Romantic generations of poets. The main features of Early Romantic Poetry are: The use of subjective, autobiographical material to express a lyrical and personal experience of life; A balanced presentation of various emotional states; The melancholy and sad tone; The cult of simple and primitive, rural life; The description of a wild, gloomy nature, often connected with night and darkness; The choice of cemeteries and ruins; The respect of classical proportion and poetic form. The two most popular trends of the period were “Ossianic” and “Graveyard” poetry.
The former consist of a cycle of poems by a legendary Irish warrior, called Ossian, who lived in the 3rd century in Scotland. “graveyard” poetry was called after an influential group of poems know as “the Graveyard School” because of their melancholy tone and because they set their poems in cemeteries or among ruins. Elegy written in a Country Churchyard The most important work of the school of “the Graveyard School” was Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, where the tomb became a symbol evoking the contemplation of death and immortality. The poem opens with a death-bell sounding, a knell. The lowing of cattle, the droning of a beetle in flight, the tinkling of sheep-bells, and the owl's hooting (stanzas 1-3) mourn the passing of a day, described metaphorically as if it were a person, and then suitably the narrator's eye shifts to a human graveyard. From creatures that wind, plod, wheel, and wander, he looks on still, silent “mould'ring” heaps, and on turf under a moonlit tower where “The rude forefathers” “sleep” in a “lowly bed.” Gray makes his sunset a truly human death-knell. No morning bird-song, evening family life, or farming duties (stanzas 5-7) will wake, welcome, or occupy them. They have fallen literally under the sickle, the ploughshare, and the axe that they once wielded. They once tilled glebe land, fields owned by the church, but now lie under another church property, the parish graveyard. This scene remains in memory as the narrator contrasts it with allegorical figures who represent general traits of eighteenth-century humanity: Ambition (29), Grandeur (31), Memory (38), etc… the narrator defends the dead in his remote churchyward cemetery from the contempt of abstractions like Ambition and Grandeur. He makes four arguments. First, the goals of the great, which include aristocratic lineage, beauty, power, wealth, and glory, share the same end as the “rude forefathers,” the grave. Human achievements diminish from the viewpoint of the eternal. The monume