Romanticism And The Process Of Life

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The mystery of the ceaseless nature of life and death has baffled thinkers, great and small, for millennia. Hundreds of years passed with nothing except speculation to interpret your place in the world, but the spread of the Enlightenment and the idea of scientific reasoning brought a new wave of assumptions to Europe. Men and women started using reason in order to make sense of the world around them.

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This led to the delegitimizing of what came to encompass the Romantic movement; observation of nature, the sublime, and individual expression; among others. These poets wished to bring back an emphasis on the more indescribable and mysterious aspects of life. Thought and emotion guided their documented experiences, especially when it came to the interpretation of life and death. Although Blake, Shelley, and Keats each discuss the process of aging and resulting death, Blake believes it to be a necessary aspect of nature while Shelley and Keats view it as burdensome.

Blake represents the first generation of Romantic poets, who ardently stressed a harmonious relationship between man and nature. The most visible example of this association lies in the collection Songs of Innocence, wherein Blake considers the brightest side of humanity, meaning before the Biblical fall of man. This includes the process of aging and eventual death as, in a perfect relationship between man and nature, growing older is accepted and as much a part of life as the changing of the seasons. No one fights against it or looks with jealousy upon those younger than them. For example, in Echoing Green, a group of children play while the older men and women watch them nostalgically; these elders laugh away care as they look on, but do not reference any feelings of wanting to go back or hold anything against the children, themselves. They recognize that youth must fade (Blake, Echoing Green 10-14).

Another aspect of a perfect correlation between man and nature is the joy that comes along with the birth of new life. In Infant Joy, a mother welcomes her child into the world and asks the newborn what she shall be called. The infant replies, I happy am,/ Joy is my name. The mother blesses her child and sings her to sleep, wishing that Sweet joy befall thee! Both poems exhibit instances in which life, at all stages, is cherished and exalted (Blake, Infant Joy 4-12). No worry or sadness exists over the prospect of having to grow old or to bring forth another mouth to feed. Men, women, and children accept their place within the natural order and even celebrate it.

Conversely, Songs of Experience, emphasizes the fallen, corrupted aspects of human nature, including the reluctance to accept aging. The subjects of Songs of Experience find themselves to be jealous and hostile towards those who still have their youth.

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