A ROMANTIC EPIPHANY
I had an epiphany at 17. I had Kubla Khan, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in front of me and my A level English Literature teacher had asked me to read and annotate it. All of a sudden, I got it. The images, idea’s and expressions in all of these poems resonated somewhere within what I had been trying to express through my art. I started taking my poetry anthology into my Art lessons, my Performing art lesson’s and to this day it still infiltrates into the way I understand the world. Last month I walking to Soho from Oxford Circus and discovered something incredible. Down a back street, just before you land in Soho, a hideously square building looms over Wordsworth’s place of birth. six years after I discovered him, his voice and the voice of the romantic epoch echoes and resonates with a 21st century society.
The Romantic poets were writing with ideas and arguments that can be heard in today’s society. They were born out of the Enlightenment period (early to mid 18th century) and wrote in retaliation to it. The ‘Enlightenment” period signified the western world’s first toe-dip into the oncoming Modernity plunge. A time of great change both societal and industrial as a result of developments in science, philosophy and technology. Today, in comparison, we face change every day as a result of advances in technology, just as the romantics did. Now, more than ever, their discussions on nature, beauty, urban life and truth are pertinent to us.
William Wordsworth, Oil on canvas, 1842, Benjamin Robert Haydon
Poetry, art and politics don’t need to be separated. They are all academic in that they require intelligent questioning of the world around us. The Baccalaureate does not include art as a core subject and this is absurd, how can we nurture the next generation to become creative minds if we do not encourage artistic learning? It seems backwards and Coleridge would not have agreed with it. He is an example of someone who was passionate about many forms of academia, spending a lot of time engaging in poetry but also, later on in his life,
becoming fascinated by meta-physics. It is important to be a creative thinker if you are to comprehend the chaotic truth to life and the Romantics definitely developed a style of thought.
This idea is developed in Eduardo de la Fente’s “The Place of Culture in Society: Romanticism and debates about the Cultural Turn”. The general consensus is that Romantic’s thought processes were a radical, powerful way of perceiving the world, often giving an intensified account of something intending to bring out similar emotions in the desired audience.
Professor Tahir puts the reason for a romantic poet rather eloquently. In his discussion of Coleridge he explains the point of a true Romantic Poet;
“To point out to us the inexhaustible wealth of the knowledgeable unknown. To an age puffed out with pride in its perfection and greatness he administers the salutary lesion that what it has achieved is not the last word”
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all politicians comprehended this? Would we have more honest politicians if they all read more romantic poetry? To demand Blake and Wordsworth in the green seats of the Commons may be absurd but a rounded appreciation of poetry would not go a-miss.