When it comes to Romance and Romantic poetry, I’m a bit of an Aestheticist. And so were they for that matter; Percy Shelley and John Keats were basically proto-Aestheticists, the Gothic revival was mostly for the aesthetic, and then of course there’s George “the template for countless Sad Vampire Protagonists” Gordon, Lord Byron who–
Oh, you’re looking for romance. Well, they aren’t mutually exclusive.
Little-“r” romance and capital-“R” Romance don’t really have much to do with each other at first glance, but they aren’t incompatible. The Romantics– and by that I mean the British Romantics, I know there were Romantic periods in other countries’ literary canons but that’s for another day– put great importance in big, complicated emotions like horror and awe and wonder. Poems like “Tintern Abbey” and “Ode to the West Wind” are typical of the reverence and contemplation upon the natural world that was emblematic of the era. Many of the Romantics were also Classicists, influenced by the cultures of Ancient Greece and Rome. …Mostly by way of Ovid, but The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is suitably Homeric, and Prometheus Unbound was based on plays by Aeschylus. There was also a touch of mysticism and personal mythology, particularly with William Blake. We’re not going into Blake. This time.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, one of the Romantics, was the writer who defined poetry as “the best words in their best order”. John Keating, as portrayed by Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society, was the one who said that poetry was invented to woo women. As long as there is literature, in whatever form it decides to take (the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to philosophers, historians, a songwriter, and Winston Churchill), there will be people writing love poetry, no matter what the era is. We can use these poems to examine Romantisism through a romantic lens and see how it compares to the more traditional love poetry that people are used to, because as much as I love Shakespeare, he does not hold the monopoly on love poetry. To quote a contemporary poet, “Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs”.
After all, what’s more Romantic than tying the carcass of a dead bird around your neck to symbolize the burden of your greatest mistake while you watch all your friends die?More →