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How Do I Recognize Romanticism in Poetry?

Nick Mann
Nick Mann

Romanticism was a movement originating in the latter part of the 18th century, that was in opposition to traditional Classicism. Although it can be found in numerous artistic mediums, the expression of Romanticism in poetry is rather common. In order to recognize Romanticism in poetry, one must first understand its basic concepts and themes. Some of these themes include a fondness for nature, expression of intense human emotions, dominance of passion over logic, and elaborate imagination.

A deep appreciation of the wonder and beauty of nature is perhaps one of the most commonly witnessed themes of Romanticism in poetry. Often, Romantic poets will also tie some spiritual elements to the sense of awe that natural landscapes can provide. This essentially makes nature into a bridge between the earthly and the divine. Romantic poets often expounded upon their love of nature and the beauty it provides.

Romantic poets like William Wordsworth often displayed intense emotion inspired by nature.
Romantic poets like William Wordsworth often displayed intense emotion inspired by nature.

Another way to recognize Romanticism in poetry is to look for poems that display intense emotions. Romantic literature tends to rely more upon the heart, as opposed to the brain. The language and mood are very intuitive, rather than sterile or mechanical. This is why so many of the poems are based on love and the desire for potential love interests. Often Romantic poets will describe the qualities of a beautiful woman and the deep emotions that she conjures up.

John Keats was a notable Romantic poet.
John Keats was a notable Romantic poet.

Elevating passion over logic is related to this focus on emotions and is another theme of Romanticism. Unlike some other poetic styles, Romanticism is primarily based upon human desire and a belief in the possibility of extraordinary happenings. This puts Romantic poetry beyond the physical world where there are no real limitations. Therefore, this style places a high regard on an individual's instincts rather than cold, empirical knowledge. As a result, there is a strong belief in the essential goodness of man and his ability to rise above his circumstances.

In addition, there is a profound emphasis on one's imagination. In Romanticism, nearly anything is possible and life is not limited to the ordinary routines. This attitude creates a sense of mystery and opens up the possibility of transcending the material realm. It also opens a gateway to the spiritual world where an individual is no longer subject to the laws of physics. Therefore, poetry with a nearly childlike imagination and belief in the impossible is usually a clear sign of Romanticism.

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Discussion Comments


William Blake is my favorite romantic poet. His poems are always so deep and meaningful. I can think about them for a long time. My favorite is: “To see a world in a grain of sand; and heaven in a wild flower; hold infinity in the palm of your hand; and eternity in an hour.”

In just a few lines he makes us think about this world, the next world and our lifetime. I think what he means here is that we should enjoy this world and really experience it and see the beauty in the small things in life.


@donasmrs-- I'm no expert on this topic but I think romantic poets were just as interested in spirituality as transcendentalists, although it's true that their worldview differed slightly. They are considered very similar though and share many of the same ideas.

Romanticism is interested in mysticism, nature, strong emotions. More important than anything else, romantics believed that every individual ought to discover truth for themselves and that this can be done through our emotions, intuitions and spiritual exploration.

I think romantic poetry is some of the most beautiful and meaningful because most poems in this genre encourages the reader to except ourselves as we are. There isn't pressure to fit certain criteria and feelings aren't disregarded as they are in classic poetry.


It was my understanding that transcendentalism is more about religion and spirituality and romanticism is less so. Both of these are in contrast to classicism but I think romanticism is less interested in spirituality than transcendentalism. Am I correct?

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    • Romantic poets like William Wordsworth often displayed intense emotion inspired by nature.
      By: Georgios Kollidas
      Romantic poets like William Wordsworth often displayed intense emotion inspired by nature.
    • John Keats was a notable Romantic poet.
      By: Books18
      John Keats was a notable Romantic poet.