The spiritual and intangible world is central to Romanticism, yet real world experience is necessary. Discuss giving examples

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There are a myriad of concepts and principles that contribute to the way of thinking that is Romanticism. However, on theme consistent in and central to texts that express Romantic concerns is that of the spiritual and the intangible world; a world most commonly manifested in the realm of the imagination. What established this theme as intrinsic to Romanticism is the era’s value for the insight which can be achieved through exploring the uncertainty of the intangible, in which lies a passion that often cannot be found in the rationality of the temporal world. Nevertheless in the majority of tests that deal with the spiritual, there is a recognition of the nature of the imaginative world as fleeting, thus an acceptance of the necessity of returning to reality.

This dichotomous experience is evidently illustrated in the work of John Keats, particularly in his poems Ode to a Nightingale, in which Keats grapples with the transcendent beauty of the nightingale’s song versus the bleak reality, and La Belle Dame sans Merci where the allure of imagination is set against its depleting quality. Although not of Romantic context, the novel Possession by A.S. Byatt explores the quest for artistic liberty whilst dealing with the qualms of contemporary life. Eugene Delacroix’s painting Liberty Leading the People depicts the upsurge of idealistic passion in the French Revolution, while expressing also the reality of revolution.

In his poem Ode to a Nightingale, Keats is both enchanted inspired by the ethereal beauty of the nightingale song. For the Romantics nature was ‘a stimulus for the poet engage in the most characteristic of human activity, that of thinking’. While part of the tangible world, nature is elevated through the transforming faculties of imagination so that the bird’s song becomes an experience both temporal and transcendent. The ode opens with a sense of intoxication, “a drowsy numbness” which represents the speakers desire to transcend earthly reality. Keats reference to the mythological “Lethe” establishes the poet as wholly concerned with the spiritual realm. The speaker’s somnolence, emphasised by the drawn out rhythm of assonance in “a drowsy numbness pains” is contrasted with the image of strength portrayed in the description of the “beechen green” and a song of “full-throated ease”. This reflects the Romantic esteem for nature as ultimately greater than man.

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Keats develops a strong of yearning for the passion of inspiration with an increasing urgency. Juxtaposing the mortality of humanity, “the weariness, the fever, the fret” with the “immortal” renewal of the nightingales fluid music, reflecting the tension between enchantment and disenchantment in human capability that arose with the souring of the French Revolution by the end of the eighteen century. This disillusionment is emphasised by the desperate exclamation of “Away! Away!” where the poet longs to escape the earthly world, recognising this as only possible in the “wings of poesy”. The fervour in Keats’ words is evidently an internalisation ...

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