Romantic poetry

Emotion and vision

  • This is a poetry of the heart and the emotions, exploring the ‘truth of the imagination' rather than scientific truth.
  • The ‘I' voice is central; it is the poet's perceptions and feelings that matter.
  • Romantic poets often saw themselves as visionaries, seeing further and more deeply into the nature of the world or the supernatural than ordinary people did.


  • The Romantic poets were particularly inspired by the realm of Nature. They were concerned that Nature should not just be seen scientifically but as a living force, either made by a Creator, or as divine in some way, to be neglected at humankind's peril.
  • Some of them were no longer Christian in their beliefs. Shelley was an atheist, and, for a while, Wordsworth was a pantheist (someone who holds a sort of 'New Age' belief that God is in everything).
  • Much of their poetry celebrated the beauty of nature, or protested the ugliness of the growing industrialisation of the century, with its machines, factories, slum conditions, pollution and so on.

The past

Some of the Romantics, like Keats, also turned back to past times to find inspiration, either to the medieval period, or to Greek and Roman mythology.

Victorian re-interpretation

In the Victorian period, which is the one that concerns us, Tennyson and other poets were rather selective in what they wanted from the Romantics. They liked the emphasis on Nature, and on drawing on medieval and mythological material, but they were not so happy about the more visionary or philosophic aspects.

This made Victorian poetry easier for most people to understand, and so it retained its popularity. At the same time, general reading, especially the novel, was also becoming very popular as more and more people were becoming educated. Printing was becoming cheaper and cheaper, so the reading public was growing enormously.

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