The Romantic poets have a special place in every English major’s heart. John Keats was a young genius taken too early by consumption. Lord Byron was a complicated womanizer, equally disdained and adored. Percy Bysshe and Mary Shelley were the young couple at the center. The old William Wordsworth cantankerously loved flowers. William Blake was off in his cottage hallucinating.
The cast of characters were eclectic, but all were unified in their deep appreciation for the sublime. The magnitude of nature, the universe, and man’s small stature in relation filled them with awe. It didn’t send them into existential despair. Instead, it made them tear up. Looking up to the immersive night sky, it was less a reminder of humanity’s impermanence and more of a cozy blanket of stars to get lost in. Though today’s romantics tend to worship writers like Nicholas Sparks, let’s not forget the Romantics of old. Here are some of their most moving excerpts.
1. I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
“A Poison Tree,” William Blake
2. These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and ‘mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
“Tintern Abbey,” William Wordsworth
3. At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God’s name.
“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Samuel Taylor Coleridge
4. She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
“She walks in beauty,” Lord Byron
5. And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the fairy power
Of unreflecting love;—then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.
“When I have fears that I may cease to be,” John Keats
6. I hid my love in field and town
Till e’en the breeze would knock me down.
The bees seemed singing ballads o’er
The fly’s buzz turned a lion’s roar;
“Song,” John Clare
7. Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
“Kubla Khan,” Samuel Taylor Coleridge
8. Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
“Ode to a Nightingale,” John Keats
9. The mangled dead
And dying victims then pollute the flood.
Ah! thus man spoils Heaven’s glorious works with blood!
“The Sea View,” Charlotte Smith
10. My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
“Ozymandias,” Percy Bysshe Shelley
John Keats. | Image Via Wikipedia
Feature Image Via Wikipedia | “Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog” by Caspar David Friedrich