Romantic Travellers: Introductions


Syllabus. Course requirements. Assessment. Working in groups.

Texts. Use of CD (don't print!).

Rutherford lab (CD available); your web site, if you have one, for commentaries: email me when done or send Word text (David.Miall@Ualberta.Ca); my office hours

Aims of course

Introduction to Romanticism:

1) loco-descriptive; then 2) picturesque; 3) "Tintern" as Romantic -- a new kind of poetry?

1. Loco-descriptive: examples:

From political statement, nature as setting and exemplar (Denham, etc.) to experiential valuation of nature (Wordsworth); from political valuation to particularized nature

Treatment of nature, examples, e.g., of river (mainly):

John Denham, "Cooper's Hill" (1642) ("the earliest example of strictly descriptive poetry in English" -- DNB !!):

My eye descending from the Hill, surveys
Where Thames amongst the wanton vallies strays.
Thames, the most lov'd of all the Oceans sons,
By his old Sire to his embraces runs,
Hasting to pay his tribute to the Sea,
Like mortal life to meet Eternity. (159-164)

(trope here: cf. Dyer, Crowe, Wordsworth in Epitaphs)

Alexander Pope, "Windsor Forest" (1713):

Thou too, great father of the British floods!
With joyful pride survey'st our lofty woods;
Where tow'ring oaks their spreading honours rear,
And future navies on thy shores appear.
Not Neptune's self from all his streams receives
A wealthier tribute, than to thine he gives.
No seas so rich, so gay no banks appear,
No lake so gentle, and no spring so clear.
Not fabled Po more swells the poet's lays,
While thro' the skies his shining current strays,
Than thine, which visits Windsor's fam'd abodes,
To grace the mansion of our earthly Gods (217-228)

John Dyer, "Grongar Hill" (1726):

And see the rivers how they run
Thro' woods and meads, in shade and sun!
Sometimes swift, sometimes slow,
Wave succeeding wave, they go
A various journey to the deep,
Like human life to endless sleep!
Thus is nature's vesture wrought,
To instruct our wand'ring thought;
Thus she dresses green and gay,
To disperse our cares away.
Ever charming, ever new,
When will the landskip tire the view! (93-104)

Thomson, from "Winter", The Seasons (1726-30):

                                        Then is the Time,
For those, whom Wisdom, and whom Nature charm,
To steal themselves from the degenerate Croud,
And soar above this little Scene of Things:
To tread low-thoughted Vice beneath their Feet:
To lay their Passions in a gentle Calm,
And woo lone Quiet, in her silent Walks. (33-39)

      The keener tempests come; and, fuming dun
From all the livid east or piercing north,
Thick clouds ascend, in whose capacious womb
A vapoury deluge lies, to snow congeal'd.
Heavy they roll their fleecy world along,
And the sky saddens with the gather'd storm.
Through the hush'd air the whitening shower descends,
At first thin-wavering; till at last the flakes
Fall broad and wide and fast, dimming the day
With a continual flow. The cherish'd fields
Put on their winter robe of purest white.
'Tis brightness all; save where the new snow melts
Along the mazy current. Low the woods
Bow their hoar head; and, ere the languid sun,
Faint from the west, emits his evening ray,
Earth's universal face, deep-hid and chill,
Is one wild dazzling waste, that buries wide
The works of man. (223-240)

Crowe, "Lewesdon Hill" (1788):

                                    thy clear stream,
Thou nameless Rivulet, who, from the side
Of Lewesdon softly welling forth, dost trip
Adown the valley, wandering sportively.
Alas, how soon thy little course will end!
How soon thy infant stream shall lose itself
In the salt mass of waters, ere it grow
To name or greatness! Yet it flows along
Untainted with the commerce of the world,
Nor passing by the noisy haunts of men;
But through sequester'd meads, a little space,
Winds secretly, and in its wanton path
May cheer some drooping flower, or minister
Of its cool water to the thirsty lamb:
Then falls into the ravenous sea, as pure
As when it issued from its native hill.

      So to thine early grave didst thou run on,
Spotless Francesca, so, after short course,
Thine innocent and playful infancy
Was swallowed up in death, and thy pure spirit
In that illimitable gulf which bounds
Our mortal continent. (129-150)

William Wordsworth, "Descriptive Sketches" (1793):

      How bless'd, delicious Scene! the eye that greets
Thy open beauties, or thy lone retreats;
Th' unwearied sweep of wood thy cliffs that scales,
The never-ending waters of thy vales;
The cots, those dim religious groves embow'r,
Or, under rocks that from the water tow'r
Insinuated, sprinkling all the shore,
Each with his household boat beside the door,
Whose flaccid sails in forms fantastic droop,
Bright'ning the gloom where thick the forests stoop;
-- Thy torrents shooting from the clear-blue sky,
Thy towns, like swallows' nests that cleave on high;
That glimmer hoar in eve's last light, descry'd
Dim from the twilight water's shaggy side (120-133)

(and see analysis of this passage)

Wordsworth, "Tintern Abbey" (1798):

Five years have passed; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters! And again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain springs
With a sweet inland murmur. Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
Which on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion, and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
The day is come when I again repose
Here, under this dark sycamore, and view
These plots of cottage-ground . . . (1-11)

River as life: although not directly rendered in "Tintern" cf. this passage by Wordsworth, from Essays upon Epitaphs, I (1810):

Origin and tendency are notions inseparably co-relative. Never did a child stand by the side of a running stream, pondering within himself what power was the feeder of the perpetual current, from what never-wearied sources the body of water was supplied, but he must have been inevitably propelled to follow this question by another: "Towards what abyss is it in progress? what receptacle can contain the mighty influx?" And the spirit of the answer must have been, though the word might be sea or ocean, accompanied perhaps with an image gathered from a map, or from the real object in nature -- these might have been the letter, but the spirit of the answer must have been as inevitably, -- a receptacle without bounds or dimensions; -- nothing less than infinity. We may, then, be justified in asserting, that the sense of immortality, if not a co-existent and twin birth with Reason, is among the earliest of her offspring: and we may further assert, that from these conjoined, and under their countenance, the human affections are gradually formed and opened out. (Prose Works, ed. Owen & Smyser, II, 51).

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Document created December 26th 2004