Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems

Explain the tradition of Romantic nature poetry.

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Romantic poetry has as its basis a love of nature and the naturalness of the world. The major Romantic poets had their own emphasis: Wordsworth - nature; Coleridge - supernatural; Byron - "mad, bad, and dangerous to know"; Shelley - idealism; Keats - sensual. All Romantic poets used nature in one way or another to focus on their meaning. Some Romantic poets also had a sort of "system" in which they focused on a specific part of nature, compared it to something similar in mankind, and then used the comparison to focus on a universal truth. The Romantic poets, in general, contrasted sharply to the 18 century poets who focused on public rather than private poetry.

The tradition of Romantic nature poetry begins in England about 1798 with the publication of Lyrical Ballads by Wordsworth and Coleridge. In America it is followed by people like William Cullen Bryant. The idea that nature is pure and innocent plays into most Romantic poetry, but it is also true that some of the beliefs of men like Jean Jacques Rousseau with his idea of the Noble Savage helped the Romantics with their ideas. The term can also be used to describe the beautiful Nature paintings and lush rich music of this same period.