The Evolution of British PoetryThroughout the literary history of the Renaissance, a gradual but dramatic change in the poetic style of the time becomes apparent. From one contribution to another, the rebellion between the poetic styles is evident. Early Elizabethan and Jacobean poetry demonstrates the love that mankind shares and the universal truths that the people of that time held so dear. On through the neoclassical and romantic eras, the style becomes centered on personal delight and warmth. This paper intends to follow and describe this evolution of British poetry.
To introduce a change, one must institute a type of first standard. The Elizabethan literary type did just that. Elizabethan poetry centered on love and personal relationships between people, come live with me, and be my love and we will all the pleasures prove. (The passionate Shepherd to His Love, L. 1-2) They were, as well, deeply rooted in universal truth. These poems were often about the quest for love and its brutal slap in the face attitude. With the Elizabethan style of poetry, we see a serious side to British poetry. The serious side to the Elizabethan era gave birth to an entirely new way of writing poetry. The Neoclassical era was a time of reason and though. It was more formal than the love induced poetry of the Elizabethan era. Neoclassical poets loved the classic form of literature with its strict regimen and form. The change between these two forms could be defined as a rebellion of sorts. Neoclassical poets rebelled against the writing of traditional things such as love and relation ships and instead wrote about untraditional things like self-enlightenment and the idea of proverbs. Neoclassic poetry suspects that the reader is more in tune with his or her brain rather than his heart. The poems were intended to reach a more educated population, with to much knowledge for the skeptic side. (An Essay on Man, L. 5) With yet another change, the Romantic era brought back some of the early forms of poetry as experienced in the Elizabethan era. Romantic poets used emotion and spontaneity to draw people in. The poems gave a sense of warmth and safety to their readers. However, at the same time, they introduced wild and exciting topics. The poems demonstrate not a love for people, but rather a love for ones country and nature, we see little in nature that is ours. (The World is too Much with Us, L. 3) Romantics delighted in the supernatural and mysteries. Using ones imagination to invoke a sense of excitement, The sea blooms and the oozy woods (Ode to the West Wind, L. 39) The romantic era was a result of many factors. The main factor for the romantic era was the industrial revolution. Upon the building of factories, cities became larger and more crowded. People used the romantic poetry as a means of letting their minds wander instead of their bodies. This fact truly separates this era from the rest. The romantic way of life has become so sought after that entertainment is the number one moneymaker in the world today. What is the reason for all this change? Sometimes change is a direct result of boredom. However, in the case of British poetry, change was sparked be peoples rebellion. A pattern arises from the changes between eras. For instance if one era, the Elizabethan era, was all about love and was formally written, the era following it, the Neoclassical era would be almost the exact opposite. Instead of being about personal love, it would be a rational lesson directed toward more than one person.
This pattern continues between the neoclassical era and the romantic era. Again, the new romantics through out the old style of the neoclassical poets and designed one that included a form of entertainment. This changes goes, somewhat, back to the Elizabethan age showing that history tends to repeat itself. Not to say that the Elizabethan era and the romantic era are identical, but merely that they differ greatly from that of the neoclassical era. These changes did not occur abruptly and over night! They were a result of ever changing mini eras. In between the Elizabethan era and the neoclassical eras, we see different contributions such as the Cavalier, Metaphysical, and the puritan contributions. Cavalier poetry played off Elizabethan poetry in the aspect of love but turned it into chivalric love. After that, the Metaphysical contribution grew further from the Elizabethan era by introducing abstract and supernatural though into the poetry. And finally, the last changing contribution was from the puritans. The puritan, a group of people that wanted a stronger moral fiber than those who were in the Protestant church, introduced spirituality and formality to Elizabethan poetry. The change between the neoclassical era and the romantic era has only one contributing factor. The pre-romantics were people who lived during the neoclassical era but who were near the end. Poems that were born from this contribution were formal and intelligent writings with an emotional and imaginative twist. They spoke to intelligent people about supernatural things.
Throughout the evolution of British poetry, several changes are seen that greatly effect the way we read and view all that is in this world today. That evolution provides a model that has been repeated over and over again whether it is political change or clothing style change. They all have one thing in common, one era rebels against the era that preceded it.
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