Posted: February 17th, 2023

In Book One of his Confessions, Rousseau, and Other Romantic poets, like Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats, stress feeling over thinking too, discuss how the Romantic poets privileged emotion over reason

The Romantic poets of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, such as Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats, valued emotion over reason in their works. This preference for emotion is evident in themes found throughout their poetry. In particular, these poets looked toward nature for inspiration to evoke strong emotions within readers. Additionally, they often wrote about personal experience in order to create a sense of connection with the reader through shared feelings and sentiments. These techniques display how the Romantic poets privileged emotion over reason by using it as a tool to convey meaning and create an emotional response from their audience.

Perhaps one of the most famous examples of this privileging of emotion can be seen in William Wordsworth’s poem “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey” where he uses his personal relationship with nature to express his intense emotions: “Thus I champ’d the grass; thus graspt the element / Through which the eternal sentiment of joy / Burst forth like lively sparks among asleep stones / And glist’ning stars did twinkle on my sight (1-4).” Here Wordsworth uses imagery associated with nature—grass and stars—to describe his joyful reaction upon revisiting a place that brings back memories from childhood. By using language evoking sensory details like grass beneath feet and stars twinkling before eyesight he creates an image that conveys vivid emotions within himself as well as within any reader experiencing it alongside him.

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In Percy Shelley’s poem “Ode to The West Wind” he also expresses sentiment towards Nature while using emotional language: “Thou dirge of the dying year / To which are shivered woods…Be thou me, spirit fierce! Drive my dead thoughts over sea (15-17)”. His use of personification here allows him to directly address Nature creating an intimate relationship between himself and Nature that helps express strong feeling toward it including grief at its passing beauty: “Make me thy lyre even as thine heart/ Make me all months in one! What if my leaves are falling lo! (37-38)”. Here Shelley turns himself into a metaphor for autumn making himself part of Nature thus blurring boundaries between them creating an intense relationship that carries deep emotions within it rather than intellectual thought or reasoning.

In Book One of his Confessions, Rousseau, and Other Romantic poets, like Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats, stress feeling over thinking too, discuss how the Romantic poets privileged emotion over reason

John Keats similarly uses imagery associated with Nature along with emotive language meant to stir up deep feelings such as passion and longing within his poem “La Belle Dame Sans Merci”: “She took me to her elfin grot / And there she wept & sigh’d ful sore(3-4). The description here implies loneliness shrouded by mystical beauty which quickly leads into wistful romance when he states “I saw pale kings & princes too/ Pale warriors death pale were they all”(11-12). This powerful visual conjures up sorrow yet also hints at romantic desire leading into further exploration in later lines like “And there she lulled me asleep/ And there I dream’d––ah woe betide!”(19–20). As readers experience this journey alongside Keats they feel moved by this tale despite not understanding why exactly due only to its emotional appeal rather than intellect or reason behind its structure or story being told..

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Overall then these poems demonstrate how Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats value emotion over thinking through their use of imagery related specifically but not limited too nature paired with passionate descriptions aiming towards stirring up certain reactions inside readers hearts more so than mindsets likes Rousseau claimed feeling before thinking thereby privileging feeling above rational thought.

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