Romantic Sonnet


The Romantic sonnet holds in its topics the ideals of the time period,
concentrating on emotion, nature, and the expression of "nothing." The Romantic
era was one that focused on the commonality of humankind and, while using
emotion and nature, the poets and their works shed light on people\'s universal
natures. In Charlotte Smith\'s "Sonnet XII - Written on the Sea Shore," the
speaker of the poem embodies two important aspects of Romantic work in relating
his or her personal feelings and emotions and also in having a focused and
detailed natural setting. The speaker takes his or her "solitary seat" near the
shore of a stormy sea and reflects upon life and the "wild gloomy scene" that
suits the "mournful temper" of his or her soul (ll.4, 7,8). While much Romantic
writing dealt with love and the struggles endured due to love, there was also
emphasis placed on isolation, as seen in the emotions of Smith\'s speaker and
also in the setting on the work. Nature, in many Romantic sonnets, is in direct
parallel with the emotions being conveyed. Smith, for example, uses the water
to aid the reader\'s comprehension of the speaker\'s state of mind. Included in
this traditional natural setting is the use of the sea as stormy, deep,
extensive, and dark which ties the speaker in with the setting as the scene
applies to the tone of the poem as well. Also characteristic of the Romantic
sonnet is the retreat from the neo-classical age and its significant historical
references into a new age where it becomes common to speak of "nothing." In
William Wordsworth\'s "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge," there is no deeper
meaning to be grasped other than the beauty of the day\'s dawning. The speaker\'s
view of the morning and its "majesty" and the "calm" that comes over the speaker
are central ideas in the poem (ll. 3, 11). In this sonnet, it is again apparent
how influential and prevalent nature is.

The reflection upon simplicity runs through many works and is seen quite
evidently in William Blake\'s Songs of Innocence. In these poems, there is much
mention of children, whose lives, ideally, should be the most simple. Also
included in this simplicity are the innocence of the children and the simplicity
of the tone, metaphors, and images in the works. In Blake\'s "The School Boy,"
the character of the poem is a young boy whose joy in life should be rising on a
summer morning when the birds are singing and when he, in his happiness, can
sing with them. Here, there is simplicity in the pleasure of the child and also
in the life of the child himself. The boy\'s biggest problem in his life is
having to go to school and having to curb his "youthful spring," which Blake
compares to the cutting of a plant\'s blossoms (l. 20). In this poem, the
simplicity and the innocence are not only key factors, but they are desired
factors as well. The speaker notes that these tender plants will not fare well
if
they are not cared for in the springtime; in other words, the child will
suffocate and cease to bloom if not left to be innocent and to just be a child.
The innocence and the simplicity must be nurtured. William Wordsworth\'s "Three
Years She Grew in Sun and Shower" is an example of a poem using simplicity in
its construction more than in its content. In this work, a little girl is being
compared to a flower and this simple metaphor shadows the reality of the child\'s
death. The imagery in this poem is also simple in many places; the natural
imagery of clouds, stars, flowers, animals and landscape is, again, contrary to
the temper of the poem. The simplicity in this poem, like the Blake poem, is
related to the ideal situation of the child. The images of the flower and the
fawn come in relation to her life after her death and it is here that Nature
feels she will be happiest, most innocent, and most like a child should be.

As the Romantic movement saw the gradual change from a focus on the past
to a focus on the present and the commonality of all humans, it is of perfect
sense that the institution of slavery be reflected upon in some works from the
period. Among others, William Cowper wrote with great sentiment regarding the
injustice of slavery. In his "On Slavery (Book II)," Cowper gives his personal
feelings regarding slavery and condition of human nature that could