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Poezii Romnesti - Romanian Poetry

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Insight on Romanticism
essay [ ]
The Romantic poet

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by [bugy ]

2007-10-27  |     | 



The Romantic – that strange species of a human being who, contrary to any reason, keeps heatedly and somewhat candidly believing that the loved one will fall into his arms. The Romantic rebels at first against his own limits; yet a sort of selfishness and haughtiness, specific to the poet, urges him to focus his anger and frustration on an external target: whether it be divinity, world, time or the very person he loves.

Eternal pessimist never losing hope, the Romantic refuses to fall into line, dreading mediocrity above all other things. A misunderstood genius, he’s always out of place in a real world too harsh with his ideals. “Greatness is innate,” this moody, yet so charming character seems to say.

Unlike the Symbolist, who doesn’t shy painting a rotten and sometimes disgusting world, the Romantic spares his readers, using figures of speech related rather to the aesthetic of beauty. After all, the main difference between the two is that the dreams of the Romantic have never been completely defeated by the cruel, cynical reality.

The Romantic thinks in absolute terms, preferring the sharpness of the heights to the soft gentle hues of the hills. A man of the extremes – which can be noticed in his ease to change his mood, sometimes during the same poem –, he is irrevocably deemed as whimsical. He never defends himself, because he keeps a certain cold distance from the others, even from those who he means to charm.

The refuse to grow-up comes as a natural consequence. Adolescence is his time and he fights the sometimes desperate attempts of the others to impose the obvious on him. Infantilism and recklessness are his favorite weapons, which he skillfully and resolutely uses, taking full advantage of the goodwill and tolerance people often show him.

Everything is about love in Romanticism. Everything... from the clearly expressed feeling to the fainter, ambiguous hues (vanity is just an exaggerated love for oneself, in the end). The Romantic identifies to an almost complete loss of individuality with a feeling he idealizes, burdening it with meaning he comes to off-handedly forget. That’s what triggers his stubborn refusal of any flaw his adored object or person might have. Yet this does not stand for a Christian-like self-neglect, being instead a desperate attempt to preserve the embodied perfection, mingled with a cult for the sublime. He never submits to the formality of the world, because this is nothing more for him than a deceiving, irrelevant and distorted copy of the absolute – the only reality he unwaveringly and resolutely embraces.

The special soft spot he has for tragic heroes must be understood in relation to his continual pursuit of perfection. By exalting attempt, even – and moreover – when this ends in defeat or failure, the Romantic chooses a model he closely follows. Yet he does not champion every rebellion. The gross bestiality of Dante’s Devil (in “The Divine Comedy”) is repugnant to him. Seduced by the illusion of complete resplendence, he often forgets its primal origin and offers the alternative of Mephistopholis’s subtlety (in Marlowe’s “Dr. Faustus”), Lucifer’s lure of knowledge (in Byron’s “Cain”) or Satan’s cold pride (in Milton’s “Paradise Lost”), with his famous motto “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven”.

However vast, the Romantic’s work is marked by a few themes and motives that fascinate him. Whether they be life or death, beauty or truth, shadow or light, angels or demons, stars or the microcosm, happiness or immortality, nature or infinity, his verses hint to a special emotion when they come close to it. On the verge of obsession, he discretely introduces it even in those poems that seem to have eluded its tight grasp on a first reading.

Poet of chaos, the Romantic’s efforts turn, paradoxically, to the ordering of Nothingness, of the Void. In fact, paradox is his secret, guilty pleasure. Playing with words and concepts, or thoroughly structuring poetry, he allows us a glimpse into the exuberance which keeps inspiring his spirit. He sometimes deliberately weaves hidden meanings into his verses; some other times, though, he just prefers the shape’s beauty and simplicity to the didactical message.

Praiseworthy as it may be, trying to define the poet has few chances of success. If prose impersonally presents points of view, while dramatism offers the vivid image of dialogue, lyricism is more of a state, much too intimate by its relentless focus on the self to be bounded by definitions. However, it would be quite a challenge to extract the quintessence and the limits of a categorization made both by critics (readers included), as well as by the poets themselves.

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