Romantic values imposed by the American and French revolutions had a significant place in Victorian poetry. The romanticism movement influenced not only English poetry, but poetry in general, and its influence spread to German and French literature, making it a significant era in the history of poetry and literature. Works influenced by romanticism could be characterized by faith in equal rights for all, denial of oppressive social forms, and re-evaluation of people’s connection with nature, often focused on childish innocence and purity. Thus, to illustrate the romantic values at work, one should start by analyzing the poems.
The Chimney Sweeper is one of William Blake’s popular poems, published first in 1794. The poem presents an example of romanticism work that focuses on children’s perception of the industrial culture, emphasizing the harm that technical progress causes to nature. The work supports Romantic values, with the vocabulary that the author utilizes in the poem and the use of symbolism of God and the youth and the angel who “set them all free.” However, the poem is different from many other works or Romantic movements. The paper mentions earlier that Romantic literature and its values emerged as a result of revolutionary movements. Therefore, a substantial part of Romantic literature has a revolutionary tone, which is missing in The Chimney Sweeper poem.
Despite conveying the same values of equality, freedom, connection with nature, and innocence, the poem utilizes a sad tone without addressing the initial message of Romantic literature in calling people to participate in change. Moreover, in the ending segment of the poem, the author states that the children who are sweeping chimneys are at least happy to be alive, “happy and warm.” The poem illustrates how Victorian poetry focused on expressing concerns about the rise of industrial culture and technical progress, which separated it from the revolutionary values of Romantics.
Another popular work of William Blake, called London, utilizes a similar time to draw the image of London and its gloomy streets. The poem focuses on the author exploring the sounds often heard from the streets of London, which are mainly presented by cries, sighs, and cursing. The poem utilizes another theme frequent in Romantic literature: illustrating the flaws of urban life and emphasizing the human need to live closer to nature to establish a more friendly and loving environment. Just as the other poem by Blake, London could also be characterized as a work of the Romantic movement that misses its initial revolutionary message but carries the same values.
Dover Beach is a poem written by Matthew Arnold that also represents Romantic values in literature. Arnold wrote this poem while relaxing on the beach at Dover Beach with his newly wedded spouse, suggesting the place and title of the poem to express his anger over his country’s loss of confidence. The poem utilizes the same values of Romantic literature, with the main character being inspired by the beach sight and using it to represent his religious beliefs. However, the poem’s meaning is deeper than the general revolutionary message expressed in Romantic works. Focusing on the subjects of an individual’s internal discussion of his loss of faith makes Arnold’s work an example of further developed Romantic values.
Christina Rossetti’s After Death is a poem that revolves around the theme of love while also being an example of the Romantic movement in literature. The poem describes how the main character, already dead, views her partner weeping near her bed. The author features elements of innocence, and symbolism, often associated with romantic values. However, the story’s exploration of the theme of death and life, love, and emotions takes it further from the general Romantic works, presenting a revised understanding of Romantic values.
Therefore, while the early Romantic poems in Victorian poetry were overly concentrated on industrial culture, further works surpassed the initial values of the Romantic movement, exploring deeper meaning and themes. Rosetti’s example shows how women improved their position in society in Victorian England with the freedom to explore the more experimental side of poetry while staying religious and giving up on marriage.