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Quick: picture a poet. Who do you see? Is it a moody, sensitive guy, wandering around a moor or a field or a forest? Congratulations! You have just conjured to mind a Romantic poet. Many of the stereotypes that we have about poets and poetry originated in this period in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Artists disillusioned with industrialization and urbanization turned to nature for inspiration, valuing emotion over reason and feeling over rationality. They sought the awesome, divine beauty that could only be experienced in the tranquility of nature and only by one willing to be quiet long enough to feel it.
No one can say precisely what started the Romantic era, but its breakthrough in English literature was a 1798 volume of poetry entitled Lyrical Ballads, by William Wordsworth. (Poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge actually wrote some of the poetry as well, but more on that later.) Wordsworth's preface to a later edition of Lyrical Ballads essentially became the manifesto of literary English Romanticism. The poems, he promised the reader, were free of "gaudiness and inane phraseology of many modern writers." Their goal, instead, "was to choose incidents and situations from common life, and to relate or describe them …in a selection of language really used by men, and, at the same time, to throw over them a certain colouring of imagination, … and, further, and above all, to make these incidents and situations interesting by tracing in them, truly though not ostentatiously, the primary laws of our nature."blank" rel="nofollow">Samuel Taylor Coleridge who were willing to sacrifice their own careers in order to advance his. Because of their efforts, and because of Wordsworth's undeniable talent and drive, we have today a beautiful body of work that speaks straight to the soul.