The romantic period - Blake’s and Wordsworth’s Views of Children

A movement that was intellectual, artistic, literary, and musical is thought to have started in Europe during the romantic age. Between the latter half of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, this occurrence occurred. It happened as a result of the impact of significant political and economic changes like the French and industrial revolutions. The adjustments were crucial because they led the romantics to become accustomed to things like poetry, philosophy, and psychology. The poets experimented with a variety of topics while writing the poems, including dream and vision, man and environment, and childhood and imagination. The image of the child was a great deal in the previous ages and this attention increased in the 19th century. In English romanticism, the literary expression of the child image was treated symbolically. Children were regarded as symbols of wholeness because they stood for innocence and purity. Examples of poets that were in this era include William Blake and William Wordsworth. The poets used various themes to write their poetry, but in this paper, we look at how both poets viewed children in their poetry.

Childhood is one of the things that we spend our lives as adults getting over getting over. An important element that was used in romantic poetry is the theme of childhood. Children of this age were seen to be close to nature and uncorrupted which encouraged poets to enhance their themes of imagination and innocence.

One the earliest and unique poet of the romantic era is William Blake. He is an artist who is considered to be very visionary in his works. In his works, he used themes such as moral law, artificiality superiority of imagination over rationalism of the eighteenth century. William Blake believed that nothing had full significance for him unless it appeared in a particular form. He believed that ordinary children were unsubstantial in themselves and symbols of greater reality. His poems help in revealing his perception of the world depicting his poetic styles and ideas.

In his poems, Blake depicts how the human souls have contradicting states. He uses his technique to focus on the image of the child representing the union of childhood and adulthood. In songs of innocence, there is a balance between the features of childhood and adulthood, for example, the intuition of innocence and wisdom of experience. In this poem, the child and the adult are not satisfied with the solitary existence without the other’s complementing gift. In the introduction of the poem the child is viewed as a source of imagination and inspiration, the image of the child on a cloud inspires the piper. The poet is represented as a simple piper coming from a distance while singing a song of pleasure. Blake creates an image in which the piper’s song is disrupted by the appearance of a child on a cloud in a visionary manner, in the first and the second line. In line five we see the child appearing while laughing asking the piper for more songs. The child asks the piper to share the songs with other people and not to keep them to himself. The child inspires the piper to transform his songs into more pleasant ones and also enables the piper to connect between his conscious and unconscious form.

It is in this scene that the power of the child is revealed by Blake for the response to the piper and his unconscious. Collaboration between the child and the adult helps in assisting the piper to reach a state of integration between the earthly and the heavenly. The child’s image assists in making the pipers solitude to vanish; it is through the innocence of the child that the piper is inspired to see beyond the ordinary nature. This image assists the writer to see inside himself and his audience. The disappearance of the child enables the piper to compose new songs for the enjoyment of the audience and not his self.

In songs of experience, the introduction depicts a different image than that of songs of innocence. The child is viewed as a symbol of reason, serious voice and conscious. It states ways in which good innocence is destroyed by the harsh experiences of the adult world.

The echoing green is also another poem in which Blake follows the course of a day. Children are depicted in this poem as a symbol of innocence. He depicts a great landscape in which there are sounds of children playing, and birds and bells. The poem begins with the stanza ‘the sun does arise’ contrasting this in the third stanza that says ‘the sun does descend.' This poem is a representation of the rites of passage. The image of an old man also helps to depict the theme of adulthood. In this poem children are laughing and enjoying themselves, they are presented as carefree and beings which are always busy with their games.

In the poem, we see old people who remember their childhood with sorrow, but after hearing the echoes of playing children, they feel very happy. Children are therefore used to bring out happiness to other people. Their innocence as they carry out their day to day activities is as pure as it is seen to excite old people bringing pleasure to their lives. Blake contrasts the innocence of children with the adult world of repression and corruption.

In the little black boy, Blake shows a perfect world in which there is faith and protection in God and Christianity values. The child says how he obtained his identity through God. The boy states that though he has a black skin, his soul is as white as that of a white English child. William Blake views children as innocent beings to deal with the social and political problems. He believes that children possess the power and are capable of overcoming the problems that come from a materialistic society. The children in “The chimney sweeper’ are symbolized by abandonment. He views children as a source of integration and imagination.

Another poet in this romantic era is William words worth. At the start of his career, Wordsworth was in connection with Coleridge where they composed lyrical ballads, with a few other poems which are considered to be very instrumental in shaping English poetry, it is also considered to mark the initiation of the romantic era.

In Wordsworth ode: an intimation of immortality, from recollections of early childhood. He believes that the child’s mind is a bank that contains psychological powers that are valuable but are endangered socially. Childhood is seen as a very important period that shapes the character of the adult. It is seen as a period in which the genius of everybody blossomed. He believes that life on earth is a shadow of a poorer existence that is usually recalled in children and forgotten in the process of growing up. The adult eventually succumbs to change but is very nostalgic about the childhood that he is leaving.

Wordsworth uses the child to symbolize the nature of human beings that is pre-conscious and post-conscious. The child is considered as immortal due to the ability to express the spiritual, intellectual wholeness of a human being.

Wordsworth presents childhood more realistically in the prelude. The link between nature and children revolves around natures influence and retribution as the child imagines it. In book I and II words worth writes about an ideal childhood that was spent caring for nature after the death of his mother. The child is seen as to have a great motion and imagination form which is enhanced by the child’s primitive nature. The child is seen as one who can be able to capture the essence of both the past and the present self.

Wordsworth also views children as beings with a lot of innocence. In his lyrical ballads ‘Anecdotes for fathers,’ he talks about a walk between a young child and his father in which they discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the country homes which they have lived in and which the young son prefers. The child’s response is very innocent he says he prefers the old house, despite the child being small he is aware that human words re able to affect feelings. The child therefore on seeing his father’s surprise, he tries to cover what he had said.

He also used children to illustrate the wholesomeness, innocence, and simplicity of man in the world. In Lucy grey, the child becomes lost and dies in the snow. Wordsworth sees childhood as a moment where honesty and purity are released into the world. He links childhood with the expressions of emotions.

Wordsworth also views the child as an actor because they imitate whatever they see. The child will imitate all that they see happening around them thus the childhood period is like a theatre in which the child presents all that they have been to see or hear. He also views the child to be divine and near to God. The child, therefore, has memories about his heavenly life, and because of this, the child is conscious of truth in which older people are always trying to discover.

Blake and Wordsworth are a two very major poets who made a great contribution to the Romantic Movement. Both poets regard the child as a source of inspiration that is symbolic in expressing instinct, imagination, intuition and the unconscious. The view childhood as an instrumental stage that is responsible for informing the individual’s personality. They both depict the child as one that possesses divine and eternal qualities which are later removed by external forces as they grow up to become adults. In their poems, both poets are very nostalgic about the childhood period.

Blake and Wordsworth view the child as a nostalgic and sentimental person who possess features such as imagination, innocence, intuition, and re primitive which are the qualities that tend to be linked to the romantic era. They believe that by restoring children’s experiences and feelings, they can be able to experience vision and imagination. The child is therefore considered as an important figure in romantic poetry, and the theme of childhood is also important in shaping the aspects of the romantic poetry.

Works Cited

Watson, John Richard. English Poetry of the Romantic Period 1789-1830. Routledge, 2014.

Weiler, Christina. "The Romantic Roots of Cognitive Poetics: A Comparative Study of Poetic Metaphor in Herder, Novalis, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley." (2017).

Wordsworth, William. "6 From Lyrical Ballads to Lyrical Tales." Mary Robinson and the Genesis of Romanticism: Literary Dialogues and Debts, 1784-1821 (2016): 166.

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