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​Lake Poets and Their Role in The Romantic Movement

01 Dec

In English literature, the key figures of the early Romantic period are considered to be the group of poets including William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey. Later they became known as the Lake Poets, named after the Lake District in the north-west of England where they lived. They held many poetic beliefs in common, claiming that imagination and intuition help to penetrate deeper into the essence of things. The Lake Poets believed that poetry could be written only under mystical inspiration. They tried to express their feelings and thoughts through the most simple, artless poetic language, using the short but forceful words and constructions of everyday speech.

William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850) is one of the domineering figures of British Romanticism. Refusing to follow any poetic conventions and rules, he had his own vision of what a poetry should be. With Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 – 1834), he helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with their joint publication Lyrical Ballads (1798). Most of the poems in the 1798 edition were written by Wordsworth, with Coleridge contributing only four poems to the collection, including one of his most famous works, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner".

In the second edition of Lyrical Ballads (now published under Wordsworth's name), Wordsworth included additional poems and a preface which outlines his poetical principles. For another edition, published in 1802, Wordsworth added an appendix titled Poetic Diction in which he expanded the ideas set forth in the preface. Wordsworth also gives his famous definition of poetry:

A fourth and final edition of Lyrical Ballads was published in 1805.

Coleridge was a man of genius distinguished for the influence of his thinking about literature as much as for his innovative verse. Coleridge's critical work was highly influential, and helped to introduce German idealist philosophy to English-speaking culture.

Robert Southey (1774-1843) was the third poet of the group of Lake Poets. He was a Poet Laureate for 30 years from 1813 until his death in 1843. Although his fame has long been eclipsed by his contemporaries and friends William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Southey's verse still enjoys some popularity. Robert Southey was also a literary scholar, essay writer, historian and biographer. His biographies include the life and works of John Bunyan, John Wesley, William Cowper, Oliver Cromwell and Horatio Nelson. The last has rarely been out of print since its publication in 1813 and was adapted for the screen in the 1926 British film, Nelson.

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