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Differences In The Romantic And Enlightenment Eras English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1021 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The writers of the Romantic era were known for being the opposite of the Enlightenment era. The people of the Enlightenment era were more concerned with reason and the science behind everything. Whereas the romantics were more interested with the feelings and emotions of people, and what caused our response. Like nature and our senses. To them it was more important to define nature in poetic ways. How it affected them emotionally than trying to do so mathematically. This is why they had a general exaltation of emotion over reason and sense over intellect. In reading I found some examples of this in all of them. But the ones I am going to be looking at are Blake’s “The Chimney Sweep” from Songs of Innocence and Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”.

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In Blake’s poem “The Chimney Sweep” we are told a story of a child, we are not told how old. This child meets another younger child Tom Dacre, probably six or seven seeing as that was the age they were sold at and he was new to the job. Tom has a dream of sweepers locked in coffins and an Angel came to set them free. Then he told Tom “if he’d be a good boy, /He’d have God for his father & never want joy”. Then the next day filled with warmth he went out to do his job with a smile. With the people of the Enlightenment era a lot their stories were about finding reason for what’s going on. In Blake’s poem the child is really just looking for hope. He doesn’t seem to care why he was sold or why he has to sweep chimneys, all he wants is to know is if he’s going to be alright. The dream gives him that hope that someday he won’t have to sweep chimneys. Blake wrote the Songs of Innocence from the perspective of a child, because children are the perfect example of innocence. And because I believe children react to things based on emotions more than reason. This is what the romantics were trying do in all their stories and poems. They were trying to write more about the inner workings of a person. What makes us cry, laugh, smile, angry, and hurt. Then try to use those emotions to get us to see what they are trying to tell us. The Chimney Sweeper from Songs of Innocence is just the base for what Blake is trying to say. In the Songs of Experience it’s seen that what he is trying to tell us is that society is unaware of the cruelty it is doing to the children they are suppose to be protecting. With Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow he is tell a story of how humans can get carried away with superstitions. He tells us right from the beginning the story of how Sleepy Hollow came to be and all the superstitions that surround it. “Some say that the place was bewitched by a High German doctor, during the early days of the settlement; others, that an old Indian chief, the prophet or wizard of his tribe, held his powwows there before the country was discovered by Master Hendrick Hudson. â€¦ They are given to all kinds of marvelous beliefs; are subject to trances and visions, and frequently see strange sights, and hear music and voices in the air.  The whole neighborhood abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and twilight superstitions.” He then tells us of the “dominant spirit” the Headless Horseman. The truth is people liked to be scared out of their skin back then (and today too). It is seen in the way he describes the scene at the party were someone is tell a story of how they just nearly got away from the headless horseman. “The tale was told of old Brouwer…..how he met the Horseman returning from his foray into Sleepy Hollow, and was obliged to get up behind him; how they galloped over bush and brake, over hill and swamp, until they reached the bridge; when the Horseman suddenly turned into a skeleton, threw old Brouwer into the brook, and sprang away over the tree-tops with a clap of thunder.” The romantics just loved these kinds of stories, because it was all about how it made you feel. And even though Ichabod is an educated man, he was one who believed in witchcraft and loved the ghost stories just as much as the others. The people of the Enlightenment would have said that Ichabod was an idiot to let his fears and emotions get in the way of reason. But the romantics prided emotions far more than reason. Which is what I think Irving was trying to say if this story. Not only through the ghost stories but in the way he described the landscape. “It stands on a knoll, surrounded by locust, trees and lofty elms, from among which its decent, whitewashed walls shine modestly forth, like Christian purity beaming through the shades of retirement.  A gentle slope descends from it to a silver sheet of water, bordered by high trees, between which, peeps may be caught at the blue hills of the Hudson.  To look upon its grass-grown yard, where the sunbeams seem to sleep so quietly, one would think that there at least the dead might rest in peace.  On one side of the church extends a wide woody dell, along which raves a large brook among broken rocks and trunks of fallen trees.  Over a deep black part of the stream, not far from the church, was formerly thrown a wooden bridge; the road that led to it, and the bridge itself, were thickly shaded by overhanging trees, which cast a gloom about it, even in the daytime; but occasioned a fearful darkness at night.” The romantics took far more detail in describing the landscape than the Enlightenments did, because it helped give a “feeling” of the mood of the story. How they described it would tell you if the scene was meant to be scary, happy, sad, or even angry. And how the character saw it told you what mood they were in.

Over all it is shown that romantics deemed emotions and the senses over reason and intelligence. To them literature was as much of art form as a painting or sculpture, because each person who looks at it gets something different out of it. One person may look at it as a happy story while someone else sees it as a tragedy.


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