In The West, poetry has had a long evolution in which poets devoted a considerable portion of their poetry questioning and examining the relation of the human condition to perceptions of God, particularly as God is expressed in The Bible.
In an anthology of poetry on the Romantic period, Romantic Poets Blake to Poe (1) edited by W.H. Auden and Norman Holmes Pearson, the introduction states that near the end of the eighteenth century, “…a new answer appears. The divine element in man (2) is now held to be neither power, nor free will nor reason, but self-consciousness.”
A strong element of this awakening of the self is that man “can see possibilities; he can imagine it and all things as being other than they are; he runs ahead of himself; he foresees his own death.”
In the Romantic period of poetry and with such poets as Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, and Coleridge, poetry is written “from the presupposition that consciousness is the noblest human quality.”
“Thus… ” the introduction to Romantic Poets Blake to Poe, states,”…The subject of the greatest long poem of this period [Wordsworth’s] The Prelude is the growth of a poet’s mind.”
This excellent 14-page introduction to the Romantic poets is both concise and perceptive, and it alone is worth the price of the book. Specific topics examined are: The Romantic God and the Romantic Devil, The Romantic Hero, Romantic Diction, Symbol and Allegory, Organization, Romanticism and Society, and America.
(1) Romantic Poets Blake to Poe, Edited by W.H. Auden and Norman Holmes Pearson, The Viking Portable Library, The Viking Press, New York, 1961
(2) Written before the evolution of terms such as “man”and “mankind” into terms describing the human race becoming non-gender specific. For purposes of this discussion I am retaining the words of this anthology in order to maintain its voice at the time period in which it was written. All quotes in this article are from the anthology referenced earlier.
Here is a link to a good article on the Romantic poets:
— Dennis Mellersh