The poetry of this age carries forward the tradition established by the seventeenth century poets Milton and Dryden. And therefore, the spirit of classicism develops into full bloom. The poets of this age followed the footsteps of Homer, Aristotle and Dryden.
The note of the poetry of this age is objective and impersonal. Here, a poet is much concerned with the society and is much affected by its imperfections. He poses as a reformer of the society. And therefore, as Dryden did in Absalom and Achitophel and other poetry, the poets of this age also adopt satire to chastise the society. Jonathan swift comes on the surface as on of the greatest satirist in the history of English literature.
The image of natures turns into human nature and the classicism considers the image of man as debased entity, as a fallen angel. Because of the social concern, the poetry of the eighteenth century is drawing room poetry that portrays the picture of urban life.
The poetry of this age is characterized by elegance, decorum and wit. As it is typified in the poetry of Pope, it is polished, formal and unimaginative. The closed couplets are the general usage of this time.
The Revival of Romantic Poetry
It is the eighteenth century where we find the seeds of romanticism. Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, Oliver Goldsmith’s Deserted Village, Burke’s poetry, Blake’s mystical poetry all are stepping stone to romantic poetry.
The romantic revival took place with Victor Hugo’s concept “liberalism in literature”. The Romantic Movement is marked by the following:
1. Strong reaction against the bondage of rule and customs
2. Call back to nature.
3. Emphasis on the eternal ideas of youth and appeals to human hearts.
4. Intense human sympathy – understanding of human heart
5. The interest in the old sagas and medieval romances
Spenser, Shakespeare and Milton were the inspirational source behind this romantic revival. We cannot find a single poetry of this age where there is no influence of these poets.
Thomas Gray’s following poem is full of gentle melancholy which marks the early romantic poetry.
The curfew tolls the knell of parting day;
The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea;
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinkling lull the distant folds.