These Immortal Creations: An Anthology of British Romantic Poetry

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ISBN: 978-0-9950291-9-4

The Romantic poet is both man and myth. He inherits an ancient birthright and creates a new heritage. He is prophet, seer, priest, bard, creator of (imaginative) worlds, hero, and myth-maker. He is also a man speaking to other men. Wordsworth described his poetic ‘calling’ when he wrote “poetic numbers came/ Spontaneously, and cloth’d in priestly robe/ My spirit, thus singled out, as it might seem,/ For holy services.” Blake demanded that his readers “Hear the voice of the Bard.” Coleridge states that the poet is a powerful figure who “brings the whole soul of man into activity.”

Poets are, according to Shelley, the vehicles for the spirit of the age and for the ages to come; they are “the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” In fact, in his Defense of Poetry (1821), Shelley endows both poetry and the poet with divine power, labeling the former “immortal creations” and the latter a person who “participates in the eternal, the infinite and the one.”

The poets in this anthology would all define imagination differently; however, they all have espoused the primacy of imagination and placed it as the root source for creativity.

With its over 120 poems arranged in chronological order, the present anthology follows very closely the development of Romantic poetry in Britain from its beginnings in the 1780s to the early years of Victoria’s reign.

This is also the most diverse anthology of Romantic literature: out of twenty-seven authors, fifteen are male and twelve female. The reader will be able to see how the female poets of the Romantic Movement found self-empowerment in the construction, articulation and publication of a feminized poetic identity.

Table of Contents


Sylvia Hunt xiii

In the Character of a Ruined Farmer

Robert Burns 1

To a Mouse on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough

Robert Burns 2

The Negro’s Complaint

William Cowper 4

Sonnet Written in the Churchyard at Middleton in Sussex

Charlotte Smith 6

Sonnet XXVII: Sighing I See Yon Little Troop

Charlotte Smith 6

Sonnet: To the Poppy

Anna Seward 7

Introduction to Songs of Innocence

William Blake 7

The Little Black Boy

William Blake 8

The Chimney Sweeper

William Blake 9

The Little Boy Lost

William Blake10

Little Boy Found

William Blake 10

Holy Thursday

William Blake 10

The Lamb

William Blake 11


Joanna Baillie 12

The Bastille, A Vision

Helen Maria Williams 15

The Rights of Woman

Anna Laetitia Barbauld 18

The Dead Beggar

Charlotte Smith 19

A Wish

Samuel Rogers 20

The Alps at Daybreak

Samuel Rogers 20

from The Emigrants

Charlotte Smith 21

Scot’s Wha Hae Wi’ Wallace Bled

Robert Burns2 3

Introduction to Songs of Experience

William Blake 24

The Clod & the Pebble

William Blake 24

Holy Thursday

William Blake 25

The Chimney Sweeper

William Blake 25

The Tyger

William Blake 26


William Blake 26

It Was A’for Our Rightful King

Robert Burns 27

The Pauper’s Funeral

Robert Southey 28

Hymn, Imitated from the French

Helen Maria Williams 29

Inscription for an Ice House

Anna Laetitia Barbauld 30

To the Poor

Anna Laetitia Barbauld 30

To Mary Wollstonecraft

Robert Southey 31

January 1795

Mary Robinson 32

The Riot; or Half a Loaf Is Better Than No Bread

Hannah More 33

Sonnet III, Poems on the Slave Trade

Robert Southey 36

The Grandame

Charles Lamb 36

On Being Cautioned Against Walking on an Headland Overlooking the Sea, Because It Was Frequented by a Lunatic

Charlotte Smith 38

Washing Day

Anna Laetitia Barbauld 38

This Lime-tree Bower My Prison

Samuel Taylor Coleridge 41

Kubla Khan

Samuel Taylor Coleridge 43

To Mr. S. T. Coleridge

Anna Laetitia Barbauld 44

We Are Seven

William Wordsworth 46

The Tables Turned

William Wordsworth 48

Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour, July 13, 1789

William Wordsworth 49

Frost at Midnight

Samuel Taylor Coleridge 53

The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere

Samuel Taylor Coleridge 55

France: An Ode

Samuel Taylor Coleridge7 2

The Ballad of the Dark Ladie

Samuel Taylor Coleridge 75

Song (She Dwelt among th’ Untrodden Ways)

William Wordsworth 77

Lucy Gray

William Wordsworth 77

The Old Familiar Faces

Charles Lamb 79

Composed at Midnight

Charles Lamb 80

To a Little Invisible Being Who Is Expected Soon to Become Invisible

Anna Laetitia Barbauld 82

There Was a Boy

William Wordsworth 83

Three Years She Grew

William Wordsworth 84

To Toussaint L’Ouverture

William Wordsworth 85

Near Dover, September 1802

William Wordsworth 85

Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3 1802

William Wordsworth 86

London, 1802

William Wordsworth 86

Great Men Have Been Among Us

William Wordsworth 87

To an Old Oak

Samuel Rogers 87

To a Fragment of a Statue of Hercules

Samuel Rogers 89

Mock on, Mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau

William Blake 90

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

William Wordsworth 90

The French Revolution as It Appeared to Enthusiasts at Its Commencement

William Wordsworth 91

Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood

William Wordsworth 92

The Bard’s Incantation (Written under Threat of an Invasion in the Autumn of 1804)

Walter Scott 97

My Native Land (from Lay of the Last Minstrel, Canto 6)

Walter Scott 99

The Palmer

Walter Scott 100

The Harp That Once through Tara’s Halls

Thomas Moore 101

Preface to Milton

William Blake 102

Written When Swimming from Sestos to Abydos

George Gordon, Lord Byron 103

The Bold Dragoon (A Song)

Walter Scott 104

She Walks in Beauty

George Gordon, Lord Byron 105

To Byron

John Keats 105

To Wordsworth

Percy Shelley 106

Written on the Day that Mr Leigh Hunt Left Prison

John Keats 106

National Song

James Henry Leigh Hunt 107

When We Two Parted

George Gordon, Lord Byron 107


Percy Shelley 109

Hymn to Intellectual Beauty

Percy Shelley 109

The Pains of Sleep

Samuel Taylor Coleridge 111

Fare Thee Well

George Gordon, Lord Byron 113


George Gordon, Lord Byron 115

To One Who Has Been Long in City Pent

John Keats 116

On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer

John Keats 117

Feelings of a Republican on the Fall of Bonaparte

Percy Shelley 117


Percy Shelley 118

On Seeing the Elgin Marbles

John Keats 118

On the Death of Princess Charlotte

Anna Laetitia Barbauld 119

Sonnet: Life Not the Painted Veil

Percy Shelley 120

On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Once Again

John Keats 120

When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be

John Keats 121

On Receiving a Crown of Ivy from John Keats

James Henry Leigh Hunt 121

La Belle Dame Sans Merci: A Ballad

John Keats 122

To Sleep

John Keats123

Ode to a Nightingale

John Keats 124

Bright Star

John Keats 126

Sonnet: England in 1819

Percy Shelley 126

To a Skylark

Percy Shelley 127

Song: Men of England

Percy Shelley 130


William Wordsworth 131

The Skylark

James Hogg 132

A Boy’s Song

James Hogg 132

On Reading Walter Scott’s “Marmion”

Joanna Baillie 134

On Reading Wordsworth’s Lines on Peele Castle

Mary Shelley 135

Work without Hope

Samuel Taylor Coleridge 136

To a Skylark

William Wordsworth 136

The Truth of Woman (from The Betrothed)

Walter Scott 136

The Graves of a Household

Felicia Hemans 137


Felicia Hemans 138

The Homes of England

Felicia Hemans 139

The Frozen Ship

Letitia Elizabeth Landon 140

The Royal Line

James Henry Leigh Hunt 142

Woman and Fame

Felicia Hemans 143

The Little Shroud

Letitia Elizabeth Landon 144

Steamboats, Viaducts & Railways

William Wordsworth 145

A Voice from the Dungeon

Anne Brontë 146

Abou Ben Adhem

James Henry Leigh Hunt 148

No Coward Soul Is Mine

Emily Brontë 149

Excerpt from the Introduction by Sylvia Hunt

Although only a very short period of time, the years between 1780 and 1830 were revolutionary ones, politically, socially and culturally. Now known as the Romantic Period and seen as the delineation between the Neoclassical and Victorian Periods, these fifty years saw rapid changes in the lives of almost all Britons. Politically, the enquiries into freedom, both personal and political, moved from theoretical discussion to tangible implementation. In the American colonies and in France, the philosophies of Kant, Rousseau and Locke framed the Declarations of Independence and Rights of Man. In England, social radicalism demanding political reform and universal suffrage was met with violence in the Peterloo Massacre, but would later result in reforms to suffrage and employment conditions. Women’s demands for education and protections in marriage and under the law were seen by many to destabilize the patriarchal status quo, but would eventually lead to legislative changes. Slavery, an established part of colonial development, came to be seen as an abuse of the human rights so vehemently contested in Europe. Rapid advancements in science and technology changed all forms of life for everyone from factory workers to the wealthy: machines rapidly made ready-made goods; steam engines replaced animal and human labor; rapid transportation moved people and goods around the country and around the world; medicines prolonged life; and gas lighting illuminated the darkness. With the sudden overthrow of the French monarchy and the advance of a new social order, a fresh era heralded the end to oppressive aristocracies and the beginning of democratic ideals. Byron summarized this optimistic new age of transformation when he wrote:

Talk not of seventy years as an age; in seven

I have seen more changes, down from monarchs to

The humblest individual under Heaven,

Than might suffice a moderate century through.

(Don Juan 11, ll. 649-652)

In this atmosphere of revolutionary energy, young writers could not help but be galvanized into creating new forms and experimenting with new ideas. We would come to call these writers the Romantics, a group of poets, novelists and polemicists who created works which were as aesthetically transformative as the times in which they lived.

The term Romantic, when used to describe the historical and cultural period of 1780-1830, is a product of the late nineteenth century and only came into widespread use in the early twentieth century as a defining label for specific writers.[1] Later, Romanticism became associated with certain political events (the French and American revolutions, the Napoleonic wars) and specific responses to those events.[2] For those living in the eighteenth century, romantic referred to the romances of the High Middle Ages and Renaissance (Sidney’s Arcadia and Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, for example); later, it became attached to a specific type of writing known as the prose romance and best exemplified in the novels of Matthew Lewis, Horace Walpole, Anne Radcliffe and Charlotte Dacre. In short, the term romantic identified any work that was considered fanciful, supernatural, or dealt with courtly love. These elements are also essential to the Romantic writers, but like any good artists, they transform the conventional aesthetic into something new. For example, the Romantics were less interested in exploring courtly, artificial love than they were in writing about a love of a greater scope: love of nature, love of freedom, love of humanity. The supernatural, so essential to medieval romances, became entwined with the Romantic aesthetic of the sublime (explained below). With respect to imagination, the old creative practices of the earlier literary periods accepted imitation as part of the creative process. For example, eighteenth-century critic Richard Hurd states that a striving for originality would only produce awkwardness, impropriety and affectation, and “all poets must be imitators since poetic merit lies only in execution and not in originality” (183). By the end of the century, however, the Romantics rejected imitation as legitimate creative expression, seeing it as derivative and antithetical to the notion of creation. William Blake wrote, “To Imitate I abhor,” preferring “Art of Invention, not Imitation” (545). Wordsworth more fully outlined the Romantic manifesto in the preface to The Lyrical Ballads stating that he rejects the “common inheritance of Poets” (66) in preference for something new, natural and authentic.

Defining what is meant by Romantic has been a preoccupation for critics and scholars almost from the time that writers began producing poetry that was unlike Neoclassical literature. When modern readers study the poets considered to be part of the Romantic Movement, they often assume that the term movement connotes similar aesthetic ideals among its members. The term member itself implies a type of literary club with common interests or unifying philosophical ideals. However, we as readers need to realize that, while we now see common themes and aesthetic sensibilities, the poets did not see themselves as a movement. Any reading of their works clearly shows them to be different artistically, socially, and politically. In fact, they often saw difference instead of similarity and occasionally rejected the styles, politics, and beliefs of their contemporaries. The second generation of poets found fault with the first generation (Byron and Shelley, in particular, thought Wordsworth abandoned his political and creative ideals when he accepted the poet-laureateship); the range of social status pitted working-class poets (like Blake, Hunt, and Keats who were disparagingly labeled Cockneys) against the genteel or aristocratic poets (Wordsworth, Byron and Shelley); because of their gender, women were thought to be excluded from robust Romantic aesthetics; the religious devotion of Blake is contrasted with Shelley’s equally devout atheism; poetic manifestos expressed different opinions about suitable content and form of expression. In general, however, there is an organic quality to the poetry produced by these writers in comparison to the mechanical nature of Neoclassicism. It is for this reason that we see them as a collective or movement that bridges the Neoclassical and the Victorian periods.

In order to understand Romanticism, it is necessary to understand the period in which the writers lived and the aesthetics and ideals which shaped their work.

[1]Hippolyte Taine was the first author to apply the terms “romantic” and “Romanticism” to these writers in his History of English Literature (1863).

[2]William John Courthope in The Romantic Movement in English Poetry: The Effects of the French Revolution (1910) specifically connects the writers with liberal, radical, and revolutionary ideas.

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