Music and Poetry

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Music and Poetry

The poetry of William Wordsworth initiated the Romantic Era by emphasizing emotion, intuition, and pleasure rather than form and affectation. His poems set the stage for John Keats, a central figure in early 19th century Romanticism. The fundamental themes in the works of both poets include: the beauty of nature; the consanguinity of dreams/visions and reality and yet the tendency of dreams to mask reality; the intense emotions brought about by beauty and/or suffering; and the transience of both sensation and human life. Although William Wordsworth and John Keats wrote poetry with entirely different senses of purpose, they came together in the worship of a song that each found in nature. Both Wordsworth and Keats
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Wordsworth’s persona in “The Solitary Reaper” explores the limitations of language as he watches the maiden in the field, enthralled by her “melancholy strain” (6). Unable to know of what she sings, he is forced to rely only on musical characteristics to influence his reaction. Such things as tone, quality, audible key, and tempo make it possible for one to grasp the essence of music. Although the maiden’s words flow from her lips in Gaelic, the persona is able to identify the emotions underlying her song from the melodic nature of the lines she sings. Will no one tell me what she sings? Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow For old, unhappy, far-off things . . . Or is it some more humble lay, Familiar matter of to-day? Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain, That has been, and may be again?

Whate'er the theme, the maiden sang As if her song could have no ending; (lines 17-25)

Wordsworth’s persona’s reliance on the melancholy sound of the maiden’s song also forces him to open his mind and his ears, leaving him free from any possible language-based influence and entirely enraptured by the sheer loveliness of the lass’s simple, soul-filled music.

John Keats’ wrote his “Ode to a Nightingale” in the typical style

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