Romanticism in Literature


The current paper discusses the concept of romanticism in literature and representatives of this period. Romanticism as a literary movement originated in Europe in the late XVIII century. One of the main reasons of its emergence is the fact that this era is considered a time of strong shocks in Europe. In 1789, there was a French Revolution that completely finished only in 1814. It consisted of a number of significant events that eventually led to a whole literary coup since the mentality of a person changed. The main conflict of this direction is the conflict between an individual and society. A romantic hero is strong, lively, independent, and rebellious. In this period, a person is usually lonely as the surrounding society is not able to understand and accept a hero’s thougahts. A hero is always in a state of struggle. The most striking manifestations of romanticism in literature were in two European countries – England and Germany. The brightest representatives of this direction are Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Both authors vividly describe the concept of freedom in their works. In Song for the Luddites, the main theme is the love of freedom. The work of these great English poets entered the history of world literature as an outstanding artistic phenomenon associated with the era of romanticism.

In the work of George Gordon Byron, the theme of freedom is dominated. Therefore, many of his works are devoted to this theme. Song for the Luddites is one of these works. At the beginning of the XIX century, Luddites were the workers in Britain who fought for a better life for themselves. At that time, ordinary people lived in extremely poor conditions bad. They worked hard and received very little money. In the factories, there were a lot of women and young children. Luddites were against such orders and against the owners of factories and plants. They were called Luddites because they had a legendary leader named Luddite. No one knows whether he existed in reality. However, like another folk hero Robin Hood, he was a symbol of the struggle for freedom. George Byron wrote the poem about these people. Song for the Luddites is written in the spirit of folk songs and the image of King Luddite is borrowed from folklore. The poem begins with the following words:

As the Liberty lads o’er the sea

Brought their freedom, and cheaply with blood,

So we, boys, we

Will die fighting, or live free,

And down with all kings by King Ludd. (Byron)

Byron calls on workers to take up arms and go into battle against the oppressors. He believed that people should be free or die in the battle for freedom. However, people cannot live as slaves. People must fight against their oppressors.

When the web that we weave is complete,

And the shuttle exchanged for the sword,

We will fling the winding sheet

O’er the despot at our feet,

And dye it deep in the gore he has pour’d. (Byron)

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Lord Byron believed that only by force of arms, a person can win freedom. The blood that people shed fighting for their will is shed not in vain. In the poem, the theme of struggling people is fully revealed. In essence, Lord Byron lived and worked in a period of profound changes in the social and spiritual life of Europe as a result of the French Revolution. The poet considered himself a son of the revolution. He felt his epoch as a natural stage in the spiritual development of mankind, society, and an individual. Thus, in Song for the Luddites, Byron encourages people to the revolution emphasizing that only struggle can bring changes making people free from the oppression of the rulers.

Percy Bysshe Shelley is another bright representative of romanticism. He was not only a great poet but also an outstanding thinker and fighter for the rights of the working people of England and Ireland. Thus, Shelley’s revolutionary ideology reflected in his works. One of his poems, The Revolt of Islam, vividly shows the struggle of people for freedom. Percy Bysshe Shelley dedicated his romantic poem in twelve songs to the deed of the wide and emancipatory moral, as well as the ideas of freedom and justice. The poem is written in the so-called Spenserian stanza. The main theme of the philosophical and allegorical poem The Revolt of Islam is the fight of despotism and freedom. In this poem, the author proclaims the inevitability of the victory of goodness and justice, when the flourishing of creative forces of nature and the liberated man will manifest the world, there will be the kingdom of eternal beauty and harmony. Moreover, the allegorical prologue of the poem is dedicated to the fight of the eagle with the snake. They respectively symbolize the evil and the good inclination. In this struggle, the eagle defeated the snake.

In Shelley’s poem, there is a generalized romantic image of the people’s revolution, which, according to the poet, can occur in any European country. The readers meet the positive images of freedom fighters such as Laon, his friend – Cythna, an unknown young man, the hermit, and others. Shelley introduced into literature completely new and unknown characters – the Republicans. The passive sympathy of the suffering poor is alien to them. They have firmly linked their fate with that of the working people. They are at the head of the masses and lead them to the storm.

Marks as his own, whene’er with chains o’erladen

Men make them arms to hurl down tyranny. (Shelley)

Laon and Cythna’s goals are sublime and beautiful. They seek to alter the cruel and insane world so that “gold should lose its power, and thrones their glory” (Shelley). Laon and Cythna died at the stake. The tragedy of the fate of the characters does not preclude the final of the poem with the optimism. Laon and Cythna express confidence that evil will be defeated by good. The seeds of goodness and freedom sown by revolutionaries gave their sprouts. The people defeated the tyrant. In the preface to the poem, Percy Bysshe Shelley alludes to “cosmic sadness” of Lord Byron. According to Shelley, Byron’s sadness played a negative role as it infected young people with pessimism depriving its will to protest and struggle. In The Revolt of Islam, Shelly wanted to show the ideal revolution born by the universal education of people. The perfect revolution in the Golden City is an allegory of the French Revolution, which the author considered the historical pattern.

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In the history of world literature, there is a remarkable regularity. Frequently, two poets of equal talent but of the different and polar in rhythmic manner create almost simultaneously their works. These two great Romantic poets are George Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley. They were among the founders and the brightest representatives of literary and philosophical romanticism. The image of the people fighters appears in the works of these authors. Despite the fact that the authors’ views on struggle were different. In fact, Song for the Luddites and The Revolt of Islam contain direct references to the fighting masses for their rights and freedom.

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