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In an attempt to catch poetry in the process of one of its large historical transitions, David Perkins deals with three great romantic poets who tended to represent the poet in the image of the discoverer bent on some difficult and illusive mission.
Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats were pioneers in opening up three different ways of writing poetry. They found in themselves certain urgent notions, impressions, and ways of feeling which had not been explored in poetry, and they had to find new technical means to accommodate these novelties.
The author examines especially the poets’ use of symbols—an area where the romantics were innovators. He shows how they controlled both theme and style, or form. He draws close analogies in subject matter and method between romantic poetry and contemporary poetry.
According to the author, “We are living in the comet’s tail of the early nineteenth century. Hence the romantic writers have an interest and a relevance for us which is more than merely historical without necessarily being universal.”