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What Is the Connection Between Romanticism and Nature?

Many romantic poets considered nature as the source of human ideas and emotions.
Henry David Thoreau, a poet who lived in a cabin on Walden Pond for two years, believed that people were meant to live in the world of nature.
Work of the Romantic period is characterized by the search for self or identity.
The poet William Wordsworth wrote of the deeper emotions inspired by nature.
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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Images By: Amidala, Sarah Nichols, Africa Studio, Georgios Kollidas
  • Last Modified Date: 08 December 2014
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Romanticism and nature are connected because the artists and philosophers of the romantic period emphasized the glory and beauty of nature, and the power of the natural world. Some scholars of romanticism believe that the romanticists treated nature in an almost religious way. Reasons for the development of this strong connection between nature and romanticism include the Industrial Revolution, which led many people to leave rural areas and live in cities, separated from the natural world. In addition, during the 18th and 19th centuries when romanticism was popular, large areas of European and North American wilderness had been tamed, so that it had become generally much safer for people to travel into these areas and observe their natural wonders. The connection between romanticism and nature may have also risen in part as a backlash against the scientific emphasis of enlightenment philosophy, and against the cultural norms of that period.

Many romanticist artists, writers, and philosophers believe in the natural world as a source of healthy emotions and ideas. By contrast, the emerging urban, industrialized world was often portrayed as a source of unhealthy emotions, morals, and thoughts. Romanticists such as Henry David Thoreau believed that humans were meant to live in the world of nature, rather than the urban world. The connection between Romanticism and nature was largely formed with this core concept that man's true self can be found in the wilderness, rather than in the city.

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The connection between romanticism and nature strengthened with the idealization of folk cultures and customs. Improvisation and spontaneity in art, music, and literature became more widely acceptable. Many works of the romantic period emphasize the oneness of humanity with the natural world, as opposed to many earlier schools of art and philosophy. These earlier schools of thought typically held humanity to be separate from and often aloof from the natural world. While romanticism elevated the connection with nature to an almost religious level, giving it morally edifying and desirable attributes, earlier schools of philosophical thought often ascribed base, evil qualities to the natural world.

Writers and artists of the romantic period typically rely heavily on natural imagery in their work. These artists and writers use scenes and images from the natural world to spark the imagination of their audience. Work of the romantic period often bears hints of introspection and a search for self or identity. Romanticism generally places a heavy emphasis on the emotions inspired by the beauty of the natural world.

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anon330110
Post 5

I understand that William Wordsworth and John Keats, i.e., the so-called "Romantic" poets, used to go on long walks in the countryside before they wrote some of their finest poetry. I regularly go on holiday in the British countryside. And there's nothing better than reconnecting with nature in this time-honoured way.

kylee07drg
Post 4

@cloudel – I think that the art and the poetry of this period go hand in hand. The poems paint a lovely picture, while the paintings could inspire poetry with their loveliness.

cloudel
Post 3

I love the nature paintings of the romantic period. The artists painted things like trees and meadows, but they found a way to express how sacred they were by somehow painting the light upon them.

I am a painter, and I know that it is very hard to capture light. An artist who can properly depict the way that the sun falls across an object is talented, indeed.

feasting
Post 2

I suppose that suddenly having areas that were previously unexplored open up would promote romanticism through nature. There were probably not many people who wanted to go out and face the unknown on their own, but once it had been crossed, it must have been tempting for others in search of idealist views of nature to explore.

On the other hand, the idea of exploring unknown territory is pretty romantic in itself. However, it's also filled with danger, so that would have been a unique combination.

Perdido
Post 1

I understand how moving from the country to a city could make a person long for the romantic quality of nature. I have lived in the country all my life, and when I so much as visit a city and stay in a hotel for a couple of days, I start yearning for a quiet field surrounded only by nature with no buildings or cars in sight.

If I could live far removed from roads of any kind, I would. However, I need them to go to work and the grocery store, so I'm always going to be stuck using some urban inventions.

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