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Content And Form Of British Poetry

Updated on June 28, 2013

The content of British poetry is made up of themes that come from the British background. The background insisted on order, and concerned itself exclusively with the human world. Nature did not have a place in their thoughts. People's personal feelings and freedom were greatly undermined.

From this background emerged poets like John Keats, S.T. Coleridge and William Wordsworth, three British poets. They emphasized the importance of personal emotions and individual freedom. More importantly, however, they insisted that nature must be more closely examined because it played a crucial role in man's life, providing joy for him and sustaining him. This last aspect of their protest more than anything else accounts for their being called romantic poets. Their themes thus concerned the beauty, harmony, peace and goodness of nature which they compared to man's world that lacked all these positive attributes. They wrote and examined more closely values like riches, love and truth as for example in Coleridge's 'Elegy'.

The poets demonstrated a lot of emotional attachment to their subject-matters and left one in doubt as to their response to the subjects they treated.

In matters of form, it is a commonly accepted fact that every poet has style peculiar to him. With British poetry, however, we have seen that certain rules and conventions dictated how a poem should be written.

There is, for example, only one way in which sonnet form can be written the poems will have to have fourteen lines and it will have a rhyming scheme that corresponds to either how Petrarch (Petrachan), Shakespeare(Shakespearean) or Milton rhymed their sonnets.

Similarly ballads, lyrics and Odes and other forms were written according to conventions that defined these forms. A ballad, for example, had to be usually a long poem that told a story. Thus, you could not write a ballad that did not tell a story. It would not be a ballad but something else. Again, it was not possible to write a poem and call it a lyric if it was not intensely personal, imaginative, emotional in content and melodic.

British poetry was therefore guided by strict rules and conventions. Early British poetry employed rhyme, rhythm and meter to great effect. For example, Keats uses the sonnet and its rhyme scheme effectively in 'Bright star, would I were' to enhance the meaning of the poem.

Wordsworth on the other hand shows how rhythm and meter could be harnessed to contribute to meaning.

The use of nature images by British poets is quite pronounced. These images are used to bring out the beauty of nature, show the harmony that it is endowed with and demonstrate its importance in man's life. Quite often, these images heighten the pain in the human world with which the world of nature is contrasted as in Keats' "Bright Star, would I were" Wordsworth" "Daffodils" and 'lines Written Early in Spring. The British poetry is made up of themes that are derived from British background. Thus the themes we have seen revolve around the beauty and harmony in nature.


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