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Romanticism – Germany, England, and France

Romanticism in Europe developed in different ways according to the cultural, social and political situations of each country. In Germany Romanticism was anticipated by the “Sturm und Drang” and in 1798 the first romantic ideas of Friedrich and Schlegel appeared in the rivisya “Das Athenaeum”. In the same period in England Wordsworth and Coleridge’s “Lyrical Ballads” were published.

The second edition of the “Lyrical Ballads” contained a preface by Wordsworth which was considered the Manifesto of English Romantic Poetry. ” On the other hand, De Stael’s “l’Allemagne” spread French romantic principles, while Berchet’s “Semi-serious Letter” initiated Italian romanticism.
Romanticism in Europe developed in different ways depending on the situation of cultural, social and policies of each country. German Romanticism was advanced by the “Sturm und Drang” and in 1798 appeared the first romantic ideas of Friedrich and Schlegel in the magazine “Das Athenaeum”. In the same period in England the “Lyrical Ballads” of Wordsworth and Coleridge were published. The second edition of “Lyrical Ballads” contained a preface by Wordsworth that was considered the manifesto of the English Romantic poetry. “Instead De” l’Allemagne “of De Stael spread the principles romantic French, while the” Lettera semiseria “of Berchet started the Italian romanticism.

The term “Romanticism” comes from the French “love story”. Even in the English Middle Ages there were novels that told of adventures of knights and contained supernatural elements. The word “romantic” first appears in England and refers to the fabulous, the extravagant and the unreal. Instead this term in the 18th century was used to describe picturesque landscapes. Over time the term was linked to the emotions of the observer in front of these landscapes. In the literature “Senhsucht” (eternal restlessness) was opposed to “Stille” (the deep tranquility of the soul); poetry was always new and was no longer the imitation of the classics.

Romanticism is a state of mind, it is passion, it is the total absence of reason and, for this reason, we must distinguish a historical Romanticism and an eternal Romanticism. Historical Romanticism is that which develops in a specific historical period and in our case between the end of the 18th century and the first decades of the 19th century.
Eternal Romanticism understood as a state of mind, as a feeling has a very remote origin. In the verses of the Greek poet Sappho we find many romantic ideas like her when she complains of being abandoned by her boyfriend. Then, we have Mimnerno (500 years before Christ) who, due to his pessimism, is called “the Leopards of Greece”. We also find romantic motifs in Latin poetry, especially in Catullus as when the ship Phaselus manages to return to Italy and to Sirmione which is hailed as the pearl of all the islands and peninsulas. We find other romantic aspects in the poetry of Tibullus, Ovid and above all of Virgil in the Giorgiche and Buconicas.
Professor Fubini in his work “Italian Romanticism” states that our romantic movement has its reference points in the poetry of humanism and the Renaissance. For Fubini the first proto-romantic was Torquato Tasso (1544-95). Born in Sorrento, he was separated from his mother when he was still a child to follow his father in political exile. After a short stay in Bergamo, he enters the Renaissance court of Urbino. Then he will move to the Este court of Ferrara, where he will write Aminta, the poem of spontaneity, the satisfaction of impulses and desire.
The Aminta is full of romantic motifs: the melancholy and dark nights or the serene nights that accompany the moods of the protagonists, are typical of Romanticism, of English romantic sepulchral poetry. The characters of Tasso are typical characters of Romanticism, such as when Erminia suffers from love for Tancredi and leaves the pagan camp to bring help to her beloved who has been wounded. Another romantic motif is found in the famous duel between Tancredi and Clorinda: it is a typical romantic scene worthy of the best tragedy by Alfieri and Goethian novels.
But we have the real proto-romanticism in England and in the Italian eighteenth century. In England we have the first romantic aspects in Giacomo Mac Person’s β€œI canti di Ossian”.
These Ossian songs will be translated into Italian by Melchiorre Cesarotti (1730-1808).

German romanticism

In Germany, Romanticism, had a patriotic character. In fact, it was born and developed as a contrast to the despotic and reactionary politics of Napoleon Bonaparte, who had overthrown the free confederation of the Germanic states by creating the kingdom of Westphalia for his brother Girolamo and the kingdom of Holland for the other brother Louis.
In Germany the romantics gathered around the magazine “Atheneum” which was founded by the brothers Augusto and Federico Schegel. This magazine spread the new romantic ideas and kindled the hearts of the ideals of patriotism and freedom.
The major German romantics collaborated in this magazine such as: Novalis, Rieck, Herder, Humbert. German Romanticism, like Italian Romanticism, revalued medieval Nordic literature such as The Song of the Nibelungs and Siegfried’s Novel.
The greatest representative of German Romanticism is certainly Wolfgang Goethe, writer and poet who loved Italy very much, in particular Rome and southern Italy.
The name of Wolfgang Goethe is linked to the novels The first Faust, The second Faust, The elective affinities and above all The pains of the young Werther that will inspire Foscolo in his work Latest letters by Jacopo Ortis.
Another representative of German Romanticism was the soldier poet Theodore Koerner, who died in Leipzig in 1813 fighting the army of Napoleon Bonaparte. In addition to these great romantics we also have Schleiermacher Fridrich born in 1768 and died in 1834, German philosopher and theologian, linked to the Romantic movement, elaborated a theory of religion that rejects any dogma whose postulation does not come from the religious life itself. He identified the source of religiosity in two sentiments: that of elevation and that of the impossibility that such an elevation takes place solely by human forces. In morality, he tried to overcome the Kantian formalism through the conception of the highest good as an all-encompassing spiritual totality that is realized in the individual as a virtue.
Other works by him: Discourses on religion (1799) and Monologues (1800).

English romanticism

As has been said, English Romanticism has its point of reference in the famous Canti di Ossian by Giacomo Mac Person. After Ossian’s songs, the taste for sepulchral poetry spread widely in England. The environment of this poem, especially the nocturnal environment, is reminiscent of the Ossianic poem. In fact, the nights are gloomy, ghostly and cemetery.
In this genre of Ossianic poetry, Yong stands out, who wrote The Nights, then we have the poet Tomas Grain who composed The Elegy above a countryside cemetery.
Yong Edward, born in 1863 and died in 1765, was a lawyer who became a priest at the age of 50 and famous for the long didactic poem known as The Nights published in 1745.
Another representative of English Romanticism is Walter Scott, who was a great writer and turned his attention to the English Middle Ages with all his heirs. With his novel Ivanowe he gives rise to the historical novel. Scott’s fiction had great influence in Italy through the work of Alessandro Manzoni, Tommaso Grossi, Massimo D’Azeglio.
Another typical representative of English Romanticism is George Byron who was a fighting poet who together with San Torre di Santa Rosa went to fight in Greece in the name of freedom and independence of all peoples.

French romanticism

French Romanticism was born and developed through the work of Madame de Stail Necker, who in a famous book entitled Allemagne addressed above all to the Italian Neoclassical poets, inviting them to abandon the reading and imitation of ancient classics and to approach the Anglo-Saxon Nordic classics such as The Song of the Nibelungs and Siegfried’s Novel. Madame de Stail claimed that the classics were outdated by now and she called them “fried cabbage” while she re-evaluated the heroes of the Germanic Middle Ages. Madame de Stail’s treaty was very successful in Italy, especially among the younger generations who love novelty.
In France, proto-romanticism had its points of reference in Jean Jacque Rousseau with the novels Emile and above all with the novel Novelle Heloise. Rousseau was born in 1712 and died in 1778, the son of a watchmaker, had an unhappy childhood and led a wandering life. Suffering from a chronic melancholy that turned into a persecution mania, he exerted a profound influence on the French Revolution and the Romantic movement.
In the field of pedagogy, his masterpiece is Emile (1862). This work had the purpose of educating and forming a free and individual personality in man, from which the general will implemented in the State will spring.
Other representatives of French romanticism are: Alfonze de Lamartine who wrote Graziella, the morality of the Girandini, Choteaubriand who wrote Renè (a work that deals with a romantic hero who suffers and destroys himself for love) and finally Victor Hugo who wrote The Miserables and Notre Dame de Paris.


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