The True Voice of Feeling: Studies in English Romantic Poetry

By Herbert Read | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
The Notion of Organic Form: Coleridge

So he is: so he writes.

COLERIDGE


[i]

Romanticism was, and is, a universal phenomenon. The particular phase we are going to examine here was first given philosophical definition in Germany, but it would be easy to prove that the German critics and philosophers, the two Schlegels and Schelling, based themselves on poets like Goethe and Schiller, and that these poets, who were themselves no mean philosophers and critics, in their turn looked back to the practice of poets like Homer and Shakespeare. Romanticism is as old as art itself, but what we are to be concerned with in these pages, and to identify as the vital element in romanticism, is a consciously recognized principle of organic form and the effect which the recognition of this principle has had on the subsequent development of English poetry.

In England the principle itself was first clearly formulated by Coleridge, but in his formulation Coleridge relied directly on Schelling, whose Transcendental Idealism had been published in 1804 and had coloured all his thoughts. But the basic text for our discussion is Schelling lecture 'On the Relation of the Plastic Arts to Nature', delivered in Munich in 1807, which Coleridge possessed in an edition

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