William Wordsworth's poetry exhibits Romantic characteristics and for his treatment towards romantic elements, he stands supreme and he can be termed a Romantic poet on a number of reasons. The Romantic Movement of the early nineteenth century was a revolt against the classical tradition of the eighteenth century; but it was also marked by certain positive trends. Wordsworth was, of course, a pioneer of the Romantic Movement of the nineteenth century. With the publication of Lyrical Ballads, the new trends become more or less established. However, the reasons for why Wordsworth can be called a Romantic poet are given below:
Imagination: Where the eighteenth century poets used to put emphasis much on ‘wit’, the romantic poets used to put emphasis on ‘imagination’. Wordsworth uses imagination so that the common things could be made to look strange and beautiful through the play of imagination. In his famous “Intimation Ode", it seems to his as to the child "the earth, and every common sight" seemed "apparelled in celestial light". Here he says,
"There was a time when meadow, grove and stream,
The earth and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light"
Moreover, in this poem, we find a sequence of picture through his use of imagery. Through his imagination he says,
"The Rainbow come and goes,
And lovely is the Rose,
The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare"
Similarly, in the poem, “Tintern Abbey”, the poet sees the river, the stream, steep and lofty cliffs through his imaginative eyes. He was enthusiastically charmed at the joyful sound of the rolling river. Here he says,
Do I behold those steep and lofty cliffs
That on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion and connect
The landscape with quiet of the sky".
In this poem, the poet seems that the nature has a healing power. Even the recollection of nature soothes the poet's troubled heart. The poet can feel the existance of nature through imagination even when he is away from her. He says,
"In lonely rooms and ‘mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them
In hours of weariness, sensation sweet".
Nature: Wordsworth is especially regarded as a poet of nature. In most of the poems of Wordsworth nature is constructed as both a healing entity and a teacher or moral guardian. Nature is considered in his poems as a living personality. He is a true worshiper of nature: nature's devotee or high priest. The critic Cazamian says, "to Wordsworth, nature appears is a formative influence superior to any other, the educator of senses or mind alike, the shower in our hearts of the deep laden seeds of our feelings and beliefs". He dwells with great satisfaction, on the prospects of spending his time in groves and valleys and on the banks of streams that will lull him to rest with their soft murmur.
For Wordsworth, nature is a healer and he ascribes healing properties to Nature in “Tintern Abbey” . This is a fairly obvious conclusion drawn from his reference to "tranquil restoration" that his memory of the Wye offered him “in lonely rooms and mid the din/Of towns and cities"
It is also evident in his admonition to Dorothy that she let her
"Memory be as a dwelling-place
For all sweet sounds and harmonies; oh !then
If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief.
Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts
Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,
And these my exhortations!”
Wordsworth says nature "never did betray the heart that loved her".
Subjectivity: Subjectivity is the key note of Romantic poetry. He expresses his personal thoughts, feelings through his poems. In “Ode: Intimation of Immortality” the poet expresses his own/personal feelings. Here he says that he can't see the celestial light anymore which he used to see in his childhood. He says,
"It is not now as it hath been of yore;-
Turn wheresoe'er I may,
By might or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see on more."
Nature becomes all in all to the poet. The sounding cataract haunted him like a passion. Nature was his beloved. He loved only the sensuous beauty of nature. He has also a philosophy of nature.
Pantheism and mysticism: Pantheism and mysticism are almost interrelated factors in the Nature poetry of the Romantic period. Wordsworth conceives of a spiritual power running through all natural objects- the " presence that disturbs me with the low of elevated thoughts" whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, the rolling ocean. the living air, the blue sky, and the mind of man (“Tintern Abbey”)
Humanism: The romantic poets had sincere love for man or rather the spirit of man. Wordsworth had a superabundant enthusiasm for humanity. He was deeply interested in the simple village folk and the peasant who live in contact with nature. Wordsworth showed admiration for the ideals that inspired the French Revolution. Emphasis in individual freedom is another semantic characteristic. Wordsworth laments for the loss of power, freedom and virtue of human soul.
Lyricism: Wordsworth is famous for simple fiction, bereft of artificialities and falsity of emotion. His "Lyrical Ballads" signifies his contention that poetry is the "history or science of feelings"
In the “Ode: Intimation of Immortality”, we see his lyricism. He writes,
"Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own:
Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind,
And, even, with something of a Mother's mind,
And, on unworthy aim,
The homely Nurse doth all she can
To make her Foster-child, her Innate Man,
Forget the glories he hath known,
And that imperial palace whence he came."
In the concluding part, it can be said that Wordsworth was a protagonist in the Romantic Movement which was at once a revolt and a revival. He shows the positive aspects of Romanticism with its emphasis on imagination, feeling, emotion, human dignity and significance of Nature.