When trying to define imagination from the Romantics perspective,
Coleridge’s (1669) dual definition of the Imagination, combined with
Wordsworth’s comments on Romantic literature, must be taken into consideration.
It is distributed into three simple functions, Coleridge (1996) states that
imagination is a mode of memory, perception and a mode of projection. When
describing it as a mode of memory, the imagination “dissolves, diffuses, and
dissipates, in order to recreate” (Coleridge, 1996, p. 750). It has the
potential to “conjure: it can bring back the past images to create the feelings
and experience in the present. “For our continued influxes of feelings are
modified and directed by our thoughts, which are indeed the representatives of
all our past feelings” (Wordsworth, 1996, p. 577). As the “living
power and prime Agent of all
human perception,” the imagination helps understand and explain the new
images and information. (Coleridge, 1996, p. 750). As a mode of
projection, the Imagination can create images and skills, for a Romantic poet
has the “disposition to be affected more than other men by absent things
as if they were present, an ability of conjuring up in himself passions” (Wordsworth,
1996, p. 577).
Moreover, the Romantics have the “greater promptness to think and feel
without immediate external excitement,” although the “causes which
excite these…moral sentiments and animal sensations” might include
“the operations of the elements and the appearances of the visible
universe” (Wordsworth, 1996, p. 579). Thus, this
definition of the imagination stresses the role of memory and creativity.
As mentioned previously, “A poem is the expression in words of the
shaping power of the imagination.” (Gray, 1997, p. 252) A typical aspect of the Romantics is
their desperate need of wanting something else other than the reality of the
world that does not have to be religious. They pulled away from philosophical
realism which caused them to change the aesthetic of ‘freedom from the dead’
because they were against the development of cities that are polluting nature,
the thing they admire the most (Ousby, 1996).
As a result, this gave rise to symbolism both as a means of looking
at the world and as a poetic literary technique. During this period, literature
started to astray away from the basic and common rules of poetry in terms of
the style of writing, just like it is apparent in Wordsworth Preface to
the second edition of Lyrical Ballads (1800) is a rebellion against the
poetic diction; moreover, he defined poetry by saying that it is a “Spontaneous
over-flow of powerful feelings.” (Gray, 1997, p. 252) Spontaneity, creativity and allowing
poems to take an organic and natural turn rather than following strict guide
lines are all highly appreciated and valued ideals.