“The Romantic Impulse” Individual Project


  • Introduction
  • The Analysis of “The Garden of Love” by William Blake: The choice of the poem, The symbol of “Chapel”, The symbol of “priests”, “The Garden of Love” in human soul
  • The Analysis of “The Rocking-Horse Winner” by D.H. Lawrence: The conflict of the mother, The conflict of the son
  • Conclusion


In the course of development of imaginative literature that kept unfolding with human society, a lot of controversial and opposing views of the essence and nature of literature may be found. All of them depend on the philosophical views that were dominant during this or that historical epoch. Romanticism was one of the dominant epochs in the history of world literature in the second half of the 18th century. Though romanticism is not the exact topic of this research paper, there is the necessity to mention its key postulates that will be the basis for the literary analysis of the works of imaginative literature in the body of the paper. The main characteristics of romanticism are necessary to explain the choice of the perspectives in the light of which the analysis will be made. Thus, the main characteristics of romanticism are the following: the prevalence of imagination over rational point of view, because “imagination [is] elevated to a position as a supreme faculty of the mind” (Melanie par. 4); worship of the Nature as “a work of art, constructed by a divine imagination” (Melanie par. 5); frequent resorting to “symbolism and myth” (Melanie par. 6). The latter principle presents great interest for the present research, for it has determined the choice of the perspective of the analysis of the poem “The Garden of Love” by William Blake. T. Eagleton also stresses that “for Romanticism, indeed, the symbol becomes the panacea for all problems” (19). This is why the analysis of the poetic works from mythological perspective is showing great promise. As for the choice of the perspective for the analysis of the second literary work, “The Rocking-Horse Winner” by D.H. Lawrence, it should be stated, that great influence of emotions (Melanie par. 7) and “importance of the individual” (Melanie par. 9) in romantic literary works explain the choice of psychological perspective for the analysis. Thus, the literary works under analysis are considered to be the perfect examples of romantic literature representing important features of the literary epoch.

The Analysis of “The Garden of Love” by William Blake

It is hardly possible to find a better literary work for the analysis of the ideas of romanticism than that of William Blake, for he is considered to be one of the most outstanding poets of Romanticism (Wu 103). The poem “the Garden of Love” is a magnificent and symbolic representation of the poet’s view of the sense of life and relationship between a Man and God, and the distortion of this pure relationship by the church. Blake says: “Both read the Bible day and night; but you read black were I read white” (Dehn 1). This citation eloquently represents Blake’s attitude towards religion and suggests his own version of religion.

The poet’s disagreement with the societal concept and attitude towards religion may be read between the lines of the poem. His own concept presents great respect for pure Christian religious views and worship of the human nature. Thus, his own religion is the synthesis of Christianity and mythology, because mythology may be characterized by supreme worship of the divine power and the direct relationship between a man and Deity.

In the first verse, we meet the romantic hero of William Blake, who dwells on the “Garden of Love”, that is the place of action of the whole poem (Blake 30). Garden of Love is the representation of Eden or Paradise that is the most beautiful, peaceful and serene place in the Universe. It may be also compared with the human soul of an innocent child, who is not yet spoilt by temptations and filth of life. The first verse may be characterized by positive atmosphere of mythological world of imagination, pure nature, and unworried human soul. The line “Where I used to play on the green” (Blake 30) also stands for the purity of human consciousness and innocence of the past experience of the romantic hero.

The symbolic image of “Chapel” appears in the very first verse of the poem; however, as it was mentioned above, it is not threatening, it is merely unexpected. Nevertheless, the third line suggests it importance, because it is put in the midst of the garden: “A Chapel was built in the midst” (Blake 30). The image of “Chapel” bears resemblance to mythological chapels of ancient Greeks, for whom the temples were the places where the direct interaction and communication between the worshippers and Deity was possible and was carried out. Willing to establish immediate connection with God, the hero rushes to the Chapel, only to find that the doors are shut and he cannot get in: “And the gates of this chapel were shut, And ‘Thou shalt not’ writ over the door” (Blake 30). The image of the closed doors and the addition of even more evident sign alienation, the inscription, symbolize the impossibility of the reunification of the hero and God (Countryman and Ritley 39).

The image of “priests in black gowns” stands for the vergers and the Church of the period. L.W. Countryman and M.R. Ritley state:

Blake’s poem is reminiscent of the passage in the Gospel of Luke (11:46), in which Jesus rebukes the religious authorities of his day because “you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourself do not lift a finger to ease them” (39).

The poet wants to draw the attention of the audience to the fact that the “tyranny of the churches” is unable to bear, “the hypocrisy associated with organized religion had come to hide the gospel message” (Wu 63). The church, strange as it may seem, is the organization that is to be blamed for the alienation of a man from God. It has shut the doors of Paradise for people, and it makes people suffer, because it is “binding with briars … joys and desires” (Blake 30).

In order to reestablish the equilibrium and universal peace, people are to look inside their souls. They may be surprised, but the Paradise or the “Garden of Love” is in our soul. We should not let anyone intimidate or stifle it, because a man is powerful, and everyone is endowed by the love of God, our task is just to save it from encroachment. The importance of secular joys are stressed by the author in the poem, even the title suggests overwhelming power of Love, as the Garden is characterized by the presents of Love in every cell of it. The emphasis on human feelings, the importance of the inner world of the hero, the resort to nature, and magnificent symbolism of the poem make it a perfect example of romantic literary work.

The Analysis of “The Rocking-Horse Winner” by D.H. Lawrence

Since the importance of the inner world and the whirl of emotions and passions of the characters is the first consideration of romantic authors, the short story “The Rocking-Horse Winner” is perfect material for the analysis of the ideas of romanticism. The story suggests a rich ground for reflection over the inner world of the characters’, mainly the mother and the son. The neurotic atmosphere that runs through the first pages of the story furiously and surprisingly has inspired us to analyze the short story from psychological perspective.

Thus, the vehement nervous atmosphere of the novel makes a reader’s flesh creep. The family is sick, but this decease that tortures it is not physical, it is more mental, psychological. It is based on the unhealthy and distorted relationship inside the family, because the atmosphere is the house is rotten, it is poisoned by the mother’s wrong perception of the world. Her values are confused, this is why she is obsessed with lack of money in her family, hence the complex of inferiority and guilt that may be observed in the following words of the heroine: “we’re the poor members of the family” (Lawrence 553), “I used to think I was [lucky], before I married. Now I think I am very unlucky indeed” (Lawrence 554). The concept of “luck” is distorted in her perception with the concept of “lucre” at the cost of “love”. It means that the woman has sacrificed her peace of mind, the relationship with her husband and healthy relationship inside the family, let alone the life of her son, in the name of financial prosperity. The heroine’s state of mind bears evident signs of schizophrenia, with the sense of being doomed and the oppressiveness of the house, which is constantly creaming: “There must be more money! There must be more money!” (Lawrence 553). The article by W.D. Snodgrass is aimed at the psychological state of the characters. His point of view about Hester is very original. He asserts that the roots of her dissatisfaction with her husband, their family life, and financial status lies in sexual dissatisfaction (117). He says that “a woman dissatisfied must have luxuries” (Snodgrass 118). This destructive mood is torturing and killing the mother of the family, but the most awful thing is that it is reflected on the children, it distorts their perception of life as well.

The protagonist of the story, Paul, Hester’s son, represents the outcome of his mother’s wrong concept of life. He is infected by this concept as well, and as it proves to be erroneous, it eventually leads to the death of the young boy. Snodgrass suggests the application of Oedipus complex in the relationship of the mother and the son (118). If the mother is unsatisfied with the father, the boy is apt to take his place and to make his dear mother happy. The boy’s primary aim is to win his maternity love because the children are deprived of it and suffer a lot, and if money can “buy” this love, the boy is ready to fulfill the mother’s desire. The futility of his hope may be observed in symbolic image of a ride on the rocking-horse, the case after luck and money. A person who rides a rocking-horse will never get anywhere; a person who neglects his/her family and spiritual values will never be lucky and happy. It is impossible to buy love, human values are vital for existence – this is the central message of the short story.


On analyzing the literary works, it is possible to make a conclusion and define common features of the texts. At first sight, the poem and the short story have little in common, as even the form of language of the works is different: poetry and prose. However, the first impression is deceptive in this case because the more we uncover the sense, the more common features, characteristic of romantic literature, appear. In the first place, both texts have the same major theme, the one that is characteristic of romanticism, the theme of love. In the second place, both literary works focus on the inner world and the feelings of the main characters, and these inner words are overfilled with emotions, feelings, and sufferings. The characters are in conflict with outer world, with its injustice and oppression of natural desires and human needs. Both authors do their best to draw the attention of the audience to the fact that that inner peace and satisfaction of soul is a natural need of a human being. They want to remind us that material pleasures, wealth, and power are nothing in comparison with love for God and love for our near and dear people.

Finally, both literary works are marked by the beauty of word and effective use of symbols, which create special appeal and mystery. “The Garden of Love” and “The Rocking-horse Winner” are aimed at the awakening of human self-consciousness and at the choice of genuine values.

Works Cited

Blake, William. Songs of Innocence and Experience. Whitefish: Kessinger Publishing, 2004.

Countryman, Louis William, and M.R. Ritley. Gifted by Otherness: Gay and Lesbian Christians in the Church. Harrisburg, PA: Church Publishing, Inc., 2002.

Dehn, Janine. Analysis “Garden of Love” by William Blake. Norderstedt Germany: GRIN Verlag, 2009.

Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory: An Introduction. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota Press, 2008.

Lawrence, D.H. Full Score: Twenty Tales by D.H. Lawrence. NY: Wildside Press LLC, 2008.

Melanie, Lilia. “Romanticism”. Adapted from A Guide to the Study of Literature: A Companion Text for Core Studies 6, Landmarks of Literature, ©English Department, Brooklyn College. 2009. Web.

Snodgrass, W.D. “A Rocking-Horse: The Symbol, the Pattern., the Way to Live”. H.D. Lawrence: A Collection of Critical Essays. 117-126. 2009. Web.

Wu, Duncan. A Companion to Romanticism. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 1999.

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