Oodles have been written about the British Romantic poets who follow, so only a brief commentary on their lives is provided, most of which comes from the Dover Thrift English Romantic Poetry: An Anthology, edited by Stanley Applebaum that I’ve had for years. When I came back to the male Romantics for this post, I realized I had forgotten how much I like them. Could it have been the wine? Eh, I’m sure it contributed, but beautiful words are beautiful words with or without a little intoxication.
William Blake is considered probably the earliest male Romantic poet, though he was not well known during his time. As many of us know, he was quite the odd ball: he made up his own religion (which his poetry defines), illustrated his works, used his own variety of spellings, and self-published his books. He’s best known now for his Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, from which many of us read “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” for high school literature, but he’s also well known for The Book of Thiel, his rejection of the English Church.
Because of the contrasting nature of his Songs, I had to go with a dual pairing for Blake’s work, it was difficult to choose between red and white–so in the end, I didn’t. Instead, I decided I’d just have to drink something dark and bold for Experience and something more fresh and spirited for Innocence. I went with the Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel and Chardonnay.
We covered William Wordsworth’s sister in the first British Romantics pairing, and obviously he makes an appearance on this list. As most likely the most influential poets of the movement, Wordsworth’s poetry embodies the religion of nature that much Romantic work is associated with. He cowrote Lyrical Ballads with Samuel Coleridge, marking the beginning of the movement. He spent much of his life in walks, most notably during his walking tour of France, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany in 1790. The Prelude, which is considered his greatest work, did not make my reading list this time, but maybe I’ll down another bottle of wine and give it a try next week.
I found a really nice Savignon blanc that went well with Wordsworth’s work. The Hogue Savignon Blanc from the Columbia Valley in Washington has flavors of sage and honey dew. Not nectar sweet, but floral and refreshing, the wine was perfect with Wordsworth dominate nature themes.
Samuel Coleridge was not thought of in his time as a poet, although his “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Kubla Kahn” are iconic pieces of the Romantic movement today. He spent his writing immersed in literary criticism, social thought, and philosophy, among other things. He was a teacher and nurturer of young poets (notably among them Byron, Shelley, and Keats–all included here). He was also an opium addict, which is where much of his ideas for Kubla Kahn stem from.
Since Coleridge wasn’t considered as poetic as the rest of the bunch, I thought an alternate pairing would be good for him, so I picked up a good winter beer (New Belgium’s Accumulation) and dove into Coleridge’s opium-addled writings head first.
Odd among greats, Lord Byron (George Gordon) was the most known and best admired Romantic poet during his time. He was a looker, and his club foot played an interesting role in his life–which was interesting enough as it was. He was involved in many affairs. Despite his less-than-traditional lifestyle, Byron’s verse, considered later, actually has the most traditional rhyme and meter among the other poets listed here. He used especially ottava rima, an Italian-style structure, notable in Don Juan. He was fascinated with the Mediterranean landscape, and he wrote more than just poetry–verse plays and prose letters are available.
Even though I feel like Byron had a mega-ego, he definitely deserves to be paired with a big, bold red. To me, that means a Cabernet Savignon. Honestly, any one–pick your favorite vintner. You won’t regret it.
This maybe strays too much from my other short notes, but I just have to say, whenever I think of Percy Shelley, I am reminded of my twelfth-grade English teacher saying, “Oh, that Percy Bysshe,” with a toss of her hand and knowing smile. So, that’s been my impression of him my whole life. Later, I dislike him a bit for his treatment of the women in his life, starting with his first wife, Harriet, whom he left to marry Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women–how did you fall for him Mary?!) Shelley was also friends with Byron, which doesn’t bode well for him in feminists’ books. I digress, he is remembered as a quintessential Romantic, and afterall, he did write “Ozymandias” and “Ode to a Skylark,” so at least he contributed some beauty to the world. Plus, he met an unfortunate end, which is a little redeeming.
I reread some Shelley with a glass of Chariot Gypsy 2012 red blend, apparently one of the best years for this blend in a while. With a fresh-fruit sweetness, this wine still achieves a bit of complexity in its spicier notes.
Poor John Keats, so much potential, and such a tragically short life. Perhaps if he had lived longer, though, he would have written some stupid things we all hated and ruined his reputation (unlikely). He developed massively as a poet over a very short period of time. After contracting tuberculosis from his mother and brother (while he was caring for them in their illnesses), he traveled to Rome for his health and ended up dying there. Before he left, he fell in love with a woman named Fanny Brawne, which just makes the story that much sadder.
Red wine seemed too sad to pair with Keats’s already sad tale, so I went with an Italian white–an Orvieto region grape to be exact. The Ruffino 2012 Orvieto Classico is fruity and floral with hints of pears and everything you want while musing over “Ode to a Grecian Urn.”