Does Romantic poetry offer a consistent view on children?

Essay by Terri231186University, Bachelor'sA-, November 2008

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During the eighteenth century, children were expected to be seen and not heard. Society believed all children should be angelic, submissive and in fear of God. Many of the Romantic writers challenged these ideas in their prose and poetry. Some of the more interesting and controversial thoughts come from such writers as Blake, Coleridge and Wordsworth. The romantics esteemed children because they were innocent and close to nature. Youngsters had tended to be included in family groups, dressed as young adults in order to appear as a miniature of their parents. However, the Romantic approach was to depict them as real children, and to encourage society to be more child-centred.

One of the main ways in which to portray children during the Romantic period was to see them as victims of the church. Due to terrible living and working conditions that came about because of the industrial revolution during this era.

Children “managed on a diet so deficient in protein that they could not grow” (Burton, 165). Over fifty per cent of children died before they reached the age of five years, “Death was as common and as true as poverty” (Burton, 166). In spite of this the church sat by and watched the population suffer instead of helping the poor the church was teaching the populace that in order to go to heaven everyone must suffer in this world first, this included children. Blake’s sentiments are reflected in his poem The Chimney Sweeper taken from his collection Songs of Experience, in which the narrative voice states:“They think they have done me no injury:And are gone to praise God & his priest & kingWho make up a heaven of our misery”(The Chimney Sweeper, 14-16).

The ethics of the church also come under fire by Blake in his poem Holy Thursday...