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The Age of Transition is an historical and cultural period situated between 1760 and 1798, and so between the Augustan Age and the Romantic Age, which saw the explosion of the romantic movement from 1798, year of the publication of the Lyrical Ballads by Wordsworth and Coleridge. This age sees a coexistence of different tendencies, between the concepts of regularity, clarity, order, neo-classicism and the supremacy of reason and, on the other side, the new romantic emphasis on feeling and emotions and the rediscovery of Medieval times.

Augustan age: emphasis on reason and on man as asocial being

Preoromantic period: man as an indivifual and emphasis on each individual's felling and emotions.

Neoclassical poetry was quite artificial and conventional. Based on imitation of clasical models.

Preromantic poetry rejected these models because people try to express their own emotions and feelings.

This age is marked by four important events:

first of all, in 1765 Bishop Percy published a volume of ballads called 'Reliques of Ancient English poetry' which became very popular and made ballads become very popular;

in 1764 Horace Walpole wrote the first gothic novel in English, called 'The castle of Otranto', a frightening story full of supernatural events set in Medieval times. We also know that he transformed his home in Strawberry Hill in a gothic castle;

in 1777 Thomas Chatterton wrote 'Rowley poems', poems in pseudo-middle English (saying he had found them and that they were written by Rowley who didn't exist. Thomas Chatterton committed suicide at the age of 17 and so he is now considered as the example of the romantic poet not appreciated by the society;

in 1765 James MacPherson, a Scottish poet, translated from Gaelic in English a story wrote by Ossian about an unknown hero. MacPherson was so famous for his characteristic 'ossianic poetry'.

In this period new sources are discovered, like the medieval times and the northern literature (Celtic, Scandinavian), which lead to the use of mythological ures unknown by the European public.

From a political point of view, we can say that this is the period of George III, king of Hanover, who reigned for sixty years, from 1760 to 1820. He was well accepted by Englishmen because he knew very well his land and also the English language.

But this is also the age of revolutions:

4th July 1776: American Revolution. In 1763 the war between France and England ended. England obtained colonies in Canada and Florida. In America population was increasing (from Holland, Germany) and started to think about their independence. No taxation without representation (in Parliament). They didn't want to pay taxes because they didn't need any protection. England maintained the tea tax (as an example of its power). American got angry: in Boston some people put some tea in the harbour and started to boycott the Import of tea. 1775: the war between colonies and England broke out, the year after in Philadelphia was signed the declaration of independence and in 1783 England recognised America.

1789: French Revolution. Destroyed the old social order in name of liberty, fraternity, equality. A lot of English intellectuals (Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blake) expressed simphaty with the Revolution and were sensitive to the sufferings of the poor and oppressed. The situation changed when England understood that France was being dangerous (frightened of a French hegemony in Europe). Battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo. And then with the period of Terror.

second part of the 18th century: Industrial Revolution. Change from agrarian economy to industrial (factory-based) economy. In 1769 James Watt patented the steam engine. Then the weaving and spinning machines. Stop domestic weaving, a lot of people remained without work. Enclosures act: law acted by Parliament that encloses the lands that were opened for poor people à a lot of people went to city. Coal mining began around 1780 à the increasing industrial system required better roads and a network of canals - transport revolution.

new factories: owners of capital (upper and middle classes) against proletariate (without hygiene, living in slums), 15-l6 hours a day, without rules.

Luddite riots (1811-l812) textile workers in the North of England attacked the machines (Ned Ludd).

Economic theory: laissez faire laissez passer (the State can't interfere on business, individual self interest and law of demand-offer) à Adam Smith (The Wealth of Nations, 1776)

Consciousness of being part of the same working class laid the foundations of the trade-union movement. Clubs and then, at the end of 18th century, combinations declared illegal in 1799 and legalised in 1824.

à British radicalism focussed on the demand for radical reforms of the electoral system, universal suffrage. Parliament should represents the people and not the property-owners as Tories claimed. They combated radicalism through restriction on freedom of speech/association and through the use of the army forces. Peterloo massacre of 1819 when 15 people were killed in St Peter square in Manchester, a group of people was listening a radical orator; Robert Pill founded the civil policy.

à 1832: first reform act (extended the right of vote to the middle-class men);

1833: abolition of slavery in the colonies;

1834: introduction of a new system of education;

1833: factory act: introduces new regulation for workers, children under the age of 9 couldn't


1867: second reform act: right of vote for workers of the city;

1884: for coal miners and peasants

à position of women (lower classes it was normal to find a job in order to survive, more indipendent while upper classes remained without work and spent their time gossiping, playing the piano, diping, totally dipendent on men.

Second part of the 18th century: Agricultural revolution: strongly connected with Industrial one. New machines, lands bought by big landowners.

From a literary point of view we can divide this period into three part: twilight of classicism, early romanticism and romanticism.

The word 'romantic' started to be use in England in the 17th century with the meaning of unreal, extraordinary, fictitious, fabulous, imaginary, each of one deriving its meaning from the medieval romance.

We can't say that Romantic movement was an organic or a homogeneous cultural trend in the European context because in each specific country it had a particular meaning. In Italy Romanticism was almost a patriotic movement, in Germany a philosophical one, deriving from the Sturm und Drung of 1770's, in France it was revolutionary, with the general influence of Rousseau, who said that man was good by nature but corrupted by society, and literary in England.  

But some themes were common all over Europe, in particular at the end of the 18th century. Between these:

the rediscovery of the country, which changed because of the industrial revolution. Country was seen in radical opposition to the city because the first one was the place of dignity and moral values while, on the contrary, the city was the place of corruption and chaos;

interest in nature - wild nature, idealised rural places - quiet and wonderful [Grand tour: trip that fashionable gentlemen had to do to France, Switzerland, Italy à crossing of the Alps - natural landscape].

transitoriness of life à meditation of death, classical ruins were the best places where thinking about death à melancholy - reflective mood.

Introspection, meditation, egotism, solitude in nature (disgusted by the corruption of the city) and in social revolt against institutions à they were exiled or choose exile from England (some of them, Byron and Shelley went to Italy), other created and imaginary and idealised world (Keats): ellenism; other exiled using drugs (opium, like Coleridge)

sadness in elegiac poetry (mourning somebody death) and graveyard poetry (set in cemeteries)

stop poetic diction, refined language (there must be differences between language of ordinary people and literary one. Now the language is simple in order to be understood by the masses ('language really used by men').

In particular from the first years of the 19th century, Romanticism marked these subjects:

the stress on imagination (capacity to see into the life of things and faculty of the mind to understand the truth, like the capacity of God to create) and on individual experience;

the conception of the artist as an original creator à someone who is able to see clearly and deeply into the real essence of things;

the notion of nature as a living organic structure and as a medium; there is a correspondence between natural landscapes and man's feelings; nature is manifestation of God on earth, a moral force a fountain of poetic inspiration, a source of joy. Influenced by Platonism and neoplathonism (God is everywhere)

the concept of sublime (Burke has divided beauty into beautiful (for regular things) and sublime (for things gigantic and violent) à landscape, waterfalls, wild countryside (Lake District);

interest in non-rational experience (horror, sentiment, picturesque scenery - gothic novel): Mrs Radcliffe (The mysteries of Udolpho, 1794)


Thomas Gray was born in London in 1716 into a lower middle-class family. He went to Eton, where he met Horace Walpole and then to Cambridge, where he lived and taught until his death, in 1771. In his life he travelled a lot, in particular making a Grand tour of France and Italy between 1739 and 1741, with his friend Walpole. In 1767 he was offered the Poet Laureateship with which the king appointed him to write a poem to celebrate England, but he declined it.

He is generally regarded as a transitional ure in eighteenth-century poetry. He combines the perfection of form typical of his age with subject-matter and attitudes which anticipate later literary trends. The fusion is shows in his Elegy - The Elegy written in a country churchyard (1751), his most important work.

This poem is one of the best known in the English language and indicates very clearly the transition in literature from the Classical to the Romantic period.

This can be seen in the title: the form of the elegy is a typically classic genre, with which it was mourn someone's death. Gray wanted to be absolutely perfect in the form and he definitly published his work only after seventeen years, in 1768. But in the title we can also find a new interest in the rural setting (countryside), in the ordinary people, in a particular time of day (dusk), in the presence of ruins and other gothic elements, like the ideas of death, nature and of an elegiac, melancholy and sad mood, which are all features of Romanticism.

So this elegy is a poem celebrating the lives of simple country people buried in a churchyard. The poem is original in several aspects: its setting is realistic, recalling a lot of small villages in the contemporary English countryside; secondly its lyricism is the expression of private feelings and emotions which introduces a subjective and introspective dimension unusual at the time; finally, Gray is original in its championing of the poor and the oppressed of rural England.

The poem is quite long, made up of 32 stanzas, each stanza is simple and made of four lines written in iambic pentameters according to an ABAB rhyme scheme. The language is the conventional poetic diction of the 18th century but in subject matter and attitude the poem breaks new grounds: it celebrates 'the short and simple annals of the poor'. He uses a lot of others rhetorical devices like the personifications, onomatopoeia, metaphoers, rhetorical questions, chiasmus throught a refined choise of words and a word order different from usual.

The inner structure of the poem is based on an alternation of descriptions and reflections: this pattern was used by neoclassical poets who, with this, can avoid the risk of monotony inherent in using only one of the two models.

The poem is modelled on the twenty-fourth Ode of Horace's First Book of odes.

The initial stanzas of the Elegy present a rural landscape at twilight; the sights and sounds are those of men and animals as night approaches. However several words can be associated also with the idea of death (curfew, tolls, knell, parting day, stillness) as well to darkness, silence and tiredness, also througth 'l' and 'w' sounds, and the use of alliterations, assonance and consonance. While the poet is alone in a country churchyard, the sight of the tombs of the "rude forefathers of the hamlet" call up in the poet's mind images of humble country life. Here, from stanzas number seven and eight, Gray shifts his attention on an argumentative description, with which he meditated on death and its levelling power, which sweeps away social differences (stanza n.9). This is an important concept in the elegy and the levelling power of death is expressed by these words: 'the paths of glory lead but to the grave'.

As we can see the scene is described throught the poet's eyes; the poet is also the speaking voice in the poem. So we can find a lyrichal point of view, because the poet is isolated, alone and it's getting dark: poet's feelings and emotions are expressed throught the description of the place where he is.

The description is quite different from the artificial pastoral scenes in the classic tradition which could often be found in eighteenth-century poetry, even if he is strongly influenced by Horace (24th Ode), Dante (Purgatorio), Petrarch and Lucretius. However the place is quite idealised, throught its own description and throught particular sounds, like 's' one, which reminds the idea of quietness. The life of the rude forefathers is simple and humble; so the imagined life of the villagers can be idillic, and, at the same time, described throught realistic details.

Gray es the humble life of poor people with the great careers from which fate has excluded them. The poet is sympathetic to the lives of the poor. If we think about the fact that Gray wrote his elegy 40 years before the French Revolution, we have to say that he was revolutionary himself, anticipating the themes of men's equality. He argues that there might have been a poet or a leader among the poor buried in the humble churchyard but the circumstances of their lives barred them from a great destiny. Perhaps there were potentialities inexploied because fate excluded them from the society of opportunity and welfare. But on the other hand, they were prevented from committing crimes and from falling prey to luxury like the rich.

Then the poet refers to the monuments erected over the humble graves which are to protect them, to remind the living of the dead and to teach the living how to die, establishing a firm bond of affection between the two.

The poem ends with the supposed death of the author, his burial in the same churchyard and the epitaph on his tomb. Here he explains that learning, generosity, friendship and faith in God save human lifes, even without fame and fortune.


was born in London in 1757 into a lower-class family. He didn't receive any formal education. At ten he was sent to a drawing school and then apprenticed to an engraver. At twenty-two he entered the Royal Academy. He took to writing poetry only in his last twenties. He started illustrating poems of other poets (Gray, the Divine Comedy)

in 1783 he got married, his wife was unlitterate and he thought her

In 1789 he published Songs of Innocence. He engraved his poems adding a picture that translated the poetic theme in visual terms. Unique, original, it was very expensive, each poem is different.

In 1794 he published Songs of Innocence and Experience in a combined volume.

Other works; prophetic books (The marriage of Heaven and Hell, The French Revolution, America: a prophecy, the Book of Urizen) expressed his belief in the poet as a prophet and his sympathy for revolutionary movements, difficult to understand.

He is spontaneus, natural, orignal, without imitating the classics. Gives importants to the feelings over reason, against intellettual elegance, no polish literature, no poetic formality.

Influenced by Jean-Jacques Rousseau: man is armonic, innocent, perfect happiness, uncorrupted but this relationship with nature gradually changes when the children becoma adults, because society is corrupted. Noble savage not corrupted, he advocated the return of nature, nature = landscaped: state of mind, reflect man's mood, relationship between nature and human feelings. Against reason, because it is an obstacle, with it people can't be sincere and simple (only savage people, children and peasants are in this way).

Man is born free but now he is in chaines, people had to revolt against institutions (social, political, religious à civilization) which oppressed the individual and treated man as slaves.

He had a task, to be a prophet, warning man against the evil of society.

Songs of Innocence and Experience are complementary. The two states coexist within the human being ('the two contray states of the human soul')

Innocence applies to the condition of the child who has not yet experienced the evils of individual and society. Lamb, child. In innocence the traditional order of society is benevolent and based on feelings of love and generosity.

Experience is the world of normal adult life, when people are selfish, incapable of spontaneity, and the social order produces inequality. Tiger.

Lamb: symbol of God's innocence and a demonstration of his love for his creatures. (in Songs of Innocence)

Tiger: symbol of energy whose meaning extends to questioning the nature of God and the value of his creation.

Imagination: the ability to see more deeply into the life of things, a power which he saw as peculiar to the poet, to the child and man in a state of innocence.

London: deeply into the life of the town. He hars the rattling of 'mind-forg'd manacles' and has visions of blackening churches and palaces covered with blood: the sights and sounds the poet perceives reveal the evils the town is oppressed by.

Commercial city: a lot of trades and monwy; a lot of people were wealthy, poor people lived in particolar bad confition.

The poet is the speaker (wonders on the street of London); each street is chartered, charter is a document issued by king giving commercial privileges to private bodies). Law od profit, commercial exploitation. Charter'd Thames: ven the river is obliged to stay in limits imposed by man. Mysery is everyone and the continue repetiotion of syntathical phrases underlines the fact that everywhere is miserable.

Manacles: limit people's freedom. Limitation: all the rules imposed by the society all the insitution, commercial exploitation (economic system imposing limitation).

Iambic line (line 4 is trochaic)

Church: dark because of the pollution, moral corruption, instead of beng a place of light; Church is not doing anything to change the situation of the chimney sweeper. Soldier is another exploited (by political institution).

In the Chimney Sweeper; the chimney sweep's cry is an ndictment of the indifference of the Church. The soldier voices his despair at his oppression by the monarchy. The young prostitute is against the marriage and love.

Chimney was very small for each home (18 centemetres for diameter) the condition of children was similar than slaves' one. Slavery was abolished in 1772 in Englan then were called apprentices and worked as slaves. Children started at 4 years old, the smaller they were the better it was. They were sold by their parents to a man called the master sweep. Children became property of the master, he didn't teach them the job. A lot of children died soffocated in the chimney, the job was very dangerous. The governement passed a law oblidging the master clean the childrn one a week. They were cleaned every six month. A lot of these children never become adult because of the consequences. They shout sweep at 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning in the street. Children were bald because hair wre dangerous children were naked (without protection and without clothes); cruel job.

Contrast: white innocence of children and black death and corrupion of society.

Campaign against slavery and those work not succesful; people did not consider them. Private property was considered more important than human rights, it is unjust to pay more monet to unlarge chimney.

1875: abolished this job.

6 quatrains

1 stanza: a child is speaking to all people he works for. Parents are cruels and violents, weep: cry/sweep à spazzare.

2. little Tom Dacre: only like a lamb's back (innocence)

Blake was involved in the political and social issues sorrounding the American and French revolutions. He supported the London riots for American independence and was sympathetic to the egalitarian claims of the French Revolution. Affinity with the poor and the oppressed.

Children, the theme of childhood can be found in both colections with different features. In Songs of Innocence the child retains the innocence of a new born infant who is loved and protected by God (the Lamb); in Sonf of Experience the child neglected by parents is a common ure and is symbolic of the oppressed.

Style: simple lexis and syntax, a lot of repetitions and he follows regular stress patterns and rhyme schemes, adopting features that are characteristic of children's songs ballads. Personification, metaphor and symbol.

Blake described innocence and experience as the two contrary stetes of the human soul. Innocence refers to the condition of child who has not yet experienced the evils of the individual and of society. The world of innocence is a bright world of happiness and freedom, of harmonious relationship, such as the ones which exist between a loving creator and its creatures in the poem 'The lamb'. Its visual symbols can be identified with the happy confident child who can freely use the imagination he is gifted with and the meek lamb whose 'tender voice' makes 'al the vales rejoice'. Experience refers to a state of life where imagination is repressed. God is no longer a mild father but the dreadful creator of the poem 'The tiger'. In the world of experience the social system exploits and oppresses the weak and the powerless like the chimney sweep, the soldier and the prostitute of the poem 'London'. It is a world characterised by sounds and sights of distress whose symbols can be the 'mind-forg'd manacles' or the 'fearful simmetry' of the tiger.

The lamb (from Songs of Innocence): sweet, meek, mind: simple style, a lot of repetitions of sounds, lines, words, same identical synatactic structures.

Meaning of innocence: connected with childhood, methaphorical ure (lamb): unsofisticated nature (concrete animal/symbolical animal).

The tiger (songs of Experience): energetic terrible animal, beautiful but dangerous and violent, very fast. Trochaic metre/4 stresses lines which chatalexis, short words (most of these are monosyllabic). A lot of exclamation points, the first and last stanzas are almost the same (Could, dare).

Tyger: burning à fire (colour and symbol of violence) and bright (when it's dark his eyes are bright). Fearful simmetry: negative and positive connotation, beauty, perfection and armonious (oxymoron)

the creator (immortal, wings, blacksmith - concrete details about him), the creation is a material act, not spiritual.

The creatur: fearful simmetry, fire, light (perfect and armonious animal but cruelty and violence, deadly terrors). The creator is the same: both evil and heaven good (contrasting elements) in the love there is love and war and both are necessary (they coexist in the world). Reality from two different points of view.

Stress pattern: 4,10,11,18,20,24 change in rhyme is associated with a particular ure (rhyme scheme: rhyming couplet except eye and symmetry). First and last stanzas imperfect rhyme: emphasys on simmetry. Rhythm: very fast, urgent, he is trying to imitate the rhythm of the hammering. Tyger fascinated and interested and frightenede and concerned. Monosyllabic words, exclamation marks, symple sintact, alliteration (sound repeated: t, b, f). a lot of words started with the sounf 'd' à fear, courage (dare). Repetition of words, of some words, of a stanza (at the beginning and the last execpt one verb). Syntactical form (structure).

Christian message: revolutionary message of love. Evil could also represent the infustrial revolution, Blake fascinated by the revoltion. 'the tygers of wrath (anger) are wisere than the horses of instruction'. The energy is better than the wilf and domesticated qualities of a horse. Blake was on the side of the tyger.


2 stanzas (one question, one answer)

reference to christ

animal: soft, slow, childlike, sweet, soft, milk

creator: good and generous

poet is identificated with the lamb and the creator


About creation

An animal

Poet speaks directly to the animal

Simle words and syntax



Danger and it is made up by a series of question no answer

Fast, aggressive

Beautiful, perfect and aggresive

Creator: feraless, bolf, skillful, powerfull and a bit frightening

Poet can't understand the mystery of creation.

Gothic romance:

romantic period: new interest in middle ages, in the concept of death.

Irrational forces undermind the augustian men, in the age of reason. Gothic: mediaeval interest in the past, irregular opposed to the idea of perfection, wild and supernatural, mysterious, frightening, supernatural creatures and events.

Burke: sublime has to arrrouse a sense of fear (amaze, astonish, shock, horrify)

The aim is not to entertein or instruct but to thrill the readers, to observe a frightening world, to emphasyses fear: mystery and darkness.

Settomg om fark and misteryous places (at night), ghostly atmosphere.

People divided into two groups: good characters and bad characters.

Theme: persecuted maiden (from Pamela of Richardson), villane that executed women who try to escape, because he wants to rape her.

Gothic writers were not interested in happy ending, they enjoy creating a situation in which man was submitted by negative forces he had created. Man can not control: atmosphere of nightmare.

This kind of novel wants to describe a world in which fantasy is predominant (imagination versus reality). Walpole wanted fantastic event (he was bored of Richardson).

Augustan age: faith in Reason while the new novels introduced the idea that men isn't always good in dominating nature and there are forces beyond him. This was caused by the changes in the world (industrial revolution).

Horace Walpole was interested also in gothic architecture, he said he translated a work manuscript in italian 1529 onufrio muranto. Set in foreign countries (increase the sense of mystery): catholic ountries: strong prejudices against catholics.

Mumphred prince of Otranto, who is a usurpator after he murdered the legittim king. Prophesy: the prince wull contiunue to reign until there is a mail hair living in the palace (erede maschio), this discendetn contiune if the castle is not to small for its owners. Mumphred is quite happy because his son Conrad is going to get married (other child: Mathild) with Isabelle. A misterious element killed conrad, he thought to divorce from Ippolita and got married with Isabella but she didn't want to marry him.

She tries to escape to avoid mumphred. Then he accidentaly killed his daughter.

Alfonso the ghost became bigger and bigger, his body his bigger than the castle.Mumprhed remember the prophesy and remains in monastery, isabelle married a relative of the legittime king.

Horace Walpole drew inspiration from different sources: piranesi (18 century) Prigioni, instruments of death, segret rooms, disproposition between man and architecture.

Atmosphere of horror - wheater and natural elemnts are very important (wind, dark, cloudy). Castle is isolated.

Ann Radcliffe: end of 18th century, she set most of her novels in italy even if she had never come. She is different from Walpole because here there is a strong influence of Augustian period (rationality, supernatural wvent with a rational exation). She sees a ghost but the next moring she realised she has seen a wax statue (only because she was afraid and it was dark)

Jane Austin: satire about the novel written by Ann Radcliffe

William Backford: wrote a story of Califs (written in French and translated in English). Arabian nights: story of a calif that sells his soul to a devil for knowledge.

Lewis ('Monk'): set in a convent a lot of violence and eroticism.

Mary Shelley: Frankstein. Story written by a joung gitl in Switzerland with her partner and a group of friends. The weather was bad and they organised a composition of stories. 1818. They created a monstre very hugly that killed a lot of people. A serious problem: the bad use that man can do of science.

Social injustice: typicly rousseanina the idea of man is originally good, at the end it is the contrary.


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