The Romantic Warning

rom1The romantics have often been regarded as reactionaries, because of their unwelcoming attitude towards the great mutation that the industrial revolution was about to produce in their countries. A revolution is a radical, somehow violent change, whose consequences are often unpredictable, but  early romantics instinctively felt that the great transformation the world was undergoing wouldn’t have been free of charge.

Modern man, once left his “natural state” and thrown into the dynamics of a materialistic and competitive society, dominated by the threat of clock time, would have seen the nature of his certainties collapse with the consequent urgency of redefining a new scale of values. But what kind of values can a materialistic society produce? Wealth? Success? Career? Can a society, whose imperative is “time is money” and whose members are only small mechanisms of a careless system, be considered as an amelioration of the previous one in terms of quality of life and, why not, happiness? Certainly not.

That’s why the romantics kept on fighting strenuously against “modernity”, advocating the superiority of the values produced by the “old” world. If men abandoned their Eden, their natural state, just like modern Adam and Eve, they would only find pain, hard labor, misery, hence slowly becoming insensitive and indifferent. Therefore, they began to strive using their lines as weapons, lines that they had deliberately simplified in order to reach with their message the heart of as many people as possible. They talked about the importance of memory, the beauty of nature, the necessity of a world of sensibility without restraining from the impulse of imparting a moralizing lesson.

But the process couldn’t be stopped and somehow they were defeated by the course of events. The great industrial change had spread all over the country and towns, like mushrooms, kept on growing disorderly and faster and faster. At the altar of “modernity” man was sacrificing his greatest gifts as well: his creativeness, his sense of taste and harmony. Man now needed to put at the top of his scale of values beauty, many artists claimed. The most optimistic were convinced that educating people to beauty would have meant to improve man’s ethical sense at the same time, but the majority of them thought that it was too late to teach anything to anybody and kept themselves away from the rude and insensitive masses. The first five decades of folly of the twentieth century and two world wars swept away the few certainties and values left and men seemed now motionless seated on a “heap of broken images” of the past waiting for their Godot like Beckett’s Vladimir and Estragon. We are still waiting.

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4 thoughts on “The Romantic Warning

  1. This may seem an over-pessimistic view to some, but in fact this is merely a snapshot of what has been going on for millennia. The Bronze Age can only have been named from an industrial process, with communities including young children mining copper underground; ditto the Iron Age. The Romans exploited pre-existing lead mines, leaving waste all around the place not to mention poisoning workers. Much of the wild landscape that the Romantics praised in the Lake District was the result of prehistoric deforestation. What’s worrying to us is the rate of degradation, as much due to almost exponential population growth as to individual human greed. It could be said that today’s Romantics are eco-warriors, Green Party members and environmental scientists, keeping up the vision and the good fight. An angry but timely post, Stefy.

    • Historically speaking I completely agree but I am not praising contemporary romantic heroes because I associate the adjective romantic with the romantic mood thought inner attitude which is not mandatory connected with contemporary activists ideology and practice! That’s just a personal opinion because what I learned to appreciate day by day is this Amazing cultural awakening provided by this web site.

  2. Pingback: The Romantic Warning | Lavender Turquois

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