“The worst of romances is that, they leave the one so unromantic” Oscar Wild
Life and literature is an eternal tight-robe walk, and balance is essential between them. To the question, life or literature, i.e., fact or fiction, the answer is both. Because the pure fact is too stiff and drab, the pure fiction too drunken and way ward. Life and literature are two edges of the same sword; the magic is inscribed within it. There move Homer, Virgil, Dante Adel Al-gassas, near the edge, are writers like Marquis, Herman Melville, outside are side are the tragic writings of the seventeenth century British literature, the realistic writings of Harlem Renaissance and African literature. Where do the Romantic poems fall in this line? By Romantic poems I mean, writing with spontaneous feelings and release of the unconscious. Can this beast “The Romantic Poem” be positioned along the line of fact and fiction?!
Good love poems, said Alexander Pope, requires that a person should be in love to write them, and out of it to correct them. Is it happening now? It seems as Romantic become inevitably a more self-conscious and theoretic thing; more of an artificial intoxicant, less of a natural day-dream as it use to be. The Romantic poem nowadays, seems to call up an imaginary world to redress the drab balance of the real, and readers seems to come to look in these poems for an emotional outlets that life begun to deny!
Writers begin to seek the hysterical over-stimulation of emotions, and like Narcissus, many of them had grown self-centered, making Romance not merely of them, but of their own made, along their obsessing by their own reflections in the dark pool of personality. In such a critical situation, what kind of writing can the so-called Romantic poets produce!
Art seems natural, when it has become a second nature, because conscious concentration can never give the effectiveness of instinctive act. Concentrated effort may help by long practice to build up the skill of writing, but it can never equal it. A mental problem, or the gift of invention are likely the common place where the sub-conscious can work wonders, but deliberate brain-racking brings not an idea or art, only a headache to both, the writer, and most likely, the poor reader!
When Romantic poems suppose to be reflecting different emotional attitudes, it starts to lose its nature. The Romantic poem become no longer a sort of combined cart and horse that carry human cross the Waste Land of modern life. Such a divorce of literature from practical living seems to me rather dangerous mysticism. Poetry as life is still vitally concerned with truth and falsehood, with fact and fiction. Even poetic attitudes have their own consequences like any other event, and it is not poetic to let the reality-principle be intoxicated by the imagination to the extent of being unhealthy to life, or to let the Romancing imagination be stamped out by a selfish sense of an ugly reality.
The Romantic poem is declining I think, as a result of divorcing literature from life through an irrelevant language. Language can be used in two ways, as a glass may be used differently. to make a window through which other shall see the landscape of the poet‘s vision; or to make a stained glass window, which will not so much give light, or sight of anything beyond, but just justified by its own colors and pattern! And for unknown reasons, most poets choose the option!
*Critic and Translator from South Sudan