The Romantics were the rock stars of their day: hot, young, and talented. They wrote about love, about beauty, about the natural world that was just starting to be threatened by the arrival of the modern age, and - since they took a whole bunch - about drugs. They captured the sense of a world in flux, as the Great Powers of the day began to change the way they deal with one another at the Congress of Vienna, and the age of empires expanded across the globe. It was a disorienting time when railways broke the silence of the countryside, and millions of people moved to the cities to work in the factories that sprang up everywhere. Proto-movements that later came to be known as socialism, feminism, communism, fascism, organized labor and universal suffrage were born as the population exploded and the world grew exponentially smaller.
The pioneers of the Romantic wave were Coleridge and Wordsworth, whose lyrical ballads was the first text of their movement. Keats, Burns, Byron, Shelley, Blake and others followed them. They were radicals who were sympathetic to the working man even as his circumstances changed, and loyal to nature as it came under real threat for the first time. They dreamed of a fairer and greener world where all might share in the prosperity of their time, even as they saw it slipping away. Which of them would you be?
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