A Quest for Liberty

Posted February 24, 2011 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Culture / 2 Comments

The Mariner; one of the wood-engraved illustrations by Gustave Doré.

On 11th July 1789 the French citizens stormed the Bastille. Their dreams were for a revolution, a dream of liberty. One of the biggest influences of the French Revolution was Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau and his fellow philosopher Denis Diderot dreamed of a world where everyone was unique and free. But both these philosophers shared two very different views on the world. Diderot believed knowledge was power and is as a co-founder and contributor to the Encyclopédie and is quite possible the father of the Age of Enlightenment (an era that focused heavily on Western philosophy, intellectual, scientific and cultural life). But Rousseau was focused more on the emotions and humanity; his thinking paved the way for the Romantic Period.

While both philosophers dreamed of liberty and went onto do great things after the French Revolution, liberty was not fully achieved. While the lower and middle classes were now considered people, they never really have the opportunity to have a voice and freedom of expression. It wasn’t until the book Lyrical Ballads did this chance begin to take effect. The collection of poems breathed life into the Romantic Period and the vision of individuality. Lyrical Ballads was written by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge and changed the course of English literature and poetry. The book was an intimate look at the rustic lives, written in simple words for everyone to read and enjoy. The poems had a more lasting affect than any political document and were a pure expression of Romantic ideas. The poems placed an emphasis on the vitality of the living voice and used the poor to express their realities. The poems took aim at the harsh realities of life at the time; like The Last of the Flock, which tells the story of a farmer who had to sell all his animals in order to feed his family. One of best known poems from this collection, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner focused on one of the major themes linked with the Romantic Period; the importance of nature.

The Romantic Period and the Age of Enlightenment (both era’s I’ve held great interest in) have helped build society – for better or worse – into what it is today. While both eras were fighting for liberty, it is interesting to note that without the French Revolution we may have never been free to express ourselves.

2 responses to “A Quest for Liberty

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.