Romanticism throughout history, describes a period that connected certain human thought and behavior to individuals and cultures. Rather than analysis and reason, it is a period full of imagination and insight. It is a period that explores a world that is in hope of finding acceptance and new ideas. Henry David Thoreau and Edgar Allen Poe are two relatively well-known authors during the Romanticism period.
Thoreaus life, in particular, constantly remains in search for truth, beauty, and understanding for a better life for mankind. His beliefs of society, government, and mankind while living under his own disapprobation led to some of his greatest works in literature. Some of these works include Walden, Civil Disobedience, Slavery in Massachusetts and A plea for Captain John Brown.
In his essay Civil Disobedience, Thoreau expresses his belief in the power and the duty of the individual to determine right from wrong It is not a man’s duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even to most enormous, wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support. (C. D. ) In addition, Thoreau believed that his greatest skill was to want but little (Walden). During his time at Walden, Thoreau determines what is needed for human survival as he learns to take pleasure in a life of simplicity and solitude.
He concluded that if mankind had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they were called to labor in. For it is nature that he looks to as a source for fundamental truth. The deeper the relationship with Nature, the deeper the understanding of the basic mysteries of life. However, while Thoreaus philosophy and literature emphasized the inspiration of nature and the understanding of the basic mysteries of life, Edgar Allen Poe brought perspective to the darker side of the Romantic period.
His success in the literary world led to the publication of his short stories and poems as he worked as a magazine editor. Poes desire was to cut free from reality or actuality and enter the world of imagination. Unlike Thoreau, he believes that truth lies in the dark and irrational depths of the human mind. In comparison, both Thoreau and Poe try to understand and explain their individual, creative means of expression.
Although their views on the meaning of truth are opposite, it is evident that a search for ideal is occurring. This search imitates that of the Romantic movement. Thus, the imagination and insight of these two authors is clearly portrayed through their writings. Nevertheless, it is by means of talented writers like Poe and Thoreau that springs forth acceptance and popularity of the Romantic Period. Poe and Thoreau were two great contributors of Romanticism. They will not go unrecognized.