Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How to Be a Romantic Poet, Part One

Gentle Reader, who among us has not looked at a ruin and been sent into spastic fits of glee that could only be contained in blank verse, been tempted to imitate the ancients, attack the government in rhyming couplets about the wind, reflect constantly on one's impermanence, engage in highly complicated love affairs that would puzzle any future scholar of your life, immortalize your friends as Gentle-Hearted So-and-So, spite the lovers who spurned you by dying of a wasting disease while composing your own epitaph, or found a utopian commune on the banks of the Susquehanna?

If your answer to all these questions is no, then, alas! You are not a Romantic Poet.

What a sad state of affairs, Gentle Reader. The Amateur Historian quite feels your pain and thus introduces yet another series to this blog: "How To Be A Romantic Poet." (There is a fantastic article that does a much better and much more concise job of listing this than the Amateur Historian and, in fact, inspired this series. It was published in a museum magazine once and it was also once passed out in the Amateur Historian's English class and she can no longer recall who wrote it or where it was published. However, credit for this idea goes to whoever wrote it first. The Amateur Historian apologizes for her crappy memory.

Tip 1: Look the part! You must have curls in wild disarray, to prove that your mind is on higher things and that you yourself have been touched by the zeitgeist, the spirit of the era. It cannot be too messy, however, or people will just think you are a hobo. The Amateur Historian suggests folowing Byron's model of sleeping with his hair in curlers. Abandon your cravat as a sign of an oppressive society who would seek to muzzle your voice with its restrictive neckwear and defy it by wearing an open-necked shirt in all weather. This not only makes you look cool, it can make you downright chilly and let you catch a wasting disease. Everyone always takes you more seriously if you are likely to die young after producing your own epitaph.

If you cannot catch a wasting disease despite your best efforts to do so, attempt to look the part by keeping a suitably ethereal figure by, as was Byron's wont, playing cricket while wearing seven waistcoats and a greatcoat. If cricket is not to your liking, try to be relentlessly bullied as a small child, so as to stunt your growth by being kept from your food, writing at all hours of the night and never sleeping, or hiking up mountains to feed your soul on the beauties of rural England and not on, say, the hard-boiled egg your slave, er, that is sister, made for you.

Check back every day this week for new tips on how to prove to all those detractors who claim you have no soul or sentiment that you can, as Wordsworth put it, be:

"A man speaking to men... endowed with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness, who has a greater knowledge of human nature, and a more comprehensive soul, than one supposed to be common among mankind; a man pleased with his own passions and volitions, and who rejoices more than other men in the spirit of life that is in him; delighting to contemplate similar volitions and passions as manifested in the goings-on of the Universe, and habitually compelled to create them where he does not find them."


  1. What a great idea for a series - very funny!
    That picture is gorgeous! Could you tell me, please, who it is by?

  2. Yay! I'm glad someone else is enjoying the series. ^^;; Your comment made my day. In any case, it's by Caspar David Friedrich, and called "Wanderer above the Sea of Fog".