The publication of the Lyrical Ballads by Wordsworth and Coleridge in 1798 was an epoch making event in the history of English Literature. The Lyrical Ballads has become one of the abiding reference points of English Romantic Literature. The idea for it was conceived when the two poets were living as close neighbors. It was nurtured by their shared sense of the emotional artificiality of eighteenth century poetry and its conventions. As a result of this a new taste in literature and art set in. This new taste is called Romanticism or Liberalism in literature. This new trend started even earlier with Gray and Collins, Blake and Burns. The Romantic Revival of the nineteenth century turned the rules and regulations held dear by the writers of the eighteenth century upside down. There are various causes for the new taste of the people. The people were tired of the rules and regulations of the neo-classical poetry. They could no longer tolerate the monotonous heroic couplets. The French Revolution had its own influence on the thoughts and literature of the period. The greatest writer of France, Rousseau, inspired the people of England. The catchwords of the French Revolution-Liberty, Equality and Fraternity - also became the basic principles of Romantic literature. The political upheaval in America was also partly responsible for the new taste in literature. The spread of education brought home to the English people, the philosophy of Kant and Hegel in Germany. The progress of science supplied the people with a rational outlook. All these developments made them look for something new in literature. The Romantic literature also, to a certain extent, satisfied their intellectual curiosity.
The Romantic Movement was characterized by a strong protest against the conventions and worn out traditions of the classicists. There was a freedom in the choice of subject and suitable verse-forms. So there was an endless variety in subject and form. The poetry of the eighteenth century was mainly concerned with the clubs and coffee houses, drawing rooms and the political life of London. It was, in short, poetry of town life. In Romantic poetry the interest was transferred from town to the country and to the natural beauty and liveliness of nature.
The Romantic poets sought to escape from the tyranny and materialism of the world. They wanted to recreate the Middle Ages. This craving for the Middle Ages satisfied the emotional sense of wonder on the one hand and the intellectual curiosity on the other.
The Romantic poetry was also marked by a strong sense of sympathy and understanding of the human heart. The poets started taking interest in the common people. A feeling of humanitarianism coloured the poetry of Wordsworth, Shelley and Byron. The Romantic Movement was the expression of individual genius rather than of established values. The poets of this period were in favour of giving subjective interpretation to the objective realities of life. Thus, poetry became individualistic in outlook.
Ignoring the immediate predecessors like Pope and Dryden, the Romantics accepted the early poets, Spenser, Shakespeare and Milton as their models. In the Romantic poetry, unlike in the classical poetry, reason and intellect were subdued and their place was taken by imagination, emotion and passion. Spontaneity was given first preference. Lyricism predominates and a number of fine lyrics excelling the heroic couplets were produced. The Romantic poets also brought in the spirit of supernaturalism. Coleridge and Walter Scott specialised in this field.
In the new kind of poetry, greater stress is laid on simplicity. There is no difference between the language of poetry and that of prose. The new kind of poetry was written by Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Byron. Shelley and Scott. In fact, they succeeded in training the readers in a new sensibility.