The romantic concept of the poet-prophet and its culmination in Walt Whitman

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Helen Honeycutt Mackay (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Robert Stephens

Abstract: One of the outstanding characteristics of the Romantic period was the widespread urge to find an acceptable substitute for the religious faith of earlier centuries. The Age of Enlightenment had given popular acceptance to the theory that there was no personal God who interested Himself in the affairs of men. The result was an overpowering feeling of helplessness and desolation, to which has been given the name "the Romantic void." People turned for an alternate spiritual fulfillment to nationalism, to Utopian schemes, and finally to art. A corresponding elevation of the artist placed him in a position similar to that once filled by religious functionaries such as priests and prophets. Poets, in particular, were considered to have finer sensibilities than average men, sensibilities which enabled them to see intuitively the transcendental ideal behind Nature's material forms. A related trend of wide scope was important to the concept. As people, Influenced by nationalism, began to examine their national origins, a desire grew for the simple life and primitive vigor of earlier ages. The figure of the ancient bard, who was not only poet but often priest as well, became a shaping influence of vast proportions on the developing concept of the poet-prophet.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 1970
Whitman, Walt, $d 1819-1892 $x Criticism and interpretation
Whitman, Walt, $d 1819-1892. $t Leaves of grass
Poetry, Modern $y 19th century
Poets, American

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