The Lake Poets were a group of English poets who lived and wrote in the Lake District during the nineteenth century.
The Lake Poets were part of the Romantic Movement and are best remembered for verses related to natural imagery. Despite this, they did not follow a single idea or school of thought.
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Definition and Explanation of Lake Poets
The primary members of the loosely defined group were William Wordsworth, and later (to an extent) his sister Dorothy Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Robert Southey. But there were several other poets, mentioned below, who were also given the name. It was due to the works of poets like Wordsworth that the Lake District became as well-known and defined as it is today. His vision of the landscape, and how he wrote about it, created it. He was attracted to the region for its isolation and for the undisturbed vision of nature he could find there. Other poets, like Southey and Coleridge, were attracted to the region for different reasons.
Origin of the Name “Lake Poets”
The name “Lake Poets,” used to refer uniformly to writers from the Lake District of England, was a derogatory term created by the Edinburgh Review. When speaking about the group, Francis Jeffery, a Scottish literary critic, referred to them as:
the School of whining and hypochondriacal poets that haunt the Lakes.
Or, at least this is what Samuel Taylor Coleridge reported that he said. The name evokes a certain kind of writing today and the mistaken belief that every point who received the label was writing in the same way.
Famous Lake Poets
Wordsworth was the best-known of the Lake Poets. He exemplified the attitude that’s now associated with the region and with all those who were inspired by the landscape. He, along with Coleridge, is remembered by history as helping to launch the Romantic Age of English literature with their publication of Lyrical Ballads. The greatest work of his career, The Prelude, was unknown during his lifetime. He began it when he was twenty-eight years old and it was published posthumously. His broader oeuvre is noted for his veneration o nature and dislike for change that flew in the face of the natural world. He often used common language and centered the everyday person at the heart of his poems.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, along with Wordsworth, is remembered as one of the progenitors of the Romantic Movement in England. He worked as a poet, literary critic, and philosopher. He is one of the most prominent members of the group referred to as the Lake Poets. He collaborated on volumes with other writers on this list, such as Robert Southey and Charles Lloyd. His work was often darker than Wordsworth’s. He used elements of the supernatural, imagination, and naturalism.
Robert Southey is remembered today for his lyrical verse, sonnets, odes, and ballads that dealt with topics like social injustice and the supernatural. He, like Coleridge and Wordsworth, became more conservative throughout his lifetime, acquiring deep respect for British social institutions. He is remembered for his poem ‘After Blenheim.’
Read poems by Robert Southey.
Mary Lamb is best-remembered for her collaboration with Charles Lamb, her brother, on Tales from Shakespeare. She and her brother were part of the same literary circles as the other poets on this list and she is often included as part of the group of Lake Poets. She spent most of her life, after briefly being confined to a mental facility for murdering Elizabeth Lamb, her mother, working as a seamstress in London under the care of her brother.
Read poetry by Mary Lamb.
Charles Lamb was brother to Mary Lamb and is best-remembered as a poet, essayist, and children’s author. His collection of essays titled, Essays of Elia, is his best-known work. He was at the center of the poet’s literary circle in London and was a much-loved character there. His most famous poem was ‘The Old Familiar Faces.’
Read Charles Lamb’s poetry.
Charles Lloyd was a close friend of the other poets on this list and is best known for his poem, ‘Desultory Thoughts in London.’ He was a student of Coleridge’s and collaborated with him on a few occasions. It was through Coleridge that he met Charles Lamb with whom he also collaborated.
Lake Poets Famous Poems
This piece is told from the perspective of Wordsworth himself. he speaks about the power nature has to guide one’s life and morality. He returns to a spot he once loved on the banks of the River Wye. He hadn’t been there for five years but it has always held a special place in his heart. It allows him to transcend his body and find value in things outside the physical. Here are a few lines:
Five years have past; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a soft inland murmur.—Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
In ‘Fears in Solitude,’ Coleridge expresses a love for his country and depicts the natural world beautifully. The speaker explains how when he finds himself in these beautiful, solitary places, he can’t help but become filled with fear for the fate of his countrymen. He calls for change, laments the state of the world, and wants everyone around him to stand up and make clear what needs to happen to improve everyone’s lives. Here are a few lines from the second stanza:
My God ! it is a melancholy thing
For such a man, who would full fain preserve
His soul in calmness, yet perforce must feel
For all his human brethren–O my God !
In this piece, Lamb contemplates the natural world and the beauty it holds for all those who are willing to look. He examines the shapes and colors of a rainbow and takes an upbeat and reverential tone throughout. Here are a few lines:
After the tempest in the sky
How sweet yon rainbow to the eye!
Come, my Matilda, now while some
Few drops of rain are yet to come,
Related Literary Terms
- Romanticism: a movement that originated in Europe at the end of the 18th century and emphasized aesthetic experience and imagination.
- Ballad: a kind of verse, sometimes narrative in nature, often set to music and developed from 14th and 15th-century minstrelsy.
- Lyric Poem: a musically inclined, short verse that speaks on poignant and powerful emotions.
- Ode: a formal lyric poem that is written in celebration or dedication. They are generally directed with specific intent.