Mirror and the Lamp


M H Abram’s The Mirror and the Lamp: romantic theory has been one of the most influential studies in the field of literary criticism and theory. Abram’s shows that until the Romantics literature was typically understood, like a mirror reflecting the real worlds in some kind of mimesis: whereas for the Romantics, the writing was more like a lamp: the light of the writer’s inner soul spilled out to illuminate the world  (Abram’s: Mirror and the Lamp).

Romanticism: Mirror and the Lamp

Here, a mirror is cruel; which shows reality but the lamp carries subjectivity; it is idealistic. Mainly romantic poetry is on the basis of idealism, the poets are idealistic, and they show the natural thing in a different way as if they are unnatural. (English Literature)“The central view in innovative Romantic literature and philosophy was that the root of the modern human malaise its separation, or “alienation,” from its original unity with nature, and that the cure for this disease of civilization lies in a reunion between humanity and nature that will restore concreteness and values to a natural world in which we can once more feel thoroughly at home, in a joyous consonance and reciprocity with all living things.”(Abrams). “A romance is a love story or an imaginative story usually with love and adventure.” The romance is said to present life as we would have it be more picturesque, fantastic, adventurous, or heroic than actuality; realism, on the other hand, is said to represent life as it really is. (Abrams,267)

On the basis of Schlegel, he uses the theory of imaginative representation which changes all the matters diversely. It creates something new and leads the worlds from known to unknown. The representation may be positive, negative, dynamic or neutral. Schlegel mainly focuses on the relationship between time and poetry. He includes all the tense, the past, present, and the future in order to make a truly sensible representation of eternal or the perfect time. For example, in Wordsworth’s poem “I wandered lonely as a cloud” the poet has come up with the familiar thing unfamiliarly. He has presented the most common thing uncommonly which makes the reader use their imagination. In the poem also the poet has used the imaginative representation by making the natural thing supper natural that means common thing uncommon such as “crowd” is the common thing but he has present “the crowd of the Daffodils” and “golden Daffodils” which are common flower blooms in the dirty place but by using Golden poet has made the normal Daffodils with the more importance on it that means it has to make idealistic representation. The poet has made the familiar thing unfamiliar and made the reader use their imagination. As Schlegel, the use of imaginative representation is highly used here. He means that the change of time from past present and future, in the poem also the poet is going through the effect of time. He presents the things in the present are not the same as the past and will not be the same in the future too. That means everything doesn’t remain the same according to the time it keeps on changing. In the second stanza, the language the poet uses to describe daffodils as they are not commonly found. The poet seems idealistic towards the natural thing and describes them using a different symbol to express his own feeling.

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  1. T. Coleridge the poet and philosopher who have minutely observe the fancy and imagination. Fancy is the process of recollection and remembrance of things without adding anything. It receives all its materials ready-made from the law of association. The poet whatever sees and whatever gets through the sensory organ just copy and make the literary genera. Imagination is the faculty of judgment control process and selection. According to Coleridge, while the fancy is merely mechanical, the imagination is ‘vital’ that it is. It is an organic faculty which operates not like a sorting machine but like a living and growing plant. In his poem, “Kubla Khan” he has uses the secondary imagination to complete it. In the poem, there is the use the fancy and imagination as in his theory. The poet has created a dome of Kubla Khan in Xanadu. Xanadu is an example of humanity imposing its will upon nature to create a vision of paradise since the palace is surrounded by an elaborate park. That the forests are “ancient as the hills” makes the imposing of order upon them more of a challenge. Like a work of art, Xanadu results from an act of inspiration and is a “holy and enchanted” place. Within this man-decreed creation are natural creations such as the river that bursts from the earth. The origin of Alph is depicted almost in sexual terms, with the earth breathing “in fast thick pants” before ejaculating the river, a “mighty fountain,” in an explosion of rocks. The sexual imagery helps reinforce the creation of “Kubla Khan.” Coleridge shows the strong image in the poem which normal people cannot think. So, we can find the quality of subjectivity in the poem “Kubla Khan.” The poem has a content lamp than the mirror in the poem. Poet from the idealistic view has presented the dome of Kubla Khan.
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Longinus, the sublime is a quality that occurs in any type of discourse, whether poetry or prose. The source of sublime lies in the capabilities of the speaker or writer. Sublime enlighten, the true sublime by some virtue of its nature elevates us to a joyful pride. The sublime that occur in any type of discourse, whether poetry and prose. Whereas the effect of rhetoric on the hearer or reader of discourse is persuasion, the effect of the sublime is ‘transport’-it is that quality of a passage which “shatters the hearer’s composure,” exercises irresistible “domination” over him, and “scatters the subjects like a bolt of lightning.” The source of the sublime lies in the capabilities of the speaker or writer. For an instant, in the text “The Indian Jugglers” by William Hazlitt has presented the text with the sublime. “A single error of hair’s-breadth, of the smallest conceivable portion of time, would be fatal: the precision of the movements must be like mathematical truth, they’re rapidly is like lightning. To catch four balls in succession in less than a second of time, and deliver they back so as to return with seeming consciousness to hand again, to make them revolve around him at certain intervals like the planets in their spheres, to make them chase one another like sparkles of fire, or shoot up like flowers or meteors.”(10-11) the writer has presented the sublime act in this extract. Here we can find the act is almost acted of sublime of god, so he is called semi-god. According to Longinus sublimate can be created only god because he is the only one who can make impossible things possible but those genius who make it in the literature are semi-god because they had presented with the help of art. Art is the way of presenting the idealistic view of the writer.

  1. A. Richard, according to him he emphasizes the emotive language where we make people emotional in words by using a metaphor, irony, simile, etc. in metaphor there is positive sublimity or more sublimity but in irony, there is less sublimity. Due to the uses of sublimity, the languages become emotive. In poetic language, there is more sublimity and naturally, it becomes emotive but in prose, there is less degree of sublimity and less emotive. For example in the poem “Oh, My love is like a Red Red Rose” by Robert Burns,(literature,667) the poet has used a metaphor, therefore, there is a high degree of sublimity and there is more emotive language. The poet uses the red color, which immediately attracts the reader. In short, the language that brings emotion from the reader is called emotive. The color red and the common flower rose has given more emphasis and more important. We know that the rose is red and it symbolized for the love but the poet is presenting the red rose which special blooms in June and his love like a melody that’s sweetly played in tune for his beloved.
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This research has explored the romanticism in terms of the mirror and the lamp. The mirror is the reality which reflects the originality but in romanticism, the writer uses their imagination and think from their heart rather than the mind so they are more idealistic and subjectivity. Schlegel’s theory gives focuses on the imaginative representation of the effect of the time. For the romantic writer imagination and their representation are important in their work. From Coleridge, we can know that he focuses on the fancy and have a strong imagination power that is secondary imagination which everyone doesn’t have. According to him, only the genius can have this imaginative power that can create anything in their literary work. Longinus gives his emphasis on the sublime which effect is long-lasting and elevates to a sense of joyful pride. For him sublime is a quality, attribute that does 3 things: leaves a person who has to produce the sublime, provoke towards an imitation of a similar thing, and make the reader more creative. And I. A. Richard works in the study of the language for him language studies into two ways: scientific and emotive. For him, scientific language doesn’t acquire any emotion but for the romanticism, there is a need for emotion because any literary text of romanticism cannot be without the emotion. Emotion may be from writer’s view or it may come out from the reader. So, Richard tries to make harmony between science and poetry.

To sum up Mirror and the Lamp

Abram as the romantic era writer is idealistic than realistic. He likes to use imagination and emotions in his work because it reveals the writer’s inner feelings in the literary genera. So, he takes a mirror and the lamp, to explore it more clearly than any literary item is complete when the writer can attach the feeling of a reader in their work. Therefore romanticism follows the lamp which is idealistic and subjectivity rather than a mirror that is real to the world.

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