William Jones and Principles of Romanticism


In his essay, “On the Poetry of Eastern Nations,” William Jones outlines several of the basic characteristics that came to be associated with the Romantics in the 18th century. In his discussion of the poetry produced by Eastern peoples, he explores the richness of their poetry through what he perceives to be their natural ways of life. He cites the rural way of life, a way of life in which people live in close connection to the land, as inspiring a direct relationship with Nature. He also discusses the richness and copiousness of Eastern languages, which he connects with the valuing of sensory perception—and sensory description—over abstract thought. The resulting poetry is a poetry of rich sensory descriptions that are linked to natural imagery. Jones also discusses the importance of leisure, claiming that those cultures which make time for leisure are therefore making time for contemplation. This contemplation, according to Jones, is the source of imagination, and for him, it links to the unconquered spirit and originality of the poetry that would eventually characterize the Romantic movement.

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