If a deep, emotional poem is what one seeks, he or she would need to look no further than a poem by Romanticism writer James Russell Lowell. A moody, almost dark poem, “The Darkened Mind” is a work of art that will have the reader captivated after just the first stanza. Clearly a work of Romanticism, the poem is focused heavily on emotions and is very descriptive. The life of James Russell Lowell might have had an impact on his writings style; he was born into a wealthy family, and he more than likely encountered times in which he realized that money and power did not equal happiness. His deep and soul-bearing style of writing is prevalent in more than just “The Darkened Mind;” it seems as if the emotional topics are quite common for him. A man who clearly focused more feelings than general outlooks, James Russell Lowell was a powerful Romanticism author whose haunting works continue to captivate readers even today.

“The Darkened Mind” tells the story of a man who has become separated from those around him (Lowell, “The Darkened”). Although physically he is present, it is obvious that his mind is somewhere else. Lowell, who is telling the story as if he is sitting in the room with the man, describes how the man seems distant from the rest of them; it is as if the man is in his own little world (Lowell, “The Darkened”). At one point, Lowell describes the relationship between him and the man, who apparently used to be a friend or family member of his, in an interesting way. He writes, “We can speak to thee, and thou canst answer, Like two prisoners through a wall of stone” (Lowell, “The Darkened”). By saying this, Lowell is giving off the impression that the man is indeed physically in their presence, but it is as if there is a barrier between them. The man is so caught up in his thoughts; he is so deranged by the dark thoughts in his head that he really is not mentally with Lowell at all. The darkness of the man’s mind has caused him to become sad and alone even when he is surrounded by ones who love him.

James Russell Lowell’s “The Darkened Mind” is an excellent example of Romanticism. The poem relies heavily on emotions as opposed to straight facts. Instead of simply stating what the man is doing in the poem, Lowell digs deeper and provides us with the emotions of the man and his own emotions throughout the writing. For example, instead of writing something simple such as “The man is sitting alone in a corner,” Lowell writes, “There thou sittest in thy wonted corner Lone and awful in thy darkened mind” (Lowell, “The Darkened”). This elaboration on the emotional behavior of the man is a trait of Romanticism (Langley). Romanticism is about taking one’s inner feelings and expressing them in a meaningful way, and Lowell certainly did that in this poem (Langley).

Another characteristic of Romanticism that is evident in “The Darkened Mind” is the descriptive words used to make everything much clearer and more intense. Plain writing was something commonly used by authors before Romanticism; instead of describing a scenario and making it come to life, authors would simply state the occurrence as a fact (Langley). Lowell certainly does not do that in his poem. He is extremely descriptive, especially when referring to the state of the man. For example, when explaining the setting of the poem, Lowell writes, “The fire is turning clear and blithely, Pleasantly whistles the winter wind” (Lowell, “The Darkened”). If this had been written plainly and without description, it could have just said something along the lines of “There is a fire. It is a winter day.” However, Lowell goes into great detail in order to set the tone and the mood of the story, which is something that is prevalent in Romanticism (Langley).

Lowell’s life growing up could have very well affected his writing style as an adult. Lowell was the son of a minister, and he was very wealthy (Huff). This wealth allowed him to be able to do many leisurely activities instead of working for a profit. Eventually, he began to write (Huff). It seems that after he started writing, he could not stop. Based on the fact that he was wealthy and the fact that many of his poems seem to describe one’s inner emotions instead of wealth, it could be said that Lowell found that wealth was not all important. Throughout “The Darkened Mind,” Lowell does not reflect on society, government, money, or social class whatsoever; instead, he focuses on the emotions of the individuals (Lowell, “The Darkened”). This is a very interesting concept. While Lowell did not necessarily experience any specific events that may have altered his mindset growing up, it is apparent that over time he seemed to find that the emotional aspects of life are much greater than the physical aspects of society.

James Russell Lowell does seem to interpret this theme into many of his works. In his poem “Love and Thought,” Lowell discusses the concept of love verses the concept of thought. He describes how the two go against each other yet balance each other out at the same time (Lowell, “Love”). This poem is certainly not as dark and depressing as “The Darkened Mind,” yet the common theme is the same. In “Love and Thought,” Lowell at no time mentions anything about physical aspects, society, or money, which are certainly all factors that can affect love and thought. Instead, Lowell is completely describing the emotional aspects of love and thought (Lowell, “Love”). This theme is very much like that of “The Darkened Mind.” This poem is similar as well to many other Romanticism poems; while, of course, the story line is not the same, the general theme of emotions versus facts is prevalent and very common in poems and stories by Romanticism authors such as Poe and Hawthorne.

“The Darkened Mind” is an emotional poem that expresses how a man, even surrounded by friends, can feel incredibly alone. In writing this, James Russell Lowell portrayed many Romanticism traits. He focused on the emotions of the situation instead of giving just facts, and he went into incredible detail in order to make the story as vivid as possible. Possibly influenced by his childhood wealth, Lowell seemed to make it a point to ignore the roles of society and money in his writings. This theme is very common in other works by him as well, such as his poem “Love and Thought.” A haunting poem, “The Darkened Mind” is a well written example of true Romanticism.


Huff, Randall. "Lowell, James Russell." The Facts On File Companion to American Poetry, vol. 1. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= CPAP0248&SingleRecord=True (accessed December 11, 2010).

Langley, John. “Romanticism 1800-1860.” Mr. Langley's Digital Classroom. 24 Oct. 2010. Web. 08 Dec. 2010. <http://sites.google.com/site/mrlangleysroom/treasure-chest/presentations>. Microsoft Powerpoint File.

Lowell, James Russel. “The Darkened Mind.” Read Book Online: Literature Books, novels, short Stories, fiction, non-fiction, Poems, essays, plays, Pulitzer Prize Nobel Prize. Readbookonline.net, 2010. Web. 08 Dec. 2010. http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/7267/

Lowell, James Russel. “Love and Thought.” Read Book Online: Literature Books, novels, short Stories, fiction, non-fiction, Poems, essays, plays, Pulitzer Prize Nobel Prize. Readbookonline.net, 2010. Web. 11 Dec. 2010. <http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/7267/>