Poetry and Reform: Periodical Verse from the English Democratic Press, 1792-1824
Michael Henry Scrivener
Wayne State University Press, 1992 - English poetry - 297 pages
Although the English reform movement was divided ideologically and socially, it was united in its opposition to the aristocratic elite that ruled Britain through a parliament that excluded both the middle and laboring classes. The movement was not just political but cultural as well; its activities included challenging established opinion in every sphere-economics, religion, philosophy, and literature.
Poetry and Reform is the only anthology of its kind on poetry from the English reform movement. The volume features 162 poems from twenty-three different periodicals. The poems reflect the cultural vitality of the movement in their intellectual sophistication and defiant rebelliousness. The periodicals and their poets range from moderate liberal to radical socialist, from bourgeois to plebeian.
The poems reflect the generic diversity of the period; except for epic, almost every poetic genre is represented here. These poems provide an illuminating context for understanding the major Romantic poets, most of whom wrote for the reform press at some point in their career. The bold Romantic experiments in poetry, which set the agenda for English poetry for decades to come, are unthinkable outside the context of this remarkable democratic insurgence, which increased overall literacy and established an innovative literary spirit.
The anthology also makes available to readers a body of poetry" outside the canon" that is valuable in its own terms and that helps us comprehend with greater precision Romantic literary conventions and their origins. Important plebeian poets are introduced, including Allen Davenport, Edward J. Blandford, Robert C. Fair, and Robert Wedderburn.
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A Goitre in an Alpine valley bred , In shape and size full rival to the head , Esteem
' d among the belles of Syon The prettiest lump of flesh was e ' er set eye on ,
Made vain , as we may well suppose , With admiration , like a noddy , Puff ' d with
In England ' s proud days no long hair was seen , Unless on the heads of base
scoundrels I ween , The Aristocrats then to freedom sworn foes ... The tyrant
himself they caught tho ' he fled ; And to end all his schemes they cropt off his
... livesThat they ne ' er run in debt , head and cars , and then pray For their
whoring and gaming the nation would paySay thy Statesmen are honest , and
careful , and good , And thy welfare and happiness well understood : Say old
England is ...
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