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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Fair was Estella , she was beauty ' s prize , The power of feeling glistened in her
eyes ; Dwelt in her heart , and sanctioned every thought . - Ah ! had that heart
been fashioned as it ought ! But ' twas from childhood superstition ' s slave , The ...
280 Not long that heart will life desire , But lose it in the battle ' s ire ; Till then , its
thought will not desert Thine image pure ; — for pure thou wert . Say , cynic ,
moralist , or saint , Is nature ' s dictate crime ' s foul taint ? Or if such beauty error ...
The sable ever round my heart I ' ll wear , When outward signs of woe are all
withdrawn . Oh , my lov ' d boy ! ' twould be an impious act , An act which God and
nature both forbid , To hasten on life ' s close , by violence ; Or else , I should not
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