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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Choosest thou , Nymph , to tread the mountain ' s brow , Or haunt meand [ ] ring
stream , or wanton plain , Up the steep mountain ' s height , with thee we ' ll go ,
Or wake by rivers ' brink the merry strain ; Or , o ' er the wanton plain we ' ll trip ...
... What Worth should claim ! From hill to hill , from plain to plain , Wide spreads
the Chieftain ' s proud domain , That , half a desert , asks in vain For culture due ;
Whilst cold inaction chills thy vein , And rusts thy plough . Meanwhile thy youthful
To hear the faint expiring groan , The mutter ' d prayer , the hollow moan , The
parch ' d throat gasping hard for breath ; Arm ' d with a dagger deep imbru ' d ,
While coward Rapine prowls the slippery plain , And giant Slaughter , smeard
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