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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Too long has the childhood of reason endur ' d , In swaddles too long has she pin
' d ; And tho ' earth ' s haughty lords would still have her immur ' d , Still cramp ' d ,
still to crawling confin ' d ; Yet with sinewy arm now she bursts their vile bands ...
Hypocrisy — who ' s [ sic ] views have ever been to enslave usBut here we rest ;
for Reason illumes the World . Behold Her offspring LIBERTY now bursts to birth ;
she ever must Delight in Virtue , and that which she delights in must Be happy ...
Medusa ( 1819 ) , 60 . Blandford ' s emphasis in these pentameter couplets is on
Enlightenment Reason and Nature , whereas the previous two Spencean poems
were founded on biblical and religious authority . For Blandford , see Chase ch .
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