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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90 Where Niger rolls her copious tide , The sable nations on his side With souls
expanded rise ; Her sooty sons , supinely laid Beneath the umbrageous palm -
tree ' s shade , Rouse at the welcome sound ; No more they ' ll bear the galling ...
SONNET ( N . A . ) Go place the swallow on yon turfy bed , Much will he struggle ,
but can never rise ; Go raise him even with the daisy ' s head , And the poor twit '
rer like an arrow flies . So oft thro ' life the man of pow ' rs and worth , Haply the ...
... While altars breathing incense rise , The conqueror marks for long disgrace .
30 Lift high to Catherine ' s name the strain , O , Russia , deck thy monarch ' s
brow — But , first , survey that form of woe , Stalk ghastly over Warsaw ' s fated
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