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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The priests them to aid , they lib ' rally paid , And gave them good share of the
spoil , The poor to persuade , that if nothing they said , In heav ' n they should end
all their toil , My poor boys . Thus lords and priests leagu ' d together intrigu ' d ...
... his once happy cot , ( Where oft at eve , the day ' s hard toil forgot , The rural
sport and rustic dance was seen And joy fantastic trod the neighbouring green )
Wrapt in devouring flames , or prostrate laid By frantic glory ' s desolating trade .
But now no help - no toil can serve ; Some Demon ' s touch is here ; Industry
shrinks through every nerve , And withers in its sphere . And O ! this heart feels th
' icy shaft ;' Tis sick , it ' s full tide ' s o ' er ; And Slavr ' y ' s ( sic ) bitter , bitter
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