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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

8 - Poetic liberties


But the arm of the elders is broken, their strength is unbound and undone.

A. C. Swinburne, “A Song in Time of Revolution. 1860.” (Spectator [June 28, 1862])

I read a score of books on womanhood

To prove, if women do not think at all,

They may teach thinking.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh, Book 1 (1856)

I am that thing

Called half a dozen dainty names, and none

Dainty enough to serve the turn and hide

The one coarse English worst that lurks beneath.

Augusta Webster, “A Castaway” (1870)

Expressing solidarity with foreign revolution could indirectly critique British tyranny and shore up the cause of liberty at home, as in Swinburne's “A Song in Time of Revolution. 1860,” written in response to the Italian uprising against Austrian rule. Earlier Ernest Jones had celebrated the outbreak of revolutions from Italy and Poland to Paris in the 1848 Labourer: “The nations are all calling, / To and fro, from strand to strand; / Uniting in one army.” When he gave a speech that advocated flying a Chartist flag over parliament, however, Jones was arrested and spent two years in solitary confinement without pens or paper (and only scant food). Undaunted, he continued to write poems with his own blood in the margins of his cell prayer book and published them on his release.

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