Selected Poetry of Ebenezer Elliott

Selected Poetry of Ebenezer Elliott

Selected Poetry of Ebenezer Elliott

Selected Poetry of Ebenezer Elliott

Synopsis

Ebenezer Elliott (1781-1849) is best known in literary history as the self-styled Corn Law Rhymer because of his savage satirical poems published in the 1830s. With detailed introduction and explanatory notes, this work is intended to bring Elliott's work into the public domain, directed at both students of the period and the general reader.

Excerpt

In the london review for 1835, the radical critic W. J. fox wrote: “God said, ‘Let Elliott be’—and there was a poetry of the poor.” Things, of course, were not that simple. But that a writer of Fox’s stamp could so display his hand, and, as it transpires, without a hint of mockery, is significant. 1835 was the year in which the third and final volume of Ebenezer Elliott’s first “collected works” was published; this was at a time when poetry was facing stiff competition from other forms of print culture, when Tennyson was still finding his feet, and his friend Arthur Hallam, amongst others, had not long before lamented the recent “period of degradation” in poetry. Not only was Elliott being given handsome treatment by his London publishers, he had been receiving handsome reviews from a number of critics, including that sage of the era, Thomas Carlyle. On the first publication in 1831 of the Corn Law Rhymes, Carlyle had characterized Elliott’s voice as one “coming from the deep Cyclopean forges, where Labour, in red soot and sweat, beats with a thousand hammers ‘the red song of the furnace,’” and had praised him for his ability to look, as an Arnold before his time, steadily and closely at his subject, “a Reformer, at least a stern Complainer, radical to the core.”

A modern reader might wonder how and why Elliott could be so celebrated, so feted. He is now, after all, virtually forgotten except (encouraged by Elliott himself) as the “Corn Law Rhymer,” referred to en passant by historians as much as by literary critics. There is no recent selection, let alone complete edition, of his works in print (the Note on the Text spells things out). the answer to those questions—how and why?—is necessarily complex, but in attempting a brief answer here I hope to show how and why he deserves to be read today. He is not just a historical curiosity, any more than he is merely the author of a handful of anthology pieces, such as “Battle Song” and “The People’s Anthem.” He is a poet very much of his time, but also sui generis, which is no bad thing at all for a poet to be.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.