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Author: Suvir Kaul
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN/UPC (if available): 0195655087
This volume analysis aggressive nationalism of British poetry during the long years in which Great Britain was consolidated as an empire, at home and abroad. The poems both embodied and were concerned about the culture and ideology of Great Britain.
In ‘Poems of Nation, Anthems of Empire’ Suvir Kaul argues that the aggressive nationalism of James Thomson’s ode “Rule, Britannia!” (1740) is the condition to which much English poetry of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries aspires. Poets as varied as Marvell, Waller and Dryden, Defoe, Addison, John Dyer and Edward Young, or Goldsmith, Cowper, Hannah More and Anna Laetitia Barbauld, all wrote poems deeply engaged with the British-nation-in-the-making. These poets, and many others like them, recognized that the nation and its values and institutions were being defined by the expansion of overseas trade, naval and military control, plantations, and colonies. Their poems both embodied, and were concerned about, the culture and ideology of “Great Britain”, itself an idea of the nation that developed alongside the formation of a British Empire.
Poems in this period thus flaunt various images of poetic inspiration that show Poetry and Culture following triumphantly where mercantile and military ships sail. Or sometimes, more self-aggrandizing for the poet, they enact the process by which the Muses use their powers to inspire and show the way. Even at their most hesitant, these poems were written as interventions into public discussion; their creativity is tied up with that desire to convince and persuade. Finally, as Kaul writes, it is their encyclopedic desire to incorporate new experience, visions and values that makes these poems, for us, such fine guides to the world of poetry in the long years in which “Great Britain” was consolidated as an empire, at home and abroad.
Introduction: Poetry, National Pride, and the Call to Empire
The Poetry of Nation
The Ebb and Flow of Nations and Empires
James Thomson and the "Sage Historic Muse"
The Mythopoetics of Commercial Expansion
The World of Antislavery Poetry