‘Rise Britons, rise now from your slumber’: the revolutionary call to arms
in Ballads and songs of Peterloo
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This section begins by briefly examining the historical provenance of the poetic trope of awakening and its significance within radical culture prior to Peterloo, as well as those poems and songs written in the immediate aftermath of the massacre, thereby highlighting the intertextual dialogue between the poems which is illustrated not only by an ideological unity but also by the commonality of motifs, forms, styles and even tunes. Shelley’s Masque of Anarchy provides a well-known example of this trope and is used in the introduction to this section as an illustration of how radical poems and songs in the Romantic period utilised revolutionary discourse dating back to the sixteenth century. The section comprises ten poems which are exhortatory ballads or apostrophes. At times of national crisis, poets have called on their readers to ‘arise’ and awaken’, often drawing on those past events to prove that, if England could get rid of two kings, it could certainly get rid of a third.


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