‘Your memorials shall survive the grave’: elegy and remembrance
in Ballads and songs of Peterloo
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The sixteen ballads and songs within this section fall into two camps: elegy and remembrance. Whilst a central feature of elegiac poetry is the way in which it remembers or memorialises the dead, a poem which is one of remembrance is not necessarily an elegy. Several of the songs herein use the date of Peterloo as a temporal marker – with an eye both on the contemporaneous reader or audience and the future reader. Included in this section are broadside ballads by Michael Wilson and elegies by Samuel Bamford and Peter Pindar.

These songs display a self-awareness in their significance in marking the moment for posterity and in their attempts to reach an audience beyond Manchester and ensure that the public knew what had happened on 16th August as well as preserving the event in English vernacular culture. It is also a quest for ownership of the narrative of the day; the speed with which so many of these songs were written and published not only suggests the ferocity of emotions surrounding events but also the need to exert some control over the way in which they were represented.

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