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'Angling for the Powte: The Authorship, Provenance, and Manuscripts of a Jacobean Environmental Protest Poem'

Borlik, Todd Andrew and Egan, Clare (2016) 'Angling for the Powte: The Authorship, Provenance, and Manuscripts of a Jacobean Environmental Protest Poem'. English Literary Renaissance. ISSN 0013-8312 (In Press)

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In his monumental 1662 history of the draining of the fens, William Dugdale printed an anonymous ballad entitled “The Powte’s Complaint” as an example of the "libellous songs" devised by ungrateful locals to protest the destruction of their watery commons. The song not only adopts a non-human perspective on environmental degradation, but also advocates violent resistance to the undertakers’ schemes.
As ecocriticism begins to re-shape the canon, neglected works such as the “Powte’s Complaint” are bound to claim a larger share of the limelight. This paper angles for new information on the provenance, authorship, and readership of this remarkable text. It examines four different manuscripts of the ballad in the British Library, none of which have been previously transcribed. The paper will highlight some of the numerous variants among the four manuscripts plus the version printed by Dugdale and comment on their significance. It will also fish for answers to some pressing questions: When was the song written and where? What historical and environmental circumstances prompted its composition? How does the author portray the fenland ecology? What exactly is a pout? And who was the person behind the ballad? In addition to unmasking the author and vetting the manuscripts, this paper will contrast it with Jonas Moore’s epic celebrating the drainage. In brief, this paper aims to uphold the “Powte’s Complaint” as one of the earliest and greatest environmental protest poems in English literature.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Schools: School of Music, Humanities and Media
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Depositing User: Todd Andrew Borlik
Date Deposited: 07 Feb 2017 14:53
Last Modified: 07 Feb 2017 15:15


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