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Angling for the "Powte": a Jacobean Environmental Protest Poem

Borlik, Todd Andrew and Egan, Clare (2018) Angling for the "Powte": a Jacobean Environmental Protest Poem. English Literary Renaissance, 48 (2). pp. 256-289. ISSN 0013-8312

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In his monumental 1662 history of the drainage of the fens, the antiquarian William Dugdale reports that outraged locals composed “libellous songs” to protest the theft of their commons. Preserving a rare specimen of this genre, Dugdale printed an anonymous ballad entitled “The Powtes Complaint.” The song adopts a non-human point of view to bewail the destruction of both the wetlands ecology and the fen-dwellers’ economy. This essay examines four different manuscripts of the ballad in the British Library, documenting their variants and commenting on their significance. It also seeks for answers to some pressing questions: when was the song written and where? What did it sound like? What socio-historical and environmental circumstances prompted its composition? How does the ballad portray the fenland ecology, and how does it compare with other seventeenth-century literary representations of the fens? What exactly is a pout? What is the nature of its complaint? And who was the person behind the song?

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
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Todd Andrew Borlik
Date Deposited: 07 Feb 2017 14:53
Last Modified: 22 Sep 2020 10:30


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