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Last updated:01 November 2018

'The greatest poem of political protest ever written in English'

September 2018 - ‘The greatest poem of political protest ever written in English’.

Our Object of the Month links to Shelley’s poem The Masque of Anarchy - 92 verses written in September 1819, immediately after Shelley heard about the Peterloo Massacre which had taken place in Manchester on 16 August.

We have been fortunate enough to have acquired a first edition of what has been described as ‘the greatest poem of political protest ever written in English’.  This is part of our Heritage Lottery Fund project Voting for Change, and this very special book is currently on display at the People’s History Museum, our partners in the project.

Men of England sheet musicMasque of Anarchy was our founder Ruth Frow’s favourite poem, and she was as inspired by hearing it read at the Tolpuddle Festival a couple of years before she died as she had been when she first encountered it many years before. 

Shelley has inspired many people in artistic as well as political ways over the last 200 years.  This rather battered piece of sheet music, Men of England, takes words from Masque of Anarchy and was given a musical setting in 1925 by William Henry Bell (1873-1946). 

More recently Scritti Politti quoted Shelley in their song Lions After Slumber on the album Songs to Remember, and history came round again this summer when the annual Street Choirs Festival included a mass sing on Brighton prom by hundreds of people from different choirs of a specially written song by Kirsty Martin, Ye are Many.  

The 2019 Street Choirs Festival will take place in Manchester next summer, marking the bicentenary of Peterloo.


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