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Street SongsWriters and urban songs and cries, 1800-1925$
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Daniel Karlin

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198792352

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198792352.001.0001

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The child in the street

The child in the street

(p.36) 2 The child in the street
Street Songs

Daniel Karlin

Oxford University Press

In the optimistic opening of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Casa Guidi Windows (1851), street song appears as a sign of political regeneration. Hearing a little child singing ‘O bella libertà’ in a street in Florence in 1847, Barrett Browning projects a future for Italy in which the poetry of loss and lament will be replaced by a modern song of enlightenment and freedom. These hopes, raised by the revolutions of 1848, were crushed in the defeats that followed, and the second part of Casa Guidi Windows reflects with mordant irony on these events. The figure of the child in the street is replaced by that of her own child, born in 1849; yet Barrett Browning returns, in a number of later poems, to the child singing of liberty, especially in poems written in the last year of her life, when the prospects for a united Italy were again resurgent.

Keywords:   Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Casa Guidi Windows, child singer, Risorgimento, Mother and Poet, The King’s Gift, Nature’s Remorses, The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point

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