Analysis Of Robert Southey's The Curse Of Kehama

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Begun in 1801, completed in 1810 and subsequently running into four editions, Robert Southey’s The Curse of Kehama (hereon referred to as Curse) is one of his four epic poems about the Orient, which would go on to immensely influence other Romantic poets such as Byron and Shelley. These poems were immensely popular and reflect the confluence of his ideas regarding British politics, religion, economics and social well-being. His interest in the Orient, ultimately resulting in this poem, begins during his childhood in the city of Bristol which had become a thriving centre of colonial commerce. According to Daniel E White, it was the Dissenters of Bristol who engaged the most in the early expansion of the missionary movement, directing English ships overseas, and having that same people bring back a diverse and rich array of foreign artefacts and curiosities (White 153). This material wealth of the Orient would shape the public’s imagination about the East and stir their appetite for more Oriental products, both from the East and in the West, that is, in the translation and writing of works about the Orient that had become a thriving enterprise in the West, especially after the work published by the famous Orientalist Sir William Jones. Southey is quick to realize the lucrative possibilities of this interest in the East and seizes the opportunity to shape public opinion. As Lynda Spratt points out,

“For him the wealth of India lay not in its financial but its cultural
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