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"In one harmonious song combine": inclusiveness, toleration, and liberty in Lady Mary Chudleigh's "The song of the three children paraphras'd"

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This essay examines Lady Mary Chudleigh's Pindaric The Song of the Three Children Paraphras'd (1703) in order to demonstrate how it makes an important contribution to religious, philosophical, and poetic ideas at the turn of the eighteenth century. While Chudleigh's work has recently been associated with nonconformist writing, I argue that it is not so much her ecclesiastical allegiances that are significant as the tolerance and comprehensiveness that her religious position generates. Her poem signals an openness to diverse modes of thought that are incorporated into her vision of the divine. Indeed, the attempt to draw together parts and whole informs the entire texture of Chudleigh's poem, signalling its huge scope and expansive perspective. Chudleigh embraces ideas that range from conservatism to the unorthodox and idiosyncratic in an effort to create an all-encompassing view of shared faith and common purpose, in which all parts connect to the whole that is God's creation. This extends to the choice of text on which her poem is based: the apocryphal Song of the Three Children metonymically links to all moments of thanksgiving across biblical history and beyond, stretching from souls in eternity to those on earth communally uttering the Song in the Anglican church service. In turn, the speaker's voice continually forges a link with those other voices so as to create a collective Christian speaking subject who attempts to involve the reader in its endeavour to bridge the gap between the human and divine.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-213
Issue number237
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2013

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