The poetics of Erasmus Darwin's Botanic Garden, its status as an aesthetic as opposed to a purely scientific artifact, and the formal logic of the genre its author popularized have received scant historical attention. Yet in its time Darwin's contribution to the genre of “philosophical poetry” was thought dangerously radical not solely because of its content but because of the compound logic of its form. Effecting a more perfect union of scientific reason and the poetic imagination, Darwin's philosophical poetry conjoins as poetry the aesthetic and political aims of his work in a purposeful way that, while unmistakable to the conservative critics who attacked him, has largely escaped contemporary critical notice. Today Darwin's poetry may be viewed as a touchstone for debates over the legitimacy of perfectibilist schemes of political improvement during the period of the French Revolution.

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