Monday, 23 August 2010

Dabbler Country - The Nation's Favourite?

Here is a 'near impossible task' indeed - to identify 'the nation's favourite poem about the countryside'.

Hmmm. The National Trust might be a little more honest about it - rather it's an attempt to get National Trust-supporting types to make a choice from a highly contentious shortlist drawn up by a poet with an agenda, in order to draw attention to the National Trust and its properties. It might indeed 'raise awareness of poems about the countryside' - along with the blood pressure of many poetry lovers - but it certainly won't identify the 'nation's favourite'; that would be to 'play the same old records', so all the likeliest candidates have been omitted from the list. No Shakespeare or Betjeman indeed - or Larkin come to that - no Milton or Herrick or Cowper, and none of the big-hitting Romantics; but what is truly inexcusable is that in a list that includes John Davidson and Ivor Gurney, there's nothing of the greatest 20th-century poet of the English countryside, Edward Thomas - not even this, which would probably (and deservedly) win in an open contest...

Yes. I remember Adlestrop —
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop — only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.


  1. How about,

    The hen is a noble beast,
    The cow is much forlorner.
    Standing in the pouring rain,
    A leg on every corner.


    She doesn't want to ''play the same old records'', Nige, and I see her point. The countryside ain't what it was.

  2. Well said, Nige. But, as an American, perhaps I should keep my nose out of this.

    However, the inclusion of John Davidson puzzles me. To wit (and my tongue is firmly in cheek): given the fact that Davidson was born in Scotland, should he be eligible to compete? (He did, however, commit suicide by jumping into the sea at Penzance and, thus, has a connection with England.)

    So (again, with tongue firmly in cheek) I ask: how do we know whether "Spring Song" is indeed about the countryside of "the nation"? Might it not be set in Scotland? (The National Trust's website only refers to England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and I was under the impression that Scotland has its own National Trust.)

    Signed, Ignorant American.

    I wish to state that I have nothing against Scotland or the Scots, and the Scots have indeed written many beautiful poems about their land. As Doctor Johnson wrote: "A tree might be a show in Scotland as a horse in Venice. At St. Andrews Mr. Boswell found only one, and recommended it to my notice."

  3. Good points all, Stephen - though the main problem with Spring Song is that it's not much good. Certainly not Edward Thomas good.