Sunday, 17 October 2010

The National Trust's Ode to the Countryside

The National Trust have published an anthology of poems on the countryside, from which ten poems have been shortlisted and taken to the public vote to announce Britain's favourite poem of the countryside.

Whilst I consider such polls to be gimmicky and meaningless, it is gratifying to see one of Gurney's poems in the pastoral decalogue: 'By Severn'.

If England, her spirit lives anywhere
It is by Severn, by hawthorns, and grand willows.
Earth heaves up twice a hundred feet in air
And ruddy clay falls scooped out to the weedy shallows.
There in the brakes of May Spring has her chambers,
Robing-rooms of hawthorn, cowslip, cuckoo flower –
Wonder complete changes for each square joy’s hour,
Past thought miracles are there and beyond numbers.
If for the drab atmospheres and managed lighting
In London town, Oriana’s playwrights had
Wainlode her theatre and then coppice clad
Hill for her ground of sauntering and idle waiting.
Why, then I think, our chieftest glory of pride
(The Elizabethans of Thames, South and Northern side)
Would nothing of its meeding be denied,
And her sons praises from England’s mouth again be outcried.

Short of the general public knowing the entire poetic oeuvre and bringing it to a national election there is no way of knowing whether a better poem exists that hasn't been considered, and whether the small proportion of the population who deem (or know) to vote are representative of the 62 million people in the country.

However, since it would be nice to see Gurney being considered amongst England's more important poets, do take a look at the National Trust's page and vote for your favourite (as long as it's the Gurney!). Click here to go to the relevant National Trust page.

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