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Selected Poems (2e)
Edited by Robert Nye
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback 2e (96 pages)
(Pub. Jan 2003)
We spent in woodland shades our day
In cheerful work or happy play,
And slept at night where rustling leaves
Threw moonlight shadows o'er our eaves.
I knew you young, and love you now,
O shining grass, and shady bough.
William Barnes (1801-1886), `the Dorset Poet', wrote best in Dorest dialect: `I cannot help it. It is my mother tongue, and it is to my mind the only true speech of the life that I draw.' His setting is a rural Dorset threatened by enclosure. Hopkins called him `a perfect artist. It is as if Dorset life and Dorset landscape had taken flesh and blood in this man.' He left a mark on Hardy, too, who spoke of the `closeness of phrase to vision' in his poems. Barnes was a self-taught linguist and scholar. His experiments with language and form are radical. As a parson, he loved the lives around him and caught perfectly the inflections, gestures and expressions of his people. Hardy knew him as an `aged clergyman, quaintly attired in caped cloak, knee-breeches, and buckled shoes, with a leather satchel slung over his shoulders, and a stout staff in his hand.' A little grey dog accompanied him on his rounds. This old man was one of the most copious and original writers of his age, plain-speaking in manner, avoiding the literature of the day, devoted to a natural, rural eloquence. This selection includes his best poems in dialect and standard English.
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