Poetry inspired by the British countryside

In celebration of National Poetry Day, here are five great poets who were inspired by the British landscape

27th September 2017
Autumnal view towards Ullswater in the Lake District National Park, Cumbria

Taking place today (28 September) National Poetry Day is an annual celebration that inspires people throughout the UK to enjoy, discover and share poems. The theme this year is "freedom". 

Here are five poets who were inspired by the British landscape

1. Christopher Marlowe, 'The Passionate Shepherd to his Love'

Sheep in field
‘The Passionate Shepherd to his Love’ describes a highly idealised countryside spring scene/Credit: Getty

Christopher Marlowe was a 16th Century English playwright and poet. Born in 1564 in Canterbury, the poet was at the forefront of the English Renaissance and is said to have paved the way for other well-known poets and writers, notably Shakespeare.

Inspired by the British landscape, the pastoral poem; ‘The Passionate Shepherd to his Love’ describes a highly idealised countryside spring scene. In the poem, a love-struck shepherd urges his love to come and live in the countryside with him. Published in 1599 when Marlowe lived in urban surroundings, it is likely that other urban dwellers of the era would have fanaticised about a romantic countryside life spent in nature. The undertone of the poem hints at the truth that life in the countryside was in fact far from idyllic.

For more information on Christopher Marlowe, visit the Marlowe Society

2. William Wordsworth, 'Tintern Abbey'

Tintern Abbey autumn
The romantic setting of Tintern Abbey was the inspiration behind Wordsworth famous poem/Credit: Getty

English romantic poet William Wordsworth, wrote the poem 'Tintern Abbey' or 'Lines Composed A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey' in 1798. Inspired by the derelict abbey, which sits on the banks of the River Wye in Monmouthshire, the poem reflects on the power nature has to heal and nurture the human spirit. 

Wordsworth work was greatly influenced by the countryside and his autobiographic poem The Prelude in his twenties and worked on it throughout his life. Published in 1850 it recalls his happy childhood at his family home in Cockermouth, Cumbria, now owned by the National Trust and called Wordsworth House. 

Over the course of a prolific poetic career, Wordsworth also produced a tourist handbook, A Guide through the District of the Lakes, which provides a geographical background to his poems and biography. 

Enjoy an easy walk to Tintern Abbey in the Wye Valley

3. Matthew Arnold 'Dover Beach'

The White Cliffs of Dover, sheer chalk cliffs on the coast of East Sussex, viewed from the air
The White Cliffs of Dover, sheer chalk cliffs on the coast of East Sussex, viewed from the air/Credit: Getty

The White Cliffs of Dover and coastal landscape inspired poet Matthew Arnold to write the lyrical poem Dover Beach.  A melancholic poem that links the sea to feelings of sadness, Arnold invokes feelings of loneliness.

​A hiking trail across the White Cliffs of Dover ©Getty

Listen to Tom O'Bedlam reading 'Dover Beach'

4. Thomas Hardy, ‘Wessex Heights’

Chalk landscape view to Lansdowne monument, Cherhill, North Wessex Downs, Wiltshire/Credit: Getty
Chalk landscape view to Lansdowne monument, Cherhill, North Wessex Downs, Wiltshire/Credit: Getty

One of the most influential poets of the Victorian era, Thomas Hardy lived in Dorset for most of his life, first at Higher Brockhampton (in what is now known as Hardy’s Cottage) and later just three miles away at Max Gate. Hardy designed Max Gate himself, constructing his third study with large windows without mullions so that he had clear view of the seasonal changes in the garden.

Birthplace of Thomas Hardy, Dorset, near Dorchester. English poet and novelist 1840-1928
Birthplace of Thomas Hardy, Dorset, near Dorchester. English poet and novelist 1840-1928/Credit: Getty

Much of his writing is inspired by countryside, with the rolling Dorset hills providing inspiration for his popular fiction 'Far from the Madding Crowd' and Wessex for his poem‘Wessex Heights’ in which Hardy reflects on his life and lost loves in the English countryside.

Listen to a reading by actor Richard Burton here 

Visit the Thomas Hardy Society for more information

5. Dylan Thomas, ‘Fern Hill’

Fern Hill Farm, Dylan Thomas's poem and childhood haunt Llangain, Carmarthenshire Wales
Fern Hill Farm, Dylan Thomas's poetry inspiration and childhood haunt Llangain, Carmarthenshire, Wales/Credit: Alamy

Dylan Thomas was born in Swansea, South Wales. Written in 1945, the poem ‘Fern Hill’ describes childhood visits to his aunt Annie’s farm, Fern Hill Farm, in Carmarthenshire where he often spent his school holidays. The poem shares happy memories and the inevitable loss of the innocence of youth. Follow the Dylan Thomas trail and walk in his footsteps

Dylan Marlais Thomas (1914 - 1953), Welsh poet, short-story writer and playwright./Credit: Getty
Dylan Marlais Thomas (1914 - 1953), Welsh poet, short-story writer and playwright./Credit: Getty

Listen to Dylan Thomas performing his poem ‘Fern Hill’

Events to celebrate National Poetry Day 

If you're feeling inspired, then here are some poetry events to enjoy

Speaking the Forest, Forest of Dean - 28th September, 2017

The Forest of Dean poetic society will be releasing recordings of poets speaking, expressing the very essence of The Forest. Using the hashtag #SpeakingtheForest will see videos and audio released throughout the day (Thursday 28th) on Twitter @readingthefod and on Facebook @readingtheforest

Poetry Workshop: Freedom, Buxton, Derbyshire - 28th September, 2017

Taking place in Buxton Library, Derbyshire poet Judy Brown will help you explore what freedom means for local people and places in your own poetry and inspired by museum objects.

Poetry Play, East Renfrewshire, Scotland - 28th September, 2017

Drop into any East Renfrewshire library and let our poetry lovers prescribe the perfect poem for you for National Poetry day! Why not have a go yourself - transform titles on the shelves or words on spines into poetry for others to enjoy.

'A Poem for Everyday of the Year', National Theatre, London - 10th November, 2017

A Poem for Every Day of the Year is a journey through a calendar year, highlighting key moments and dates with a poem for every day, by writers such as Keats, W H Auden, Maya Angelou and Kate Tempest. An inspiring evening of readings of some of the magical and humorous poems in this journey through history and human experience. Read by four actors including Joanna Lumley, Stephen Mangan and Simon Russell Beale.

For more information on National Poetry Day 2017, visit: nationalpoetryday.co.uk

 

Main image: Autumnal view towards Ullswater in the Lake District National Park, Cumbria ©Getty

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