Surely, two of the most relaxing, enriching and enjoyable pursuits in life are reading poetry and taking a long brisk walk out in the great British countryside. The pair seem to be as natural partners as fish and chips, jam and cream; a fascination with rolling hills and fields is stamped right through the work of many of the greats, from Betjeman to Wordsworth.
Now The National Trust is searching for the best poem encapsulating the British countryside. Not an easy task, I hear you cry, when there are reams of pages on the very subject that could fill the whole of the nation’s green and pleasant land most likely more than once over. That is why a shortlist of ten poems has been selected, all of which appear in an new anthology, Ode to the Countryside. The collection features more than 100 poetic celebrations of landscapes protected by The National Trust.
‘Poets have always written about the places they belong to, and which belong to them. Nowadays it might be the Manchester cityscape or a community landmark, but these classic poems collected by the National Trust are reflective, rural and relaxing’.
Poet and Director of National Poetry Day Jo Bell had the perhaps unenviable task of narrowing down the list to a mere ten. She has commented on her choices – which some may find surprising – by saying she did not want to “play the same old records”, with the featured poems presenting the darkness of the countryside alongside the idealistic visions we are used to from popular 19th century ‘nature poetry’ in particular.
The shortlisted poems are:
- The Quiet Life – Alexander Pope
- Milking Time – Robert Bloomfield
- On a Lane in Spring – John Clare
- Sweet Suffolke Owl – Anon
- Spring Song – John Davidson
- I Watched a Blackbird – Thomas Hardy
- The Lambs of Grasmere – Christina Rossetti
- The Herefordshire Landscape – Elizabeth Barrett Browning
- Binsey Poplars – Gerard Manley Hopkins
- By Severn – Ivor Gurney
All of the poems feature on The National Trust’s website where you are able to vote for your favourite from the selection. The ultimate ‘favourite’ poem about the British countryside will be announced later in the year.
If you’re unhappy with the shortlist, or your personal favourite has been missed out, alternatives can be suggested on The National Trust’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Or why not let us know about your favourite countryside-inspired odes right here?
While you’re mulling it over, you may also be inspired by The National Trust’s recommendations of outdoor spaces to get lost in a good book – quite handy if an indian summer is in store (otherwise your pages may get a bit soggy).