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Poetry and the English countryside

By Colin Adsley
20th October 2021

In his address to the AGM of CPRE in June, 2015, the then President, Sir Andrew Motion, gave moving and evocative expression to his key beliefs in the value of poetry and landscape in enriching our spiritual lives.

After tracing the origins of his love of both, he quoted a seminal passage from Wordsworth’s ‘Lines written above Tintern Abbey’, where the poet begins by describing details of the scene before leading us on a spiritual journey of deep immersion in the natural world in which we ultimately ‘see into the life of things‘.

Sir Andrew then went on to show how the ways in which key poets have described the English countryside have given us a legacy of language to articulate our own feelings about the landscapes we love. He quoted Hopkins’s plea:

Oh let them be left, wildness and wet,                                                             Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.’

before offering Larkin’s sombre warning as the present-day drive to rampant materialism gains pace:

And that will be England gone –                                                                      The shadows, the meadows, the lanes...’

The speech ended, nevertheless, on an upbeat note, with a positive affirmation of CPRE’s victories in holding the line, and a final statement of faith ‘that there is an alternative to the spirit-sapping global race – an alternative built on quality of life, on the appreciation of beauty and on inspiration.’

external websitePoetry and the English countryside – Sir Andrew Motion