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Friday, 13 May 2016

William Barnes: A Major or a Minor Poet? British Composers and the Setting of Poetry


From The Guardian, Richard Stokes -

"How English composers turned minor poems into major works" - "As Auden states in The Poet’s Tongue: “We do not want to read ‘great’ poetry all the time, and a good anthology should contain poems for every mood.” He also pointed out, in an attempt to define “major” and “minor” poets, that it was not simply “a matter of the pleasure the poet gives an individual reader: I cannot enjoy one poem by Shelley and am delighted by every line of William Barnes, but I know perfectly well that Shelley is a major poet and Barnes a minor one.”"

F.R. Leavis did not consider Shelley a major poet, if I remember well, and he was very critical of the poem "When the Lamp is Shattered".

"The blame for Shelley's virtual banishment from reading lists lies squarely with two men, T S Eliot and F R Leavis, who launched a double attack on him in the 1930s from which his reputation has still not recovered", Claire Tomalin, The Independent, 25 July, 1992.

Nowadays there is a growing consensus that William Barnes was and is a major poet. Time for a general revaluation.

A toast, then, to "Linden Lea", as a major poem -  and to Ralph Vaughan Williams, the composer of the song-setting.

Success for a Lagos school choir

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