“I have to declare an interest and say that my favourite poem about the British countryside, “Adlestrop” by Edward Thomas, lies outside the shortlist and the anthology; but what we present here, and what is in the book, show a wide range of styles from the classical formality of Alexander Pope to the sprung rhythm of Gerald Manley Hopkins, all of which essentially propose the same thing: that the natural world and rural life in Britain have a special claim upon our souls.
The Quiet Life
Happy the man whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breath his native air
In his own ground.
Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire,
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire.
Blest who can unconcern’dly find
Hours, days and years slide soft away,
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day,
Sound sleep by night; study and ease,
Together mixt; sweet recreation;
And innocence, which most does please
Thus let me live, unseen, unknown,
Thus unlamented let me die,
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lie.”