In this series, a contemporary poet selects and introduces a poet of the past. By their choice of poems and by the personal and critical reactions they express in their prefaces, the editors offer insights into their own work as well as providing an accessible and passionate introduction to the most important poets in our literature.
William Barnes was born in 1801 near Sturminster Newton in Dorset, of a farming family. He learned Greek, Latin and music, taught himself wood engraving, and in 1823 became a schoolmaster in Mere. He was deeply interested in grammar and language, and waged a lifelong campaign to rid English of classical and foreign influences. He was ordained in 1848. Among his best-known books of poetry are Poems of Rural Life in the Dorset Dialect (1844) and Homely Rhymes (1859); his work was greatly admired by Thomas Hardy, Tennyson and Hopkins. His work has often been praised for its evocations of Dorset life, landscape and customs; he also wrote political poems of great power and was a master elegist. Barnes died in 1886.