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Ten classic poems and poets to read this Spring

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Springtime Poetry Books at Country House Library

Celebrating Spring with Poetry

Perhaps all too easy to forget that creative writing is much more than novels and fiction. Here at Country House Library we hold a wide and varied collection of antique, vintage and selected new books of poetry, penned by a roll-call of the most famous and talented English language poets. Combine love of poetry with the arrival of Spring – warmer weather, longer days, colour and rebirth in the natural world – and it's little wonder that great wordsmiths through the ages have celebrated this uplifting time of year.

Shop Vintage Poetry at Country House LibraryPOETRY AND LIFE FOUR by NORA GRISENTHWAITE 1971

“Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths”

From Lines Written in Early Spring  by William Wordsworth 

England’s Poet Laureate from 1843 until his death in 1850, aged 80, Wordsworth is widely considered, (with Samuel Coleridge) to have launched the Romantic Age of poetry. Born into a well-to-do family in the Lake District of Cumberland (now Cumbria). His first poem was published at just 17 years of age, the same year he went up to Oxford University.

This vintage and decorative book published in 1971 by Schofield & Sims contains poems by Wordsworth, Shakespeare, Kipling and Yeats, to name a few. A worthy addition to any home collection of the poetry greats.

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William Shakespeare's Sonnets in Poetry Collection at Country House LibraryWILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S SONNETS - NEW CHILTERN PUBLISHING

“From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim”

From Sonnet 98

While William Shakespeare’s reputation is based primarily on his plays, he first found fame as a poet. With the partial exception of the Sonnets, the non-dramatic writings have been pushed to the margins of the Shakespeare industry. 

The 154 sonnets, utilising the conventional English sonnet form: three quatrains capped with a couplet, are conventionally divided between the “young man” sonnets (1-126) and the “dark lady” sonnets (127-152). There is no evidence that such a division has chronological implications, though the volume is usually read in such a way. This 2021 publication from Chiltern, beautifully patterned with gold and silver detailing, presents all 154 with such immortal lines as ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’ and ‘Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds’.

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Shop Vintage Poetry at Country House LibraryPANSIES: POEMS BY D.H. LAWRENCE 1930

“This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green, 
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes.”

From The Enkindled Spring

David Herbert Lawrence (1885 – 1930) was the fourth child of a barely literate miner father and former teacher mother who had been forced to work in a lace factory due to her family’s financial difficulties. He wrote almost 800, mainly short, poems - the first published in 1904. He rewrote some of the early ones when they were collected in 1928, in part to fictionalise them, but also to remove some of the artifice.

As he put it himself, "A young man is afraid of his demon and puts his hand over the demon's mouth sometimes and speaks for him." His best-known poems are probably those dealing with nature. The Enkindled Spring captures wonderful images of the season; the whole of the first stanza, with its ‘bursts up of bonfires green/wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes’ conjures treats for the senses. The ongoing motif of fire relates not only to the comparable heat of spring compared to the season just departed but also to its energy that comes on quietly yet quickly consumes and astounds.

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Shop Vintage Poetry at Country House LibraryTHOMAS HARDY'S WESSEX POEMS - NEW PENGUIN CLOTHBOUND

"I watched a blackbird on a budding sycamore
One Easter Day, when sap was stirring twigs to the core"

From I Watched a Blackbird

English poet and novelist Thomas Hardy (1840 -1928) was famous for writing classic novels, such as Far from the Madding Crowd and Tess of the d'Urbervilles, yet he always considered himself to be more of a poet - despite his first poetry anthology not being published until he was almost 60 years old.

He loved wildlife and all animals, taking a firm stance against animal cruelty and an antivivisectionist whose love of all living creatures was reflected in his work. This brand new Penguin clothbound publication will make a wonderful addition to any collection of classic poetry.

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Shop Vintage Poetry at Country House LibraryTHE ENGLISH POEMS OF JOHN MILTON 1971

"How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,
Stol'n on his wing my three-and-twentieth year!
My hasting days fly on with full career,
But my late spring no bud or blossom shew'th."

From Sonnet 7 by John Milton

Sonnet 7, often referred to by its opening line "How soon hath Time," was written by the English poet John Milton around 1632, when he was a young man and studying in his family home.

The poem's speaker anxiously reflects on his failure to accomplish anything during his short life, and then comforts himself by turning to religion: he will accomplish exactly what God wants him to. Milton compares his 23 years to late Spring without any sign of “bud or blossom”. First published in 1645, it is included in this 1971 publication by Oxford University, representing a comprehensive anthology of Milton’s work. Follow the link to other works by the author of Paradise Lost/Regain'd in the Country House Library collection

Explore the poetry of John Milton

Shop Vintage Poetry at Country House Library

THREE BOOK PATTERNED POETRY COLLECTION 1961-2

"While you love what is kind,
What you can sing in
And love and forget in
All that's ahead and behind
."

From The Thrush by Edward Thomas

Although (Philip) Edward Thomas (1878 – 1917) is considered a ‘war poet’, relatively few of his poems relate directly to his war time experience, and his career as a poet only began after being a successful novelist and literary critic.

Thomas's poems, such as The Thrush, are written in a colloquial style and frequently feature the English countryside. In 1915, he enlisted in the British Army to fight in the First World War - his short poem In Memoriam exemplifies how his poetry blends the themes of war and the countryside. Thomas was killed in action in 1917, soon after he arrived in France. The English Poet Laureate Ted Hughes described Edward Thomas as “the father of us all.” This three book, patterned, collection published by Penguin in 1961 contains works by Thomas, alongside many other greats including A.E. Housman, Walter de la Mare, John MasefieldRobert Graves and W. H. Auden.

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Shop Vintage Poetry at Country House LibraryBLAKE'S SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE 1994 - FOLIO

"Sound the flute!
Now it’s mute!
Bird’s delight,
Day and night,
Nightingale,
In the dale,
Lark in sky,—
Merrily,
Merrily merrily, to welcome in the year."

From Spring by William Blake

‘Spring’ is not one of William Blake’s most famous poems, first published in this 1789 collection Songs of Innocence. The lines are a glorious celebration of the arrival of spring, exploring the harmony of man with the natural world and some of Blake’s more popular themes: childhood, innocence, and nature being three of the most prominent. ‘Spring’ is one of Blake’s most accessible poems because its sentiment echoes in every heart: the coming of spring and the beginning of a new year as a source of joy. Many of the poems in Songs of Innocence are similarly childlike with a simple rhyme scheme and use of language.

Experience Innocence with William Blake

Shop Vintage Poetry at Country House LibraryPOETICAL WORKS OF ALFRED LORD TENNYSON 1928 - MACMILLAN

"From land to land; and in my breast
Spring wakens too; and my regret
Becomes an April violet,
And buds and blossoms like the rest."

From In Memorium A. H. H. (1850)

This canto, Canto CXV from Alfred, Lord Tennyson‘s long elegy In Memoriam A. H. H. (1850) – written in memory of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam – offers a bittersweet take on the arrival of spring.

What grows in the speaker’s breast as spring comes into blossom is regret – regret that his dear friend is gone, that spring is a reminder that the world continues to turn and life carries on, but Tennyson’s friend does not return. One of the best poems in a great long poetic sequence. This 1928 publication from Macmillan contains hundreds of Tennyson’s best works from his period as Poet Laureate during the reign of Queen Victoria.

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Shop Vintage Poetry at Country House LibraryTHE POETRY OF ROBERT BURNS VOLUME IV

"O were my love yon lilac fair,
Wi' purple blossoms to the spring,
And I a bird to shelter there,
When wearied on my little wing"

From O Were my Love yon Lilac Fair

In ‘Rabbie’ Burns' (1759 - 96) poem about spring, the beloved woman is imagined as a lilac (and, in due course, a rose) and he, somewhat cheekily, projects the idea of himself as a bird sheltering in her petals and singing once the calendar turns to May. The image of himself as fatigued suitor “wearied on my little wing” is charming, and it is worth noting that the wing is on its way to becoming “wanton”. Who can resist Burns in spring, or any season? A must for any home and vintage collection of poetry.

Discover the poetry of Robert Burns

Shop Vintage Poetry at Country House LibraryPOCKET POETS SEVEN COLLECTION 1958 - 62

"Nothing is so beautiful as Spring – 
W
hen weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring"

From Spring by Gerald Manley Hopkins

Gerald Manley Hopkins (28 July 1844 – 8 June 1889) was an English poet and Jesuit priest, whose posthumous fame placed him among leading Victorian poets.

His rhyming structure – notably his concept of sprung rhythm (designed to imitate natural speech) – established him as an innovator, as did his praise of God through vivid use of imagery and nature. Only after his death were a handful of Hopkins' poems published in anthologies. By the 1930s, Hopkins' work was seen as one of the most original literary advances of his century. It intrigued such leading 20th-century poets as T. S. EliotDylan Thomas, Stephen Spender and Cecil Day-Lewis. This Pocket Poems collection of seven books, each with a separate coloured cover, brings works by Hopkins together with many other leading poets.

Shop vintage books by Gerald Manley Hopkins

Springtime at Country House LibraryVintage Poetry for all seasons at Country House Library

Ten of Britain’s finest poets, together with links to many others, illuminating the depth and breadth of the poetry collection at Country House Library. From rare vintage publications to carefully selected new editions, our poetry offering includes something for all tastes and budgets. We’ll leave you with the words of poet Emily Dickinson: 

"If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry"

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