Hollow Palaces

BookHollow Palaces

Hollow Palaces

An Anthology of Modern Country House Poems


September 1st, 2021



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The ‘country house poem’ was born in the seventeenth century as a fruitful way of flattering potential patrons. But the genre’s popularity faded – ironically, just as ‘country house society’ was emerging. It was only when the power and influence of the landed classes had all but ebbed away that poets returned to the theme, attracted perhaps by the buildings’ irresistible dereliction, but equally by their often very personal histories. This is the first complete anthology of modern country house poems, and it shows just how far (as Simon Jenkins points out in his Foreword) poems can ‘penetrate the souls of buildings’. Over 160 distinguished poets representing a diversity of class, race, gender, and generation offer fascinating perspectives on stately exteriors and interiors, gardens both wild and cultivated, crumbling ruins and the extraordinary secrets they hide. There are voices of all kinds, whether it’s Edith Sitwell recreating her childhood, W. B. Yeats and Wendy Cope pondering Lissadell, or Simon Armitage’s labourer confronting the Lady who’s ‘got the lot’. We hear from noble landowners and loyal (or rebellious) servants, and from many an inquisitive day-tripper. The book’s dominant note is elegiac, yet comedy, satire, even strains of Gothic can be heard among these potent reflections. Hollow Palaces reminds us how poets can often be the most perceptive of guides to radical changes in society.
 The book is illustrated by Rosie Greening.


Author Information

Kevin Gardner is Professor of English Literature at Baylor University in Texas. John Greening is a poet and critic. His most recent volume of poetry, The Silence, was published by Carcanet in 2019.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Foreword (Sir Simon Jenkins)27
Introduction: ‘Amid Great Chambers and Long Galleries’ (John Greening)29
Introduction: A Brief Historical Tour of Country House Poetry (Kevin Gardner)33
List of Illustrations (Rosie Greening)47
Castle Howard (John Betjeman)52
Romance of a  Youngest Daughter (John Crowe Ransom)53
Still-Life (Elizabeth Daryush)54
Sissinghurst (Vita Sackville-West)55
The Manor House (Clive Wilmer)58
Owlpen Manor (U. A. Fanthorpe)59
Dorothy Osborne in the Country (Peter Porter)60
Peter Wentworth in Heaven (Fleur Adcock)61
Twilight (Stuart Henson)62
Daisy at the Court (Robert Minhinnick)64
Plas Difancoll (R. S. Thomas)66
The Ballroom at Blaxter Hall (Peter Bennet)68
Sir Frederick (Charles Causley)69
The Grange (Stevie Smith)70
from Sir Osbert’s Complaint (Gregory Woods)72
A Household (W. H. Auden)76
A Vacant Possession (James Fenton)78
Milgate (Robert Lowell)80
Coole Park, 1929 (W. B. Yeats)82
Song to Mark a Boundary (Anne Ridler)83
The Topiarist (Freda Downie)84
Mistress (Esther Morgan)85
Service (Philip Gross)86
Baize Doors (Craig Raine)87
Song of a Past Scullery-Maid (Sheila Wingfield)88
Servant Boy (Seamus Heaney)89
Ghosts & Echoes91
Haunted House (U. A. Fanthorpe)92
The Pier-Glass (Robert Graves)93
While Reading a Ghost Story (Siegfried Sassoon)94
A Haunted House (Jane Griffiths)95
In the Castle (Jean Sprackland)97
The Ruined Garden (Neil Powell)98
Walmer Castle (P. J. Kavanagh)99
In Blenheim Park (Kieron Winn)100
Shrine for a Young Soldier, Castle Drogo (Rory Waterman)101
Soap Suds (Louis Macneice)102
Blown Hilcote Manor (John Masefield)103
That House (Brian Jones)105
Acton Burnell (Rennie Parker)106
The House that Was (Laurence Binyon)107
Prospect of Ditchley (Roland Mathias)108
Tapestries (C. Day Lewis)109
House-keeping (Esther Morgan)110
Houghton House (Robert Conquest)111
Blue Bedfordshire (Glen Cavaliero)113
At Mapledurham (Edmund Blunden)114
Canons Ashby (David Wright)115
Penshurst Place (Derek Mahon)116
Wilton Park (Alison Brackenbury)116
Alfoxton (J. C. Hall)117
Elm End (Jon Stallworthy)118
A Country Mansion (Robert Graves)121
Colonel Fantock (Edith Sitwell)123
from Bolsover Castle (Sacheverell Sitwell)126
In Heytesbury Wood (Siegfried Sassoon)127
These Homes (Mimi Khalvati)128
from Burnt Norton (T. S. Eliot)130
Rites & Conversions133
Tresham’s Fancy (Rennie Parker)134
Lyveden New Bield (Jane Griffiths)135
At Colwick Park (George Szirtes)137
A Banquet at Middleton (Gillian Clarke)138
The Young Duchess Walks with Mr Brown To Discuss Improvements (Sarah Salway)139
County (John Betjeman)141
Great Edwardian (Tony Williams)143
Metamorphoses (Hilary Davies)144
Care-taking (Esther Morgan)146
Ripley Eels (Kit Fan)147
Wycoller Hall (Ted Hughes)148
The Changeling (Henry Reed)151
A Property of the National Trust (Debora Greger)153
Great Good House (Michael Vince)154
Corpus Christi (Elizabeth Bartlett)155
Family Seat (Richard Murphy)156
Revesby (Anne Berkeley)157
Flensby Hall Day Spa (Rory Waterman)158
At a Country-House Hotel (John Fowles)159
Ridge-Foot House (Herbert Lomas)160
The Space (Roger Garfitt)161
Name-Tag (Jamie McKendrick)162
A Huntingdonshire Nocturne (John Greening)163
The Children and Sir Nameless (Thomas Hardy)164
October in Clowes Park (Tony Connor)165
Newstead Abbey (Roy Fuller)167
Rest on the Hunt (George Szirtes)169
Fixtures & Fittings171
The National Trust (Laurence Lerner)172
Parson’s Castle, Birr, Ireland (Bernardine Evaristo)175
Swarthmoor Hall, Cumbria (Penelope Shuttle)176
Enýpnion (Peter Redgrove)177
53° 09′33.17″ N, 0° 25′33.18″ W (Rory Waterman)178
Late Elizabethan (Roger Caldwell)179
Cleaning the Candelabrum (Siegfried Sassoon)181
The Old Bell-board (Peter Scupham)182
The King’s Bed (Penny Boxall)183
Tapestry (William Virgil Davis)184
The Gunroom (Penelope Shuttle)184
Aspects of a Novel (Grey Gowrie)185
A Valentine for John and Margaret (Kathleen Raine)188
Knole (Roy Fuller)190
Artemis Before a Prospect of Blaxter Hall (Peter Bennet)191
Real Estate (Michael Hamburger)192
Plumbing (Gillian Clarke)195
A Charm for Blagdon (Laurence Whistler)196
Greenhouses (John Gurney)196
The Washstand (Elisabeth Sennitt Clough)197
Mr Gradgrind’s Country (Sylvia Townsend Warner)198
Eighteenth-Century Blocks (Harry Guest)199
The Laird’s Lug (Penny Boxall)201
Guidelines (Lawrence Sail)202
Stately Home (Tony Harrison)204
Water-Gardens (Sean O’Brien)205
Fore-edge Painting (Peter Scupham)207
The Property of the Executors (Anthony Thwaite)208
Loyalties & Divisions211
Gardeners (Douglas Dunn)212
Craxton (Dom Moraes)214
The Cedars at Highclere (John Greening)216
Conservatism Revisited (Michael Hamburger)218
Bone China (Esther Morgan)219
Emma (Bernardine Evaristo)220
Mappa Mundi (Peter Didsbury)222
Stately Home (Geoffrey Grigson)224
Unexpected Visit (Fleur Adcock)225
Stanzas on a Visit to Longleat House in Wiltshire, October 1953 (George Barker)226
Two Versions of Pastoral (Alan Jenkins)228
Landscape (C. Day Lewis)230
At a Warwickshire Mansion (Roy Fuller)231
Landscape Poem (Glyn Hughes)233
The Doll’s House (Patience Agbabi)234
The Two of Us (Simon Armitage)237
Lord and Lady Romfort (Osbert Sitwell)239
The Jacobean Mansion (Hilary Davies)241
At Great Tew (Brian Jones)242
In Darley Abbey Park (Paul Wilkins)244
Coole and Ballylee, 1931 (W. B. Yeats)245
Swans (John McAuliffe)247
Woodtown Manor (John Montague)248
A Visit to Castletown House (Michael Hartnett)249
The Owner Instructs the Master Mason (Juliet Aykroyd)251
A Man (Thomas Hardy)252
Elizabeth Sweyn, Widow, at Her Writing Desk in the Hall (George Mackay Brown)254
Ruins of a Great House (Derek Walcott)257
The Landscape Gardeners (Geoffrey Grigson)259
Arrivals & Departures261
Death of King George V (John Betjeman)262
Downe: The Extreme Verge of the World (Ruth Padel)263
Fall Weekend at Milgate (3) (Robert Lowell)264
The Mansion (Robert Minhinnick)265
A Stately Exterior (Siegfried Sassoon)266
An East Wind (Freda Downie)267
Effacements (Peter Scupham)268
The Woods (Derek Mahon)269
In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markiewicz (W. B. Yeats)271
Lissadell (Wendy Cope)272
Final Movement (Cahal Dallat)273
Order to View (Louis MacNeice)274
Manor House (Ruth Bidgood)275
The Conjuror’s Trick (Sarah Salway)276
The Lakes at Blenheim (Peter Levi)277
Somewhere (George Macbeth)278
The Laurel Axe (Geoffrey Hill)280
Letter of Notice to the Country House (Corinna McClanahan Schroeder)281
A Kind of Jericho (Robert Minhinnick)282
The Old Squire (Sylvia Townsend Warner)284
The Chaos (Philip Gross)285
The Library (Tamar Yoseloff)286
The Break-up of a Library in an Anglo-Irish House in Wexford: 1964 (Eavan Boland)287
The Old Workman (Thomas Hardy)288
After Mr Mayhew’s Visit (Ken Smith)289
A Sad Story (Gillian Clarke)289
Orielton Empty (Roland Mathias)290
Interior at Petworth: From Turner (Rosanna Warren)291
View (Sheila Wingfield)293
St Botolph’s (Robert Selby)294
The Ornamental Water (Edmund Blunden)295
Dreams & Secrets297
The Belvedere (John Gurney)298
The Duke’s Pagoda (John Fuller)299
Youth Revisited (Roy Fuller)300
Night-Scented Stock (Katherine Mansfield)302
Oxnead Hall, Norfolk (Pauline Stainer)304
The Dwelling-Place (Walter de la Mare)305
Erddig (John Greening)307
Osterley Park: Summertide Trees (Penelope Shuttle)308
Tapestry Moths (Peter Redgrove)309
Greenhallows (James Reeves)311
The English Sweats (James Brookes)314
Meteor (John Clegg)315
Three Riddles (Sarah Salway)316
Architectural Masks (Thomas Hardy)317
Up at the House (Jane Draycott)318
Send for Lord Timothy (John Heath-Stubbs)319
The Body in the Library (Jane Yeh)321
The Owl Writes a Detective Story (Gavin Ewart)322
The Uninvited (Glyn Maxwell)324
Greenway House (John Greening)325
The Hidden (Vicki Raymond)326
The Blickling Hall Poem (Robert Sheppard)327
Furlongs (Katharine Towers)328
from Shugborough Eclogues (Grevel Lindop)329
Lines on a Tudor Mansion (Alun Lewis)330
Felbrigg (Michael Rivière)331
Ha-Ha (Glen Cavaliero)332
Saltatorium (Lisa Kelly)333
The Manor (Simon Armitage)334
Ancestral Houses (W. B. Yeats)335
England (Toby Martinez de las Rivas)337
Avington: The Avenue at Dawn (Jeremy Hooker)340
Knebworth Park (Katherine Gallagher)341
The Landowner (Alex Wong)342
Open Gardens Scheme (Jane Draycott)343
Open Day at Stancombe Park (David Ashbee)344
Open to the Public (Freda Downie)345
In the Grounds (Douglas Dunn)346
Our Weird Regiment (Martyn Crucefix)347
Haydn, in a Neo-Gothic Mansion of the National Trust (Geoffrey Grigson)349
Britannia (Anne Berkeley)350
Staying with Friends (Lachlan Mackinnon)351
After the Revolution (Emily Grosholz)352
Brockham End House (G. S. Fraser)354
Stourhead (Patricia Beer)355
At Burghley House (Lotte Kramer)356
The Inherited Estate (Thom Gunn)357
Domesday Book (Robert Lowell)359
Higham Hall (William Scammell)361
Inheritance (Charles Tomlinson)362
In the Formal Garden (Philip Gross)364
Ickworth (Rebecca Watts)365
Knole (Neil Powell)366
J.P. (Robert Minhinnick)367
Moonlight (Anne Berkeley)368
Breaking (Andrew Motion)369
The Manor Garden (Sylvia Plath)371
The Plain Sense of Things (Wallace Stevens)372
Asleep in the Orangery (Stuart Henson)373
To a Stately Home (David Clarke)374
To a Cedar Tree (Agatha Christie)375
Notes on the Poets and Poems377
Gazetteer of Houses407
Index of First Lines423
Index of Titles429
Index of Poets433