Chronicle of The Poets in Dymock: Introduction

1914 – 1918

Dymock the time and place

Jackie Tweedale

1914 is the centenary of the First World War. It is also the 100th anniversary of the Dymock Poets who lived and visited the Dymock area in the years before the war. It was to be the war that scattered this community of poets, some to fight in the war and others to do war work. Two of the poets died during the war.

Over the coming months the story of the poets will be told in these pages describing what was happening to them each month and accompanied by a poem.

The Dymock poets were Lascelles Abercrombie, Wilfrid Gibson, John Drinkwater, Rupert Brooke, Edward Thomas and Robert Frost. Most of them knew each other before they came to Dymock. They often met in London or through mutual friends. The Poetry Bookshop in London run by Harold Munro was a popular meeting place. He was a patron for struggling poets seeking success. At this time, huge changes were taking place in poetry in the 1900’s and they were a part of it. Abercrombie and Gibson were popular poets. Robert Frost was still an unpublished poet and Edward Thomas and not even begun to write poetry. 5 of the 6 men were in their 30’s and Brooke was in his 20’s.

Why Dymock? Lascelles Abercromie decided that he would like to live and work in the countryside. His sister, Ursula, was living at Hellens in Much Marcle and found him a cheap cottage to rent. Agricultural labourer’s cottages were cheap due to the slump in agriculture and a movement from the countryside to town. Landlords were therefore looking for tenants.

The Gallows, Illustratioin by Barbara Davis

By March 1914, 2 of the poets were living in the area. Lascelles Abercrombie moved to the area in 1910, first to Much Marcle and then to ‘The Gallows’ at Ryton. He had always wanted to live in the countryside. Wilfrid Gibson arrived in January 1914 and lived at ‘The’ Old Nail Shop’, Greenway Cross. He and his wife had just got married in December 1913and had honeymooned at ‘The Gallows’. Gibson’s wife had worked at the Poetry bookshop as an assistant and Gibson had rented rooms in the attic above the shop. Drinkwater and Gibson had visited Abercrombie over the last few years at Ryton and the latter visited again in February 1914.

The Old Nail Shop, illustration by Barbara Davis

The cottages were basic, farmworkers cottages with few amenities – outside water pumps, brick floors, and no bathrooms.1 What brought them together was their love of poetry and the countryside.

Abercrombie, Drinkwater and Gibson decided to publish a magazine of their own work called ‘New Numbers’ and the first issue appeared in March 1914. Brooke also contributed to the magazine. It was published from ‘The Gallows’ and posted out to subscribers from Dymock Post Office.

To John Drinkwater

You speak tonight
Of Dymock and its daffodils
And the great audience listens with delight:
And yet, and yet,
They cannot know the ecstasy that fills
My heart to hear you – they, to whom the words
Bring only pleasure tinged with no regret.

Dymock and daffodils and days of song
Before the war scattered us apart…
And still in Dymock fields the daffodils
Dance to the singing of the birds;
And once again my heart,
Awakened by your words,
Dances with them a moment – as it danced
In days of old
In singing dreams of dancing gold,
In days of old before the world went wrong.

Wilfrid Gibson

1 Keith Clark. The Muse Colony. Redcliffe.1992
Images The Gallows and Old Nail Shop © and courtesy of Barbara Davis

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