For the many years of the dominance of Received Pronunciation (RP) it was easy to see William Barnes as an irrelevant eccentric. With more recent developments in linguistics, and a growing interest in national and regional diversity, it may be time for Barnes to reclaim his place as a significant figure in the world!! Dr Richard Bradbury will also discuss his more socially engaged prose works.
I have spent three months in Greece this summer. For the first time, I forgot to pack a paperback selection of the poems of William Barnes. This year I needed it more than ever, to calm me down after listening to all the distressing and disturbing news from home, on my internet radio.
Luckily, I have Barnes’ poems on my Kindle; I can also access them, if I need to, on my laptop.
We welcomed visitors from Japan this summer, old friends of forty-years standing. Amongst other things, we discussed Zen, nature and landscape, some haiku by Basho and Ryokan, and dialects of English and Japanese. I explained to them the importance of William Barnes and his ideas about language and communication. Many Japanese people love the novels of Thomas Hardy, but few are familiar with the writings of Barnes.
Yoshinori became my temporary “Zen Master” (tongue-in-cheek) – although he is a former international banker. He wrote a couple of excellent impromptu poems at my request, while in Greece. He grew up in the Snow Country, in Nagaoka, Niigata prefecture, not far from the village of Izumozaki, where the poet-monk Ryokan was born.
On Corfu, Yoshinori’s wife, Kyoko, was delighted to meet a Greek kaȉki captain called Homer, and to renew the acquaintance of a retired banker called Socrates. Socrates and Yoshinori had first met at my daughter’s wedding in London, in the year 2000.
We took them first to the mountains of Epirus, an ideal environment in which to contemplate nature and to approach a state of satori, enlightenment (helped along by a few glasses of tsipouro!)
Other old friends who had visited us in the mountains some weeks earlier were Mark and Sue Allen. Mark is the owner and publisher of a host of magazines and journals, including Wiltshire Life. I once wrote an article on William Barnes in Mere for that fine county magazine. We both grew up in Somerset, near the Dorset border, so we consider ourselves to be West Country ‘lads’.
We took both couples, at different times, to visit the Evangelistria Monastery, in Ano Pedina, Zagori. The “Gerontissa” (the Abbess) pointed out some of the stunning wall paintings of Greek Orthodox Saints, but also of Ancient Greek philosophers and historians – Plato and Aristotle among them, easily recognisable as they are portrayed, of course, without haloes, but the Orthodox Church considers them as moral forerunners of Christianity (they did not believe in the Greek gods). Even more surprising is the depiction of the Cumaean Sybil¹. She (c.f. Virgil in his fourth eclogue) was said go have prophesied the coming of Christ. It should be remembered that Michaelangelo also included five Sibyls amongst the pre-Christian prophetic figures depicted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Ultima Cumaei venit iam carminis aetas; magnus ab integro saeclorum nascitur ordo. iam redit et Virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna, iam nova progenies caelo demittitur alto. tu modo nascenti puero, quo ferrea primum desinet ac toto surget gens aurea mundo, casta fave Lucina; tuus iam regnat Apollo.
Oh! lovely were the Grecian maids of old When, hand in hand, in heathen holydays, They sang the solemn hymn, or traced the maze Of sacred dances, bright with gems and gold; Or, clad in robes of white or purple, stroll'd
In holy groves, or myrtle-border'd ways; Or sat and swept the light-toned lute, and told Wild tales of love, or sung some hero's praise:
But lovelier were the Grecian maids to see At Greece's Gospel morning, when as yet The Christian daughters of the holy Paul,
All meek with godly grace, and gather'd all Within their Christian house of pray'r, they met With holy kisses at the Agape².
What’s the point of William Barnes in 21st Century?For the many years of the dominance of Received Pronunciation (RP) it was easy to see William Barnes as an irrelevant eccentric. With more recent developments in linguistics, and a growing interest in national and regional diversity, it may be time for Barnes to reclaim his place as a significant figure in the world!! Dr Richard Bradbury will also discuss his more socially engaged prose works.Tuesday 27th March 2018Annual Service of Remembrance of William BarnesMorning service, with dialect reading and wreath laying at William Barnes and and his daughter Laura graveSunday 22nd April 2018The Serpent and it’s Local ConnectionsCome an listen to musician, Philip Humphries talk on the history and development of the strange bass wind instrument known as the 'Serpent' due to its curious shape. This talk will be interspersed with music and poetry.Tuesday 15th May 2018Willam Barnes Society Members Annual Summer LunchWillam Barnes Society Members Annual Summer LunchSaturday 23rd June 2018
John Blackmore captivates Society membersFollowing the recent William Barnes Society Annual General Meeting, John Blackmore presented 'Music and Song' to the audience.Sunday 15th October 2017Service of Remembrance to William BarnesOn Sunday 8h October 2017 10:30am, at St Peter’s Church, Dorchester, the Morning Service to commemorate the anniversary of the death of William Barnes took place. It was followed by a wreath laying at the statute.Monday 9th October 2017Crossways Library opens its doors to welcome William Barnes PoetryOn 19th September 2017, a group of William Barnes Society members gave an evening of poetry, music and song at Crossways Library for the Local History Group and guests.Wednesday 20th September 2017Stock Gaylard Oak Fair 2017Once again Members of the William Barnes Society were invited on August 27th to The Stock Gaylard Oak Fair. for the special event celebrating woodcraft, timber, conservation and the countryside.Monday 28th August 2017