Happy National Poetry Day!
Gilbert White and the Austen family were neighbours, though sadly Gilbert and Jane never met. By the time Jane Austen, her sister Cassandra and their Mother were living in nearby Chawton, Gilbert White had died and the house would have been owned by his relatives. By 1812 The Natural History of Selborne had reached a fair amount of popularity, the Austen’s (who knew some of Gilbert’s nephews) would have known The Natural History well as well as the landscape that had inspired Gilbert. Selborne and the great man himself certainly inspired Jane’s eldest brother James who wrote this poem on November 18th 1812.
Who talks of rational delight }
When Selbourne’s Hill appears in sight }
And does not think of Gilbert White? }
Such sure he was – by Nature grac’d
With her best gift of genuine taste;
And Providence – which cast his lot
Within this calm, secluded spot,
Plac’d him where best th’enquiring mind
Might study Nature’s works, and find
Within her ever open book
Beauties which others overlook.
Enthusiast sweet! Your vivid style
The attentive reader can beguile
Through many a page, and still excite
An Interest in what you write!
For whilst observant you describe
The habits of the feathery tribe
Their Loves and Wars – their nest and Song,
We never think the tale too long.
Did you know that Gilbert White was a poet? Click here for last year’s national Poetry Day Poem!