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William Barnes - Poet

William BarnesWilliam Barnes was a nineteenth century poet and linguist, famous for writing in the Dorset dialect. Barnes, who counted Thomas Hardy, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Gerald Manley Hopkins among his friends, was born in the village of Bagber, near Sturminster Newton, in 1801. He went to local schools and worked as a schoolteacher and solicitor's clerk until 1848, when he took a Bachelor of Divinity degree at Cambridge university and was ordained into the Church of England.

He returned to Dorset as Curate of Whitcombe, near Dorchester. William Barnes published several books of poetry during his lifetime. His first collection, called 'Poems of Rural Life in the Dorset Dialect' was published in 1844 and translated into 'common' English in 1868. His 'Glossary of Dorset Dialect' was published in 1863.

Barnes, who spoke Welsh, Hindustani, Persian, Hebrew, Greek, Latin and a handful of modern Europen languages, was keen to purge the written English language of its classical influnces so that it could be understood by those without a formal education. His best-known poems include 'The Mother's Dream', 'Evening and Maidens' and 'In the Spring', which was set to music by Ralph Vaughn Williams.

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