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Capability Brown

Lancelot “Capability” Brown was England’s
greatest landscape architect.

His name was Capability,
A man of great humility,
He knew just where to plant a tree,
Enhancing England’s scenery.

Of all delights we love to see,
He planned with great integrity,
The English Aristocracy,
Would pay his most substantial fee.

Upon his horse, he could foresee,
The landscape as it came to be,
The lakes, the hills, the grassy lea,
So much enjoyed by you and me.

As palaces of finery,
Those mighty works of masonry,
Palatial as a pile can be,
Rose out of England’s greenery.

To celebrate our history,
And wonder at the majesty,
That gave him immortality,
We’ll drink to Capability.

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Jeff Eardley lives in the heart of England near to the Peak District National Park and is a local musician playing guitar, mandolin and piano steeped in the music of America, including the likes of Ry Cooder, Paul Simon, and particularly Hank Williams.


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22 Responses

  1. Brian Yapko

    Jeff, I very much enjoyed this poem about the man who appears to have been England’s preeminent landscape architect. I looked him up and see that he lived from 1716 to 1783, so someone very much of the Georgian period. Your poem is charming in its sing-song rhythm. It is also quite clever in your extensive use of “ee” rhymes to rhyme with “Capabiilty.”

    Reply
  2. Paul Freeman

    Each line’s end sound is ‘e’,
    A tour de force most verily
    since I have counted twenty
    such lines from Mr Eardley.

    Thanks for a fun poem that jogged seamlessly along, Jeff.

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      Thank your for your comments Paul,
      To we poets, one and all,
      You sure have the wherewithal,
      To amuse us with your scrawl.
      Ha Ha
      Best wishes my friend.

      Reply
  3. Sally Cook

    So good to see music expressed in landscape, much as I try to do so visually both two dimensionally and verbally in paintings and poems. We don’t hear so much about this, but your poetry adds to the whole.

    Reply
  4. Jeff Eardley

    Thanks Brian. A close inspection of Evan’s picture reveals the World’s sole copy of Cellini’s “Perseus and Medusa” gazing over the Italian garden, created in the 1840s. The Brown landscape is the lake and woodland beyond, all overseen by the first Duke of Sutherland atop his plinth. We are lucky to have this place on our doorstep. Thanks again, as always for your most generous comment.

    Reply
  5. Margaret Coats

    Cheers to Capability, and Eardley! Jeff, I’m glad you identified the pictured Italian Gardens as NOT by Brown, because he got rid of existing formal gardens at Trentham in favor of natural grassland, with a ha-ha invisible ditch to keep livestock away from the house. You are quite right that what he designed here was the background–a lake twice its original size, serpentine shore path, and natural-looking but carefully cut and planted woodlands allowing a view to the eyecatcher column. Brown also worked as architect to extend the house, so I’m glad to see you mention that part of Capability’s capabilities in your fourth stanza. The poem has exactly the sort of wine-swirling rhythm best suited to a toast!

    Reply
  6. Jeff Eardley

    Margaret, thank you so much for your observant remarks. We have witnessed Trentham travel from decay and desolation to the totally restored glory of today where we walk the serpentine shore path twice a week. I was unaware of the ha ha so thank you for that. As I type this, we are slipping into a period of intense grieving at the passing of our Queen. Thank you once again for taking the time to comment.

    Reply
    • Margaret Coats

      She is our Queen, too. May she reign forever in loyal hearts of those who have lived during her Queendom (title of the poet laureate’s tribute to her jubilee earlier this year), and may her soul rest in peace. I just heard an extempore discourse by Sebastian Gorka, born in Britain of Hungarian refugee parents, and now a naturalized American citizen. He explained that all the best in our two cultures arises within long-standing intertwined institutions we share. You celebrate a portion of that in today’s poem, though I comprehend the disinclination for toasting at the present time.

      Reply
      • Jeff Eardley

        Thank you Margaret. I was a snotty five year old waving my flag as the Queen passed through our grimy industrial town in 1955. I have never forgotten that moment as we toast the long life of this very special lady.

    • Margaret Coats

      I made an error about the title of the laureate’s jubilee poem. It is “Queenhood.” One of the things it predicts after-the-fact is “great elms will fail and fall” during Elizabeth’s reign, referring to catastrophic losses of trees (including many planted by Capability Brown). Landscape and sovereign have a clear connection! Jubilee plantings of The Queen’s Green Canopy will renew the past cover, but the effect is yet to be seen. Keep visiting Trentham and other gardens to combat the woke brigade’s ingratitude while you enjoy the places!

      Reply
      • Jeff Eardley

        Thank you Margaret for pointing me to “Queenhood” a piece of which I was unaware and will be poring over today. I have often heard Simon Armitage on the radio but he always reminds me of those tourist guides in North England limestone caverns. (He is from Yorkshire) This poem has so many powerful images, particularly for today.

  7. Roy E. Peterson

    Somewhere in the back of my mind I remember Capability Brown. Your portrayal re-etched some of those memories in such a pleasurable poem. I really enjoyed reading it more than once!

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      Thanks Roy. Capability was a great architect of the natural landscape. Many of his creations are under the protection of our beloved National Trust, currently under attack by the woke brigade. They are very special places over here.

      Reply
  8. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    I’m raising a toast to Capability and his craft (a glorious gift), and to you, Jeff, for writing an uplifting poem that has me drifting over the pond to wander in the wonders of magnificent English gardens. I live surrounded by wild beauty in Texas… sometimes I crave a manicured marvel… to frolic over a velvet lawn without the rattle of a snake… only sometimes.

    Reply
  9. Jeff Eardley

    Thanks Susan for your kind words. We are envious of your wild beauty but like a Indiana Jones, will take a rain check on the snakes, particularly those rattlers.

    Reply
  10. David Watt

    Thank you Jeff for your entertaining poem concerning Capability Brown. The fact that so many of his garden designs remain today is testament to his art. The repeating rhyme works a treat in this piece.

    Reply

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