Margaret Cropper: Rediscovering a Lakeland Poet

The first talk of 2024 in the University of Cumbria's Centre for National Parks and Protected Areas programme was Margaret Cropper: Rediscovering a Lakeland Poet by Grevel Lindop.

I was really excited at the prospect of this event, as I really enjoy Grevel Lindop's work, especially A Literary Guide to the Lake District. I take this book with me whenever we go exploring; it's a mine of information and especially good for seeking out literary nuggets!

There were a few other reasons my interest was piqued. Years ago, in my student days, I briefly (and not very successfully!) worked at the papermill in Burneside, owned by the Cropper family; I had already come across Margaret Cropper as the biographer of Evelyn Underhill, and I was fascinated at the prospect of "discovering" a Lakeland poet. These all seemed compelling reasons for attending the talk.

We weren't disappointed. Grevel Lindop is an excellent speaker and he kept us enthralled for over an hour. I loved his description of when he discovered Margaret Cropper's poetry. He told us that the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. This is a sensation I often experience in the presence of wonderful literature.

The talk was a good introduction to Cropper's work. I have already purchased a copy of her poems published by Titus Wilson. I particularly love Dorothy Wordsworth Wakes at Allan Bank, and am fascinated that Norman Nicholson, who championed Margaret Cropper's poetry, wanted to omit the final powerful lines from the poem when he selected the poem for inclusion in his anthology.

O rare spirit, in the frail courageous body,
So finely tempered, so simple, so tender in love
So eager for beauty, so clear like beck water:
O genius poured it unstintingly
In secret draughts for the cherishing of poetry,
In this plain shrine i give you, with fresh delight,
The homage of a disciple whom your vision has cherished.

As I start to find out more about Margaret Cropper, I discover that her work was appreciated by John Betjeman who wrote "the more people read Margaret Cropper, the more people will enjoy her". Norman Nicholson wrote of her poetry "it belongs in the same tradition as poets such as Thomas Hardy, Edward Thomas and Wilfred Owen who, in their own quiet unspectacular way helped to bring about a revolution in the language of poetry almost as effectively as did the more spectacular impact of Eliot and Pound"

I'm looking forward to reading more of Cropper's poetry, especially the long poem Little Mary Crosbie. I'm also hoping that Grevel Lindop might continue his research and publish a critical biography, it would be fascinating and a long overdue recognition of an excellent Cumbrian poet.