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This review is taken from PN Review 161, Volume 31 Number 3, January - February 2005.

A VIEW OF THE LAKE DISTRICT ISABELLA LICKBARROW, Collected Poems. Edited by Constance Parrish (Wordsworth Trust) £9.99

It's hard not to respond to the mystic element in Isabella Lickbarrow's poetry. You find it in such works as 'A Fragment on Solitude' when, as she wanders through 'A wild romantic scene, nature's rude work', she hears 'a gentle voice':

Come! live with me, the woodland Genius said,
Bid the tumultuous world a while farewell,
And dwell with me, for peace alone is mine -
Yes, gentle spirit, I would dwell with thee,
While summer reigns in all her beauteous pride!

One's sense is that the poem picks up from where Wordsworth's 'Nutting' leaves off, with its understanding that 'there is a Spirit in the woods' - and yet Lickbarrow's evocation of natural genii is extraordinarily subtle, more refined in some respects than that of her near-neighbour in Rydal. Although, like him, she comprehends nature as a living thing, there's no hint of pantheism or indeed any philosophical underpinning. Instead it derives exclusively from a raw, heightened sense of its otherness.

At the same time, there's no hint of the ambition that characterises Wordsworth's writing. Lickbarrow wrote for the moment. Her poetry was published first in her local newspaper, the Westmoreland Advertiser, and as a result she did not look to posterity for approval; one of her most memorable poems, 'On the Fate of Newspapers', is a witty lament on precisely that theme:

In what an alter'd state forlorn,
'Tis now in ...

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