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West Country Poets


William CREES was born at Exminster, near Exeter, on June 17, 1854, his father being a tradesman of the village.  Being the eldest in the family, the services of the boy were called into requisition at the age of ten (he had previously received his education at the village school).  From his earliest years he scribbled verses, and gained for himself the sobriquet of 'Village Poet.'  At the age of sixteen he left home, and sought employment in Exeter.  There, without any previous knowledge of the trade, he procured a situation as trimmer in a large coach-building establishment, where he remained until incapacitated from work by a fever.  He next went to Cardiff, and got a situation as clerk in the goods office of the Rhymney Railway Company.  An unfortunate disagreement with the manager caused him to resign this appointment, but he succeeded in obtaining another situated at Cardiff, in connection with the London, and North-Western Railway.  This post he held for about a year, and during this time his pen was most prolific.  Home calls, however, grew loud, and William CREES was fortunate in obtaining a situation on the railway at Exeter; and in spite of the arduous duties imposed on him, he was able to write his longest poem, 'Recollections of Exwick'.  For a short time he took to scholastic work, but found it uncongenial to his tastes, and so relinquished it.  He then turned his hand to painting, papering, and other matters of house-work; but tiring of this, he turned again to coach-building, remaining in this line until the firm was broken up.  Making many unsuccessful applications for situations, he thought he would try some business on his own account, so he started at South Wonford, Heavitree, in the boot and shoe line - his father's business.  After about five years' steady work, he was offered and accepted the position of local agent to the Prudential Assurance Company, and eventually became assistant-superintendent.  He now represents that company at Exeter, but sill resides at Heavitree, where in his leisure moments he amuses himself by writing snatches of song, many of which find their way to the public through the medium of the local newspapers - 'grateful to a bountiful God for His mercies, and happy in the humble sphere in which he moves.'

We give a short extract from Mr. CREES' effusions, of which he has four volumes in manuscript:


Beautiful Chrysanthemum!
  Coming when the days are sober,
  When the skies are dull and sober;
Shining as a precious gem,
Beauteous as a diadem,
  Day-star of October!

Coming in the autumn time,
  When the Summer flowers are dying,
  When her last few flowers are dying,
And her joyous song and chime
End their music so sublime,
  And she's lifeless lying!

When the sere and yellow leaf
  From its native spray is falling
  Strews the mourning earth in falling,
Sad additions to her grief;
Then thou com'st to give relief,
  Nature's bloom recalling.

And thou com'st amid the woe
  Like a smile in time of sorrow,
  Smile of love in deepest sorrow;
Or bright Hope when eyes o'erflow,
And our hearts are sad and low,
  Pointing brighter morrow.

Or amid the leaves that lie
  On the graves of the departed,
  Our beloved ones departed;
Withered now, but by-and-bye
Blooming in the realms on high,
  Glad and joyous-hearted.

Blooming in a land of bliss,
  O'er the wreck of time and sorrow,
  Ne'er to know another sorrow;
And their lovely form in this
Minds me of the coming bliss
  Makes me wish the morrow!

Beautiful Chrysanthemum!
  Standing like an angel near me,
  Blooming 'midst the dark and dreary,
Lifting on thy leafy stem
Hope's bright star, to gladden them
  Who are weak and weary.

Transcribed by Sandra Windeatt from: Wright, W.H.K., (1896) West-Country Poets:  Their Lives and Works. London: Elliot Stock, pp. 125-6..

Last updated 22 Jul 2011 - Brian Randell.

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