Saturday, March 17, 2007


A 1991 edition of the poetry magazine The North included a plea from Stanley Cook for the return of the prospect poem: ‘The writing of prospect poems reached a stage in the 18th century where one critic complained that there was hardly a molehill left that had not been celebrated; it could reach a similar stage again. In the meantime it is frustrating to see the perfect tool for so many jobs lie unused. There are so many Northern towns and cities where from the viewpoint of a nearby moor one could survey industrial dereliction and urban regeneration, shopping malls rising on the sites of satanic mills, across the valley to the nearest motorway, and the sad figure of a rate-capped councillor wending his weary way home.’

Cook’s favourite prospect poem is John Scott’s description of Amwell which I couldn’t locate on-line – maybe someone else can find a link? There are some other Scott poems are here. John Scott (1730–1783) was known for his pastoral verse and friendship with Dr Johnson, but he also dabbled in some fashionable garden design at the family home, now Amwell House – the grotto was recently restored. According to the Hertfordshire literary map, ‘the name Amwell is derived from 'Emma's Well', now a dried up hollow alongside the New River which broadens around two small islands there. The well has a stone enscribed with part of John Scott's poem "Emma" at the entrance.’ 

Postscript September 2015:

I have now found Scott's poem online.  Here is the moment when the prospect reveals itself:
By winding pathways through the waving corn,
We reach the airy point that prospect yields,
Not vast and awful, but confin'd and fair;
Not the black mountain and the foamy main;
Not the throng'd city and the busy port;
But pleasant interchange of soft ascent,
And level plain, and growth of shady woods,
And twining course of rivers clear, and sight
Of rural towns and rural cots, whose roofs
Rise scattering round, and animate the whole.
Scott's grotto now has a website.


snarlerson said...

The connection of Amwell with Emma has a long provenance. In Doomsday Book it is recorded as Emmeuuelle.

Ekwall, The Concise Dictionary of English Place-Names (fourth edition, Oxford, 1960) p.9.

Bart said...

I can't find the poem either.
It looks like it is wanted on this page. too

norflondoner said...

Why is it so hard to find any written History of Emma's Well?
Is there people with an Interets in keeping it quiet?
Just a thought