Edward Capern the Postman Poet 1819-1894

Capern was born in Tiverton in 1819 into a poor family.  He had only four months of formal education in his entire life and his earliest employment was at the age of 9 in a lace factory.  He is though best known to the people of Buckland Brewer as The Postman-Poet as he provided the postal service to this village walking each day from Bideford to bring the mail then waiting three hours ‘at a cottage in the village’ (it would be interesting to know where the cottage is/was) to collect post before taking it back to Bideford.  It was during his walk and the three hour wait that he composed some of the poetry which has made him famous.  The Lion Flag of England, a patriotic piece about the Crimean War, earned him a Civil List pension courtesy of the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston and brought him to the attention of an audience beyond Devon. He was at heart, a family man and he and his wife, Janie, were left with only one child after their daughter died in childhood so when their son, Charles, went to live in Harborne, Birmingham his parents moved from Capern’s beloved Devon to be near him.  Capern continued to write, publish and lecture whilst in Birmingham and it is perhaps not too fanciful to imagine that the Christmas poem reproduced below, with its wistful nostalgia, was composed during this period.  Edward and Janie did, however, return to Devon to live out their last years in Braunton.  Both died in 1894 and are buried at Heaton Punchardon where Edward’s post-horn can be seen inserted into his headstone.

For further information the biography written by Capern’s great great granddaughter is strongly recommended:

Edward Capern, The Postman-Poet Vanguard Press (2009) £7.99 ISBN978 184386 503 2

Now the days are dark and dreary,
And the year is growing weary,
And the leaves have left the branches
Of the sycamore and lime;
I am thinking of thy bounty,
My dear old native county,
It’s O! to be in Devon at the merry Christmas-time.

Who that has seen thy daughters,
And the flashing of thy waters,
And hears thy name, the music
Of some olden English rhyme;
And pines not for thy alleys,
And river-lighted valleys?
It’s O! to be in Devon at the merry Christmas-time.

There each cosy hearth is glowing,
And the honey-wine is flowing;
Whilst the frost-work on the lattice
Is melting like the rime;
And the lads the moors are pacing,
The hare and rabbit tracing;
It’s O! to be in Devon at the merry Christmas-time.

And village waits are singing,
And village bells are ringing;
From hill to hill they answer
With the old familiar chime;
And the holly’s reddest coral
Is smiling by the laurel;
It’s O! to be in Devon at the merry Christmas-time.

O! sweet haunt of the pheasant,
My home-land fair and pleasant,
Though the music of the nightingale
Be foreign to thy clime;
More charming is thy greeting
Of the guests at festal meeting,
God bless thee, dear old Devon, with a merry Christmas-time.


One response to “Edward Capern the Postman Poet 1819-1894

  1. Wendy Lewis

    Well from one Tivertonian to another! A beautiful poem. You and my family were more than likely acquainted. Rest in Peace

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