Dungeness, Derek Jarman, John Donne


Map of Kent and South East England.  Dungeness is marked in the bottom centre

Dungeness,  Derek Jarman, and John Donne

Dungeness is a unique area of south-east England of considerable interest and fascination.  It is not of conventional beauty, its scenery is at times bleak and desolate.  It consists of a triangle of land jutting out into the English Channel.  Its surface is largely made up of an expanse of shingle and pebble beach, dotted with scrub and heathland, and a variety of old boats, railway carriages and sheds, many of which have been turned into homes.  It is the site of Dungeness B nuclear power station, two lighthouses – old and new, of one end of the Romney Hythe & Dymchurch miniature railway, possibly the world’s smallest public railway, and of the magnificent  Dungeness National Nature Reserve.

Derek Jarman:  My particular interest was captured by the close association of Dungeness with the film-maker Derek Jarman who chose to make his home here in a wooden-clad house on the shingle shore close to the nuclear power station.  Jarman (1942-1994), was a renowned English film director, stage designer, diarist, artist, and author.  His passion for gardening led him to harness the very special landscape here to create a unique garden.   His unorthodox view of gardening was outlined in his words   ‘Paradise haunts gardens, and some gardens are paradises. Mine is one of them. Others are like bad children, spoilt by their parents, over-watered and covered with noxious chemicals.’

John Donne:  For me, one of the most striking images to be found on Dungeness was created by Jarman when he arranged for a love poem of the metaphysical poet, John Donne (1572-1631), to be ‘writ large’ on the wall of Jarman’s own house.The verses, inscribed on the black timber outer wall of Jarman’s cottage are from Donne’s poem ‘The Sun Rising’.   I give the first verse below . . .

  Busy old fool, unruly sun,
               Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run?
               Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
               Late school boys and sour prentices,
         Go tell court huntsmen that the king will ride,
         Call country ants to harvest offices,
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

A transcript of the whole of this powerful and moving love poem can be found on the Poetry Foundation website at: : ‘The Sun Rising’

The photo gallery below contains 12 photographs of Dungeness, which I took in 2008.  They are of Jarman’s cottage and garden, of Donne’s poem positioned on the side of Jarman’s house, together with a number of general views on the surrounding headland.  Clicking on any one of the images will bring up a slide-show of all 12 pictures in a larger format . . .



4 thoughts on “Dungeness, Derek Jarman, John Donne

  1. Roland thank you for a very informative and interesting post. I enjoy reading the backgrounds and inspirations of poets and poems. I have never been to Dungeness, but your photos and description have made me put it on my to-do list.


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