Scotsman, 14 March 1887, p. 4

A writer who, apparently, visits all the places of interest along the English coast and makes his tours the excuse for a series of sonnets, must not grumble if readers are reminded of the humorous criticism made by the authors of “Rejected Addresses” upon Sir W. Scott’s “Rokeby”—that the poet was journeying by easy stages to London, and intended to “do” all the gentlemen’s houses by the way. Mr. H. D. Rawnsley, however, in his Sonnets Round the Coast shows a true poetic spirit, which would make a seemingly formal travel in search of the poetic almost excusable. His sonnets are of a high order, and he frequently invests antiquarian relics with an interest which future tourists, with his verses in their hands, will readily appreciate. Mr Rawnsley takes his readers over the Isle of Wight, where, of course, he turns to Lord Tennyson with some well-finished complimentary lines. Thence he journeys along the Cornish coast, Bristol Channel, by Barmouth, Dolgelly, and Cardigan, to Lancashire and Cumberland. Then a flight is made to the North-East coast; and Mr Rawnsley gives us two fine sonnets on George Wishart and the late Principal Shairp. Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, is noted—

No more on Hawkshaw Rig the shepherd’s son
Waves, to the murmur of melodious streams,
What tales he learned beside his mother’s knee,
But somewhere on a lily-blossomed lea,
He leads the pure Kilmeny gently on,
And finds another friend to share his dreams.

The late Principal Tulloch is also apostrophised in lines of great beauty, as the following specimen will show—

And if before thine ears were stopped by Death
No message came of that last battle-cry,
Where friends fought fierce with argument for swords,
Thou knowest now, from out men’s cloudy breath
And strife of indistinguishable words,
God rolls his car of Truth to Victory.

There is no need to follow Mr Rawnsley along the Northumberland, Yorkshire, and Lincolnshire coasts; enough has been said to indicate that his volume possesses very great merit, which should render it widely acceptable.

Hampshire Advertiser, 19 March 1887, p. 7

Sonnets Round the Coast.—In this delightful little book Mr Rawnsley has shown that he is an appreciative observer of the beauty of our coasts, the main features of which he fixes in the mind, by brief, telling, descriptions. There is a conciseness in his lines, and a charm of expression which will secure for these sonnets, we think, a favourable reception. They may be compared to exquisite cabinet pictures of coast scenery. We only wish he had devoted a few more sonnets to the Solent and South-Western Coasts. Between the Needles and Portland there are several beautiful spots that might have been dilated upon.

Globe, 29 April 1887, p. 1

Vacancy for a Poet.—“Must be able to put together at least four different rhymes, and to finger out correctly the decasyllabic metre. Character immaterial, provided applicant has a good command of adjectives. Alliteration not objected to.” Anyone complying with conditions above advertised has a fine opening before him. Mr. H. D. Rawnsley, sonneteer-in-ordinary to the Lake District, has recently given to the world 200 odd “Sonnets Round the Coast,” –beginning from Farringford, and working round westward as far as Spilsby. One advantage of this branch of sonneteering is that it can be done from a fishing-smack or a private steam-launch, and, if the sea be choppy, certain influences are created decidedly favourable to poetry—all the best verses having about them a decided flavour of sickness, disease, or, best of all, impending dissolution. But the marvel of the matter is that Mr Rawnsley has left untouched some of the most poetical of our shores—all that part, in fact, which from Deal to Ramsgate runs, with a handsome margin on either side. Will nobody now come forward to crown with laurel the White Cliffs of Dover, to lay a wreath of verse upon the pebbles of Margate, to sing of bathing machines and bath chairs, of the pier, the castle upon the sand, and the local minstrels? Is nobody capable of rising in verse to the heights – or rather, we should say, to the sandy slopes – attained in a sister art by Mr. Frith, R.A.?

Birmingham Daily Post, 29 April 1887, p. 7

Sonnets Round the Coast—“Be bold, be bold,” is good advice; but the sequent caution is not to be disregarded, “Be not overbold.” A volume of sonnets is almost too much of a good thing. A dainty, delicate, gem-like thing is a perfect sonnet, bet even the greatest masters’ happy efforts are almost to be counted on the fingers, and one reads one or two and lays the treasured volume aside. To produce some hundreds of sonnets that shall be readable as a volume almost passes the wit of man, and when in this inherent difficulty the adventurer gives them a topographical turn and “does” the coast of England, writing sonnets on every point of observation, it is impossible to avoid much sameness in thought and expression. The sonnets are correct in form, they are often happy, and the writer has been more successful than we should have thought possible in varying the note. The book, typographically a very pretty and attractive one, will repay an occasional dip into it, though we should have recommended it with more confidence if it had been less monotonous. We subjoin a specimen:

     Bamborough Castle

High on its rock the ruddy castle glowed,
   Like some huge monster, crawled from out
      the seas,
The isles of Farne, Northumbria’s Cyclades,
Broke the blue tide that toward the fortress flowed;
Thither his forty keels bold Ida rowed,
There Aidan bent the saintliest of knees,
And Oswald’s hand, that heard the beggar’s pleas
And could not taste corruption, alms bestowed.
No saints seek refuge now, no warriors come,
Thy use is gone, thou tower-encircled steep—
But like the spring of Bebban’s basalt well
Thou dost renew thy strength; thy citadel
Is garrisoned with girls who learn to keep
By arts of peace the inviolable home.

Illustrated London News, 14 May 1887, p. 26

Sonnets Round the Coast—Here is another true British poet, the Vicar of Crosthwaite, Keswick; he is a personal friend of Lord Tennyson, and of his brother, the late rev. Charles Tennyson Turner, whose disciple he has been in the exquisite art of composing that peculiar jewel of versifiers, the perfect sonnet, which is most fit for idyllic contemplations. Mr Rawnsley has been yachting along the shores of the Isle of Wight, and from Portland to Weymouth to Plymouth—we wish he had seen more of Devonshire—thence all round Cornwall, and up the Bristol Channel. He has visited Barmouth, he is quite at home on the North Lancashire and Cumberland coasts. On the eastern seaboard he is familiar with St. Andrews, with the coast of Northumberland, and with those of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. So are many English people: but here is one who can write, upon so many places, above two hundred thoughtful and beautiful little poems, each of the regular fourteen lines, without a fault or flaw in their prescribed metrical structure; and who never fails to express a clear idea, or a noble sentiment, in pure, strong, and unaffected language. Opening his little volume at random, a very good sonnet is found on every page; and it is frequently such as the reader at once feels to be precisely what ought to be the meditation of a good Englishman, acquainted with the past history of his native land, who visits those particular places of its shores. Mr Rawnsley makes fine poetry of Skegness, Boston Church tower, and the Lincolnshire fens.

Graphic, 28 May 1887, p. 4

Sonnets Round the Coast—It must be frankly confessed that a volume consisting entirely of modern sonnets of the ordinary type is apt to be rather wearisome reading; still there is a certain amount of pleasure to be derived from “Sonnets Round the Coast.” . . . The pieces are fairly good of their kind, and treat of natural scenery and legendary matter in an interesting style. Judging from the notes, the author has no very high opinion of his readers’ probable fund of ordinary knowledge.