Sunday, 13 April 2014

A GOLDEN WONDERLAND IN THE LAKE DISTRICT: WORDSWORTH



The Lake District is a joy to visit at any time of year, but at this time of year it is particularly beguiling.  Quite apart from the ever-present lakes and mountains which make this part of England so special, the visitor is confronted with the charming sight of lambs frolicking in the meadows, while the whole scene is embellished with a generous coating of yellow in the form of the vast numbers of daffodils which spring up at every roadside and lake shore, and in every piece of woodland.  The English poet Wordsworth was so entranced by this scene that it formed the basis for what was probably his most famous poem, "I wandered lonely as a cloud".  In the poem Wordsworth describes "A host of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees; Fluttering and dancing in the breeze."  The poem continues in this vein, recalling how the daffodils "stretched in never-ending line" and were "tossing their heads in sprightly dance".  

William Wordsworth was well qualified to describe the beauties of the Lake District, since he spent a large portion of his life there.  He was born in the gracious riverside town of Cockermouth just to the north-west of the Lake District, where he spent his childhood in a house on Main Street, now open to the public as Wordsworth House and Garden, owned by the National Trust.  He did a bit of travelling, spending some time in Germany with his sister Dorothy and fellow poet Coleridge, but he found himself pining for the Lakes and eventually he moved back there, taking up residence with Dorothy in Dove Cottage in Grasmere, formerly an inn called the 'Dove and Olive Bough'.  They were later joined by William's childhood friend Mary, who he married in 1802, and it was during the early years of his married life that "I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud", also known as "Daffodils", was published as part of a collection of poems.  There was another poet called Robert Southey living nearby and Wordsworth, Southey and Coleridge came to be known as the 'Lake Poets'.  

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Dove Cottage.  Photo by Greg Willis, via Wikimedia Commons

Grasmere is the name of both the village where Wordsworth lived and the lake on which it is situated, right in the heart of the Lake District.  There are a range of restaurants, inns and shops in the village, while Wordsworth fans can visit Dove Cottage, run by TheWordsworth Trust.  Displays on view include the 'Grasmere Journal' kept by Dorothy.  The garden, which is also open to visitors, has been restored to the half wild state that the Wordsworths created from local plants and materials.  On  his death in 1850 William Wordsworth was buried in the graveyard of St Oswald's Church in Grasmere, where the grave is still on view.  Visitors to this beautiful corner of the Lake District at this time of year will have no trouble imagining where the poet got his inspiration from.

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Grasmere lake. Photo by Val Vannet, via Wikimedia Commons


Map of Cockermouth.

Map of Grasmere.

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