Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wordsworth's lakes

This is Dove Cottage, in Grasmere in the Lakes region of England, where Wordsworth wrote some of his most important poetry. Wordsworth and his wife, sister and children lived here on the edge of Lake Grasmere for eight years. It's a small place, 400 years old, originally a pub. Samuel Taylor Coleridge and other literary lights visited Wordsworth here.

If you read any of Wordsworth's work in school, it was likely to have been some of his nature poetry. But he was far more than simply a nature poet. He wrote a kind of epic work in which the poet is the hero on a quest through nature. Not a lot of people read "The Prelude" today, but it is a great work and I did want to see the landscape that inspired it, just as one day I would like to go to the site of Troy in Turkey (the Iliad) and Ithaca in Greece (the Odyssey).

The Lakes region does have a dramatic beauty. Surely Wordsworth would be appalled to visit there today, 200 years after he wrote about the region, and see that his songs of praise of natural beauty have attracted mobs of tourists and vacation-home builders. Relatively speaking, the tourism is controlled and restricted, but there is still a lot of traffic, even in December, and you can never escape the traffic noise, even high up in the hills. Below is an example of some of the commercial construction, tastefully done, that serves the tourism industry.

This is Mount Rydal, a half-hour climb up behind Wordsworth's other home in the area. The two homes are about a half-hour apart on foot.
He designed the four-acre garden behind the house, which is a substantial two-story structure and his home for 37 years.

This is the so-called summer house located in the garden where he would spend time.

I was completely immersed in Wordsworth's poetry years ago, especially The Prelude. Attempting to write about the beauty of the landscape described by one of England's great poets is a bit intimidating.

Several slate quarries in the area for centuries supplied building materials for the homes and shops.

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