Sunday, 19 May 2013

The Roaring Dell

The Quantock Hills are where Lyrical Ballads was conceived and largely written.  In mid-May the landscape is enchanting, the tall woodland trees all shades of light green, showing branches still visible, dry leaves  and wild garlic underfoot. You hear the streams in the deep narrow ravines before you can see them. We walked from the famous waterfall at Holford steeply up to Alfoxden House, with wide views down to Kilve’s delightful shore and the sea beyond, with the long Welsh coast for horizon, and discovered a hidden, abandoned walled garden, warm in the sun.  
On the open moorland we met mares and foals strolling on the road, and drinking from Wordsworth’s muddy pond, not far from several aged thorns. 

Down in Nether Stowey we stayed in Tom Poole’s house where Coleridge spent the summer of 1807, and naturally we visited the cottage where he and Sara lived with their infant son Hartley and a succession of literary visitors, in uncommonly cramped quarters, from 1797-9. The National Trust has cleverly re-organised the undistinguished building to convey its original two-up, two-down arrangement, connected by a staircase within the chimneybreast, with a kitchen, yard, privy and well beyond, and a long rising garden, where Coleridge remained with a scalded foot, when the others walked to Holford, to
''that roaring dell, o'er wooded, narrow, deep, And only speckled by the mid-day sun; Where its slim trunk the ash from rock to rock Flings arching like a bridge; that branchless ash, Unsunn'd and damp, whose few poor yellow leaves Ne'er tremble in the gale, yet tremble still Fann'd by the waterfall!  And there my friends behold the dark green file of long lank weeds That all at once (a most fantastic sight!) Still nod and drip beneath the dripping edge Of the blue clay-stone...'

 Upstairs is the manuscript of a poem Poole wrote to
'Coldridge! Youth of various powers: I love to hear thy soul pour forth the line To hear it sing of love and liberty, As if fresh breathing from the hand divine...'
 In another room lie quills, ink and paper, for visitors to pen their own odes, which is a nice touch.

1 comment:

  1. Is that also the cottage where Coleridge wrote 'Frost at Midnight', surely the greatest of his Conversation Poems (a term arguably as oxymoronic as Lyrical Ballads itself)?