Tuesday, 8 April 2008

William Wordsworth poet, part 1

Hard on the heels of the Grasmere poet's 238th birthday celebrations (see post immediately below) Poet-in-Residence begins a series of poems from the quill of Lakeland's favourite bard. Of course William Wordsworth, being a man of the world, didn't spend all his time in the English Lakes. Once, for some reason or other, he tramped up Snowdon - and this at night!
Under the great shadow of this bulky hump of sheep-cropped, turf-covered Cambrian rock, the highest mountain in Wales and probably one of the oldest mountains in the World, many years ago a certain Poet-in-Residence first glimpsed the light of day. It is therefore quite fitting that P-i-R begins the Wordsworth series with the great poet's nocturnal ascent of the great granite mountain.
Nowadays, visitors ascend and descend in relative comfort and ease via the good services of the Snowdon Mountain Railway which operates out of Llanberis. A small, expensive and rather shabby cafe´ may be found on the top of Snowdon*. Things aren't quite what they were in Wordsworth's day.

The Ascent of Snowdon

It was a close, warm, breezeless summer night,
Wan, dull, and glaring, with a dripping fog
Low-hung and thick that covered all the sky;
But, undiscouraged, we began to climb
The mountain-side. The mist soon girt us round,
And, after ordinary travellers' talk
With our conductor, pensively we sank
Each into commerce with his private thoughts:
Thus did we breast the ascent, and by myself
Was nothing either seen or heard that checked
Those musings or diverted, save that once
The shepherd's lurcher, who, among the crags,
Had to his joy unearthed a hedgehog, teased
His coiled-up prey with barkings turbulent.
This small adventure, for even such it seemed
In that wild place and at the dead of night,
Being over and forgotten, on we wound
In silence as before. With forehead bent
Earthward, as if in opposition set
Against an enemy, I panted up
With eager pace, and no less eager thoughts.
Thus might we wear a midnight hour away,
Ascending at loose distance each from each,
And I, as chanced, the foremost of the band;
When at my feet the ground appeared to brighten,
And with a step or two seemed brighter still;
Nor was time given to ask or learn the cause,
For instantly a light upon the turf
Fell like a flash, and lo! as I looked up,
The Moon hung naked in a firmament
Of azure without cloud, and at my feet
Rested a silent sea of hoary mist.
A hundred hills their dusky backs upheaved
All over this still ocean; and beyond,
Far, far beyond, the solid vapours stretched,
In headlands, tongues, and promontory shapes,
Into the main Atlantic, that appeared
To dwindle, and give up his majesty,
Usurped upon far as the sight could reach.
Not so the ethereal vault; encroachment none
Was there, nor loss; only the inferior stars
Had disappeared, or shed a fainter light
In the clear presence of the full-orbed Moon,
Who, from her sovereign elevation, gazed
Upon the billowy ocean, as it lay
All meek and silent, save that through a rift -
Not distant from the shore whereon we stood,
A fixed, abysmal, gloomy, breathing-place -
Mounted the roar of waters, torrents, streams
innumerable, roaring with one voice!
Heard over earth and sea, and, in that hour,
For so it seemed, felt by the starry heavens.

*the old cafe and terminus has recently been replaced by something slick and silvery - possibly out of Star Trek.

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