Where the Romantic poet rests...

Travel Tales

Where the Romantic  poet rests...

On a trip to England in my student days, I could not make it to the Lake District. Consequently, I failed to visit the resting place of William Wordsworth. Nearly 30 years later, I rectified that ‘grave’ omission.

On a beautiful morning in July, 2004, my husband and I travelled by train from London to Oxenholme, and took another to Windermere.

We arrived at noon and hired a taxi to nearby Grasmere. Brian Brook, our driver, whisked us away on a whirlwind Wordsworth tour. Since admission to literary locations closed at 5 pm, and we were leaving the next morning, he advised us to start with Dove Cottage.

Apparently, the simple home that Wordsworth had shared with his sister Dorothy, wife Mary, children and dog attracted busloads of tourists, but could only accommodate a small group at a time.

Before setting off, we left our bags at the overnight lodging arranged for us by the Britain Visitor Centre in London.

 The B&B (Bed and Breakfast), with its colourful garden, was one of several picturesque establishments that catered to the large influx of summer sightseers.  Indeed, Wordsworth’s ‘bliss of solitude’ was conspicuously absent.

People from around the world thronged the cosy dwelling, where the poet had lived at the turn of the nineteenth century. Maintained by the Wordsworth Trust, Dove Cottage retains pieces of original furniture and other relics.

Among the distinguished callers in the past was Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Brilliant in his own right, Coleridge did not seek to overshadow Wordsworth; neither did the gifted Dorothy. It was Wordsworth who attained renown in his lifetime.

Imposing Rydal Mount in Ambleside, where Wordsworth moved in 1813, reflects his immense success, which reached its peak in 1843 when he succeeded Robert Southey as Poet Laureate.

As we drank in the spectacular hillside view, Brian pointed out Lake Windermere where we planned to enjoy a cruise. The friendly caretaker at Rydal Mount explained that the stately residence, though open to the public, belonged to the ‘family’.

She meant Wordsworth’s descendants. William Wordsworth died in 1850, followed by Dorothy and Mary in less than a decade. The elderly Wordsworth, who had once held unorthodox views, was a regular worshipper at St Oswald’s Church in Grasmere, Cumbria, which has a monument to his memory.

Pretty cards, with his most popular poem printed against a backdrop of daffodils, are available. Visitors can help themselves, in exchange for any contribution they might make towards the maintenance of this still-functioning sanctuary.

Outside the church, in a spot he had chosen himself, Wordsworth lies buried in the company of his wife, sister and children.

The River Rothay flows past, and a later poet, William Watson, speaks of its ‘cool murmur lulling (Wordsworth’s) repose’.

Repose seems unlikely. Long regarded as a sacred site, St Oswald’s churchyard draws a hundred thousand poetic pilgrims each year!

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