From 4-7 February, 6.2 English students studying Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads (1798) visited Somerset, Bristol and the Wye Valley. We explored a number of sites that were important to the early Romantic poets and that were depicted throughout their poetry, and learnt about the poems’ historical and contemporary critical reception.
Below is our poetic response to the trip, which draws on the various forms and meters experimented with by Wordsworth and Coleridge. There is no “gaudiness and inane phraseology” as seen in many “modern writers” though, as Wordsworth continued, to say:
“Readers of superior judgement may disapprove of the style in which many of these pieces are executed; it must be expected that many lines and phrases will not exactly suit their taste. It will perhaps appear to them, that wishing to avoid the prevalent fault of the day, the author has sometimes descended too low, and that many of his expressions are too familiar, and not of sufficient dignity. It is apprehended that the more conversant the reader is with our elder writers, and with those in modern times who have been the most successful in painting manners and passions, the fewer complaints of this kind will he have to make.”
By Ed’s English Set, with thanks to Ed Mason and Clare Lock for an incredible trip!
A Romantic Road Trip
How to begin? What a wonder:
We rose with the dawn one Friday morn
And headed to Kilve’s shore;
Taking in Somerset’s landscape and croissants
on our Bedales bus to the rumbling of its core.
On the beach we contemplated Wordsworth’s
‘Anecdote for Fathers’, found fossils,
And maxed out on photographs
The rock formations afforded us.
To Watchet, to its harbour, to its sculpture
Of Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner
To coffee, cake and reading
‘Kubla Khan’ and ‘The Lime Tree Bower’.
Then arriving in Wells, the smallest city in the land,
The Good Earth provided us lunch and warmth of conversation
We met Agnes in her eighties
She is full of energy
Conversation turned to Bedales and she recognises the name
She mentions ‘riotous’ behaviour whilst chuckling into her soup.
Upon leaving we’re told to ensure we see ‘Quarter Jack’
Who, in Wells Cathedral, in his glorious mechanisation kicks
A chime from the bells each quarter hour.
Food filled, we ventured a cavern of vast size
The Wookey Hole.
Tracking the neoclassical footsteps of Alexander Pope,
the group entered an ancient Jurassic world guided by a Wookey enthusiast,
special effects enhanced tales of witches, Celts and cheeses
then out through a mirror maze and Victorian penny games
and away from the Bizarre.
Down the rained cobbles of the most complete medieval street in Europe,
In Wells. We entered the rib cage of the Cathedral
Following its high white bones arching upwards
To prettily painted veins of decoration,
Hearing the high notes of Wells choir rehearsing
For Handal’s Messiah in some hidden chamber.
Upon the hour, in the vestry we witnessed
Jack’s musical movement in all its glory
Thanking Agnes quietly.
Travelodge and shower
went another hour.
Out for food to be filled again!
Then Tesco for face masks and ice cream
Bed time. Sweet dreams.
We rose with the rain
Bus and breakfasted again.
To Tintern and its rustic ruin
Dancing in the rain drops
We frolicked among its
And tried to recreate Turner’s perspective
And Wordsworth’s words
‘with an eye made quiet by the power of harmony and the deep power of joy
We see into the life of things.’
Tintern Abbey to Clifton’s cave
Limboing we descended down a rocky oesophagus
To a viewing platform made from the cave’s mouth
Looking out toward the suspension bridge-
Sending us whistled complaints in the wind.
And there we read of how Coleridge struggled to define
the difference betwixt beautiful, picturesque and sublime.
Bristol – a tapas bar
Hummus, chicken, pesto, carrot and coriander
A market selling silver from Northern India
The seller selling Bristol
For the beauty of its people.
We regrouped at the Arnofini Gallery
Watched John Akomfrah’s ‘Vertigo’ which showed
Humanity’s repeated history of atrocity
Aiming to encourage our sympathy.
A brisk walk in the rain to food
Quinoa and avocados-
Eating al-fresco in Nando’s,
To a show at the Wardrobe theatre-
‘The hours before we wake’ Prophetic and amusing;
A pill for dreaming in the 22nd century.
Bus, bed and lie-in until 9:30. Luxury.
We rose with the bright sky
Then drove into Glastonbury
And headed up the tor, losing ourselves in the breeze
Thinking of ‘these hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows little lines
Of sportive wood run wild: these pastoral farms,
Green to the very door.’
Somerset and more.
Then to the last
Stonehenge. our final pilgrimage
paying homage to the scene where Tess lay,
the stones of ceremony and great debate.
Those stones which seem to defy man’s possibility
On nature’s wind-wild verdant vast plateau.
Shuttling back to the Bedales bus,
we beetled home under one grey sky
on roads where two great Romantics roamed
along the Valley of the Wye.