Claife Station #poetry #Earthweal

On Windermere’s far shore
close to where the Cryer calls at night
you’ll find a place
invested with the spirit 
of a half-remembered history.
The walls are crumbling now, and
little of the roof remains;
gone are the stained-glass windows
through which visitors would wander
enchanted as the characters of Edgar Allan Poe
before they were concieved:
Red into yellow, purple, green and blue;
a colour for each room,
a change of season, mood and hue.
Light falls through the centuries,
the splendour falls on crumbling walls 
and lights here still. 
Here Wordsworth must have walked, so close to school
and maybe seen his Lucy dance:
Sylvan spirit
courting death the whole course
of her short life;
how soon run!
How soon the race of each and every one of us
is run and yet
our spirits haunt these near-forgotten places:
I sit with Wordsworth on a mossy stone above the lake
And I watch Lucy dance
through changing colours, seasons
shifting shafts of sun and moonlight
in and out of life.

About this poem

Written for earthweal weekly challenge: SPIRITS OF PLACE. Brendan has called for us to do the following: ‘In celebration of the ármaôr land-spirit of harvest, write of a land-spirit closest to you. They may reside in your house or under it; you may have an affinity for a tree or shore. Is that relation changing as the Earth warms? Is partnership and affinity with both the living and the dead? Whatever spirit you find, please may it be LOCAL. What does your poetic divining rod find in your back yard? Who knows? An entire cornucopia of earth-mythologies may pour from the wee folk we discover!’

Claife Station

I chose a place I discovered long ago whilst walking in the Lake District, in the County of my birth. Claife Station was a folly built in the 18th century on the shores of Lake Windermere. The windows used to be glazed in different colours to depict the changing seasons. Dances for the aristocracy were also once held here, which brought to mind Poe’s ‘Masque of the Red Death.’

I have always found the place a little haunted, and indeed there is a legend linked to this area, ‘The Crier of Claife.’ The woodland on the shore of Lake Windermere close to Claife Station is said to be haunted by the ghost of a monk who calls for a ferry to take him to the other shore after dark: any ferryman responding to the call would be driven mad and die only days later.

Wordsworth’s ‘Lucy’ Poems

I chose ghosts or land-spirits of a different kind: the poet William Wordsworth and his haunter-muse Lucy. Wordsworth wrote a series of five poems about a woman called Lucy who died young, leaving the poet lovelorn and desolate. These appear in the collection Lyrical Ballads in the following order:

‘Strange fits of passion I have known’
She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways
I travelled among Unknown Men
Three Years She Grew
A Slumber did my Spirit Seal

The final poem on the above list concludes as follows:

No motion has she now, no force;
She neither hears nor sees;
Rolled round in earth’s diurnal course,
With rocks, and stones, and trees.

I imagine this place haunted by her spirit, and that of the poet himself.

Lucy has not been conclusively identified, and it could be she only ever existed in the poet’s mind. Or perhaps she was Wordsworth’s first love who died unknown. I also make allusion in this poem to a line from Tennyson’s ‘The Splendour Falls on Castle Walls,’ whose opening lines seem most appropriate to the spirits of this place:

The splendour falls on castle walls
                And snowy summits old in story:
         The long light shakes across the lakes,
                And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

Photo by Maksim on Wikimedia Commons: CC-BY-SA-2.0

17 thoughts on “Claife Station #poetry #Earthweal

Add yours

  1. Thank you for the background notes, Ingrid, and for a haunting poem full of colour and light. I love places ‘invested with the spirit’; we have a few of them around Norfolk. I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting the Lake District, but it’s on my list of places to go. ‘Light falls through the centuries’ is a wonderful way of describing the relationship between past and present. My favourite lines:
    ‘I sit with Wordsworth on a mossy stone above the lake
    And I watch Lucy dance
    through changing colours, seasons
    shifting shafts of sun and moonlight
    in and out of life.’

  2. What a FEAST this was to read and contemplate. Bravo! The poem is wonderful. How lucky you are to have such an ancient site to visit, definitely the stuff of poems. Just wonderful! I enjoyed your notes as much as the poem!

    1. Thank you Sherry, I am so pleased you enjoyed it. This is my true home though I don’t live there anymore, it is good to revisit in my memory and poetry!

  3. Sherry, I absolutely loved your poem, tried to comment on your blog but the comment disappeared. I am haunted by the idea of rocks being imbued with a spirit that lasts so much longer than our lives. Have you seen Picnic at Hanging Rock? This movie makes much of that idea. The final lines of your poem were very profound and just perfect!

  4. I love how you blend your history into these treasured pieces of poetry you weave. It is always intruiging and educational for me and your story paints vivid pictures in my mind. In this case aw we’re getting close to halloween the hauntedness of the season! lovely Ingrid. ❤️ Cindy

  5. I do believe places can hold the spirits of those who have passed through them. You have captured well those passages that linger with the passing of time. But then time is elastic–and sometimes the veil between then and now is thin. This would seem to be one of those in-between locations. Even your words carry the feeling of being in a place outside of time. (K)

  6. Such a literate response to the challenge — some places resonate with what we’ve heard, what we’ve read and what we see. Like Wordsworth’s Tincturn Abbey. I love the folktable about the Crier of Claife. Haunted places mark the spot of ancient ritual, In my book. Wonderful work …

  7. What a beautifully idyllic place. Just looking at the photo and reading your poem I feel something of the spirit that must be so strong there. It looks so peaceful and so wrapped up in it’s own history. What a wonderful insight into the spirit of place.

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