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:
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!’
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:
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.