The Kendal and Windermere Railway was first proposed in 1844, and opened in 1847. William Wordsworth (1770-1850) opposed the building of the railway, believing it would destroy the beauty of the Lake District, and in addition to various letters to the Morning Post, he penned this sonnet, using poetry to put across the nature of his objections. In doing so, he became one of the first high-profile poets to write about the arrival of the railways – though admittedly, he is writing about the land before the railway was built. Nonetheless, Wordsworth’s impassioned plea shows poetry and the railways beginning an uneasy coexistence.
On the Projected Kendal and Windermere Railway
Is then no nook of English ground secure
From rash assault? Schemes of retirement sown
In youth, and ’mid the busy world kept pure
As when their earliest flowers of hope were blown,
Must perish; – how can they this blight endure? Read the rest of this entry
According to Thomas de Quincey, William Wordsworth (1770-1850) clocked up an estimated 180,000 miles during his lifetime, walking around his beloved Lake District (to say nothing of the Quantocks, where he lived near Coleridge during the 1790s). In this sonnet, ‘Sweet Was the Walk’, Wordsworth recalls a walk he took along a narrow lane at noon, and reflects on how the intervening years between childhood and adulthood have changed his view of the scene as he remembers it.
Sweet was the walk along the narrow lane
At noon, the bank and hedge-rows all the way
Shagged with wild pale green tufts of fragrant hay,
Caught by the hawthorns from the loaded wain,
Which Age with many a slow stoop strove to gain; Read the rest of this entry
Philip Larkin once recalled hearing William Wordsworth’s poem ‘Ode: Intimations of Immortality’ recited on BBC radio, and having to pull over to the side of the road, as his eyes had filled with tears. ‘Intimations of Immortality’ remains a powerful meditation on death, the loss of childhood innocence, and the way we tend to get further away from ourselves – our true roots and our beliefs – as we grow older.
Ode: Intimations of Immortality
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
(Wordsworth, ‘My Heart Leaps Up’)