A poetic history – Wordsworth on Kilchurn

With thanks to a recent and very welcome guest (Rachel), we have belatedly discovered that the great poet (and poet laureate 1843-50) William Wordsworth wrote a fabulous poem about Kilchurn Castle which is reproduced below:


          CHILD of loud-throated War! the mountain Stream
          Roars in thy hearing; but thy hour of rest
          Is come, and thou art silent in thy age;
          Save when the wind sweeps by and sounds are caught
          Ambiguous, neither wholly thine nor theirs.
          Oh! there is life that breathes not; Powers there are
          That touch each other to the quick in modes
          Which the gross world no sense hath to perceive,
          No soul to dream of. What art Thou, from care
          Cast off--abandoned by thy rugged Sire,                     10
          Nor by soft Peace adopted; though, in place
          And in dimension, such that thou might'st seem
          But a mere footstool to yon sovereign Lord,
          Huge Cruachan, (a thing that meaner hills
          Might crush, nor know that it had suffered harm;)
          Yet he, not loth, in favour of thy claims
          To reverence, suspends his own; submitting
          All that the God of Nature hath conferred,
          All that he holds in common with the stars,
          To the memorial majesty of Time                             20
          Impersonated in thy calm decay!
          Take, then, thy seat, Vicegerent unreproved!
          Now, while a farewell gleam of evening light
          Is fondly lingering on thy shattered front,
          Do thou, in turn, be paramount; and rule
          Over the pomp and beauty of a scene
          Whose mountains, torrents, lake, and woods, unite
          To pay thee homage; and with these are joined,
          In willing admiration and respect,
          Two Hearts, which in thy presence might be called           30
          Youthful as Spring.--Shade of departed Power,
          Skeleton of unfleshed humanity,
          The chronicle were welcome that should call
          Into the compass of distinct regard
          The toils and struggles of thy infant years!
          Yon foaming flood seems motionless as ice;
          Its dizzy turbulence eludes the eye,
          Frozen by distance; so, majestic Pile,
          To the perception of this Age, appear
          Thy fierce beginnings, softened and subdued                 40
          And quieted in character--the strife,
          The pride, the fury uncontrollable,
          Lost on the aerial heights of the Crusades!

In August and September 1803 Wordsworth, his sister Dorothy and their mutual friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge (he of Rime of the Ancient Mariner fame) embarked on their own grand tour of Scotland – mirroring the lexicographer and essayist Samuel Johnson’s A Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland, conducted some 27 years earlier.  Whilst William Wordsworth wrote the above poem, Dorothy kept an illuminating journal which was published 25 years after her death.  It is worth reading the entries from 31st August 1803 and 1st September 1803 for a little historical perspective on the experiences of being a tourist in the area!

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