While the Romantic Poets celebrated the beauty of nature in all its incarnations, there is perhaps no single place more evocative of their works than the English Lake District. And there is no more perfect a location to explore their writings than in the Lakeland where so many of them not only lived but sought inspiration. So it is here, in the idyllic village of Grasmere, that we base ourselves for a week, making the surrounding hills and valleys our classroom, the peaks and vistas our pilgrimage, as we nourish our poetic spirits with the revered texts and exalted passages that have inspired generations.
We begin with William Wordsworth, a native of the Lake District, whose long-time home, Dove Cottage, is just a short stroll from our hotel. We travel to his birthplace in Cockermouth which affords us the very views of Wordsworth’s childhood and provides insight to the influence the natural world surely had upon his formative years. Later, a visit to his grammar school in the picturesque village of Hawkshead provides the perfect setting to enjoy his Two-Part Prelude. A seminar evening takes us inside his beloved Dove Cottage for a discussion of his most celebrated works in the very room where many of them were written. We explore The Solitary Reaper, Rob Roy’s Grave, and Lyrical Ballads, including of course, Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey surrounded by the very walls where Wordsworth lived and wrote. We touch as well upon the writings of his dear sister and long-time companion, Dorothy, who lovingly chronicled their life in the lakes. Wordsworth devotees will also wish to pay a visit to his humble grave site in the graveyard of St. Oswald’s Church at the center of this quintessential English village.
We move next to the musical and rhythmic works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Wordsworth’s life-long friend, collaborator, and confidant who made his home in the nearby town of Keswick. Our visit there provides the opportunity to explore his most revered work, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, as well as Christabel, noted for its uniquely metered verse, and Frost at Midnight, one of his early dramatic lyrics. A day-trip takes us north across the Scottish boarder to visit the village of Ayr, memorialized as the birthplace of the great Scottish poet Robert Burns, and the town of Dumfries, where he later called home. We stop at Auld Kirk where we pay homage to perhaps his most famous work Tam o’Shanter, which provides us inspiration for the journey and makes the visit to his homeland all the more poignant.
Our week is punctuated by invigorating hikes to famous Lakeland summits and natural landmarks. An afternoon journey takes us to Aria Force Waterfall, a site of great beauty and source of inspiration for Wordsworth’s I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud. The most thrilling of our climbs brings us to the peak of Helvellyn, across its celebrated Striding Edge, and back down past the banks of Red Tarn. Each of these journeys reward us with unequaled views of the surrounding valleys. For those who don’t crave quite as much adventure, less challenging walks are also offered.
Of course no study of the Romantics would be complete without visiting the works of Lord Byron; so before our sojourn comes to a close we do just that. Our final evening together is a celebration of his best-know ballads including his lyrical piece When We Two Parted and his narrative poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.
Along the way, we are guided by the uplifting tutelage of Professor Adam Potkay, a noted expert on the Romantics, as he illuminates for us the vivid and celebratory verse that bursts from the pages. Following his lead we pass our sojourn wandering among the very fells and valleys that inspired the Romantics. We devour their works and call upon the muses to provide us just a touch of the inspiration they once were granted. We wander through picture-perfect English villages, stroll over babbling brooks, picnic in fields of daffodils, and hike to perches that provide breathtaking views as we read the passages they inspired. Here, surrounded by some of the most stunning scenery on Earth, we come forth into the light of English countryside, allow nature to instruct us and the sun to be our guide, as we spend a glorious week immersed in the poetry of the great Romantics.