Sunday 14 September 2014

Coleridge woz 'ere

 Coleridge Cottage, Nether

In Nether Stowey, visiting Coleridge's cottage. Coleridge lived here for two years. In that time he produced all his best work. There's a vial of laudanum on the shelf of his writing room. Out of the bottle swim sacred rivers, ectoplasmic ancient mariners and damsels bright. It feels like the scene in Indiana Jones when the Ark is opened and the winds of spirit are released, the holy and the unholy.

I wander on, beams above, flags underfoot. Here he ate, here he slept and made love. My thoughts fall into rhyme and metre. Invited to scratch an 'I woz here' note with a quill: clumsy, bleeding words.

In the garden I ate his blackberries, his bitter apples. Southey appeared over the garden wall. Coleridge looked into the eyes of Southey over the garden wall.

The well has a cool, plinky magic. A brick-lined tunnel with the mystery of lakes; what lies in the depths? Gibbet-like with its winding rope; death by letting down, not hoisting up.

There is a cafeteria. People are public-eating, slow-buttering scones, pouring tea with fingers on the lid, saying that things are 'nice' or 'lovely'.

I leave the cottage and walk his walk, hear his stream, see in his colours. Pass Walford's Gibbet in the high corner of a sloping field. Here a man hung for the murder of his wife. A dying place; his last moments were these, this field, these birds, this air, and thousands gathered to watch. Why? It was eight years before the time of Coleridge. Would he have watched? Would he have written about it?

Eat under a crooked tree among the heather, fern and gorse. Through woods to Bin Combe. Here he wrote 'Nature! Sweet Nurse! O take me in thy lap - And tell me of my Father.'

A poet's mind bathes in the juice of poppies, the milk of paradise. Beware, beware, his flashing eyes, his floating hair. There's danger in the depths of wells.

Or sip tea, visit the National Trust gift shop, stay safe where this is 'nice' and that is 'lovely'.

1 comment:

  1. I've often thought of visiting - it's not too far - and after reading your post I know I must.