If you are wondering what the connection is between the famous Lakes poet, two images of a harbour and the poem below, continue reading.
It would be many years after we studied Wordsworth for O-level Eng Lit that I found that the famous poet used to wander around this harbour as a boy where his father was Collector of Customs, Legal Agent for Sir James Lowther, First Earl of Lonsdale, and Recorder for Cockermouth where the family lived. Sir James had already had several pits sunk in the area before the poet was born, much of the coal being exported to Ireland, Whitehaven being a major port by the time the poet was born.
In the poet's day the harbour would have been mainly black, how I remember it from my childhood, while the hill behind stayed green, without both its later buildings and the landmark on the horizon, still known to the locals as the Candlestick Chimney, the boiler house chimney for the Wellington Pit. Its shaft was sunk in 1838, the pit closing in 1932 but it is mainly remembered for being the site of Cumbria's worst mine disaster in May 1910 when 136 men and boys were killed.
When I decided to have a go at writing a poem for a competition commemorating this anniversary of the poet's birth, I was drawn to the parallels between his and my life events and the consolations that shaped our characters: as he put it, 'The child is father of the man' thus pre-empting Freud by some considerable time. Comparable life events, though not of comparable magnitude: okay, between the ages of three and seven I hardly saw my father but he got back whereas the poet's mother died when he was seven, his father when he was thirteen, and three of his children predeceased him.
As for my attempt at iambic pentameter, well...never again. How did Shakespeare manage such flowing lines in such quantity? The poem got nowhere but I'm glad I tried.
Images © Paul Martin 2007
It's almost two years since I published In Our Fathers' Footsteps (see under BOOKS). My latest book, One Dog and His Cop, about my cousin's police dog,was published 30 November this year (see under BOOKS).