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A painting of english lakes

Following the Steps of the Lake Poets (a Return to Nature)


Three Romantic poets for whom true poetry is codified in nature and its generous simplicity.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
         That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
         When all at once I saw a crowd,
         A host, of golden daffodils;
         Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
         Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
William Wordsworth

Known by some critics as the Lake Poets, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey represent the first generation of English romantic poets. They were a group of artists who established the ideological foundation that would guide English Romanticism in its early stages. United by their friendship and their stance in art and politics (they were in favor of the French Revolution, among other things), they were called the “Lake Poets” because they coincided at a specific geographic site: the Lake District, in northwest England.

The English Romantic movement, as in other European countries, was initially characterized for instilling great importance to feelings and subjectivity. This is due, among other factors, to the Industrial Revolution, which forced thousands of farmers to migrate to cities, work in factories and become machines living in misery. The Romantics broke with this by proclaiming their unconditional love of freedom and nature, which for this specific group of poets was a source of inspiration and a way to come into contact with the sublime.

the english countryside

William Wordsworth, who for years lived in the Lake District, used to take long walks around the lakes, accompanied by his daughter Dorothy or his friends; Coleridge among them. For his part, Southey had a home in the same region, a place chosen by these poets because it was far from industrialized England. Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal entries described the routes they would take and the hours they spent on those excursions. The entries also indicate that while he walked amidst lakes and verdant scenery, William Wordsworth composed his poems to the beat of his steps, and used his body rhythm to count the metric of his verses.

The lakes were a crucial part of the English mythology from the Arthurian times, and therefore a perfect setting for them to use as a mirror for the wisdom of the universe, and became, to a certain extent, proto-ecologists (they openly opposed harm to the environment caused by industrialization). Wordsworth’s excursion routes are recorded in detail, to the extent that it is now possible to trace the same steps he took while forging some of the must important verses in English literature.


Image credits:

1. An illustration to A Picturesque Tour of the English Lakes, Fielding and Walton, 1821.

2. Rydal Mount and its gardens, originally designed by the poet William Wordsworth.

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