Mud from Coleridge’s Garden

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The Ancient Mariner, at Watchet harbour, where the poem unfolded in Coleridge’s mind. The rope is particularly powerful.

 

On our Somerset holiday, we visited Coleridge Cottage.  I was not expecting to be so overcome by the place.  Each room was full of connections to his life and work.  Each room echoed with the poems – they flowed across the walls, they came out of the earphones by easy chairs, they whispered to me out of the leaves of books.  To be in the room where he wrote Frost at Midnight  and to sit in the Lime Tree Bower  were deeply moving experiences.  I still remember my marvelous English teacher, Miss Rowlat, talking to us about the Lyrical Ballads, with its paradigm shift of a Prologue, and then to be in the place where Coleridge and Wordsworth met and talked and where these ideas came into being – was beyond words. The Ancient Mariner found voice here, too.  So much wonder in one small, simple cottage. It is not often that I am left speechless.  I was here.

Mud from Coleridge’s Garden

I picked up my muddy shoe –
an unfamiliar pale grey clay,
a leaf stuck to the instep –
and slipped my hand inside
like a glove
as I looked for a cloth

and then I stopped.
It was that leaf,
I remembered the shape –
a jasmine leaf from
the Lime Tree Bower
where I had sat speechless
as I listened to that poem
so full of leaves,

and the pale grey clay
from the damp paths,
from that grassy space
so full of ordinary beauty
it filled me, too,
despite my already full heart.

I walk with muddy shoes now,
each day,
hoping to be rooted to that same earth,
leaving a sprinkling of
Coleridge’s garden
in this lighter, sandier soil.

 

 

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