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     Volume 4 Issue 64 | September 23, 2005 |

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In the Lake District

Beauty, Bliss and Solitude

Azizul Jalil

It was a hundred and fifty mile journey by car from Loch Lomond in Scotland to Lake Windermere in Cumbria, England. After we drove through the highway beside urban areas, the last thirty miles was through winding and narrow tree covered country roads, with smaller lakes and hills dotting the landscape. It was a beautiful and romantic journey, which you wished would not end. We did not have to wonder any more why many poets and artists found the area so inspiring. In the evening, we arrived at the doorstep of a hundred year old stone cottage, which was the guesthouse we had selected to stay.

The Lake District provides a wonderful panorama of water and mountain. The Lake District National Park encompasses about 900 square miles of the most diverse scenery in Britain. Bustling market towns contrast with the solitude of the lonely mountains and ancient forests. Placid lakes are overshadowed by majestic mountains, which rise sheer from the waterside, while racing streams thread the landscape. Many famous literary figures made their homes in the Lake District including Matthew Arnold, John Ruskin and poets -- Wordsworth, Coleridge and Shelley. Windermere, the largest lake in England and Wordsworth's house at Grasmere were only a few miles from where we stayed. These were our main attractions.

We were served an enormous hot breakfast next morning. Brian, the owner of the house made it clear to us that we were having a full "English Breakfast" (as opposed to Scottish), for which the English were well known! Since we were walking around and the clean and fresh air gave us a good appetite, we were able to eat a lunch but a very small one. We walked down to the promenade and the steamer piers at Bowness Bay. The scene was like a fine impressionistic painting on a giant canvas, composed of the calm lake in front, the mountain on the other side, flowers all over, ducks floating playfully in water and a good number of boats with many colourful sails. The small shops selling souvenirs and handicrafts were an inevitable attraction to our wives. Windermere, a ten-mile long lake, lies in a valley. It was formed by glaciers during the Ice Age. We went to Ambleside by a steamer filled with the tourists in the high summer season. The distinctive peaks of the Langdale Pikes stood out dramatically across the water, dominating the landscape. At Ambleside, a restored steam train on a steeply graded railway took us through picturesque Lakeland scenery and wild flowers for a 3.5 miles ride. We returned by steamer to Bowness after feasting our eyes with the quiet beauty of the lake. It was indeed an unforgettable experience.

The next morning we visited the village of Grasmere, which nestles at the foot of the hills on the far side of the Grasmere Lake. It was a thirty-minute bus ride from the Windermere railway station. The lake, one of the prettiest in the Lake District, and its surroundings were a constant source of inspiration to William Wordsworth, regarded by many as the nature poet and the sage of Grasmere. He lived there for nine years and wrote some of his famous poems. Grasmere is a beautiful old village, which remains in pristine condition. Because of its association with Wordsworth, it has become a place of pilgrimage for poetry lovers from all over the world.

Our first stop as we walked the narrow cobbled footpaths of the village was Wordsworth's grave. There at one end of the graveyard he and his wife Mary and sister Dorothy, who lived with them, were buried. It was a simple grave with an ordinary tombstone, which gave Wordsworth's year of birth in1770 and death in 1850. We next visited the Dove Cottage, Wordsworth's home. It was a small stone cottage with some of the walls papered with the pages of the London Times newspaper, apparently for insulation. His own and his sister's bedrooms and a small study with fireplace were upstairs. Wordsworth would compose his beautiful verses sitting at a small wooden desk in his study or writing on his lap while sitting in a chair in the living room downstairs. Wordsworth and his sister put a lot of work in the garden and orchard surrounding the house. Amongst the poems he composed while at the Dove Cottage was the Daffodils written in 1804, considered by many as the best of his lyrics: "They flash upon that inward eye, which is the bliss of solitude; and then my heart with pleasure fills, and dances with the daffodils."

Many famous people visited Wordsworth at his house and some stayed with him. Among them were Walter Scott, Robert Southey and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Wordsworth lived on a modest but steady income as the Distributor of Stamps for the region and from the sale of his books of poetry. He received a small annual allowance from1843, when he was appointed the Poet Laureate of England.

Close to his house is a Museum, opened in 1891. It has many portraits of Wordsworth in oil and of a few other dignitaries. It also has a great collection of manuscripts, books and paintings relating to British Romanticism.

We came back from the Lake District with a deep appreciation of nature's beauty, bliss and solitude and a feeling of nostalgia for the place.

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