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Weatherwatch: autumn in Borrowdale, in the words of Coleridge


The romantic poet found Borrowdale in the rain a marvel of light and colour

It is drizzling rain, the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote in his notebook on a Friday morning, 21 October 1803, in the Lake District. “Heavy masses of shapeless vapour upon the mountains (O, the perpetual forms of Borrowdale!) yet it is no unbroken tale of dull sadness. Slanting pillars travel across the lake at long intervals, the vaporous mass whitens in large stains of light – on the lakeward ridge of that huge arm-chair of Lodore, fell a gleam of softest light, that brought out the rich hues of the late autumn. The woody Castle Crag between me and Lodore is a rich flower-garden of colours – the brightest yellows with the deepest crimsons, and the infinite shades of brown and green, the infinite diversity of which blends the whole, so that the brighter colours seem to be colours upon a ground, not coloured things,” he notes, in Coleridge: Complete Verse, Select Prose and Letters, edited by Stephen Potter for the Nonesuch Library 1950. He delights in the “little woolpacks of white bright vapour” that rest on the summits and declivities. “Through the wall of mist, you can see into a bower of sunny light, in Borrowdale; the birds are singing in the tender rain, as if it were the rain of April, and the decaying foliage were flowers and blossoms.”

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