Saturday, May 06, 2006

"Sonnet: To the River Otter"

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born on October 21, 1772 in the village of Ottery St. Mary in the beautiful Otter Valley. The village is located right on the River Otter, about 6 miles from the Jurassic Coast of East Devon and Dorset. He was the youngest of 10 children but rather than being coddled and cared for as the youngest often are, young Samuel was bullied terribly by his brother Frank and found little comfort in his parents. So despondent that he ran away when he was only 7, his life turned inward until he was packed off to a charity school in London after his father died. "Sonnet: To the River Otter" is perhaps Coleridge's most wistful look back at his childhood, reflecting both the serene beauty of the River itself as well as the melancholy rembrances of his playful innocence along its banks.

The lovely painting (above left) is by Alan Cotton, one of South West England's most talented and accomplished artists.

Sonnet: To the River Otter
(by Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

Dear native brook! wild streamlet of the West!
How many various-fated years have passed,
What happy and what mournful hours, since last
I skimmed the smooth thin stone along thy breast,
Numbering its light leaps! Yet so deep impressed
Sink the sweet scenes of childhood, that mine eyes
I never shut amid the sunny ray,
But straight with all their tints thy waters rise,
Thy crossing plank, thy marge with willows grey,
And bedded sand that, veined with various dyes,
Gleamed through thy bright transparence! On my way,
Visions of childhood! oft have ye beguiled
Lone manhood's cares, yet waking fondest sighs:
Ah! that once more I were a careless child!