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10 May 2020
SOMERSET’S CAPTIVATING COUNTRYSIDE CAN STIR THE EMOTIONS, AND HAS FED THE IMAGINATION OF SOME OF THIS COUNTRY’S MOST ESTEEMED ROMANTIC POETS. THE ROMANTIC MOVEMENT IN PARTICULAR OWES MUCH TO SOMERSET’S RUGGED MOORS AND ROLLING HILLS. IT WAS THE STUNNING LANDSCAPE OF THE QUANTOCK HILLS THAT INSPIRED COLERIDGE TO PRODUCE SOME OF HIS BEST-KNOWN WORK, AND WAS WHERE HE DEVELOPED FRIENDSHIPS WITH FELLOW ROMANTIC POETS.
SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE
Coleridge’s connection with Somerset began in August 1795, when he and his wife Sara spent their honeymoon in a cottage overlooking the sea in Clevedon.
In 1796 the couple
moved to Nether
Stowey, a small village
at the foot of the
Quantock Hills, thanks
to the local tanner
who gave them a rent-
free cottage and paid
off their debts. Coleridge referred to this damp
and mouse-ridden cottage as ‘the hovel’ but nevertheless spent many happy years here reading, composing, cultivating the large vegetable garden and taking long walks in the countryside, often with Wordsworth and Wordsworth’s sister Dorothy.
During this time, Coleridge wrote some of his
most famous poems, including Frost at Midnight and This Lime-tree Bower My Prison. Coleridge’s masterpiece, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, inspired by a neighbour’s nightmare about a spectre ship, features the local port of Watchet. The ancient mariner sets out on his voyage from the harbour, and returns there to tell his woeful tale.
In 1797, Coleridge was inspired to write Kubla Khan after walking from Porlock to the tiny church at
Culbone. Tradition has it that the poem came to him in an opium-induced dream while staying at nearby Ash Farm.
On waking he managed to remember and write down half of the poem before being interrupted by ‘a person on business from Porlock’. Coleridge was believed to have drawn on the mystical atmosphere of Culbone Church, possibly 1000 years old and the smallest church in England, for his images of Kubla Khan’s ‘Xanadu’.
It has also been surmised that the poem’s ‘caverns measureless to man’ were Cheddar Gorge, which Coleridge had visited.
For more on Somerset's incredible history and heritage go to our interactive E Book.
No.27 Somerset Fascinating Facts - Coleridge’s connection with Somerset began in August 1795, when he and his wife Sara spent their honeymoon in a cottage overlooking the sea in Clevedon.