Staubbach Falls

Welcome back to the Richmond Read-along! Today we’re reading a poem by William Wordsworth, to celebrate the 250th anniversary of his birth. Many people are familiar with Wordsworth’s famous poems, particularly “Daffodils.” Many of Wordsworth’s poems celebrated nature and his enjoyment of it, as well as his many travels. The piece we’re reading today is no exception. It’s a short piece about Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, an idyllic village set high in the Alps. As well as being a stunning spot of natural beauty, nestled between snow-tipped, cloud-covered mountains, Lauterbrunnen was also Tolkien’s inspiration for the elf town of Rivendell in the Lord of the Rings.

Wordsworth’s poem was inspired by the singing of a group of women near one of Lauterbrunnen’s many spectacular waterfalls. It is titled, appropriately enough, “On Approaching the Staub-Bach, Lauterbrunnen:”

“Uttered by whom, or how inspired,—designed
For what strange service, does this concert reach
Our ears, and near the dwellings of mankind!
Mid fields familiarized to human speech?
No mermaids warble—to allay the wind
Driving some vessel toward a dangerous beach,—
More thrilling melodies; witch answering witch,
To chant a love-spell, never intertwined
Notes shrill and wild with art more musical:
Alas! that from the lips of abject want
Or idleness in tatters mendicant
The strain should flow,—free fancy to enthral,
And with regret and useless pity haunt
This bold, this bright, this sky-born waterfall!”

You can find this poem on Poetry Atlas, a website dedicated to mapping the world in poetry. You can find information about Wordsworth and other relevant content on the blog of the Wordsworth Trust.

Join us again tomorrow for the next Richmond Read-along!