I knew the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge lived in Somerset, and we’ve visited his home in Nether Stowey; we visited no end of times before we found it open. It is a tiny seventeenth century cottage and was Coleridge’s home for three years, from 1797 to 1800. Here he wrote some of his most famous, and perhaps most brilliant poems, such as The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Kubla Khan, Frost at Midnight and Cristabel.
What I didn’t realise, even though I studied Coleridge throughout my school and college days, was that he was also a lay preacher; at some time during his stay in Somerset, he must have come into Bridgwater from his home in Nether Stowey, and preached at this Unitarian chapel on Dampier Street.
One of my favourite verse forms is the sonnet, and here is a sonnet written in Somerset, about another place I know well, Brockley Combe, spelt Coomb by Coleridge; he wrote this poem in 1785, before he was living near Bridgwater:
With many a pause and oft reverted eye
I climb the Coomb’s ascent: sweet songsters near
Warble in shade their wild-wood melody:
Far off the unvarying Cuckoo soothes my ear.
Up scour the startling stragglers of the flock
That on green plots o’er precipices browze:
From the deep fissures of the naked rock
The Yew-tree bursts! Beneath its dark green boughs
(Mid which the May-thorn blends its blossoms white)
Where broad smooth stones jut out in mossy seats,
I rest: – and now have gain’d the topmost site.
Ah! what a luxury of landscape meets
My gaze! Proud towers, and Cots more dear to me,
Elm-shadow’d Fields, and prospect-bounding Sea!
Deep sighs my lonely heart: I drop the tear:
Enchanting spot! O were my Sara here!
An interesting article about Coleridge in Somerset: