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We have been out walking along the West Highland Way near Inversnaid today, and I was put in mind of this landscape’s many famous visitors. Because of its fine views and beautiful surroundings, this was a spot much beloved of the Victorians, and particularly of literary travellers to Scotland. William Wordsworth wrote “to a Highland Girl at Inversnaid” following his visit in 1803, but I much prefer the poem written by Gerard Manley Hopkins almost eighty years later. Finding himself on a prolonged stay in Glasgow in August 1881, Hopkins was keen to “see something of the Highlands” but found himself somewhat pressed for time: “I hurried to Loch Lomond,” he wrote in a letter to a friend, “the day was dark, and partly hid the lake, yet it did not altogether disfigure it, but gave a pensive or solemn beauty which left a deep impression on me.” His poem is dated September 28th, 1881:

Inversnaid

THIS darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fáwn-fróth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, féll-frówning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.

Degged with dew, dappled with dew
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

1838
print of Loch Lomond, from Inversnaid (1838)

18 thoughts on “Inversnaid

  1. Thanks for this wonderful blog. I like the poem, the wonderful picture and your view on nature, historical backgrounds of landscapes and of course, your designs. It’s so interesting to read about historical research and knitting. Thanks.

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  2. Thank you for the reminder about Gerard Manley Hopkins’ wonderful poems – this post sent me to the bookshelves and discovery of “pied beauty”.
    Living on the north shore (Vancouver area) and loving the trails here, yes indeed to wet and wildness…

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  3. You’ll be glad though that there wasn’t so much of the wildness and wet today – for the first time in weeks! A good day for a walk. Thanks for the poem.

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    1. Hopkins is also one of my favorite poets, but I wasn’t familiar with this one. Scotland is now at the top of my “Must Visit” list (it has lately edged out Italy).

      Thanks so much, Kate, for the views!

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  4. Dear Kate, Tom and Bruce…..thank you for sharing your talents and stunning beauty of your surroundings with us….to read a post from you makes our day…..we all gather round to share this joy!!!
    Julie

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  5. Hey Kate, What a wonderful poem. I haven’t read it since “English Poets” in college. The picture seems caught in time as it hasn’t changed to much. It is wonderful that you have such a beautiful place to enjoy right there at home. I’ll admit a bit of envy. There are places here in North Carolina that a great for hiking and just taking in the vast Mountain and Valleys. One must drive a bit to get there however. My Hubby and I were watching a Documentary about the building of Mountains. Our Mountains here in North Carolina, use to be your Mountains in Scotland. No wonder so many Scott’s fleeing injustice settled in the Mountains here…it was Literally part of their homeland.
    Love the new Felted Bangle Pattern. This is perfect for gifts and fun to make. I even thought about making a creamy pearl one, that once felted a bit of gold or silver thread, or both, could be used to add some interesting stitches and knots that would make it perfect for the Holidays. Any of the colours would be fantastic with various shinny threads added for sparkle and interest. Going to need to stock up on more Buachaille soon.
    I hope Ya’ll have a wonderful week ahead. Thanks so much for including us in a bit of your daily lives. Best to Tom and Bruce as well!

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  6. Oh, thank you for the picture and for Hopkins’s poem, which I hadn’t known. Long live the weeds and the wildness, indeed.

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  7. Thank you so very much for sharing your travels with us as well as your amazing knits and design journeys. What you bring is is a great deal more than knitting. It has opened my eyes to the connection in design between nature and the work of our hands, transmuting one type of beauty to another. Thank you again, and may your travels bring you and yours ever more inspiration and happiness!

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