William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth (April 7, 1770 – April 23, 1850) was a major English romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped launch the Romantic Age in English literature with their 1798 joint publication, Lyrical Ballads.

Wordsworth's masterpiece is generally considered to be The Prelude, an autobiographical poem of his early years which the poet revised and expanded a number of times. The work was posthumously titled and published, prior to which it was generally known as the poem "to Coleridge".

Wordsworth was England's Poet Laureate from 1843 until his death in 1850.

Wordsworth was a frequent visitor to Whitehaven, on his 65th birthday, he wrote to his son, who was a rector at Moresby, and explained to him how he penned his Poem about the town:
The lines were composed on the road between Moresby and Whitehaven while I was on a visit to my son, then rector of the former place. This and some other Voluntaries originated in the concluding lines of the last paragraph of this poem. With this coast I have been familiar from my earliest childhood, and remember being struck for the first time by the town and port of Whitehaven, and the white waves breaking against its quays and piers, as the whole came into view from the top of the high ground down which the road (it has since been altered) then descended abruptly. My sister, when she first heard the voice of the sea from this point, and beheld the scene spread before her, burst into tears. Our family then lived at Cockermouth, and this fact was often mentioned among us as indicating the sensibility for which she was so remarkable.


The Sun, that seemed so mildly to retire,

Flung back from distant climes a streaming fire,

Whose blaze is now subdued to tender gleams,

Prelude of night's approach with soothing dreams.

Look round;--of all the clouds not one is moving;

'Tis the still hour of thinking, feeling, loving.

Silent, and stedfast as the vaulted sky,

The boundless plain of waters seems to lie:--

Comes that low sound from breezes rustling o'er

The grass-crowned headland that conceals the shore?

No; 'tis the earth-voice of the mighty sea,

Whispering how meek and gentle he 'can' be!

Thou Power supreme! who, arming to rebuke

Offenders, dost put off the gracious look,

And clothe thyself with terrors like the flood

Of ocean roused into its fiercest mood,

Whatever discipline thy Will ordain

For the brief course that must for me remain;

Teach me with quick-eared spirit to rejoice

In admonitions of thy softest voice!

Whate'er the path these mortal feet may trace,

Breathe through my soul the blessing of thy grace,

Glad, through a perfect love, a faith sincere

Drawn from the wisdom that begins with fear,

Glad to expand; and, for a season, free

From finite cares, to rest absorbed in Thee!

Easter Sunday, April 7, 1833.

William Wordsworth
William Wordsworth


Whitehaven had been small harbour and fishing village from 13th century or earlier. Expansion began in mid-17th century with building of piers by Lowthers 1632-4 and 1679-81 and granting of market charter 1660. By the 1680s it had grown rapidly, expanding from village of c.30 households in early 17th century to a town of over 1,000 inhabitants by 1685, which more than doubled to 2,281 by 1696. Sir John Lowther had laid out grid of streets by 1680s, making Whitehaven the earliest planned new town in post-medieval Britain.

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