In my foraging I discover that NW Leicestershire was once the centre for English cultural thought with Wordsworth, Scott, Constable and many more spending prolonged periods at Coleorton staying with George Beaumont – style arbiter and prime mover in starting the National Gallery – he being the first to donate his classical art collection and money to set it up.
As a poet, finding that Wordsworth decamped from the Lakes to live with his whole family for a year at Coleorton Hall’s farm and in fact read to Coleridge ‘The Prelude’ for the first time in full at Coleorton has sparked the juices. In studying the many poems written by Wordsworth at Coleorton and on his walks through the Leicestershire / Charnwood countryside I found references to Francis Beaumont – the playwright and friend to Johnson, Fletcher and Shakespeare. The Romantics revered and admired Beaumont’s plays, prose and poetry. Keats has a version of a Beaumont quote on his unnamed grave in Rome. Beaumont was born in Thringstone! By Grace Dieu Priory – even by Wordsworth’s time a ruin.
So my foraging will be mediated through and by the poetry and other writings of Wordsworth and Beaumont. A looking back to move forward. I will use walks and talks – forages – not seeking to simply document the area and people but to create new works. Moving back and forth in time and place, Wordsworth, Beaumont and others alongside – people from local communities connected to Snibston, both over and underground. The work will include the use of digital media, social networking, video, sound, and whatever else…..
Below is a poem written by Wordsworth at Coleorton – I find the last four lines particularly startling with their references to lost communities set against the context of my now commissioned work ‘Spoil Heap Harvest’ exploring the ex-mining communities of the area devastated in the aftermath of the great coal strike.
FOR A SEAT IN THE GROVES OF COLEORTON
BENEATH yon eastern ridge, the craggy bound,
Rugged and high, of Charnwood’s forest ground
Stand yet, but, Stranger! hidden from thy view,
The ivied Ruins of forlorn GRACE DIEU;
Erst a religious House, which day and night
With hymns resounded, and the chanted rite:
And when those rites had ceased, the Spot gave birth
To honourable Men of various worth:
There, on the margin of a streamlet wild,
Did Francis Beaumont sport, an eager child;
There, under shadow of the neighbouring rocks,
Sang youthful tales of shepherds and their flocks;
Unconscious prelude to heroic themes,
Heart-breaking tears, and melancholy dreams
Of slighted love, and scorn, and jealous rage,
With which his genius shook the buskined stage.
Communities are lost, and Empires die,
And things of holy use unhallowed lie;
They perish;–but the Intellect can raise,
From airy words alone, a Pile that ne’er decays.