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In a note dictated to his friend Isabella Fenwick in 1843, Wordsworth remarked:
This poem was suggested on the banks of the brook that runs through Easedale, which is in some parts of its course as wide & beautiful as brook can be. I have composed thousands of verses by the side of it.1
The “brook” mentioned by Wordsworth is “Easedale Beck” (streams are often called “becks” in north England), which runs through Easedale “glen” (or valley) to the west of Grasmere village. In the poem, Wordsworth comes upon a small shaded hollow—or “dell”—formed by the stream as it rushes noisily over a large rock. He closes the poem by dedicating the dell to his sister Dorothy, whom he refers to as “Emma.” A navigable video leads you to the hollow that we believe corresponds to “Emma’s Dell,” allowing you to “follow” Wordsworth’s opening approach to the place.
1from Lyrical Ballads, and Other Poems, 1797-1800 in The Cornell Wordsworth, eds. James Butler and Karen Green (1992).
Poems on the Naming of Places:
I. (Emma’s Dell)
It was an April Morning: fresh and clear
The Rivulet, delighting in its strength,
Ran with a young man’s speed, and yet the voice
Of waters which the winter had supplied
Was soften’d down into a vernal tone.
The spirit of enjoyment and desire,
And hopes and wishes, from all living things
Went circling, like a multitude of sounds.
The budding groves appear’d as if in haste
To spur the steps of June; as if their shades 10
Of various green were hindrances that stood
Between them and their object: yet, meanwhile,
There was such deep contentment in the air
That every naked ash, and tardy tree
Yet leafless, seem’d as though the countenance
With which it look’d on this delightful day
Were native to the summer.—Up the brook
I roam’d in the confusion of my heart,
Alive to all things and forgetting all.
At length I to a sudden turning came 20
In this continuous glen, where down a rock
The stream, so ardent in its course before,
Sent forth such sallies of glad sound, that all
Which I till then had heard, appear’d the voice
Of common pleasure: […]