GBMD - Lodore Falls

I'm publishing my Muse Day piece without a photograph (though the Lodore link below will take you to some fine ones) because my poem is designed as a picture in its own right. I love the onomatopoeic use of words - written in 1820 by Robert Southey and I first heard it performed as a song at last summer's Sing for Water in London. Read it aloud for best effect:

The Cataract of Lodore

" How does the Water
Come down at Lodore?"
My little boy ask'd me
Thus, once on a time;
And moreover he task'd me
To tell him in rhyme.
Anon at the word
There came first one daughter
And then came another,
To second and third
The request of their brother
And to hear how the water
Comes down at Lodore
With its rush and its roar,
As many a time
They had seen it before.
So I told them in rhyme,
For of rhymes I had store:
And 'twas in my vocation
For their recreation
That so should I sing
Because I was Laureate
To them and the King.
From its sources which well
In the Tarn on the fell;
From its fountains
In the mountains,
Its rills and its gills;
Through moss and through brake,
It runs and it creeps
For awhile till it sleeps
In its own little Lake.
And thence at departing,
Awakening and starting,
It runs through the reeds
And away it proceeds,
Through meadow and glade,
In sun and in shade,
And through the wood-shelter,
Among crags in its flurry,
Here it comes sparkling,
And there it lies darkling;
Now smoking and frothing
Its tumult and wrath in,
Till in this rapid race
On which it is bent,
It reaches the place
Of its steep descent.

The Cataract strong
Then plunges along,
Striking and raging
As if a war waging
Its caverns and rocks among:
Rising and leaping,
Sinking and creeping,
Swelling and sweeping,
Showering and springing,
Flying and flinging,
Writhing and ringing,
Eddying and whisking,
Spouting and frisking,
Turning and twisting,
Around and around
With endless rebound!
Smiting and fighting,
A sight to delight in;
Confounding, astounding,
Dizzying and deafening the ear with its sound.
Collecting, projecting,
Receding and speeding,
And shocking and rocking,
And darting and parting,
And threading and spreading,
And whizzing and hissing,
And dripping and skipping,
And hitting and splitting,
And shining and twining,
And rattling and battling,
And shaking and quaking,
And pouring and roaring,
And waving and raving,
And tossing and crossing,
And flowing and going,
And running and stunning,
And foaming and roaming,
And dinning and spinning,
And dropping and hopping,
And working and jerking,
And guggling and struggling,
And heaving and cleaving,
And moaning and groaning;
And glittering and frittering,
And gathering and feathering,
And whitening and brightening,
And quivering and shivering,
And hurrying and scurrying,
And thundering and floundering,
Dividing and gliding and sliding,
And falling and brawling and sprawling,
And diving and riving and striving,
And sprinkling and twinkling and wrinkling,
And sounding and bounding and rounding,
And bubbling and troubling and doubling,
And grumbling and rumbling and tumbling,
And clattering and battering and shattering;
Retreating and beating and meeting and sheeting,
Delaying and straying and playing and spraying,
Advancing and prancing and glancing and dancing,
Recoiling, turmoiling and toiling and boiling,
And gleaming and streaming and steaming and beaming,
And rushing and flushing and brushing and gushing,
And flapping and rapping and clapping and slapping,
And curling and whirling and purling and twirling,
And thumping and plumping and bumping and jumping,
And dashing and flashing and splashing and clashing;
And so never ending, but always descending,
Sounds and motions for ever and ever are blending,
All at once and all o'er, with a mighty uproar,
And this way the water comes down at Lodore.


  1. Wow VP - that's an epic ! I am going to wait for himself to stir then I will read aloud as you suggest :)

  2. Having spent some extremely wet times in Borrowdale, I can fully appreciate those watery words!

  3. Wow, this is nothing like anything I've ever read by Southey! I wish I'd known this poem back when I was teaching poetry--it's a perfect example of rhythm, rhyme, onomatopoeia, alliteration--the whole gamut of sound devices! And to top it off, it's an example of what we used to call concrete poetry--the shape of the poem ( a little hard to see on the computer monitor) adds to the meaning.

    Sorry, VP, you brought the teacher out in me:) Wonderful choice today--I could hear the water rushing as I read this.

  4. Anna - I do hope you both enjoy it :)

    HM - they just about cover it don't they?

    Rose - I don't mind at all, the teacher in you has made it all the better for all of us - I had no idea about concrete poetry, so I've learnt something today. It's such a fantastic poem - I was completely blown away by it when I heard it at Sing for Water last September and have been storing it up for a good opportunity to show it off ever since!

  5. BTW the group who performed this at Sing for Water are called Mouthful - apt don't you think?

  6. Not only an epic, but a true picture. I don't think I've read Southey since high school, but I am going to have to go in search of more. Thank you.

  7. Fabulous muse day contribution VP. Reminds me a great deal of Edgar Allen Poe's The Bells" in its use of sound devices. Would love to hear it performed.

  8. Now that is an incredible poem and I have to agree it needs to be performed. Gail

  9. Oh my goodness! What a poem!

    Hope you aren't shivering and quivering there! We are, a bit!

  10. Pat - glad you liked the poem. I'm constantly amazed at how well our British poets are known over the pond :)

    Ann - welcome! I love Edgar Allen Poe - very dramatic. I'll come over and visit shortly.

    Gail - I've read it out to myself a couple of times after posting it yesterday. The sounds are wonderful, just like a waterfall

    Helena - isn't it fantastic? Just right for February - I can imagine the waterfall's at its most impressive right now. We've got off lightly compared to you so far - I see you're Following - thanks, so you'll see what it's like the next time you pay a visist :)

  11. I have to echo everyone else - this is a wonderful poem for Muse Day. I can just picture the water tumbling and falling down.

    Always Growing

  12. I'm not much of a poetry person, but that was nice. It looks like a water drop, too!

  13. Fantastic selection for GBMD, VP. I'm going to save this and read it aloud to my new granddaughter. The sound, rhythm and rhyme are incredible.

  14. What a wonderful poem. Breathtaking and beautiful. Thank you for sharing this! :-)

  15. Jan, Jay, Carolyn and Shady - glad you liked the poem :)


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