Larch Brook

The Teign Estuary

The Teign Estuary

Keats’ poem on Teignmouth referred to a number of places along the Teign estuary.  The existence/ location of  two of these, The Barton and Larch Brook, have been the subject of some debate.  I decided to explore for myself and took a walk up and down both sides of the estuary following the path of Keats in search of truth.  This poem reflects my thoughts.

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Larch Brook

I followed the path of Keats today.
I let my footsteps lead
where the feet of Keats might once have trod.
Like a dog that gnaws a bone to extricate the best,
that unctuous flavoured essence of the marrow gel,
I am obsessed by his doggerel that has scored my mind
with lines of verse which I could not let alone
in some obscure metaphoric way.

I followed the path of Keats today,
not by ferry o’er the surging, stygian Teign
but striding forth upon the singing Shaldon bridge,
that Keats would not have known,
to reach the distant Ringmoor shore
where ancient milestone marks the Torquay road
in measured miles and furlongs, even perch,
across what’s now the Templer Way.

I followed the path of Keats today,
slip-sliding up the low-tide shore,
glissading over slime-soaked stones,
avoiding glazed-smooth flats of mud
where bristling clay-pipes peeked,
tempting lairs for crabs that scuttled there
when Selene’s breath would suck the estuary dry
to strand the crabs in traps of clay.

I followed the path of Keats today
upstream, absorbed in Endymionic dream,
in search of truth, the truth he knew as beauty,
which is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.
Each breccia’d headland opened up another cove,
carved by brook and Teign in ebb and flow,
silted hollows open-mouthed to suck you in
if you should from its hardened, lapping lips dare stray.

I followed the path of Keats today
and found the Arch of ancient stone
whose breasted brook surged out from reeded fields.
I reached the cream-tea land of Coomb at clear Teign head.
On distant hills was nestled Bishop’s Teign,
the Barton, the King’s Teign edging Newton Marsh.
Just as they, with Arch Brook, were no opiate dream
then surely Larch Brook was no casual rhyme that Keats had feigned.

I followed the path of Keats today,
followed on and passed the Coomb at head of clear Teign,
not through faerie groves, nor across Elysian fields
but edging vaporous, grey-slicked muddy coves
until I found where I believed lay truth.
A brook that oozed beside a stand of trees,
gaunt conifers in silhouette against the vernal skies.
‘Larch Brook’ – no poet’s random rhyme; I found Keats’ truth today.

Want to know more? See …..
Notes on Keats
Notes on Poem

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