Fragments of a Descriptive Poem

Winthrop Mackworth Praed

Winthrop Mackworth Praed

Today’s post moves on thirty years or so from Jane Cave Winscom. Those of you who know something about Teignmouth’s history may be surprised that I’ve made no mention so far in this blog of Winthrop Mackworth Praed.  So today is the day of rectification!

The Praed family (Praed street in London is named after his uncle who founded the Praed bank) lived at Lower Bitton House and played a significant role in Teignmouth life in the late eighteenth, early nineteenth centuries.  Winthrop was described as having a ‘brilliant’ career through Eton, Cambridge, the bar and then as an MP but he died young, aged only 37; and he wrote a considerable amount of verse much of which, in retrospect, could be described as a balladic commentary on the life of the social echelon in which he moved.

There are a couple of pieces which specifically relate to Teignmouth. This first is written, it seems, almost as a childhood reminiscence of the time he spent around here.  You can imagine the first stanza as a description of the view from the Ness whilst the second stanza describes the town.  The lines “There beamed upon the river side A shady dwelling-place” describe his home at Lower Bitton House.

Fragments of a Descriptive Poem
(Winthrop Mackworth Praed)

And now
He stood upon the beetling brow
Of a huge cliff, and marked beneath
The sea-foam fling its hoary wreath
Upon the shore, and heard the waves
Run howling through their hollow caves.
Far on the right old Ocean lay;
But he had hushed his storm to-day,
And seemed to murmur a long sigh,
A melancholy melody,
As if his mourning had begun
For what he yesternight had done:
And on the left, in beauteous pride,
The river poured his rushing tide;
Fanned, as he came, by odorous gales
From grassy hills and mossy vales,
And gardens, where young nature set
No mask upon her features yet,
And sands which were as smooth as stone,
And woods whose birth no eye had known,
And rocks, whose very crags seemed bowers,
So bright they were with herbs and flowers.

He looked across the river stream;
A little town was there,
O’er which the morning’s earliest beam
Was wandering fresh and fair;
No architect of classic school
Had pondered there with line and rule;
And, stranger still, no modern master
Had wasted there his lath and plaster;
The buildings in strange order lay,
As if the streets had lost their way,
Fantastic, puzzling, narrow, muddy,
Excess of toil from lack of study,
Where Fashion’s very newest fangles
Had no conception of right angles.
But still about that humble place
There was a look of rustic grace;
‘Twas sweet to see the sports and labours
And morning greetings of good neighbours,
The seamen mending sails and oars,
The matrons knitting at the doors,
The invalids enjoying dips,
The children launching tiny ships,
The beldames clothed in rags and wrinkles
Investigating periwinkles.
A little further up the tide,
There beamed upon the river side
A shady dwelling-place:
Most beautiful! upon that spot,
Beside that echoing wave,
A Fairy might have built her grot,
An Anchorite his grave.
The river, with its constant fall,
Came daily to the garden wall,
As if it longed, but thought it sin,
To look upon the charms within;
Behind, majestic mountains frowned,
And dark rich groves were all around,
And just before the gate there stood
Two trees which were themselves a wood;
Two lovely trees, whose clasp)ing forms
Were blended still in calms and storms
Like sisters, who have lived together
Through every change of Fortune’s weather,
United in their bliss or sorrow,
Their yesterday, and their to-morrow, —
So fond, so faithful, —you would wonder
To see them smile or weep asunder.

(March, 1826)

Want to know more?  Check out:

Winthrop Mackworth Praed

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2 thoughts on “Fragments of a Descriptive Poem

  1. pherecrates1 Post author

    Like you I had seen only bits of this poem before; and it’s interesting that the title is “fragments …..” or at least that is the only one I have found – maybe it was a work in progress that never went further.

    Reply

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