Monthly Archives: September 2014

Endymion (extract)

Bronze sculpture display at Salcombe Dip

Bronze sculpture display at Salcombe Dip

A bit further up the road from the Siren you will come across a lay-by parking area and viewpoint. This is known as Salcombe Dip and is apparently one of the places along the river where salt was once produced.

Enjoy the view across the river Teign which is celebrated by a river interpretation sculpture and display board. The sculpture is in bronze, was produced by Mark Mere and Co and gives a view and detail of the environmental features of the Teign.

This is also where we return to Keats – an extract from ‘Endymion’ (book 2) forms part of the sculpture. Keats completed Endymion in the three months that he spent here in 1818.

Endymion Extract
(John Keats, 1818)

I will delight thee all my winding course
From the green sea up to my hidden source
About Arcadian forests; and will show
The channels where my coolest waters flow
through mossy rocks; where, ‘mid exuberant green,
I roam in pleasant darkness, more unseen
Than Saturn in his exile ……….

view from salcombe dip

view from salcombe dip

Want to know more?   Check out:

John Keats

The Siren

Siren on a gate

Siren on a gate

Let’s move back from the river to the bank.

Just as you leave Teignmouth heading towards Bishopsteignton along the road you will see a gate on the left-hand side with an enticing picture, which prompted this poem.

If the tide is low you can also walk up the estuary shore instead where you’ll find an earlier version (perhaps) of the eponymous siren on the side of a wrecked ship.

River art courtesy of local artist NME

The Siren

Teign spirit rises
hands reaching out
from cerulean wash.
With eyes that entice
and lips that implore
she beckons you join her,
stray to deep waters
away from the safety of shore.

Raven-haired siren
seductively smiles
and whispers so softly
in caramel tones.
She raises her hand
and beckons you join her
in river suffused
away from the shackles of land.

Related verse:  Elegy to a Parrat

Siren on Ship

Siren on Ship


On (and in) the Teign

This post stays on the river with the ‘Railway Poet’ Thomas Aggett. This poem is from his book ‘Vagabond Verses’ published in the early 20th century. He seemed to have had an obsession (or fantasy) about women in boats.

On (and in) the Teign
(Thomas Aggett)

The river was swollen with sweat
From the brows of the mountains around,
And ‘twas useless, when we got upset,
Our trying to walk on the ground.

But Mary got air in her dress
Which luckily kept her afloat,
And I struggled a bit, you may guess,
While I clutched at the overturned boat.

Afraid of a watery grave,
We made up a terrible fuss;
But Providence seeks but to save
Great sinners – and lucky for us.

Want to know more about Aggett’s obsession (or maybe not!)?
Check out:  “An Accident


The Salty

The Salty

Thanks to Marc Woodward for this contribution.

If I had paid for a more sophisticated version of WordPress I might have been able to present this poem differently.  Marc said that the lines were laid out to reflect the flow of water and the tide. The best I can do is centralising the lines which gives a sort of wave effect.

We have moved from the quays of the last post into the river where the “Salty” and other sandbanks lie exposed at low tide and give the oystercatchers and other waders free reign.

(Marc Woodward)

at low tide
there is a wide sandbank
in the river.
a flat island
where gulls peck for lugworms
and the oystercatcher’s shrill call
skims the water.
on summer days
you can canoe to this island
and on the hard wave-slapped sand stay
until the rising turning tide
washes you away.
there in the night,
when land splits the surface,
it cracks a moving, shining mirror,
breaking the moon’s quivering face
into light stippled and
silver rippled, lace-
like sand puddles.
lost and reclaimed, midnight to noon.
this lonely seagiven land,
this land in the call of the moon.

Check outOystercatchers Café’ as well.

The Blessing of the Boats

blessing of boats collageI started this blog with a poem (a ‘piece of doggerel’) by Keats describing points along the Teign Estuary. Let’s return to that theme with a few posts that take us slowly upriver.

Last Saturday was the annual ceremony of the “Blessing of the Boats”, a poignant tradition that lets us remember all those whose lives are on the water, those who work there and those who watch out for them. The solemn moments are counterbalanced by the accompanying Riverbeach festival with its events, food, market stalls and live music.

I watched this year from the narrow strip of ‘beach’ between the Fish Quay and the New Quay and have recorded some of my thoughts in this poem. I have borrowed from Psalms 107 (v23) and John Masefield’s poem ‘Cargoes’.

The Blessing of the Boats

Ships of verse course waters of my mind:
that quinquireme of Nineveh; the galleon,
stately and Spanish; the dirty British coaster;
rowing, dipping, butting ships
riding ebb and flow of tides of time.

The dinghy weaves through the Teignmouth fleet,
the man in his green fisherman’s smock,
the lad in blue Crab Shack top,
their crab-pot cargo racked between,
left to writhe at tide-edge on the beach.

The ‘Girl Rona’, kayaks, ribs, ferryboats, skiffs
jostle bucking between the quays;
just memories the banks of Newfoundland
where Teignmouth men once sought out seas of cod
and sailed with salted riches home to redstone cliffs.

Scudding psalmic words dip and echo from quay to Ness:
“They that go down to the sea in ships,
that do business in great waters.”
We sing to those in peril, a sailors’ prayer, a silent pause,
the passing of the leaves of peace, the boats are blessed.

Want to know more? Check out:

Compass Rose …..
Seafaring Tradition …..

Letters from Teignmouth – Our Ball

ball 2aAs this blog progresses it is exciting to see the connections which start to develop. I suppose that’s not surprising given that the blog is quite focussed on a single theme – Teignmouth.

Obviously there will be ‘physical connections’ through the geography of the place but what is more interesting for me are the connections of social history. It reminds me of an earlier post of the poem “Mesh” by Ian Chamberlain which reflects an interconnectedness of place, people, time and that is what the essence of a town is all about I guess.

Winthrop Mackworth Praed

Winthrop Mackworth Praed

The last post was a commentary about Charles Babbage and Tennyson. Charles Babbage’s father, Benjamin, was a banking partner of the Praeds who owned the Bitton Estate in Teignmouth. Do you remember Winthrop Mackworth Praed, an early nineteenth century Teignmouth poet who appeared here a couple of months ago?

Here is another piece by him, written as one of his ‘Letters from Teignmouth’. I think it’s a nice pastiche of the lives of the social elite at that time; the ‘Ball’ could have been the ‘County Ball’ which was a feature of the time of ‘Recess’ when there was an exodus of the wealthy from London to savour country life for a while.  Thanks to some ferreting around by Tacy Rickard though it is evident that there was quite a social whirl of Balls in Teignmouth!  So maybe it was one of those.


(Winthrop Mackworth Praed, 1829)

“Comment! c’est lui? que je le regarde encore! C’est que vraiment il est bien changé ; n’est-ce pas, mon papa ?” — Les Premiers Amours.

You’ll come to our Ball; — since we parted,
I’ve thought of you more than I’ll say ;
Indeed, I was half broken-hearted
For a week, when they took you away. –
Fond fancy brought back to my slumbers
Our walks on the Ness and the Den,
And echoed the musical numbers
Which you used to sing to me then.
I know the romance, since it’s over,
‘Twere idle, or worse, to recall ;
I know you’re a terrible rover ;
But Clarence, you’ll come to our Ball!

It’s only a year, since, at College,
You put on your cap and your gown;
But, Clarence, you’re grown out of knowledge.
And changed from the spur to the crown;
The voice that was best when it faltered
Is fuller and firmer in tone,
And the smile that should never have altered —
Dear Clarence — it is not your own;
Your cravat was badly selected;
Your coat don’t become you at all;
And why is your hair so neglected?
You must have it curled for our Ball.

I’ve often been out upon Haldon
To look for a covey with pup;
I’ve often been over to Shaldon,
To see how your boat is laid up:
In spite of the terrors of Aunty,
I’ve ridden the filly you broke;
And I’ve studied your sweet little Dante
In the shade of your favourite oak:
When I sat in July to Sir Lawrence,
I sat in your love of a shawl;
And I’ll wear what you brought me from Florence,
Perhaps, if you’ll come to our Ball.

You’ll find us all changed since you vanished;
We’ve set up a National School;
And waltzing is utterly banished,
And Ellen has married a fool;
The Major is going to travel,
Miss Hyacinth threatens a rout,
The walk is laid down with fresh gravel,
Papa is laid up with the gout;
And Jane has gone on with her easels,
And Anne has gone off with Sir Paul;
And Fanny is sick with the measles,
And I’ll tell you the rest at the Ball.

You’ll meet all your Beauties; the Lily,
And the Fairy of Willowbrook Farm,
And Lucy, who made me so silly
At Dawlish, by taking your arm;
Miss Manners, who always abused you
For talking so much about Hock,
And her sister, who often amused you
By raving of rebels and Rock
And something which surely would answer.
An heiress quite fresh from Bengal;
So, though you were seldom a dancer.
You’ll dance, just for once, at our Ball.

But out on the World! from the flowers
It shuts out the sunshine of truth.
It blights the green leaves in the bowers,
It makes an old age of our youth;
And the flow of our feeling, once in it,
Like a streamlet beginning to freeze.
Though it cannot turn ice in a minute.
Grows harder by sudden degrees;
Time treads o’er the graves of affection;
Sweet honey is turned into gall;
Perhaps you have no recollection
That ever you danced at our Ball!

You once could be pleased with our ballads, —
To-day you have critical ears;
You once could be charmed with our salads —
Alas! you’ve been dining with Peers;
You trifled and flirted with many, —
You’ve forgotten the when and the how;
There was one you liked better than any, —
Perhaps you’ve forgotten her now.
But of those you remember most newly,
Of those who delight or enthrall,
None love you a quarter so truly
As some you will find at our Ball.

They tell me you’ve many who flatter.
Because of your wit and your song;
They tell me — and what does it matter ? —
You like to be praised by the throng;
They tell me you’re shadowed with laurel;
They tell me you’re loved by a Blue;
They tell me you’re sadly immoral —
Dear Clarence, that cannot be true!
But to me, you are still what I found you.
Before you grew clever and tall;
And you’ll think of the spell that once bound you;
And you’ll come — won’t you come? — to our Ball!

Want to know more? Check out:

Winthrop Mackworth Praed …..
Mesh …..
Teignmouth Balls …..


Shortly after I posted the piece about the Oystercatchers Café, with my comment about its elision of science and poetry, I came across a little anecdote which reflects the “tension” between science and poetry.

So today’s post is something different, not a poem as such but a reflection on that anecdote – it still has a Teignmouth connection of course!

“Tension” may be the wrong word; what I mean is the disparate viewpoints or ways of thinking that these two disciplines adopt. Science likes structure, method, precision, solutions. Poetry sometimes has structure through stanza, metre and rhyme but often relies on the fuzziness of metaphor and the colour of language to convey ideas and provide interpretive choice of meaning.

Charles Babbage, father of the computer

Charles Babbage, father of the computer

The story concerns Charles Babbage, a scientist, polymath and the recognised father of computer through his design of the first computing machines – the Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine. The Babbages lived at the Rowdens in Teignmouth though Charles Babbage moved up to London after his marriage in 1814 at St Michael’s church in Teignmouth.


The ‘Tension’? …..


Babbage once contacted the poet Alfred Tennyson in response to his poem, ‘The Vision of Sin’, first published in 1842. He was concerned about the couplet:

Every minute dies a man,
Every minute one is born.

Babbage wrote:

“I need hardly point out to you that this calculation would tend to keep the sum total of the world’s population in a state of perpetual equipoise, whereas it is a well-known fact that the said sum total is constantly on the increase. I would therefore take the liberty of suggesting that, in the next edition of your excellent poem, the erroneous calculation to which I refer should be corrected as follows:–

Every moment dies a man,
And one and a sixteenth is born.

I may add that the exact figures are 1.167, but something must, of course, be conceded to the laws of metre.”

It appears that Tennyson subsequently changed the couplet in 1850, in a strange compromise, to read:

Every moment dies a man,
Every moment one is born.

Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace

As an interesting aside Babbage himself may have had a poetic side.

Behind Babbage lay the skills of another mathematician, Ada Lovelace, who was also Byron’s daughter.

She effectively annotated the workings of Babbage’s engines and has earned the credit of being the first computer programmer.

Babbage was so impressed by her intellect and analytical skills that he called her ‘The Enchantress of Numbers.’ In 1843 he wrote of her:

Forget this world and all its troubles,
and if possible its multitudinous Charlatans
everything in short but the Enchantress of Numbers.

What a wonderful phrase – ‘The Enchantress of Numbers’. Poetry? You decide.

Want to know more?  Check out:

Charles Babbage (1) …..
Charles Babbage (2) …..
Ada Lovelace (1) …..
Ada Lovelace (2) …..



Peter Waters

Peter Waters

From 1904 back to the present day and still a railway theme.  One of the great things about doing a blog like this is discovering new poems and new writers.  Scouring the internet I found this poem which gives a lovingly novel take on journeying to Teignmouth by train.  Thanks to Peter Waters who is ‘local’, though I don’t know how local.

In his words:  “An addition to what appears to be an increasing number of rail-related poems by me ..with acknowledgments to John Keats and Patrick Wolfe who eponymously went before…”

(Peter Waters)

“The train -now departing, from platform 3,
Is the 18.47 for Bristol Temple Meads.
Calling at : Newton Abbot; Teignmouth;
Dawlish; Dawlish Warren;
Exeter St Davids;
Tiverton Parkway;

All stops are stated, with an equanimity,
That makes no suggestion of partiality,
By an announcer whose apologies are lacking in passion –
Unlike the reception at my terminal station…

For it’s Teignmouth,
Where her mouth,
Greets my mouth…
There…oh! long sweetly sought, all too soon to be sundered there,
Is my chosen destination.

Want to see more?  Check out:

Peter Waters poetry ….
Teignmouth by Patrick Wolf


The Great Western Railway Record Run

South Devon Railway near Teignmouth in 1852

South Devon Railway near Teignmouth in 1852

After the plethora of Pellew poems I needed a break! I’m back refreshed and investigating another theme – the railway.

After the devastating storms earlier this year which destroyed sections of the seawall and caused more landslips of the cliffs onto the railway, the seawall was re-opened on August 19th. Once more we can walk along the coast from Teignmouth to Holcombe.

It is a walk which most people take for granted but of course it wouldn’t exist without the railway. The seawall and railway are an historic reminder of Brunel’s engineering genius in building the line along this section of coast. But it wasn’t just an engineering achievement, it also opened up towns like Teignmouth to a new range of Victorian visitors and tourism took off. It was a life-changing event for the town.

So has any verse been written about the railway? I’m struggling. Any contributions welcome. Betjeman, of course, wrote about Dawlish ….. but not Teignmouth.

I’m returning to Thomas Aggett, the ‘Railway Poet’ from Teignmouth. He seemed to be quite proud of the railway and wrote this piece to commemorate the record in 1904 of the longest and fastest Non-stop Railway Run, Paddington to Plymouth (245⅝ miles) in 3 hours 53⅟₂ minutes. The fastest scheduled journey now is 3 hours.

The Great Western Railway Record Run
May 9th, 1904
(Thomas Aggett)

Speed! From the West!
Steam in the service of man!
Great Western, you hold of records the best.
‘Twas work well done in a stiff contest,
Of brawny arms of a brainy clan –
A credit to every man –

Through our County of cider and cream,
Flying soft and as swift as a bat,
It shows us the triumph of steam,
And the triumph of brains over that.

More problems for us to unravel,
Dame Nature still holds in her greed,
Then where is the limit of travel,
And what is the limit of speed?

Want to know more?  Check out: South Devon Railway