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William Wordsworth

Helen Darbishire and Ernest De Selincourt (eds), The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth, Vol. 4: Evening Voluntaries; Itinerary Poems of 1833; Poems of Sentiment and Reflection; Sonnets Dedicated to Liberty and Order; Miscellaneous Poems; Inscriptions; Selections From Chaucer; Poems Referring to the Period of Old Age; Epitaphs and Elegiac Pieces; Ode-Intimations of Immortality (Second Edition)

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Editor’s NoteEditor’s NoteIVto the river greta, near keswick

  • 1Greta, what fearful listening! when huge stones
  • 2Rumble along thy bed, block after block:
  • 3Or, whirling with reiterated shock,
  • pg 224Combat, while darkness aggravates the groans:
  • 5But if thou (like Cocytus from the moans
  • 6Heard on his rueful margin) thence wert named
  • Critical Apparatus7The Mourner, thy true nature was defamed,
  • 8And the habitual murmur that atones
  • 9For thy worst rage, forgotten. Oft as Spring
  • 10Decks, on thy sinuous banks, her thousand thrones,
  • Critical Apparatus11Seats of glad instinct and love's carolling,
  • 12The concert, for the happy, then may vie
  • 13With liveliest peals of birth-day harmony:
  • 14To a grieved heart the notes are benisons.

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Editor’s Note
p. 21. IV. To the River Greta: 7. But if thou, like Cocytus] Many years ago, when I was at Greta Bridge, in Yorkshire, the hostess of the inn, proud of her skill in etymology, said that "the name of the river was taken from the bridge, the form of which, as every one must notice, exactly resembled a great A". Dr. Whitaker has derived it from the word of common occurrence in the North of England, "to greet"; signifying to lament aloud, mostly with weeping, a conjecture rendered more probable from the stony and rocky channel of both the Cumberland and Yorkshire rivers. The Cumberland Greta, though it does not, among the country people, take up that name till within three miles of its disappearance in the River Derwent, may be considered as having its source in the mountain cove of Wythburn, and flowing through Thirlmere, the beautiful features of which lake are known only to those who, travelling between Grasmere and Keswick, have quitted the main road in the vale of Wythburn, and, crossing over to the opposite side of the lake, have proceeded with it on the right hand.
The channel of the Greta, immediately above Keswick, has, for the purposes of building, been in a great measure cleared of the immense stones which, by their concussion in high floods, produced the loud and awful noises described in the sonnet.
"The scenery upon this river," says Mr. Southey in his Colloquies, "where it passes under the woody side of Latrigg, is of the finest and most rememberable kind:—
  • ——ambiguo lapsu refluitque fluitque,
  • Occurrensque sibi venturas aspicit undas.—W."
Dowden compares a letter from Coleridge to Humphry Davy of Oct. 9, 1800: "Greta, or rather Grieta, is exactly the Cocytus of the Greeks; the word, literally rendered in modern English, is 'The Loud Lamenter'; to griet, in the Cumbrian dialect, signifying to roar aloud for grief or pain, and it does roar with a vengeance."
Critical Apparatus
IV. 7 true] glad MS.
Critical Apparatus
11 Seats of glad] For joyous MS.
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