Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Watchet Revisited OR In the Shadow of the Ancient Mariner

I visited Somerset recently with my close friend Graham Collett, who designed the cover for my latest (5th) poetry collection, Accomplices To Illusion. We visited Watchet and this villanelle began to take shape in the same pub where Samuel Taylor Coleridge is said to have penned The Ancient Mariner.

There is a statue of the Ancient Mariner, albatross around his neck, by the harbour. (Coleridge did not live in the village, but some ten miles away.)

Photo: The Ancient Mariner, Watchet

Situated on the edge of Exmoor, Watchet is a delightful village, steeped in maritime history. Daniel Defoe was another visitor and is on record as having been impressed by the variety of fossils to be found there.

Britain’s longest, and possibly most picturesque, heritage steam railway runs over twenty miles through West Somerset from Bishops Lydeard to Minehead. Watchet is probably its most popular destination.

Traditionally, a lone piper plays on the bagpipes along the harbour wall, as was the case on the day we visited. However, although he played beautifully, I suspect this might have more to do with getting in some practise and sparing the neighbours…

Some readers may be interested in other poems I have written about Somerset that I also included in my 6th collection On the Battlefields of Love (2010). You will also find them on the BBC Somerset site:


Whispers by the harbour,
a dark poem in the breeze;
the Ancient Mariner

So many a bold seafarer
in Watchet’s feisty stories;
whispers by the harbour

In a sea-moor mist, a blur
of albatross sails, falls, curses
the Ancient Mariner

In Defoe’s footsteps stir
fossils divulging centuries;
whispers by the harbour

Watchet’s pride forever,
redeemed by Nature’s kisses;
the Ancient Mariner

Steam tourist, lone piper,
all Watchet acknowledges
whispers by the harbour,
the Ancient Mariner

[Watchet, November 2007]

Copyright R. N. Taber 2007