Peele Castle in a Storm


In my show The Blind Fiddler – Home Entertainment 1806-2012 at Snibston Discovery Museum along with the fridge freezer, slot TV and playstation console Singstar karaoke participative installation, you could also also find selected paintings and drawings from the 18th and 19th century by Sir George Beaumont.

The largest oil I selected was Peele Castle in a Storm, a picture that inspired William Wordsworth to write Elgiac Stanzas. It reminded William of two things at once, his time spent on England’s Cumbrian coast from where he could see Peele Castle out across the sea, a time of blue skies and a ‘glassy sea’ and also it brought to mind his brother who had earlier died at sea in a storm.

He was very moved when he first saw the picture in 1806 and told Beaumont so. Sir George gave him a smaller version of the picture which Wordsworth is said to have taken with him from place to place. The small version is now in Dove Cottage, the large is in the vaults of New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, Leicester, from where Alison Clague, now based at Charnwood Museum in Loughborough, and I took it for The Blind Fiddler – Home Entertainment 1806 – 2012 exhibition.

The picture is wrongly catalogued, even at New Walk, as being Peel Castle on the Isle of Man. It is actually Peele Castle a local landmark, off the southernmost coast of the Lake District peninsula about 40 miles from Dove Cottage.

We also were lent some other Beaumont pictures and sketches and at some point I want to put on a whole exhibition based around Beaumont works, preferably at Snibston as it’s so near to Beaumont’s Coleorton Hall in North West Leicestershire. The paintings that formed the nucleus of the British Gallery collection came from Beaumont and were, for the most part, held at Coleorton, where Wordsworth and his family regularly visited also lived, in the farmhouse, for around a year.

Paul Conneally
November 2013

Elgiac Stanzas

I was thy Neighbour once, thou rugged Pile!
Four summer weeks I dwelt in sight of thee:
I saw thee every day; and all the while
Thy Form was sleeping on a glassy sea.
So pure the sky, so quiet was the air!
So like, so very like, was day to day!
Whene’er I looked, thy Image still was there;
It trembled, but it never passed away.

How perfect was the calm! It seemed no sleep;
No mood, which season takes away, or brings:
I could have fancied that the mighty Deep
Was even the gentlest of all gentle Things.
Ah! THEN, if mine had been the Painter’s hand,
To express what then I saw; and add the gleam,
The light that never was, on sea or land,
The consecration, and the Poet’s dream;

I would have planted thee, thou hoary Pile!
Amid a world how different from this!
Beside a sea that could not cease to smile;
On tranquil land, beneath a sky of bliss:
Thou shouldst have seemed a treasure-house, a mine
Of peaceful years; a chronicle of heaven: –
Of all the sunbeams that did ever shine
The very sweetest had to thee been given.

A Picture had it been of lasting ease,
Elysian quiet, without toil or strife;
No motion but the moving tide, a breeze,
Or merely silent Nature’s breathing life.
Such, in the fond delusion of my heart,
Such Picture would I at that time have made:
And seen the soul of truth in every part;
A faith, a trust, that could not be betrayed.

So once it would have been, – ’tis so no more;
I have submitted to a new controul:
A power is gone, which nothing can restore;
A deep distress hath humanized my Soul.
Not for a moment could I now behold
A smiling sea and be what I have been:
The feeling of my loss will ne’er be old;
This, which I know, I speak with mind serene.

Then Beaumont, Friend! Who would have been the Friend,
If he had lived, of Him whom I deplore,
This Work of thine I blame not, but commend;
This sea in anger, and the dismal shore.
Oh ’tis a passionate Work! – yet wise and well;
Well chosen is the spirit that is here;
That Hulk which labours in the deadly swell,
This rueful sky, this pageantry of fear!

And this huge Castle, standing here sublime,
I love to see the look with which it braves,
Cased in the unfeeling armour of old time,
The light’ning, the fierce wind, and trampling waves.
Farewell, farewell the Heart that lives alone,
Housed in a dream, at distance from the Kind!
Such happiness, wherever it be known,
Is to be pitied; for ’tis surely blind.

But welcome fortitude, and patient chear,
And frequent sights of what is to be borne!
Such sights, or worse, as are before me here. –
Not without hope we suffer and we mourn.

William Wordsworth
Written May-June 1806
Published 1807

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