That Sounds Mighty Poetical

I find it intriguing when someone says that a certain phrase or some such sounds like a poem.

For some, it’s a cheery set of words.

For others, it’s anything with words that rhyme.

But really, anything can be a poem. You can make a poem from a tragic set of circumstances, or a shopping list.

I actually did a workshop with A.E. Stallings when I was in Athens last year, where we looked into list poetry. She had us write down the ingredients to a favourite recipe, and read them out as poems.

I’m honestly not a huge fan of that style of poetry, but let me tell you, our mouths were watering, listening to those poems.

I was looking at interesting place to travel earlier today, and came across this poem, about the founding of the Bolton Priory monastery in Yorkshire, England.

As the story goes, the son of the Lady who owned the land fell into this stream while out with his dog. The Bolton Strid, as this stream is called, is a death trap, looking innocent and safe on the top, but undercut and raging below the surface. I’d love to see it one day.

Anyway, after her son died this Lady donated the land for the founding of a monastery.

Later, William Wordsworth wrote this poem, called The Force of Prayer, or The Founding of Bolton Priory.

“What is good for a bootless bene?”
With these dark words begins my Tale;
And their meaning is, whence can comfort spring
When Prayer is of no avail?

“What is good for a bootless bene?”
The Falconer to the Lady said;
And she made answer “ENDLESS SORROW!”
For she knew that her Son was dead.

She knew it by the Falconer’s words,
And from the look of the Falconer’s eye;
And from the love which was in her soul
For her youthful Romilly.

Young Romilly through Barden woods
Is ranging high and low;
And holds a greyhound in a leash,
To let slip upon buck or doe.

The pair have reached that fearful chasm,
How tempting to bestride!
For lordly Wharf is there pent in
With rocks on either side.

This striding-place is called THE STRID,
A name which it took of yore:
A thousand years hath it borne that name,
And shall a thousand more.

And hither is young Romilly come,
And what may now forbid
That he, perhaps for the hundredth time,
Shall bound across THE STRID?

He sprang in glee,–for what cared he
That the river was strong, and the rocks were steep?
But the greyhound in the leash hung back,
And checked him in his leap.

The Boy is in the arms of Wharf,
And strangled by a merciless force;
For never more was young Romilly seen
Till he rose a lifeless corse.

Now there is stillness in the vale,
And long, unspeaking, sorrow:
Wharf shall be to pitying hearts
A name more sad than Yarrow.

If for a lover the Lady wept,
A solace she might borrow
From death, and from the passion of death;–
Old Wharf might heal her sorrow.

She weeps not for the wedding-day
Which was to be to-morrow:
Her hope was a further-looking hope,
And hers is a mother’s sorrow.

He was a tree that stood alone,
And proudly did its branches wave;
And the root of this delightful tree
Was in her husband’s grave!

Long, long in darkness did she sit,
And her first words were, “Let there be
In Bolton, on the field of Wharf,
A stately Priory!”

The stately Priory was reared;
And Wharf, as he moved along,
To matins joined a mournful voice,
Nor failed at evensong.

And the Lady prayed in heaviness
That looked not for relief!
But slowly did her succour come,
And a patience to her grief.

Oh! there is never sorrow of heart
That shall lack a timely end,
If but to God we turn, and ask
Of Him to be our friend!


Seems a bit of a strange subject for a poem, does it not? Oh, and for those who may be curious, the word “corse” in the 9th verse was not a typo. It is simply an archaic form of the word “corpse”. And it rhymes better with force…

But strange subjects demonstrate the beauty of poetry. You can literally write a poem about any topic you want to write about. I wrote a set of poems for each person in my family that were utter nonsense. They all mentioned gnomes, and beyond that, I sort of rambled. They sort of look like I wrote them drunk, but I think I was sleepy.

And if one person hates your poem, or hates your subject matter, it’s ok, because someone else will probably like it.

To my way of thinking, poetry is the most free style of writing. Oh, you can choose to write a specific kind of poem, which means that you have to follow those rules, but if you don’t choose a style, you can write however you want.

Do you write poetry? What kind? Do you like rules and boundaries in your poetry, or more freedom?

And would you ever visit the Bolton Strid? I totally want to. Definitely don’t want to get too close, but I find it fascinating.



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