Tag Archives: Cambridge

William Wordsworth and Richard Holmes

I introduced Simon Armitage and his record of walking the Pennine Way delivering poetry readings each night to locals, in his book Walking Home, in an earlier posting Walking Home-the Pennine Way.   Walking is so interesting but then so is reading.  So now that I have finished reading Armitage’s book, I want to share a couple of pieces of information previously unknown to me:

“Wordsworth was the poet-walker par excellence. “Writing about Wordsworth’s legs, his friend Thomas de Quincy once remarked ‘undoubtedly they had been serviceable legs beyond the average standard of human requisition; for I calculate, upon good data, that with these identical legs Wordsworth must have traversed a distance of 175 to 185,000 English miles.’… Even in later life. A five-mile round trip to the hardware store or a twenty-mile perambulation was hardly a rare occurrence, but these distances should be viewed as a gradual slowing down considering the marathons of his youth, most notably in 1790 when instead of revising for his exams at Cambridge he went walkabout in the French Alps  with his friend Robert Jones. They covered three hundred miles in two weeks …”

Armitage also refers to Richard Holmes who as an eighteen year old produced a new form of travel writing.  Apparently he donned a felt hat and walked in “the footsteps and hoofprints of Robert Louis Stevenson and his troublesome donkey from Le Monastier to St Jean-du-Gard in 1878, a walk of 220 kilometres through the ‘French Highlands’, which Stevenson completed in under a fortnight.”

All we like sheep …

Once again Handel’s oratorio The Messiah came to mind when I reached the top of one steep hill climb.

The initial words to the particularly delightful section are: “All we like sheep have gone astray: we have turned everyone to his own way. …”  When sung, the voices start with ‘all we like sheep’ and do not continue immediately to the subsequent words.  Therefore, there is a tendency that if the words are not sung clearly, listeners think that we all like sheep, when the meaning is that we are similar to sheep and may go astray.  As for me, I like sheep and I have never been trusted not to go astray (after all, walking the Derwent isn’t what normal people do).  Nevertheless I am always happy to break out singing this marvellous song.  Have a listen to a choir (Choir of King’s College, Cambridge) which performs it well; at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixmNZQH0NjU The photos of sheep in all sorts of situations are shown while the voices sing the song. Incredibly entertaining.

Watch this video –  

Back to my walk.  Next to Tinderbox Road, I came across a couple of paddocks of resting sheep and ‘everyone had turned to his own way’.


On my return journey they were up and about grazing independently, but ‘everyone had turned to his own way’.  How could not we all like sheep?