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Rydal Mount hosts online celebrity poetry readings

Stephen Fry is joining descendants of William Wordsworth in reading poetry online in a celebration venture hosted by Rydal Mount which will be open to everyone.

Anyone who loves Wordsworth is invited to record themselves reading their favourite poem and upload it to a website which is launched today, the 250th anniversary of the poet’s death. The first three poems are live now, beginning with Stephen Fry reading The world is too much with us.

He is followed by Susan Wordsworth Andrew (great great great grand-daughter) reading Afterthought, and Thea Aitchison (great great great great great grand-daughter) reading My heart leaps up.

The project is being led by Christopher Wordsworth Andrew, the great great great great grandson of the poet whose family still own the house at Rydal Mount near Ambleside where William lived for most of his life.

The house, which opened to the public for the first time 50 years ago today, is currently closed because of the health crisis. The family had planned a series of events there – including the 80th birthday of Christopher’s mother Susan – but decided that celebrations must go ahead in a virtual way.

The website is www.wordsworth250.com and contributions can be made by members of the public to [email protected] ; audio or video files can be submitted and can be taken on a mobile phone. If files are too large to email, they can be sent to the same address using We Transfer.

Christopher said that William’s poems were more relevant today than ever. “He was a pioneer with his views about nature and the environment.

“We are launching the first three poems today with celebrity readings, but we want to open this to everyone, to record their favourite poem and we will keep it on the website for ever.

The Wordsworth family have also postponed the award ceremony for the annual Rydal Mount poetry prize for young people. Entries on the theme of Milestones are currently being read and judged by members of the family and all who took part will be invited to the prizegiving later in the year.

Christopher also highlighted one poem which resonates today:

Lines Written in Early Spring

I heard a thousand blended notes,

While in a grove I sate reclined,

In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts

Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link

The human soul that through me ran;

And much it grieved my heart to think

What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,

The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;

And ’tis my faith that every flower

Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,

Their thoughts I cannot measure:—

But the least motion which they made

It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,

To catch the breezy air;

And I must think, do all I can,

That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,

If such be Nature’s holy plan,

Have I not reason to lament

What man has made of man?

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