It is interesting to see the varied impressions Dartmoor has made on the folk of verse down through the centuries. Many are rapt in its beauty, wildness and landscape. However, here are some lines which clearly show that the poet Samuel Browning was none too enamoured with the moor. One could even suspect that when, (if indeed he ever did) the poet visited Dartmoor it was on a wild, wet, windy day? Nevertheless, it is a good example of how the spirit of Dartmoor effects different people at different times.
This extract comes from a poem entitled ‘Devona – an Historical Poem which appeared in a volume of poems written by Browning in 1846. The work was dedicated, ‘To the Naval Officers of Greenwich Hospital by a British Tar’. In its entirety Devona spanned over 86 pages which comprised of the author’s description of the scenery around Devonshire.
|Dartmoor – From Devona
Dartmoor doth now my roughest lays demand,
And harshness strains to suit thy sterile land,
To paint thy scen’ry and thy heaths display,
Wild as the wind and rough as the raging sea,
Where Nature clad in her most dreadful form,
Wild wand’ring o’er they dreary heath forlorn,
In nudid state wrapt rugged dress,
A wither’d form, whose haggard looks express
A savage wildness, hopeless and forlorn,
She braves the skies, and howls amidst the storm:
With lurid eye the light’ning doth survey,
And mocks the black’ning thunders as they play;
High rears her crest – her hoary head oft shrouds
In horror’s gloom amidst the pitchy clouds,
Whose barren hills and rugged waste display
A wide expanse smelling like ocean’s sea ;
There hills on hills in Alpine grandeur rise,
Extensive spread, and climb the lofty skies,
Whose heads the regions of the clouds invest,
That like a mantle folds around their breast.
The eye excursive views the hills around,
And finds the horizon its distant bound.
Region of wildness !—awful, bold, and grand,
The roughest work of Nature’s forming hand :
Amidst the summit of whose wide domains
Dread horror scolds, and desolation reigns ;
|Here fortitude would stand appall’d with fear
On this drear heath to meet its horrors there.
When snow, wild winds, and thunder’s pitchy cloud
With wrath surcharg’d, howling terrific loud,
Fly o’er the dreary heath in dread array,
Dark as usurp’d Egyptia’s gloomy day,
On their bleak heads their dark artillery play ;
Then on wild wing the demon of the storm,
In howling tempest o’er the heath is borne,
Dark as Erebus—clad in horrors drear,
As if old Chaos sway’d his empire there.
Tumult and confusion round him spread,
And horror drear amidst appalling dread ;
Thunder his voice—his eyes the light’ning’s glow,
And from his wings shakes hailstorm, sleet, and snow.
In rage terrific on the whirlwind rides,
In pitchy clouds his awful head he hides,
While tow’ring tors his dreaded rage defy,
And dash the clouds in atoms as they fly.
Then, then behold, the dreadful conflict rage,
When all the warring elements engage :
The sever’d clouds confus’d fleet onward dash,
Thunder’s loud growl, and the blue lightning flash,
While the dire artillery of winter’s hurled,
And shakes with terror all this nether world.
S. BROWNING – 1846