How to Write about Nature – Learning from Dorothy Wordsworth’s Grasmere Journal

Excerpts from Dorothy Wordsworth’s Journal

(From 10th October 1801 to 29th December 1801)

Sunday, October 25th.—Went upon Helvellyn. Glorious sights. The sea at Cartmel. The Scotch mountains beyond the sea to the right. Whiteside large, and round, and very soft, and green, behind us. Mists above and below, and close to us, with the sun amongst them. They shot down to the coves. … Reached home at nine o’clock. A soft grey evening; the light of the moon, but she did not shine on us.

Tuesday, November 17th.—A very rainy morning. We walked into Easedale before dinner. The coppices a beautiful brown. The oaks many, a very fine leafy shade. We stood a long time to look at the corner birch tree. The wind was among the light thin twigs, and they yielded to it, this way and that.

Wednesday, 18th. Mary and I walked as far as the Wishing Gate before supper. We stood there a long time, the whole scene impressive. The mountains indistinct, the Lake calm and partly ruffled. A sweet sound of water falling into the quiet Lake, A storm was gathering in Easedale, we returned; but the moon came out, and opened to us the church and village. Helm Crag in shade, the larger mountains dappled like a sky. We stood long upon the bridge.

Tuesday, 24th.— … It was very windy, and we heard the wind everywhere about us as we went along the lane, but the walls sheltered us. …As we were going along we were stopped at once, at the distance perhaps of 50 yards from our favourite birch tree. It was yielding to the gusty wind with all its tender twigs. The sun shone upon it, and it glanced in the wind like a flying sunshiny shower. It was a tree in shape, with stem and branches, but it was like a spirit of water. The sun went in, and it resumed its purplish appearance, the twigs still yielding to the wind, but not so visibly to us. The other birch trees that were near it looked bright and cheerful, but it was a creature by its own self among them…. We went through the wood. It became fair. There was a rainbow which spanned the lake from the island-house to the foot of Bainriggs. The village looked populous and beautiful. Catkins are coming out; palm trees budding; the alder, with its plum-coloured buds. We came home over the  stepping-stones. The lake was foamy with white waves. I saw a solitary butter-flower in the wood.

Wednesday, 25th November.—It was a showery morning and threatened to be a wettish day, but the sun shone once or twice. ...It rained a little, and rained afterwards all the afternoon. I baked bread, and wrote to Sara Hutchinson and Coleridge. I passed a pleasant evening, but the wind roared so, and it was such a storm that I was afraid for them.

Sunday, December 6th.—…the second course of Easedale, with that beautiful rock in the field beside us, and all the rocks and the woods and the mountains enclosing us round. The sun was shining among them, the snow thinly scattered upon the tops of the mountains. In the afternoon we sate by the fire.It was a sober starlight evening. The stars not shining as it were with all their brightness when they were visible, and sometimes hiding themselves behind small greying clouds, that passed soberly along.

Monday Morning, 7th.—We rose by candlelight. A showery unpleasant morning, after a downright rainy night. … When we were upon the Raise, it snowed very much; and the whole prospect closed in upon us, like a moorland valley, upon a moor very wild. But when we were at the top of the Raise we saw the mountains before us. The sun shone upon them, here and there; and Wytheburn vale, though wild, looked soft. The day went on cheerfully and pleasantly.

Tuesday, 8th December 1801.A dullish, rainyish morning.

Wednesday Morning, 9th December.—The river came galloping past the Church, as fast as it could come; and when we got into Easedale we saw Churn Milk Force, like a broad stream of snow at the little foot-bridge. We stopped to look at the company of rivers, which came hurrying down the vale, this way and that. It was a valley of streams and islands, with that great waterfall at the head, and lesser falls in different parts of the mountains, coming down to these rivers. We could hear the sound of the lesser falls, but we could not see them. We walked backwards and forwards till all distant objects, except the white shape of the waterfall and the lines of the mountains, were gone. We had the crescent moon when we went out, and at our return there were a few stars that shone dimly, but it was a grey cloudy night.

Thursday, 10th December.—It was a fine frosty evening.

Saturday, 12th.— … Snow upon the ground…. All looked cheerful and bright. Helm Crag rose very bold and craggy, a Being by itself, and behind it was the large ridge of mountain, smooth as marble and snow white. All the mountains looked like solid stone, on our left, going from Grasmere, i.e. White Moss and Nab Scar. The snow hid all the grass, and all signs of vegetation, and the rocks showed themselves boldly everywhere, and seemed more stony than rock or stone. The birches on the crags beautiful, red brown and glittering. The ashes glittering spears with their upright stems. The hips very beautiful, and so good!!  …The moon shone upon the waters below Silver How, and above it hung, combining with Silver How on one side, a bowl-shaped moon, the curve downwards, the white fields, glittering roof of Thomas Ashburner’s house, the dark yew tree, the white fields gay and beautiful.

Thursday, 17th.—Snow in the night and still snowing…. Ambleside looked excessively beautiful as we came out—like a village in another country; and the light cheerful mountains were seen, in the long distance, as bright and as clear as at mid-day, with the blue sky above them. We heard waterfowl calling out by the lake side. Jupiter was very glorious above the Ambleside hills, and one large star hung over the corner of the hills on the opposite side of Rydale water.

Friday, 18th December 1801.—It was a cheerful glorious day. The birches and all trees beautiful, hips bright red, mosses green.

Sunday, 20th December.—It snowed all day. It was a very deep snow. The brooms were very beautiful, arched feathers with wiry stalks pointed to the end, smaller and smaller. They waved gently with the weight of the snow.

Saturday, 26th.— … We walked to Rydale. Grasmere Lake a beautiful image of stillness, clear as glass, reflecting all things. The wind was up, and the waters sounding. The lake of a rich purple, the fields a soft yellow, the island yellowish-green, the copses red-brown, the mountains purple, the church and buildings, how quiet they were!

Sunday, 27th.—A fine soft beautiful mild day, with gleams of sunshine.

Tuesday, 29th.—A fine morning. A thin fog upon the hills which soon disappeared. …We turned out of the road at the second mile stone, and passed a pretty cluster of houses at the foot of St. John’s Vale. The houses were among tall trees, partly of Scotch fir, and some naked forest trees. We crossed a bridge just below these houses, and the river winded sweetly along the meadows. Our road soon led us along the sides of dreary bare hills, but we had a glorious prospect to the left of Saddleback, half-way covered with snow,..As we ascended the hills it grew very cold and slippery. Luckily, the wind was at our backs, and helped us on. A sharp hail shower gathered at the head of Martindale, and the view upwards was very grand—wild cottages, seen through the hurrying hail-shower. The wind drove, and eddied about and about, and the hills looked large and swelling through the storm. We thought of Coleridge. O! the bonny nooks, and windings, and curlings of the beck, down at the bottom of the steep green mossy banks.

(From 1st January 1802 to 8th July 1802)

On Sunday the 17th … It was a mild gentle thaw. ..The opposite bank is woody, steep as a wall, but not high, and above that bank the fields slope gently, and irregularly down to it. These fields are surrounded by tall hedges, with trees among them, and there are clumps or grovelets of tall trees here and there. Sheep and cattle were in the fields.

On Saturday, January 23rd, we left Eusemere at 10 o’clock in the morning,…the morning not very promising, the wind cold. The mountains large and dark, but only thinly streaked with snow; a strong wind. We dined in Grisdale on ham, bread, and milk. We parted from Mr. C. at one o’clock. It rained all the way home. We struggled with the wind, and often rested as we went along. A hail shower met us before we reached the Tarn, and the way often was difficult over the snow; but at the Tarn the view closed in. We saw nothing but mists and snow: and at first the ice on the Tarn below us cracked and split, yet without water, a dull grey white. We lost our path, and could see the Tarn no longer. We made our way out with difficulty, guided by a heap of stones which we well remembered. We were afraid of being bewildered in the mists, till the darkness should overtake us. 

Wednesday, 27th.—A beautiful mild morning; the sun shone; the lake was still, and all the shores reflected in it.

Thursday, 28th.A downright rain. A wet night. …

Friday, 29th January.—It was a mild afternoon. There was an unusual softness in the prospects as we went, a rich yellow upon the fields, and a soft grave purple on the waters. When we returned many stars were out, the clouds were moveless, and the sky soft purple, the lake of Rydale calm, Jupiter behind. Jupiter at least we call him, but William says we always call the largest star Jupiter.

Sunday, 31st.—We walked round the two lakes. Grasmere was very soft, and Rydale was extremely beautiful from the western side. Nab Scar was just topped by a cloud which, cutting it off as high as it could be cut off, made the mountain look uncommonly lofty. …There was a rich yellow light on the waters, and the islands were reflected there. To-day it was grave and soft, but not perfectly calm. ..We amused ourselves for a long time in watching the breezes, some as if they came from the bottom of the lake, spread in a circle, brushing along the surface of the water, and growing more delicate as it were thinner, and of a paler colour till they died away. Others spread out like a peacock’s tail, and some went right forward this way and that in all directions. The lake was still where these breezes were not, but they made it all alive.

Monday, February 1st.— There was a purplish light upon Mr. Olliff’s house, which made me look to the other side of the vale, when I saw a strange stormy mist coming down the side of Silver How of a reddish purple colour. It soon came on a heavy rain….

Friday, 5th.—A cold snowy morning. Snow and hail showers. We did not walk.

Monday Morning, 8th February 1802.It was very windy and rained hard all the morning. …the rain had been so cold that it hardly melted the snow. … I never felt such a cold night. There was a strong wind and it froze very hard. …I could not sleep from sheer cold. 

Friday, 12th.—A very fine, bright, clear, hard frost.

Sunday, 14th February.—A fine morning. The sun shines out, but it has been a hard frost in the night. There are some little snowdrops that are afraid to put their white heads quite out, and a few blossoms of hepatica that are half-starved. …Before sunset, I put on my shawl and walked out. The snow-covered mountains were spotted with rich sunlight, a palish buffish colour…. I stood at the wishing-gate, and when I came in view of Rydale, I cast a long look upon the mountains beyond. They were very white…

Monday, 15th February.—It snowed a good deal, and was terribly cold. After dinner it was fair, but I was obliged to run all the way to the foot of the White Moss, to get the least bit of warmth into me.

Wednesday, 17th.—A miserable nasty snowy morning.

Thursday, 18th.—A foggy morning.

Sunday, 21st.—A very wet morning. … Snowdrops quite out, but cold and winterly; yet, for all this, a thrush that lives in our orchard has shouted and sung its merriest all day long …

Tuesday, 23rd.— … When we came out of our own doors, that dear thrush was singing upon the topmost of the smooth branches of the ash tree at the top of the orchard. How long it had been perched on that same tree I cannot tell, but we had heard its dear voice in the orchard the day through, along with a cheerful undersong made by our winter friends, the robins. As we came home, I picked up a few mosses by the roadside….The lake, though the objects on the shore were fading, seemed brighter than when it is perfect day, and the island pushed itself upwards, distinct and large. All the shores marked. There was a sweet, sea-like sound in the trees above our heads.

Wednesday, 24th.A rainy morning. William returned from Rydale very wet.

Thursday, 25th.—A fine, mild, gay, beautiful morning.

Friday, 26th.—A grey morning till 10 o’clock, then the sun shone beautifully.

Monday.—[Entry after Sunday, March 28] A fine pleasant day, … We climbed over the wall and read them under the shelter of a mossy rock. …The catkins are beautiful in the hedges, the ivy is very green.

Tuesday. —A fine grey morning…. We walked on Butterlip How under the wind. It rained all the while, but we had a pleasant walk. The mountains of Easedale, black or covered with snow at the tops, gave a peculiar softness to the valley. The clouds hid the tops of some of them. The valley was populous and enlivened with streams….

Thursday.—I transplanted some snowdrops—the Bees are busy….It was hard frost in the night. The Robins are singing sweetly.

Friday.—First walked in the garden and orchard, a frosty sunny morning. After dinner I gathered mosses in Easedale.

Friday Morning.—A very cold sunshiny frost.

Sunday Morning.—A very fine, clear frost.

Monday Morning.A soft rain and mist …

The Vale looked very beautiful in excessive simplicity, yet, at the same time, in uncommon obscurity. The Church stood alone—mountains behind. The meadows looked calm and rich, bordering on the still lake. Nothing else to be seen but lake and island….

On Friday evening the moon hung over the northern side of the highest point of Silver How, like a gold ring snapped in two, and shaven off at the ends. Within this ring lay the circle of the round moon, as distinctly to be seen as ever the enlightened moon is.

Friday.—A very fine morning….The sun shone while it rained, and the stones of the walls and the pebbles on the road glittered like silver….

Saturday Morning.—It was as cold as ever it has been all winter, very hard frost….

Tuesday.— The moon was a good height above the mountains. She seemed far distant in the sky. There were two stars beside her, that twinkled in and out, and seemed almost like butterflies in motion and lightness. They looked to be far nearer to us than the moon.

Wednesday.—A sweet evening as it had been a sweet day, and I walked quietly along the side of Rydale lake with quiet thoughts—the hills and the lake were still—the owls had not begun to hoot, and the little birds had given over singing. …The owls hooted when we sate on the wall at the foot of White Moss; the sky broke more and more, and we saw the moon now and then.

Thursday.—Rydale vale was full of life and motion. The wind blew briskly, and the lake was covered all over with bright silver waves, that were there each the twinkling of an eye, then others rose up and took their place as fast as they went away. The rocks glittered in the sunshine. The crows and the ravens were busy, and the thrushes and little birds sang. I went through the fields, and sate for an hour afraid to pass a cow. The cow looked at me, and I looked at the cow, and whenever I stirred the cow gave over eating…As we came along Ambleside vale in the twilight, it was a grave evening. There was something in the air that compelled me to various thoughts—the hills were large, closed in by the sky…. Night was come on, and the moon was overcast. But, as I climbed the moss, the moon came out from behind a mountain mass of black clouds. O, the unutterable darkness of the sky, and the earth below the moon, and the glorious brightness of the moon itself! There was a vivid sparkling streak of light at this end of Rydale water, but the rest was very dark, and Loughrigg Fell and Silver How were white and bright, as if they were covered with hoar frost. The moon retired again, and appeared and disappeared several times before I reached home.

Wednesday.—It was a beautiful spring morning, warm, and quiet with mists.

Monday, 12th.— … The ground covered with snow. …It was a sharp, windy night. …I had time to look at the moon while I was thinking my own thoughts. The moon travelled through the clouds, tinging them yellow as she passed along, with two stars near her, one larger than the other. These stars grew and diminished as they passed from, or went into, the clouds.

Tuesday, 13th April.–I walked along the lake side. The air was become still, the lake was of a bright slate colour, the hills darkening. The bays shot into the low fading shores. Sheep resting. All things quiet. 

Thursday, 15th.—It was a threatening, misty morning, but mild. …The wind was furious. The lake was rough …The hawthorns are black and green, the birches here and there greenish, but there is yet more of purple to be seen on the twigs. We got over into a field to avoid some cows—people working. A few primroses by the roadside—woodsorrel flower, the anemone, scentless violets, strawberries, and that starry, yellow flower which Mrs. C. calls pile wort. When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow Park we saw a few daffodils close to the water-side. We fancied that the sea had floated the seeds ashore, and that the little colony had so sprung up. But as we went along there were more and yet more; and at last, under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful. They grew among the mossy stones about and above them; some rested their heads upon these stones, as on a pillow, for weariness; and the rest tossed and reeled and danced, and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind, that blew upon them over the lake; they looked so gay, ever glancing, ever changing. This wind blew directly over the lake to them. There was here and there a little knot, and a few stragglers higher up; but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity, unity, and life of that one busy highway. We rested again and again. The bays were stormy, and we heard the waves at different distances, and in the middle of the water, like the sea…. All was cheerless and gloomy, so we faced the storm.

Friday, 16th April (Good Friday).—When I undrew curtains in the morning, I was much affected by the beauty of the prospect, and the change. The sun shone, the wind had passed away, the hills looked cheerful, the river was very bright as it flowed into the lake. The church rises up behind a little knot of rocks, the steeple not so high as an ordinary three-story house. Trees in a row in the garden under the wall. The valley is at first broken by little woody knolls that make retiring places, fairy valleys in the vale, the river winds along under these hills, travelling, not in a bustle but not slowly, to the lake. …Primroses by the road-side, pile wort that shone like stars of gold in the sun, violets, strawberries, retired and half-buried among the grass. …When we came to the foot of Brothers Water, I left William sitting on the bridge,  and went along the path on the right side of the lake through the wood. I was delighted with what I saw. The water under the boughs of the bare old trees, the simplicity of the mountains, and the exquisite beauty of the path. … There was the gentle flowing of the stream, the glittering, lively lake, green fields without a living creature to be seen on them; behind us, a flat pasture with forty-two cattle feeding; to our left, the road leading to the hamlet. No smoke there, the sun shone on the bare roofs. The people were at work ploughing, harrowing, and sowing; … a dog barking now and then, cocks crowing, birds twittering, the snow in patches at the top of the highest hills, yellow palms, purple and green twigs on the birches, ashes with their glittering stems quite bare. The hawthorn a bright green, with black stems under the oak. The moss of the oak glossy. …there were hundreds of cattle in the vale. ..We watched the crows at a little distance from us become white as silver as they flew in the sunshine, and when they went still further, they looked like shapes of water passing over the green fields….The garden looked pretty in the half-moonlight, half-daylight, as we went up the vale….

Saturday, 17th.A mild warm rain. We sate in the garden all the morning. William dug a little. I transplanted a honey-suckle. The lake was still. The sheep on the island, reflected in the water, like the grey-deer we saw in Gowbarrow Park. We walked after tea by moonlight.

Sunday, 18th.—Again a mild grey morning, with rising vapours.

Thursday, 22nd.—A fine mild morning. We walked into Easedale. The sun shone. … The waters were high, for there had been a great quantity of rain in the night.

Friday, 23rd April 1802.—It being a beautiful morning ….The sun shone, and we were lazy.  … Afterwards we lingered long, looking into the vales; Ambleside vale, with the copses, the village under the hill, and the green fields; Rydale, with a lake all alive and glittering, yet but little stirred by breezes; and our dear Grasmere, making a little round lake of nature’s own, with never a house, never a green field, but the copses and the bare hills enclosing it, and the river flowing out of it. Above rose the Coniston Fells, in their own shape and colour—not man’s hills, but all for themselves, the sky and the clouds, and a few wild creatures. …On the other side it was higher than my head. We looked down on the Ambleside vale, that seemed to wind away from us, the village lying under the hill. The fir-tree island was reflected beautifully. About this bower there is mountain-ash, common-ash, yew-tree, ivy, holly, hawthorn, grasses, and flowers, and a carpet of moss. Above, at the top of the rock, there is another spot. It is scarce a bower, a little parlour only, not enclosed by walls, but shaped out for a resting-place by the rocks, and the ground rising about it. It had a sweet moss carpet. We resolved to go and plant flowers in both these places to-morrow. ..

Saturday, 24th.—A very wet day. William called me out to see a waterfall behind the barberry tree. … We all stood to look at Glow-worm Rock—a primrose that grew there, and just looked out on the road from its own sheltered bower.The clouds moved,… in one regular body like a multitude in motion—a sky all clouds over, not one cloud. On our return it broke a little out, and we saw here and there a star. One appeared but for a moment in a pale blue sky.

Wednesday, 28th April.We have let the bright sun go down without walking. Now a heavy shower comes on, and I guess we shall not walk at all. 

Thursday, 29th.— ..listening to the waterfalls and the birds. There was no one waterfall above another—it was a sound of waters in the air—the voice of the air. … As I lay down on the grass, I observed the glittering silver line on the ridge of the backs of the sheep, owing to their situation respecting the sun, which made them look beautiful, but with something of strangeness, like animals of another kind, as if belonging to a more splendid world…. I got mullins and pansies.

Friday, April 30th.—We came into the orchard directly after breakfast, and sate there. The lake was[Pg 115] calm, the day cloudy. …I did not sleep, but lay with half-shut eyes looking at the prospect as on a vision almost, I was so resigned65 to it. Loughrigg Fell was the most distant hill, then came the lake, slipping in between the copses. Above the copse, the round swelling field; nearer to me, a wild intermixture of rocks, trees, and patches of grassy ground. When we turned the corner of our little shelter, we saw the church and the whole vale. It is a blessed place. The birds were about us on all sides. Skobbies, robins, bull-finches, and crows, now and then flew over our heads, as we were warned by the sound of the beating of the air above. We stayed till the light of day was going, and the little birds had begun to settle their singing. But there was a thrush not far off, that seemed to sing louder and clearer than the thrushes had sung when it was quite day.

Saturday, May 1st.—Rose not till half-past 8, a heavenly morning. As soon as breakfast was over, we went into the garden, and sowed the scarlet beans about the house. It was a clear sky. sowed the flowers, William helped me. We then went and sate in the orchard till dinner time. It was very hot. William wrote The Celandine.66 We planned a shed, for the sun was too much for us. After dinner, we went again to our old resting-place in the Hollins under the rock. We first lay under the Holly, where we saw nothing but the holly tree, and a budding elm tree mossed, with the sky above our heads. But that holly tree had a beauty about it more than its own, knowing as we did when we arose. When the sun had got low enough, we went to the Rock Shade. Oh, the overwhelming beauty of the vale below, greener than green! Two ravens flew high, high in the sky, and the sun shone upon their bellies and their wings, long after there was none of his light to be seen but a little space on the top of Loughrigg Fell. Heard the cuckoo to-day, this first of May. We went down to tea at 8 o’clock, and returned after tea. The landscape was fading: sheep and lambs quiet among the rocks. We walked towards King’s, and backwards and forwards. The sky was perfectly cloudless. N.B. it is often so. Three solitary stars in the middle of the blue vault, one or two on the points of the high hills.

Tuesday, 4th May.–William and I ate luncheon, and then went on towards the waterfall. It is a glorious[Pg 117] wild solitude under that lofty purple crag. It stood upright by itself; its own self, and its shadow below, one mass; all else was sunshine. We went on further. A bird at the top of the crag was flying round and round, and looked in thinness and transparency, shape and motion like a moth…. We climbed the hill, but looked in vain for a shade, except at the foot of the great waterfall. We came down, and rested upon a moss-covered rock rising out of the bed of the river. ..The stag’s horn is very beautiful and fresh, springing upon the fells; mountain ashes, green.

Wednesday, 5th May.—A very fine morning, rather cooler than yesterday. We planted three-fourths of the bower. I made bread. We sate in the orchard. The thrush sang all day, as he always sings.Thursday, 6th May.—A sweet morning. We have put the finishing stroke to our bower, and here we are sitting in the orchard. It is one o’clock. We are sitting upon a seat under the wall, which I found my brother building up, when I came to him…. He had intended that it should have been done before I came. It is a nice, cool, shady spot. The small birds are singing, lambs bleating, cuckoos calling, the thrush sings by fits, Thomas Ashburner’s axe is going quietly (without passion) in the orchard, hens are cackling, flies humming, the women talking together at their doors, plum and pear trees are in blossom—apple trees greenish—the opposite woods green, the crows are cawing, we have heard ravens, the ash trees are in blossom, birds flying all about us, the stitchwort is coming out, there is one budding lychnis, the primroses are passing their prime, celandine, violets, and wood sorrel for ever more, little geraniums and pansies on the wall. …The moon was a perfect boat, a silver boat, when we were out in the evening. The birch tree is all over green in small leaf, more light and elegant than when it is full[Pg 119] out. It bent to the breezes, as if for the love of its own delightful motions. Sloe-thorns and hawthorns in the hedges.

Friday, 7th May.— After dinner we sate in the orchard. It was a thick, hazy, dull air. The thrush sang almost continually; the little birds were more than usually busy with their voices. The sparrows are now full fledged. The nest is so full that they lie upon one another; they sit quietly in their nest with closed mouths. I walked to Rydale after tea, which we drank by the kitchen fire. The evening very dull; a terrible kind of threatening brightness at sunset above Easedale. The sloe-thorn beautiful in the hedges, and in the wild spots higher up among the hawthorns. No letters. William met me. He had been digging in my absence, and cleaning the well. We walked up beyond Lewthwaites. A very dull sky; coolish; crescent moon now and then.

Saturday Morning, 8th May.—We sowed the scarlet beans in the orchard, and read Henry V. there. William lay on his back on the seat, and wept…. After dinner William added one to the orchard steps.

Sunday Morning, 9th May.—The air considerably colder to-day, but the sun shone all day.

Tuesday, 11th May.—A cool air. William finished the stanzas about C. and himself. He did not go out to-day. Miss Simpson came in to tea, which was lucky enough, for it interrupted his labours. I walked with her to Rydale. The evening cool; the moon only now and then to be seen; the lake purple as we went; primroses still in abundance. William did not meet me. He completely finished his poem, I finished Derwent’s frocks. We went to bed at twelve o’clock….

Wednesday, 12th May.—A sunshiny, but coldish morning. We walked into Easedale…. We brought home heckberry blossom, crab blossom, the anemone nemorosa, marsh marigold, speedwell,—that beautiful blue one, the colour of the blue-stone or glass used in jewellery—with the beautiful pearl-like chives. Anemones are in abundance, and still the dear dear primroses, violets in beds, pansies in abundance, and the little celandine. I pulled a bunch of the taller celandine. Butterflies of all colours. I often see some small ones of a pale purple lilac, or emperor’s eye colour, something of the colour of that large geranium which grows by the lake side…. William pulled ivy with beautiful berries. I put it over the chimney-piece. Sate in the orchard the hour before dinner, coldish….

Thursday, 13th May.—The day was very cold, with snow showers. …

Friday, 14th May.—A very cold morning—hail and snow showers all day. We went to Brothers wood, intending to get plants, and to go along the shore of the lake to the foot. We did go a part of the way, but there was no pleasure in stepping along that difficult sauntering road in this ungenial weather. We turned again, and walked backwards and forwards in Brothers wood. William tired himself with seeking an epithet for the cuckoo. I sate a while upon my last summer seat, the mossy stone. William’s, unoccupied, beside me, and the space between, where Coleridge has so often lain. The oak trees are just putting forth yellow knots of leaves. The ashes with their flowers passing away, and leaves coming out; the blue hyacinth is not quite full blown; gowans are coming out; marsh marigolds in full glory; the little star plant, a star without a flower. We took home a great load of gowans, and planted them about the orchard…. I worked bread, then came and mended stockings beside William; he fell asleep. After tea I walked to Rydale for letters. It was a strange night. The hills were covered over with a slight covering of hail or snow, just so as to give them a hoary winter look with the black rocks. The woods looked miserable, the coppices green as grass, which looked quite unnatural, and they seemed half shrivelled up, as if they shrank from the air. O, thought I! what a beautiful thing God has made winter to be, by stripping the trees, and letting us see their shapes and forms. What a freedom does it seem to give to the storms! There were several new flowers out, but I had no pleasure in looking at them.

Saturday, 15th.—A very cold and cheerless morning. I sate mending stockings all the morning. I read in Shakespeare. William lay very late because he slept ill last night. It snowed this morning just like Christmas.

Sunday, 16th.—A sunny, cold, frosty day. A snowstorm at night. We were a good while in the orchard in the morning.

Thursday, 20th May.—A frosty, clear morning. … We sate in the orchard sheltered all the morning. In the evening there was a fine rain.

Friday, 21st May.—A very warm gentle morning, a little rain.

Saturday, 22nd May.—A very hot morning. A hot wind, as if coming from a sand desert.

Friday, 28th.—  We sate in the orchard. The sky cloudy, the air sweet and cool. The young bullfinches, in their party-coloured raiment, bustle about among the blossoms, and poise themselves like wire-dancers or tumblers, shaking the twigs and dashing off the blossoms.There is yet one primrose in the orchard. The stitchwort is fading. The vetches are in abundance, blossoming and seeding. That pretty little wavy-looking dial-like yellow flower, the speedwell, and some others, whose names I do not yet know. The wild columbines are coming into beauty; some of the gowans fading. In the garden we have lilies, and many other flowers. The scarlet beans are up in crowds. It is now between eight and nine o’clock. It has rained sweetly for two hours and a half; the air is very mild. The heckberry blossoms are[Pg 125] dropping off fast, almost gone; barberries are in beauty; snowballs coming forward; May roses blossoming.

Saturday, 29th.—  A sweet day. We nailed up the honeysuckles, and hoed the scarlet beans.

Tuesday. [June 1st] —A very sweet day, but a sad want of rain. We went into the orchard…. The columbine was growing upon the rocks; here and there a solitary plant, sheltered and shaded by the tufts and bowers of trees. It is a graceful slender creature, a female seeking retirement, and growing freest and most graceful where it is most alone. I observed that the more shaded plants were always the tallest. …It was a lovely night. The clouds of the western sky reflected a saffron light upon the upper end of the lake. All was still. We went to look at Rydale. There was an Alpine, fire-like red upon the tops of the mountains. This was gone when we came in view of the lake. But we saw the lake from a new and most beautiful point of view, between two little rocks, and behind a small ridge that had concealed it from us. This White Moss, a place made for all kinds of beautiful works of art and nature, woods and valleys, fairy valleys and fairy tarns, miniature mountains, alps above alps.

Thursday, 3rd June 1802.—A very fine rain.c…The cuckoo sang, and we watched the little birds as we sate at the door of the cow-house. The oak copses are brown, as in autumn, with the late frosts….The thrush is singing. There are, I do believe, a thousand buds on the honeysuckle tree, all small and far from blowing, save one that is retired behind the twigs close to the wall, and as snug as a bird nest. John’s rose tree is very beautiful, blended with the honeysuckle.

Saturday, 5th.—A fine showery morning. I made both pies and bread; but we first walked into Easedale, and sate under the oak trees, upon the mossy stones. There were one or two slight showers. The gowans were flourishing along the banks of the stream. The strawberry flower hanging over the brook; all things soft and green.