We’re still on a figurative high after the highest shared reading group ever at the summit of Mount Snowdon over the weekend, so for this week’s Featured Poem we’re staying with the theme of ascending mountains. Perhaps with the inspiration of Wordsworth, Helvellyn might be our next shared reading target – we’ll already have the reading material sorted…
On Her First Ascent to Helvellyn
Inmate of a mountain-dwelling,
Thou hast clomb aloft, and gazed
From the watch-towers of Helvellyn;
Awed, delighted, and amazed!
Potent was the spell that bound thee
Not unwilling to obey;
For blue Ether’s arms, flung round thee,
Stilled the pantings of dismay.
Lo! the dwindled woods and meadows;
What a vast abyss is there!
Lo! the clouds, the solemn shadows,
And the glistenings–heavenly fair!
And a record of commotion
Which a thousand ridges yield;
Ridge, and gulf, and distant ocean
Gleaming like a silver shield!
Maiden! now take flight;–inherit
Alps or Andes–they are thine!
With the morning’s roseate Spirit,
Sweep their length of snowy line;
Or survey their bright dominions
In the gorgeous colours drest
Flung from off the purple pinions,
Evening spreads throughout the west!
Thine are all the coral fountains
Warbling in each sparry vault
Of the untrodden lunar mountains;
Listen to their songs!–or halt,
To Niphates’ top invited,
Whither spiteful Satan steered;
Or descend where the ark alighted,
When the green earth re-appeared;
For the power of hills is on thee,
As was witnessed through thine eye
Then, when old Helvellyn won thee
To confess their majesty!
It was William Blake in his Poetical Works who said “Great things are done when Men and Mountains meet/This is not Done by jostling in the Street”. A great thing was certainly done on Sunday 20th September when the highest shared reading group in Wales – and England – took place at the summit of Mount Snowdon.
We’re always game for a challenge at The Reader, as well as constantly seeking to take shared reading to new places never before ventured. Earlier this year our North Wales team began to plan for the intrepid adventure, taking into account important things such as logistics, weather and the various safety concerns that come with reading upon the 1,085m peak of the highest point in the British Isles outside of the Scottish Highlands. The shared reading group members, volunteers and Reader staff were gathered and briefed and finally, a date in September was settled upon. Early Autumn would surely provide dry and fairly sunny conditions to enjoy the group reading as well as the breathtaking views…
Unfortunately the British weather couldn’t be as well organised as the rest of the trip, and our band of brave Readers were met with wet, windy and foggy conditions at the top of the mountain. Luckily they were able to remain dry for the majority of the journey, boarding the Snowdon Mountain Railway and warming up with a selection of poems before making it triumphant – if a little weather-worn – to the summit.
For such a momentous occasion, the choice of poem to read aloud became all the more significant. There are plenty of Welsh literary greats who would have proved fitting, but we had to plump for a poem written about the most difficult route to the summit of Mount Snowdon. Even if our team of mountaineers didn’t tread the path of Crib Goch, the readings of Y Grib Goch in Welsh by T. Rowland Hughes and the English translation Crib Goch by Catherine Fisher captured the spirit, history and atmosphere atop the peak, as well as signifying the true versatility of shared reading – there really is a suitable poem for every occasion! On the way back down the mountain, there was more group shared reading in store to celebrate a successful attempt with euphoria and a sense of achievement running high.
The journey, as well as the stirring bilingual readings, were captured on camera for those of us with our feet firmly on ground level terrain to enjoy:
A mountain-sized thanks goes to our North Wales Project Coordinator Jeanette who had the tricky task of organising the expedition against all the adversities, making sure the day was both safe and successful for everyone involved. The group has been submitted to the Guinness Book of World Records for the highest shared reading group to have ever taken place, so we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed that we can be recognised as a record breaker.
Jeanette also made the airwaves before leading our band of Readers up into the air, speaking to Wynne Jones on his Big Welsh Weekend show on BBC Radio Wales about the expedition. Listen from 47 minutes 30 seconds in: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06b3jxl (27 days left to listen)