“The creative adult is the child who has survived.” – Ursula Le Guin
William Wordsworth, born 1770, was orphaned at an early age and left in the care of his uncle, an academic. He received a scholarship to Cambridge, but preferred to educate himself, writing later: “I was not for that hour / Or for that place.” Instead of spending the summer before his senior year studying, he and his friend Robert Jones set off trekking Europe. They headed for the French Alps, Mont Blanc and the Chamonix Valley with landscapes powerful enough to guide an illiterate hand to write poetry, but this was Wordsworth who went on to base his autobiographical The Prelude on that hike.
Below is a peek out of the window from where my wife and I woke in a small bed and breakfast in Chamonix a few years ago, followed by a morning touring the village and then taking a cable car up to the Aiguille-de-Midi.
I have no delusions that I could ever hold Wordsworth’s quill, nevertheless that doesn’t stop me from scribing my own verse. The following poem is one of several that were inspired by our trip to the French Alps and Chamonix. The story behind the poem was published in Saint Anthony Messenger magazine in 2013.
Nine o’clock chimes quake the bell tower
clothed in stained glass and gilded with the Virgin
iron pulleys strain the funicular
to a tiled station on Praying Hill
across from de Fourviere,
No Service Today.
Mosaics peer down on empty pews
out on the veranda a hazy view
Mount Blanc 100 miles away
through a mountain pass massifs open
to paragliders casting rainbow shadows
on azure waters of Lake Annecy.
In a quaint Alps village
a toothless Moroccan waits
for the funicular to descend,
while an irate innkeeper in Lyon
watches us run out the door
laughing all the way to Chamonix.