On a recent visit the Lake District it struck me that Coleridge and Wordsworth have been co-opted by the tourist industry. This can obscure what truly defines these poets which was not just about landscapes- more their psycho-geography. They themselves loathed the term ‘romantic’ which was meant to be dismissive. Coleridge lived at Greta Hall near Keswick. He believed that poems should be ‘walked into being’ so he had strenuous slopes to climb to aid his writing process.
There is a rawness and mystery to the hills and dales in Cumbria that prettiness of well composed photographs and watercolours cannot completely tidy up. This is largely due to the megalithic stone circles such as Castelrigg, Long Meg, and Swinside, the castles that rupture the prettiness and pose a mystery. So I’d like to do a kind of John Ruskin and meander around the topic from landscape, to art, literature, psychology and even megalith history using astrology and locational astrology as the tool.
One direct link from these poets is that in the era of the French Revolution 1790s in which they grew up appears to be echoing loudly today as we see dystopian control methods encroaching on people’s freedoms in 2021 and 2022.
Even Wordsworth wrote about those revolutionary days:
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!
Uranus, that planet of revolutions, innovations was discovered in 1781. The discovery chart shows that Uranus itself it was directly opposite Saturn and Mars: Saturn is the planet of entrenched establishment views and Mars of anger and energy and fighting spirit. These were in Sagittarius and Uranus was in Gemini when the French revolution was in full swing by 1789. Saturn (the old) and Uranus (the new) were also conjunct when the Berlin Wall came down in 1988. And in 2021 we had three squares of Saturn to Uranus in 2021. There is one more square to come in October of 2022. This is an echo from the end of the 18th Century to the beginning of the 21st where the struggle for who has the power rages on and Uranus will gain the upper hand though it may not feel like ‘Bliss’.
‘Dove’ Cottage where William and Dorothy lived has a library and museum. It is now part of our ‘English’ Heritage. But I wonder is that what these two pioneering spirits Wordsworth and Coleridge would have wanted? At least Wordsworth was actually born in Cockermouth, Cumbria, which is an appropriate name for Wordsworth who was a bumptious Aries. Aries is considered a self-centered sign for good or ill. Aries natives are pioneers and it is best not to stand in their way. That his work was autobiographical is very apt for Aries too. Even Keats commented about Wordsworth’s style that it represented ‘the egotistical sublime.’ But it is the universal layer of the ego that he managed to achieve. Coleridge was a southerner, born in Devon, and only stayed at Greta Hall from 1800-1804. So the claim to be a lakeside poet has slightly less validity than Wordsworth’s.
They collaborated on their first poems but they later fell out. This was not surprising as the axis of Aries (Wordsworth) to Libra (Coleridge) is in opposition. Each sign has a polar opposite with which you might be complementary but also clash. From Aries to Libra- the First House to the Seventh- is the challenge of the self, relating to itself, and the self, relating to others. Aries and Libra are both cardinal signs so they carry a strong force. This is not to say that Aries are always selfish and Librans always mediators – other factors may be at work. Quite likely Coleridge himself contributed to this clash and Wordsworth alone was not the culprit. Librans are not without their contradictory compulsions; they can often be instigators of conflict and be the ones who subtly trigger disputes, especially as Coleridge has an irritable Sun square Mars.
Into this dynamic entered a woman, Dorothy Wordsworth, sister to William and a poet and diarist herself. She was a Capricorn, born on Christmas day. She loved her two male poets in different ways. Together they formed a powerful trio of Cardinal energy in Fire, Air and Earth. They were all born within two years of each other from 1770-1772 when Pluto was in Capricorn, and Uranus in Taurus just as they have been in 2021-2. This is another echo from their time to ours- revolutionary ideas about the land. Like Blake, Byron and Shelley they were all somehow ‘children of the revolution.’ William described Dorothy as having ‘wild eyes.’ She wanted a spiritual affair with Coleridge even though he was married to Caroline. This neatly side stepped the problem of adultery. His wife only shared his bed and bore his children, yet Dorothy wanted to inspire his poet’s spirit which she may well have achieved acting as muse, as Coleridge needed the spur of others in order to write.
The Astrology of Coleridge and Wordsworth
Coleridge was born Oct 21st at Ottery St Mary, in 1772, with Mercury conjunct the North Node in Libra in the 10th House. This would suggest he was destined for collaboration which he did with Wordsworth – and that way of writing was unusual at the time for poets. The north node position can represent a challenge to our habitual way of being; it takes effort in this life. That his sun is in the tenth in Libra too suggests he would be prominent for a career in the arts. Even once his poetic powers waned he began a lecture series on Literature. He was instrumental in the Shakespeare renewed appreciation for forgotten works like Hamlet, that most philosophical of plays. What stands out is the conjunction of Venus and Neptune both associated with inspiration in the arts. But also Saturn there would give Venus-Neptune discipline to dig deep and turn that into a beautiful creation but also create anxiety.
Wordsworth, was born April 7th, 1770 in Cockermouth, Cumbria. He has the Sun conjunct Venus which would mean he expressed himself eloquently. His Mercury in Pisces at 24° is conjunct Chiron at 25° which gifted him with an ‘inner’ translator of the unconscious mind. He has Jupiter at 24° of Sagittarius -in its own sign- which is a great placement for the largest of large ideas, all shown in the Preludes, the Contemplations, the epic proportions and universality of themes. He even promoted the idea of himself as a great thinker posed like the Rodin statue. The Mercury-Chiron alliance would have added to his vision of himself as a spiritual teacher through poetry and the land as they both reside in the 4th house of self and home. His Uranus is at 10° Taurus, another link to today as – this is exactly where it is Jan 2022, just 3 cycles on since he was born.
Coleridge does not fit so easily into categories as his use of the imagination constitutes a potent visual language that jumps off the page. Neptune conjunct Saturn in Virgo in the 9th House is naturally spiritual and mystical, but Virgo adds a veneer of constructive design to its details and Saturn gives mastery of those fine skills. According to Liz Greene in her book on Neptune, “Neptune in the 9th is perpetually on the road searching for the perfect culture, or the perfect landscape.” I would add that art expressed through the 9th House placement is inclined to be sacred, philosophical, religious and the transcendent. Coleridge inclined towards the metaphysical.
Wordsworth also has Neptune in the 9th House in Virgo so a similar scenario applies. His Neptune is trine to Uranus and square to the Nodes which would make it continually challenging and a powerful creative spur to write.
When their first book of poems Lyrical Ballads was published – roughly September 1st in Bristol- it was the culmination of the previous years with Neptune traversing over Coleridge’s Sun, Mercury and North Node in Libra, gifting him with inspiration. By 1798 Neptune had moved into Scorpio. Happily, Uranus was exactly conjunct his natal Neptune that day, at 17° Virgo and the revolutionary flash of imagination was immediately acknowledged. It kicks off with the Rime of the Ancient Mariner which surprised Coleridge by the way it inspired so many artists to illustrate its strange atmosphere.
This book made them the bright young stars of the era as the 19th century began. For Wordsworth the Sun that day was conjunct his natal Neptune. Uranus was conjunct his MC and the Moon- all very promising for a new publication. Even better was that Mercury was sextile his natal Jupiter, associated with publishing, and the Moon was trine to his natal moon, able to reach a mass audience.
While Wordsworth’s maturer work, where ‘the child is father to the man’, is reflective, sober, more restrained, Coleridge’s images sear into your mind, especially in Kubla Kahn:
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
And it continues…
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ’twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
He called it ‘a vision in a dream. A fragment’. This is important too as that was the first time in the history of poetry that a mere ‘fragment’ recollected as from a sketch in a dream diary could achieve such classic status and still be so memorable. The idea that a work was ‘unfinished’ gives it extra ambiguity in a post-modernist way. This is very high frequency angelic energy. But this poem came to him not in the Lake District but in Exmouth, near Porlock.
Kendal Black Drop and Neptune
Here is where the influence of Kendal Black Drop intrudes into his life. KBD was a particular brand name of Laudanum (opium and alcohol) that included a drop of sugar. Laudanum was freely available and quite cheap – it was even given to babies. It was treatment for aches and pains his dysentery, for neuralgia, respiratory and nervous complaints. It was not ‘eaten’ as De Quincey implied in his Confessions of an Opium Eater (1821) and it was taken at the users own risk. Coleridge was following his doctor’s advice to reduce physical swellings and the pain of his rheumatism. It was the weather of the lakes that may have precipitated this use of KBD as later in life he was advised to go to Malta for a warmer climate. Perhaps the idea that laudanum was itself this ‘milk of paradise’ is reductive yet Thomas De Quincey still wrote that he thought that ‘Opium killed the poet’ i.e. the addiction. But at least it could have enhanced the details in this- is Mount Abora real- or could it be a derivative of Mount Amara in Ethiopia? This ‘honeydew’ is claimed as a metaphor how poets catch their ideas from the source. The language has the potency of a lucid dream some of which can linger in the mind longer than waking life experiences.
This nebulous state of mind is ruled by Neptune whose provenance is visions, dreams, drugs, deceptions and illusions. A strong Neptune is good for a poet and that level of phenomenal inspiration can be achieved by practice without the aid of drugs, but it was to Opium that Coleridge succumbed. That Saturn is there in the 9th house may show that he feared the flood of imagery and its potential for depression and madness. Saturn is the greatest fear in that area of the chart, so it was these beliefs and spiritual ideas that troubled him. He felt he had to prove himself here by poaching ideas from the German Idealists especially Schelling. But he still had to be a skilled ‘scribe’ of his own psyche with that strong Mercury (Trine to Jupiter) – to write down what he saw, and we are lucky that he did, or that chimera would have evaporated fast.
Poems about the Lake District
It was in the poem Cristabel that the reference to nature of the landscape of Cumberland and Westmoreland and the pure Goth’s delight in witches, charms, bells and hauntings comes to the fore.
“In Langdale Pike and Witch’s Lair,
And Dungeon-ghyll so foully rent,
With ropes of rock and bells of air
Three sinful sextons’ ghosts are pent,
Who all give back, one after t’other,
The death-note to their living brother;
And oft too, by the knell offended,
Just as their one! two! three! is ended,
The devil mocks the doleful tale
With a merry peal from Borodale.”
Here we can enjoy pure Lake District spookiness. Christabel is said to be the ‘Halloween’ poem even hinting at lesbianism. Langdale Pike is very steep and craggy; there is a Great Langdale and Little Langdale.
But as regards witches, there’s Long Meg and her daughters Stone Circle. And Wordsworth refers to its enduring quality:
“Speak Thou, whose massy strength and stature scorn
The power of years- pre-eminent and placed
Apart, to overlook the circle vast.”
The story is that the single standing stone Long Meg -3.8 metres tall -was leading a coven who were allegedly disrespecting the Sabbath. So her circle of followers were all turned to stone while still merrily dancing away quite unrepentant. The fact that there are 59 stones does not seem to matter, but if you manage to chip off a morsel, it is said to bleed human blood.
Location in the Lakes
For poets the astrological focus should be on the Sun, Mercury, Venus and Neptune- the planets most obviously associated with creativity and the arts. The 2nd house, the 5th, the 6th and 12th also might have a say. But there are other indicators and every house has its unique ability to be creative. But, astro-locational astrology also reveals a thing or two about why a native is linked to certain places. Locational astrology is based on the idea that a natal chart transplants across the topography and geography of the world from a top-down perspective- the chart imposed upon the land.
Wordsworth is naturally more associated with the Lake District as from his astro-location map it loosely indicates for him a congenial area. The Lake District falls between his Neptune and Moon lines, so for him it was definitely a source of inspiration (Neptune), and a place he could love (the Moon). But he may have experienced true and lasting awe and respect for mountains when he stayed outdoors overnight in the Swiss Alps. He said in Tintern Abbey that there is ‘something ever more about to be’ which establishes his belief in Pan-en-theism- that god is an emergent force in all things.
For Coleridge, on the other hand, I feel that he needed no physical location as a trigger as his own inner visions could summon up a complete world. However, there is a Parans (crosses lines) where the Sun line crosses the Mercury line in the North Sea. That makes London a better place for him as Mercury- writing, commerce, business- runs right through London where his reputation soared. He eventually settled in North London, in Highgate. Copenhagen, however, would have been a good place for him as the Sun line is on an angle and the Sun culminating line both cross at this point. It then runs through Italy and Malta where he also lived for a couple of years on doctor’s orders to get more sunshine.
Dorothy Wordsworth has Neptune across the East coast of the UK so would have felt inspired by this terrain all the way up to Scotland.
Back to John Ruskin who was born February 8th, 1819. He was a true Aquarian disseminator of progressive ideas. He taught people to view the world directly through drawing and to integrate all the interconnections between the natural world and human-made constructions, and the historical perspectives people use as parameters. He was also a ‘back to nature’ type and became the model conservationist.
He provides the continuation of the Romantic outlook by being patron to many of the Pre-Raphaelite painters who formed in 1848 at the time of the Saturn-Neptune conjunction. He maintained this anti-industrialist vision by endorsing Wordsworth and Coleridge territory. He renovated Brantwood house on Lake Conniston. The Sun and Jupiter cross over just north of the Lake District making that area the best for his greatest repose and retirement where he received a lot of visitors. The line is actually closer to Glasgow but the parans – is close enough for his choice of residence in Conniston to be an inspired one.
The Interior Landscape
While the weather in the Lake District may be nice enough during the summer, it can be wild and unpredictable, even claiming the lives of hikers. To any sensitive person this forces them inside, into their thoughts and complexes, the inner landscape and psycho-geography. This is the contradiction that when we are surrounded by an incredible landscape, we may feel inadequate to its grandeur. Salford poet, John Cooper Clarke, another Aquarian, in Secret Life of Books Part 4 (2015) says he never bought into the ‘mythology of the Lake District’ as it would ‘induce misery.’ Not everyone experiences an epiphany on seeing a bunch of daffodils. Hence the drive towards escape, which again is Neptunian, and at the very least to the impulse to stare into the flames of a log fire on a cold night to see our own personal visions reflected there.
The effect of Coleridge’s words is visceral. His poems can be equated to Tarot cards as they are portals for meditation with revelatory power just as the megaliths are portals. Using this analogy to weigh up the impact of the two poets: if Wordsworth was the Emperor of the new movement in poetry, then Coleridge was the undisputed High Priest of the inner sanctum. Coleridge was the more visionary of the two and Wordsworth the more meditative. Coleridge, in spite of his human failings as a husband, had more of an influence on Byron, Shelley and W.B. Yeats decades later, and even on the Imagists o-the 21st century. But also Wordsworth’s phrase ‘emotion recollected in tranquility’ is still a working definition of poetry, and there is no ignoring that, even if T.S. Eliot disagreed.
Coleridge defined the imagination as the human dimension that replicates the divine power of creation. These ideas are still to this day regarded as controversial, as too mystical to be rendered into everyday materialistic world. The romantics extolled a ‘return to nature’ and an opposition to technology and industrialization of human life. We need that impulse even more today in the matrix-style world. But it was to landscape they turned for inspiration, to the Earth which is very Uranus in Taurus. They lost themselves in the lakes and hills as it is nature that offers a soothing antidote to loss of freedom and individuality from the onslaught of technocratic authoritarian forces.
© by Kieron Devlin, Jan 18th, 2022
Kieron is an astrologer and writer who uses Western, tropical astrology to unearth patterns in personal and collective archetypes in the natal chart to help people understand themselves in order to relate to the world better. He uses asteroids and locational astrology as additional tools to enhance this approach. He is based in London and his website is www.proteusastrology.co.uk.
Images sourced from Wikimedia Commons
Poems from Poetry Foundation.org
Maps and charts from Solar Fire
Greene L. (1996) The Astrological Neptune and the Quest for Redemption Boston: Weiser Books