June 2016 

Simon Bainbridge, Brian Thompson, Mike Collier, Inge Panneels, Andrew Richardson and Sally Bushell.

Seven Ways Up was a multidisciplinary project, a creative collaboration, bringing together artists, designers and literary academics to explore and interpret the rich history and literature of mountain pathways, creating new visions of literary mountain climbs. Inspired by William Wordsworth’s account of his night-time ascent of Snowdon (an event that became the climax of his autobiographical epic, The Prelude) the project’ s own journey began as a literal climb; tracing the poet’s words and footsteps to the summit of Snowdon’s peak. This initial journey represented an important starting point from which further exploration into the historical and literary background to the climb was undertaken. The seven ways makes reference to the main routes to the top of Snowdon, tracks well known by the time of William Wordsworth’s climb, and hint at the variety of individual pathways that writers, artists and poets may take in pursuit of their own summit experience. The exhibition was held at the Wordsworth Museum in July 2016 and represents the individual creative pathways followed as part of the group’s on-going creative journey.

My own contribution to this project can be seen above. As a keen walker, the passage in The Prelude: 1850, XIV in which Wordsworth recounts a night-time ascent of Snowdon in 1791 with a friend and shepherd guide is one of my favourite texts in English literature. Together they set of from Bethgelert:

It was a close, warm, breezeless summer night,
Wan, dull, and glaring, with a dripping fog
Low-hung and thick that covered all the sky;
But, undiscouraged, we began to climb

The mountain-side’. (11-15)

Wordsworth then says that after some convivial conversation:

pensively we sank into commerce

Each with his private thoughts (17-18)

I am wary of ‘illustrating’ Wordsworth’s text, because he himself has such a wonderful eye … and this is especially so in the Prelude where he ‘more fully, perhaps, then any other poet [lets us] into the secrets of the poetic consciousness’, revealing and opening out to us ‘as no one else, however rich in visual imagery, the peculiar function of the eye’. Wordsworth’s eye is not, however, a Cartesian eye – it is an embodied eye that feels and senses. 

And so my piece here begins with Wordsworth’s phrase:

… as I looked up, 

the Moon hung naked in a firmament

For Wordsworth, man and nature were intertwined in a great oneness with the earth – and with the heavens too.

Mike Collier June 2016