226 - Geo-Poetry, or: Finding Wordsworth
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
Five years have past; five summers, with the length
\nOf five long winters! And again I hear
\nThese waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
\nWith a soft inland murmur (…)
So begins one of the Lyrical Ballads, a collaboration between the English romantic poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth, published in 1798. Together with ‘I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud’, it’s one of Wordsworth’s most famous poems. It’s often referred to as ‘Tintern Abbey’, the ruin of a mediaeval monastery on the Welsh-English border that inspired it, but its actual, longer name is ‘Lines Composed A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks on the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798′.\n
Since air travel was out of the question in that period, Wordsworth obviously meant a few miles up- or downstream from the then ivy-covered magnet for proto-tourists, who flocked to the ruins for their ‘romantic’ (today we might equally say ‘gothic’) thrill.\n
This map, found here, shows exactly where Wordsworth might have penned the poem. If someone bothered to measure the exact distance, the poem could be renamed ‘Lines Composed 8.2 Miles Up the River from Tintern Abbey’… but that would no doubt detract from the work’s poetic quality. ‘I Wandered Lonely As a Stratocumulus’, anyone?\n
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