Streams Murmur in the Piedmont: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail 52

William Bartram's Desk, Bartram's Gardens, Philadelphia, PA by Beth Thompson

William Bartram’s Desk, Bartram’s Gardens, Philadelphia, PA by Beth Thompson

Take a moment to listen to Wordsworth’s words from his poem “Ruth: Or The Influences of Nature”, inspired by William Bartram’s book Travels.

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Cherokee Country

Cherokee Country by Beth Thompson

A Youth from Georgia’s Shore…

“ There came a youth from Georgia’s shore—
A military casque he wore        
With splendid feathers drest;
He brought them from the Cherokees;
The feathers nodded in the breeze
And made a gallant crest.”
~”Ruth”, William Wordsworth

As I am uncertain which bird’s feathers the Cherokees wore in the time of Bartram, I have used this image of Cherokee country in North Carolina (above), to illustrate the verse.

“The moon, the glory of the sun,
And streams that murmur as they run
Had been his dearest joy.”
~”Ruth”, William Wordsworth

Running Stream

Running Stream by Beth Thompson

While much has changed down South since Bartram’s visit, the streams still murmur as they run, especially here in the Piedmont. The image above is of the stream at Ben Burton Park in Athens GA. The green color comes from the plants growing underwater anchored to rocks. The circle of light is the sun reflecting off the water.

“Among the Indians he had fought;
And with him many tales he brought
Of pleasure and of fear;        
Such tales as, told to any maid
By such a youth, in the green shade,
Were perilous to hear. “
~”Ruth”, William Wordsworth

As William was raised a Quaker, he did not fight in the Revolutionary War, not with the Indians or anyone else. However, he was quite adapt at finding green shade to rest in!

”He told of girls, a happy rout!
Who quit their fold with dance and shout,
Their pleasant Indian town,
To gather strawberries all day long;
Returning with a choral song
When daylight is gone down.”
~”Ruth”, William Wordsworth

Dancing Nymphs: Possible Perception 6040 by Beth Thompson

Dancing Nymphs: Possible Perception 6040 by Beth Thompson

These fleeting Cherokee maidens of the mountains, Bartram’s Innocently Jocose Sylvan Nymphs, I discovered in Alabama at Jasmine Hill Gardens, forever frozen into Greek statuary, complete with the watchful eyes of the older Heras, and forever hotblooded lad, caught in time, in sculpture. Bartram’s comments on this event are in “Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail 17“.

Ogeechee Lime Possible Perception by Beth Thompson

Ogeechee Lime Possible Perception by Beth Thompson

“He spake of plants that hourly change        
Their blossoms, through a boundless range
Of intermingling hues;
With budding, fading, faded flowers,
They stand the wonder of the bowers
From morn to evening dews.”
~”Ruth”, William Wordsworth

I suppose that the flowers didn’t actually change hues hourly, but if one were reading quickly through William Bartram’s Travels, the flowers might seem to change that rapidly.

Wild Azalea: Possible Perception 6047 by Beth Thompson

Wild Azalea: Possible Perception 6047 by Beth Thompson

“He told of the magnolia, spread
High as a cloud, high over head!

Magnolia Cathedral Possible Perception by Beth Thompson

Magnolia Cathedral Possible Perception by Beth Thompson

The cypress and her spire;

Cypress Swamp  $450

Cypress Swamp Possible Perception by Beth Thompson

—Of flowers that with one scarlet gleam
Cover a hundred leagues, and seem        
To set the hills on fire. “
~”Ruth”, William Wordsworth

Savannah Possible Perception 6038 by Beth Thompson

Savannah Possible Perception 6038 by Beth Thompson

“The youth of green savannahs spake,
And many an endless, endless lake

With all its fairy crowds
Of islands, that together lie
As quietly as spots of sky
Among the evening clouds.”
~”Ruth”, William Wordsworth

Evening Clouds by Beth Thompson

Evening Clouds by Beth Thompson

“And all the while,’ said he, ‘to know
That we were in a world of woe,
On such an earth as this!’ “
~”Ruth”, William Wordsworth

Erosion due to Overfarming in SW Georgia by Beth Thompson

Erosion due to Over-farming in SW Georgia by Beth Thompson

Bartram may have already seen the impact of the settlers upon the land during his Peregrinations from North to South and back again. Certainly he was aware of the mistreatment of the Native Peoples. How that mistreatment carried on to present day is the subject of my blog post “The Sacrament of the Land“.

Remains of a Cherokee Village in Franklin, NC by Beth Thompson

Remains of a Cherokee Village in Franklin, NC by Beth Thompson

During my journeys along the Bartram Trail I photographed many of the same plants, animals, and landscapes Bartram saw, but the landscapes were fractured by the human populations living in close proximity to the wild spaces.

Redbud at Bartram's Gardens, Philadelphia, PA by Beth Thompson

Redbud at Bartram’s Gardens, Philadelphia, PA by Beth Thompson

Furthermore, our consumer society is becoming more and more addicted to the quick fix of having that Thing, that shiny Thing hanging in the window of the store, advertised on TV, etc. This fixation on consuming is having devastating consequences on the natural and wild environments as resources are being plundered without regard to who lives downstream.

Fordham Rd, Bronx, before the street sweepers, by Beth Thompson

Fordham Rd, Bronx, before the street sweepers, by Beth Thompson

 

In a lecture ( “A Cherokee Looks at William Bartram,” ) by Cherokee Language Professor Tom Belt during the 2013 Bartram Trail Conference, he said “We all live downstream.”

Downstream, Oconee River from Ben Burton Park, Athens, GA by Beth Thompson

Downstream, Oconee River from Ben Burton Park, Athens, GA by Beth Thompson

So yes, as the poem “Ruth: Or the Influences of Nature” expresses, we live in a “world of woe”. Yet in my journeys, I saw lots of hope too. Portions of the Bartram Trail are preserved, plants he discovered live on in places, creatures he wrote about thrive in the backwater ways far from the crowds of civilization, and sometimes up close and personal to civilization.

Egrets roosting, Skidaway Is, Savannah, GA by Beth Thompson

Egrets roosting, Skidaway Is, Savannah, GA by Beth Thompson

Most of all, William Bartram’s incredible account of his early exploration of the American Southeastern states lives on. His words remind us of what has been lost, and what we can yet regain. His book has inspired nature writers down through the centuries, from when it was first published to 250 years later.

Bertram's Garden Magnolia Possible Perception by Beth Thompson

Bartram’s Garden Magnolia Possible Perception by Beth Thompson

* Opening Stanza from ” The Slacks” by Trip Shakespeare

The End

This entry was posted in Beth's Travels, Possible Perceptions, Possible Pilgrimages, William Bartram's Travels. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Streams Murmur in the Piedmont: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail 52

  1. Anita says:

    Love the photo at the bottom of the page, the green one.

  2. Gaylene Dassinger says:

    What a treat to hear Beth reading Wordsworth to me this morning.
    I loved your entire presentation.
    It’s beautiful!!!

  3. Janice Pulliam says:

    Beth, you have done it yet again. Your words and images capture feelings as well as the history and biology of wildlife, places and people. I’m thankful to you for doing the Bartram series.

  4. Beth Thompson says:

    Thank you Anita, Gaylene, and Janice for your thoughtful comments! Working with Bartram’s Travels has been a labor of love for me. I am a little sad its over…

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