The famous poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, author of The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, was born in Ottery St Mary in 1772. He spent much of his childhood accompanying his father, the parish vicar, on his pastoral duties around the parish – and clearly much time in the upper reaches of the River Otter. In 1793 he wrote this sonnet to the river.
To the River Otter
Dear native brook! wild streamlet of the West!
How many various-fated years have passed,
What happy and what mournful hours, since last
I skimmed the smooth thin stone along thy breast,
Numbering its light leaps! Yet so deep impressed
Sink the sweet scenes of childhood, that mine eyes
I never shut amid the sunny ray,
But straight with all their tints thy waters rise,
Thy crossing plank, thy marge with willows grey,
And bedded sand that, veined with various dyes,
Gleamed through thy bright transparence! On my way,
Visions of childhood! oft have ye beguiled
Lone manhood’s cares, yet waking fondest sighs:
Ah! that once more I were a careless child!
Samuel Taylor Coleridge - 1793