Reading about the various Indiaman disasters had reminded me that I’ve already visited a spot associated with one of them – the Brothers Parting Stone just below Grisedale Tarn, where John Wordsworth said goodbye to his brother and sister before going to take command of the Earl of Abergavenny, later wrecked just off Weymouth.
The site is near of the top of the pass, with a relatively steep valley leading down to the Grasmere road on one side, and on the other the start of a gentler drop to the long valley of Grisedale, which leads out to Glenridding and Ullswater.
Like so many things, the story of the stone is a bit of a later myth – the parting here was not before the fateful third voyage on the Earl of Abergavenny in 1805, but five years earlier, when John was on his way to take command of her for the first time, and although it was the last time he left home in Grasmere, the brothers (and their sister) may have met again in London two years later when William and Dorothy travelled to France.
The story really starts with a poem written around the same spot in 1805, which wasn’t published until 1842, as “Elegiac Verses in Memory of My Brother, John Wordsworth“, and it was 1881 before the Wordsworth Society decided to erect a monument at the site, inspired by lines from the poem.
The stone is really just a stone, a bit off the modern path, but helpfully marked with a metal sign.
The stone is carved with the words which inspired it, but it was never very good stone for carving, and it’s fairly illegible now.
Here did we stop; and here looked round
While each into himself descends,
For that last thought of parting Friends
That is not to be found.
Brother and friend, if verse of mine
Have power to make thy virtues known,
Here let a monumental Stone
Stand–sacred as a Shrine.