The Legend of Lady Emma and Sir Eglamore of Aira Force

waterfall_aira_force2c_national_trust_-_geograph-org-uk_-_2018

Pam Brophy [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Aira Force is a waterfall situated in the Lake District in Cumbria, an area of England renowned for the beauty and splendor of its landscape of lakes, mountains, and forests. The lakes have been a popular holiday and walking destination for many people for centuries.  Many of the most famous poets of the Romantic movement such as William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Robert Southey found inspiration and solace amid its magnificent landscape.   Wordsworth, in particular, found the inspiration to write some of his most memorable lines while walking amid the sweeping landscape of Lakeland and one such place was Aira Force.  The waters come from a stream called the Aira Beck which has its source on Stybarrow Dodd.  Its path takes it through a ravine and falls about sixty-six feet creating the waterfall called Aira Force which then flows toward Ullswater.   Lakeland is steeped in history and folklore and Aira Force has a rather sad legend attached to it which also appears in a poem written by Wordsworth called, The Somnambulist.

The Legend of Lady Emma and Sir Eglamore

The legend tells how there was once a bold and noble knight named Sir Eglamore who was betrothed to the beautiful Lady Emma.  Being a lady of considerable beauty she had many suitors but had chosen Sir Eglamore in preference to all of the others.   Sir Eglamore, although he loved Lady Emma deeply, was very much the knight errant and often traveled to far off lands to fighting all sorts of foreign foes and having many different adventures.

Although the couple was truly in love Sir Eglamore increasingly spent more and more time away from his lady.   Poor Lady Emma came to miss him greatly and her health and sleep became affected.  She began to walk in her sleep even being found wandering in dreams in the gardens at times.  In her sleep, she began to roam further afield visiting places that were special to her and her sweetheart, Sir Eglamore.

One night she rose in her sleep and roamed beyond the gardens and up to the place of one of their favorite haunts, the waterfall of Aira Force where she stood on the very edge of the ravine.  We can only guess that in her sleep she dreamed of the being in the arms of her absent lover.

By coincidence, it happened that Sir Eglamore returned that night and eager to see his beloved had sought for her all over the house.   Not finding her he had sought for her outside eventually making his way up to Aira Force.

There, he saw her standing on the very edge of the waterfall.  Calling joyful greetings to her he ran up the path to her.  She showed no sign that she had heard him and he became concerned and confused.  Thinking it was either the sound of the waterfall that prevented her hearing him, or he had found her ghost, he gently touched her shoulder.  She shuddered and suddenly awoke from sleep in shock and stumbled forward plunging over the edge and down into the icy arms of the fast moving torrent.  William Wordsworth catches the moment in his poem, The Somnambulist,

 
Soul-shattered was the Knight, nor knew
            If Emma’s Ghost it were,
          Or boding Shade, or if the Maid
            Her very self stood there.                            
          He touched; what followed who shall tell?
            The soft touch snapped the thread
          Of slumber–shrieking back she fell,
          And the Stream whirled her down the dell
            Along its foaming bed.
 

Shocked, Sir Eglamore raced to the bottom of the ravine and plunging through the icy water downstream where he eventually caught up with her and carried her from the water.  There by the water’s edge, she briefly opened her eyes and a thin smile spread upon her lips but as she did so she gasped her last breath and passed away in her lover’s arms.  From that moment on Sir Eglamore in his grief took to living in a cave above the waterfall and became a hermit and to prevent another tragedy he built a bridge across the stream.

William Wordsworth told the story in his poem but there is debate among scholars whether it was the legend that inspired the poem or the poem that gave birth to the legend.  Personally, I think it appropriate for the reader to make up their own minds.

© 30/05/2017 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright May 30th, 2017 zteve t evans

 

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4 thoughts on “The Legend of Lady Emma and Sir Eglamore of Aira Force

  1. Pingback: The Legend of Lady Emma and Sir Eglamore of Aira Force — Under the influence!

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