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William Wordsworth

Claines is a far cry from the Lake District, so often associated with Wordsworth but we have two Claines connections, not known to many.

Firstly on the South Nave wall of the Church there is a handsome memorial to Frances Fermor. On her death Wordsworth composed an “Elegiac Stanza” entitled “Cenotaph” which he addressed to Sir George Howland Beaumont,  the brother-in-law of Frances, himself an English painter. The inscription was used on a Cenotaph erected in the grounds of Sir Georges home in Coleorton, Leicestershire and is introduced with the words:

“In affectionate remembrance of Frances Fermor, whose remains are deposited in the church of Claines, near Worcester, this stone is erected by her sister, Dame Margaret, wife of Sir George Beaumont, Bart, who, feeling not less than the love of a brother for the deceased, commends this memorial to the care of his heirs and successors in the possession of this place”

 

“Cenotaph” was composed in 1824, the year of her death and published in 1842.

 

 

CENOTAPH

 

By vain affections unenthralled

Though resolute when duty called

To met the world’s broad eye,

Pure as the holiest cloistered nun

That ever feared the tempting sun

Did Fermor live and die.

 

This tablet hallowed by her name,

One heart-relieving tear may claim;

But if the pensive gloom

Of fond regret be still thy choice,

Exalt they spirit, hear the voice

Of Jesus from her tomb!

“ I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE”

 

William Wordsworth 1824

(published 1842)

Secondly, we have “Miserrimus.”, remembering Thomas Morris.

 

Thomas Morris (1668-1748) was Vicar of Claines (1689) and also a  Minor Canon of Worcester Cathedral. He refused to take the oath of allegiance to William the Third, believing in the divine right of hereditary sovereigns, and was dismissed from his post and also from being Vicar of Claines. He lingered on for many years, 'kindly, cheerful old man', dying in great poverty. His grave in the Cloisters, near the South West Door, close to, but outside of the Cathedral, bears the epitaph he requested 'Miserrimus,' (the most miserable of men). This short and sad epitaph inspired one of Wordsworth’s sonnets, shown below. This is considered by some to be an unjust sonnet, for it assumes that this solitary word means vileness, whereas he was probably just the saddest of the sad.

 

 

 

 

A GRAVESTONE UPON THE FLOOR IN THE CLOISTERS OF WORCESTER CATHEDRAL

 

“MISERRIMUS!” and neither name nor date,

Prayer, text or symbol, graven upon the stone;

Nought but that word assigned to the unknown,

That solitary word- to separate

From all, and cast a cloud around the fate

Of him who lies beneath. Most wretched one,

Who chose his epitaph?- Himself alone

Could thus have dared the grave to agitate

And claim, among the dead, this awful crown;

Nor doubt that He marked also for his own

Close to these cloistral steps a burial-place,

That every foot might fall with heavier tread,

Trampling upon his vileness. Stranger, pass

Softly!- To save the contrite Jesus bled.

 

William Wordsworth 1828

Frances Fermor Memorial, Claines Church

Wordsworth
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