Apology for the Little Naval Temple, on Storrs Point, Windermere

John Wilson

Nay! Stranger! smile not at this little dome,
Albeit quaint, and with no nice regard
To highest rules of grace and symmetry,
Plaything of art, it venture thus to stand
'Mid the great forms of Nature. Doth it seem
A vain intruder in the quiet heart
Of this majestic Lake, that like an arm
Of Ocean, or some Indian river vast,
In beauty floats amid its guardian hills?
Haply it may: yet in this humble tower,
The mimicry of loftier edifice,
There lives a silent spirit, that confers
A lasting charter on its sportive wreath
Of battlements, amid the mountain-calm
To stand as proudly, as you giant rock
That with his shadow dims the dazzling lake!

Then blame it not: for know 'twas planted here,
In mingled mood of seriousness and mirth,
By one who meant to Nature's sanctity
No cold unmeaning outrage. He was one
Who often in adventurous youth had sail'd
O'er the great waters, and he dearly loved
Their music wild; nor less the gallant souls
Whose home is on the Ocean:—so he framed
This jutting mole, that like a natural cape
Meets the soft-breaking waves, and on its point,
Bethinking him of some sea-structure huge,
Watch-tower or light-house, rear'd this mimic dome,
Seen up and down the lake, a monument
Sacred to images of former days.

See! in the playfulness of English zeal
Its low walls are emblazon'd! there thou read'st
Howe, Duncan, Vincent, and that mightier name
Whom death has made immortal.—Not misplaced
On temple rising from an inland sea
Such venerable names, though ne'er was heard
The sound of cannon o'er these tranquil shores,
Save when it peal'd to waken in her cave
The mountain echo: yet this chronicle,
Speaking of war amid the depths of peace,
Wastes not its meaning on the heedless air.
It hath its worshippers: it sends a voice,
A voice creating elevated thoughts,
Into the hearts of our bold peasantry
Following the plough along these fertile vales,
Or up among the misty solitude
Beside the wild sheep-fold. The fishermen,
Who on the clear wave ply their silent trade,
Oft passing lean upon their dripping oars,
And bless the heroes: Idling in the joy
Of summer sunshine, as in light canoe
The stranger glides among these lovely isles,
This little temple to his startled soul
Oft sends a gorgeous vision, gallant crews
In fierce joy cheering as they onwards bear
To break the line of battle, meteor-like
Long ensigns brightening on the towery mast,
And sails in awful silence o'er the main
Lowering like thunder-clouds!—

Then, stranger! give
A blessing on this temple, and admire
The gaudy pendant round the painted staff
Wreathed in still splendour, or in wanton folds,
Even like a serpent bright and beautiful,
Streaming its burnished glory on the air.
And whether silence sleep upon the stones
Of this small edifice, or from within
Steal the glad voice of laughter and of song,
Pass on with alter'd thoughts, and gently own
That Windermere, with all her radiant isles
Serenely floating on her azure breast,
Like stars in heaven, with kindest smiles may robe
This monument, to heroes dedicate,
Nor Nature feel her holy reign profaned
By work of art, though framed in humblest guise,
When a high spirit prompts the builder's soul.

The Naval 'Temple' on Storrs Point on Windermere, was built by Sir John Legard, the owner of the grand Storr House (now a hotel). The small domed building sits at the end of a small jetty. It is decorated with the achievements of the great British naval commanders who Howe, Duncn, Vincent and "that mightier name", Admiral Nelson.