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The Somnambulist and the Ghost of Aira Force

William Wordsworth wrote the poem “The Somnambulist”  (1828) in response to the legend of the ghost of Aira Force.

Lyulph’s Tower, close to Aira Force, was built by Charles Howard, 11th Duke of Norfolk as a hunting lodge incorporating a 13th century Pele Tower. Legend has it that a daughter of the house, Lady Emma, became engaged to a medieval knight named Sir Eglamore. He was absent a great deal fighting foreign battles, and in her distress, Lady Emma took to sleepwalking around the falls at Aira Force.

Month falls on month with heavier weight;

Day sickens round her, and the night

Is empty of repose.

In sleep She sometimes walked abroad,

Deep sighs with quick words blending.

One night, Sir Eglamore returned too late to disturb the house, so went up to the falls to find somewhere to rest until morning. He saw a ghostly figure dressed in white walking close to the edge. On getting closer, he realised that it was his Emma. He reached out to touch her, but startling her awake, she slipped and fell into the chasm.

The soft touch snapped the thread

Of slumber--shrieking back she fell,

And the Stream whirled her down the dell

Along its foaming bed.

Sir Eglamore climbed down to rescue her, but she died in his arms. Sir Eglamore is said to have spent the rest of his life as a hermit in a cave at Aira Force

Within the dell he built a cell,

And there was Sorrow's guest;

In hermits' weeds repose he found.

Poem by William Wordsworth. Notes by Jane Firth, resident of Watermillock


Aira Force Iced - Photo Credit © Janet Wedgwood Ullswater Way Aira Force Iced - Photo Credit © Janet Wedgwood Ullswater Way

"Airey Force" -  © Copyright: The British Museum