Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sabrina, Goddess of the Severn

Sabrina was the Roman Goddess of the Severn, the longest river in England and Wales. She poured forth the waters that this time last year flooded around her memorial in Shrewsbury, just down the road from the birthplace of Charles Darwin, evolutionary theorist.

I needed to go back, just as my Dad had - to the source, to discover where Sabrina conjured her magic. For Sabrina and her two sisters were all water nymphs who met on Plynlimon to discuss the route to the sea. Each sister took a different route, Ystwyth to the west and Varga (Wye) away to the south, while Sabrina, who loved the land, lay down her blond tresses and set out on a slow meandering course that took her far into the east, then south.

Unlike the straightforward climbing up a mountain, my brief journey to the source of the Severn was a backward course to the beginning - from sheltered forested valley to exposed bog moorland, on the rooftop of Wales, atop the Cambrian Mountains' highest massif.

On that crisp bright November day, I heard echoes of William Wordsworth:
And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit that impels. 

Long after we're gone, long after the rapid changes in climate have transformed our known landscapes, rivers like Sabrina - the Severn - will continue to rise in the hills, gurgle, babble, cascade, swirl, wave and flow, following gravity's call seawards, past the lowlands to the open ocean, in continuity, in perpetuity.