Bath is a very old place, beginning with Celtic roots, then becoming a popular city during Roman times under the name of Aquae Sulis, which means “waters of Sulis.” Sulis was a Celtic goddess. Bath was renowned for its natural, healing springs, which the Romans turned into baths that were sought after by many. These famed baths are still in usable condition today, though they are more for viewing than enjoying the healing waters. [There are separate baths available for the public.]
In the book, Wyrd, which I am currently working on, the city of Bath will play a relatively important role. Wyrd is a work of historical fiction set in the fifth century, during the Anglo-Saxon invasions, approximately 450-500. I received the inspiration and story idea for this book from the medieval poem called “The Ruin,” which is partly about a person discovering this old ruin and wondering what could’ve possibly created it; the person thinks it might’ve been giants. It is believed that the ruin mentioned in the poem could very likely be that of Bath. Below is the poem and translation from the Wiki page:
Because of technical limitations, some web browsers may not display some special characters in this section. Original Old English Modern English Wrætlic is þes wealstan, wyrde gebræcon;
burgstede burston, brosnað enta geweorc.
Hrofas sind gehrorene, hreorge torras,
hrungeat berofen, hrim on lime,
scearde scurbeorge scorene, gedrorene,
ældo undereotone. Eorðgrap hafað
waldend wyrhtan forweorone, geleorene,
heardgripe hrusan, oþ hund cnea
werþeoda gewitan. Oft þæs wag gebad
ræghar ond readfah rice æfter oþrum,
ofstonden under stormum; steap geap gedreas.
Wonað giet se …num geheapen,
…g orþonc ærsceaft
…g lamrindum beag
mod mo… …yne swiftne gebrægd
hwætred in hringas, hygerof gebond
weallwalan wirum wundrum togædre.
Beorht wæron burgræced, burnsele monige,
heah horngestreon, heresweg micel,
meodoheall monig mondreama full,
oþþæt þæt onwende wyrd seo swiþe.
Crungon walo wide, cwoman woldagas,
swylt eall fornom secgrofra wera;
wurdon hyra wigsteal westen staþolas,
brosnade burgsteall. Betend crungon
hergas to hrusan. Forþon þas hofu dreorgiað,
ond þæs teaforgeapa tigelum sceadeð
hrostbeages hrof. Hryre wong gecrong
gebrocen to beorgum, þær iu beorn monig
glædmod ond goldbeorht gleoma gefrætwed,
wlonc ond wingal wighyrstum scan;
seah on sinc, on sylfor, on searogimmas,
on ead, on æht, on eorcanstan,
on þas beorhtan burg bradan rices.
Stanhofu stodan, stream hate wearp
widan wylme; weal eall befeng
beorhtan bosme, þær þa baþu wæron,
hat on hreþre. þæt wæs hyðelic.
Leton þonne geotan
ofer harne stan hate streamas
…þþæt hringmere hate
þær þa baþu wæron.
…re; þæt is cynelic þing,
huse …… burg….
This masonry is wondrous; fates broke it
courtyard pavements were smashed; the work of giants is decaying.
Roofs are fallen, ruinous towers,
the frosty gate with frost on cement is ravaged,
chipped roofs are torn, fallen,
undermined by old age. The grasp of the earth possesses
the mighty builders, perished and fallen,
the hard grasp of earth, until a hundred generations
of people have departed. Often this wall,
lichen-grey and stained with red, experienced one reign after another,
remained standing under storms; the high wide gate has collapsed.
Still the masonry endures in winds cut down
fiercely sharpened________ _________
______________ she shone_________
_____________g skill ancient work_________
_____________g of crusts of mud turned away
spirit mo________yne put together keen-counselled
a quick design in rings, a most intelligent one bound
the wall with wire brace wondrously together.
Bright were the castle buildings, many the bathing-halls,
high the abundance of gables, great the noise of the multitude,
many a meadhall full of festivity,
until Fate the mighty changed that.
Far and wide the slain perished, days of pestilence came,
death took all the brave men away;
their places of war became deserted places,
the city decayed. The rebuilders perished,
the armies to earth. And so these buildings grow desolate,
and this red-curved roof parts from its tiles
of the ceiling-vault. The ruin has fallen to the ground
broken into mounds, where at one time many a warrior,
joyous and ornamented with gold-bright splendour,
proud and flushed with wine shone in war-trappings;
looked at treasure, at silver, at precious stones,
at wealth, at prosperity, at jewellery,
at this bright castle of a broad kingdom.
The stone buildings stood, a stream threw up heat
in wide surge; the wall enclosed all
in its bright bosom, where the baths were,
hot in the heart. That was convenient.
Then they let pour_______________
hot streams over grey stone.
until the ringed sea (circular pool?) hot
_____________where the baths were.
__________re, that is a noble thing,
to the house__________ castle_______
The poem hints at the theme of creation and destruction, and the significance of a person’s footprint in this world, and what remains after he or she is gone. Essentially it all boils down to something to the effect of: what is the point of it all?
That’s what I’m hoping my character is going to find out. It also delves into an issue I’m pretty much always addressing or exploring in some way in my own writing. I intend to do a more exploratory post on this particular subject, but a year or two ago I discovered, much to my surprise, that I often had characters who either were complete strangers in a new world, or felt like they didn’t belong in their own particular world, or felt alienated in some way. As someone who now lives very far from their original home, it’s certainly an interesting subject to talk about. Even more so considering I was originally unaware that I was writing these characters in my short stories and novels. Then I noticed it in one piece and proceeded to go through all my writings and was quite shocked at the result. As I said, this will be discussed and explored further in a future post.
While at the famed baths of Bath, I was also able to try some of the warm waters, for a nominal fee of 50p. I didn’t find it that horrid of a taste, warm and metallic, kind of like the water that comes out of a hose at first on a summer’s day. I was also able to pick up a great guide/history book on Bath and the baths for a good price, which will help me in my research.
For anyone thinking of visiting Bath, I’d recommend it in a heartbeat. I traveled from London and was able to reach it in a couple of hours; there is also a train service available. Throughout the day there are a number of free tours offered that last about two hours and take you all over the town, and often to places you might not have discovered or thought to visit on your own.
Bath is filled with beautiful works of architecture in the form of churches and buildings:
And then of course there’s the river and the view looking down upon it: