It’s a long story. It began with trying to find poetry about or which referenced Strangford Lough. In searching, I discovered poets seem to write about somewhere else so I began to look for poets who came to visit. Keats had a brief walk from Donaghadee to Belfast in 1818. He and his walking companion had hoped to get to the Giant’s Causeway but didn’t. Maybe he never saw Strangford Lough but he was very taken with the Scottish bit of the walking tour – writing back to his brother ‘I shall learn poetry here and shall henceforth write more than ever…. I cannot think with Hazlitt that these scenes make man appear little. I never forgot my stature so completely – I live in the eye; and my imagination, surpassed, is at rest – ‘ And afterwards he did return to write more than ever.
Then, in the second hand bookshop in Castleward I purchased the 1818 lectures by Hazlitt which I am guessing Keats is referring. Strange coincidence. I also bought an A. Alvarez edited collection of Modern European Poetry and ended up reading ‘Morning Approaches’ by Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer because it sounded like it could have been written about Strangford Lough.