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'On the damp margin of the sea-beat shore'
A CENTURY OF SONNETS
When graver cares forbade the lengthened strains,
To thy brief bound, and oft-returning chime
A long farewell!—the splendid forms of rhyme
When Grief in lonely orphanism reigns,
Oppress the drooping Soul.—Death's dark domains
Throw mournful shadows o'er the Aonian clime;
For in their silent borne my filial bands
Lie all dissolved;—and swiftly wasting pour
From my frail glass of life, health's sparkling sands.
Sleep then, my Lyre, thy tuneful tasks are o'er,
Sleep! for my heart bereaved, and listless hands
Wake with rapt touch thy glowing strings no more!
Even when her children were small, Jane West published books of poetry,
including Miscellaneous Poems Written at an Early Period in Life (1786), An
Elegy on the Death of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke (1797), and The
Mother, a Poem in Five Books (1809), as well as plays and novels. She also
wrote conduct books and essays. West's novels! Gossip's Story (1796) was the
main source for Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. A political conservative,
West maintained that her housework took precedence over her writing. Her
anti-Jacobinism is explicit in her second novel, A Tale of the Times (1799),
whose villain is a supporter of the French Revolution. In 1833, she brought
out a volume of Sacred Poems.
191. To May
Come May, the empire of the earth assume,
Be crowned with flowers as universal queen;
Take from fresh budded groves their tender green
Bespangled with Pomona's richest bloom,
And form thy vesture. Let the sun illume
The dew-drops glittering in the blue serene,
And let them hang, like orient pearls, between
Thy locks besprent with Flora's best perfume.
Attend your sovereign's steps, ye balmy gales!
O'er her ambrosial floods of fragrance pour;
Let livelier verdure animate the vales,
And brighter hues embellish every flower;
And hark, the concert of the woodland hails,
All gracious May! thy presence, and thy power.
Ann Home Hunter
First cousin of poet and playwright Joanna Baillie, Anne Home Hunter lived
in London and was married to the distinguished surgeon John Hunter, with
whom she had four children. She was the friend of Hester Lynch Piozzi and
Elizabeth Carter and of Joseph Haydn, who set to music her poems "Dear to
my Heart as Life's Warm Streams" and "My Mother Bids me Bind my Hair."
A collection of her work, Poems, was published in 1802 and went into a second edition the following year. She faced poverty after her husband's death
until she sold what became the Hunterian Museum to the British government.
Behold the gloomy tyrant's awful form
Binding the captive earth in icy chains;
His chilling breath sweeps o'er the watery plains,
Howls in the blast, and swells the rising storm.
See from its center bends the rifted tower,
Threat'ning the lowly vale with frowning pride,
O'er the scared flocks that seek its sheltering side,
A fearful ruin o'er their heads to pour.
While to the cheerful hearth and social board
Content and ease repair, the sons of want
Receive from niggard fate their pittance scant;
And where some shed bleak covert may afford,
Wan poverty, amidst her meager host
Casts round her haggard eyes, and shivers at the frost.
Eliza Kirkham Mathews
Eliza (or Elizabeth) Kirkham Mathews published Poems (1796) by subscription under her birth name, Strong. She worked for a time as a teacher in
Swansea, Wales, and contributed to the Monthly Mirror. In 1797, she married
Charles Mathews, a well-known comedian and actor. With her husband's
work keeping him frequently away on extended trips, she wrote several novels, a stage adaptation, children's books, and many poems. She also struggled
with the couple's financial problems and battled tuberculosis. In 1801, she
published What Has Been, a tale whose heroine finds that writing a novel
cannot support her family. A collection of her Poems, including sonnets,
elegies, and odes, was published by subscription in 1802, the year of her
A CENTURY OF SONNETS
193. The Indian
Alone, unfriended, on a foreign shore,
Behold an hapless, melancholy maid,
Begging her scanty fare from door to door,
With piteous voice, and humbly bended head.
Alas! her native tongue is known to few;
Her manners and her garb excite surprise;
The vulgar stare to see her bid adieu;
Her tattered garments fix their curious eyes.
Cease, cease your laugh, ye thoughdess vain;
Why sneer at yon poor Indian's pain?
'Tis nature's artless voice that speaks:—
Behold! the tear, bedew her cheeks!
Imploring actions,—bursting sighs,
Reveal enough to British eyes!
William Cowper suffered from acute depression as well as recurring attacks
of mental illness, and attempted suicide several times. He felt isolated and
spurned by providence—a theme that appears in his major works, such
as "The Castaway" (1803). A bright spot in his life was his friendship with
Mary Unwin. They became engaged, but his recurring mental illness and
her poor health prevented the marriage from taking place. Cowper's works,
including The Task (1785), were canonical during the Romantic era.
194. To Mrs. Unwin
Mary! I want a lyre with other strings;
Such aid from Heaven, as some have feigned they drew!
An eloquence scarce given to mortals, new,
And undebased by praise of meaner things!
That ere through age or woe I shed my wings,
I may record thy worth, with honor due,
In verse as musical, as them art true,
Verse, that immortalizes whom it sings!
But thou hast little need: There is a book
By seraphs writ with beams of heavenly light,
On which the eyes of God not rarely look;
A chronicle of actions just and bright!
A CENTURY OF SONNETS
There all thy deeds, my faithful Mary, shine,
And since thou own'st that praise, I spare thee mine.
195. To George Romney, Esq.
Romney! expert infallible to trace,
On chart or canvas, not the form alone,
And 'semblance, but, however, faintly shown,
The mind's impression too on every face,
With strokes that time ought never to erase:
Thou hast so penciled mine, that though I own
The subject worthless, I have never known
The artist shining with superior grace.
But this I mark, that symptoms none of woe
In thy incomparable work appear:
Well! I am satisfied, it should be so,
Since, on maturer thought, the course is clear;
For in my looks what sorrow could'st thou see,
While I was Hayley's guest, and sat to thee?
Henry Kirke White
Henry Kirke White's literary ambitions, it was said, drove him to an early
grave. His poetry lived after him, earning the praise of Lord Byron and
Robert Southey. Charmed by White's unsuccessful 1803 volume, Clifton
Grove, Southey had encouraged White in his literary endeavors. After
White's death in 1806, Southey assembled his works for a posthumous edition that remained popular for the first half of the nineteenth century.
196. 'Give me a cottage on some Cambrian wild'
Give me a cottage on some Cambrian wild,
Where, far from cities, I may spend my days:
And, by the beauties of the scene beguiled,
May pity man's pursuits, and shun his ways.
While on the rock I mark the browsing goat,
List to the mountain torrent's distant noise,
Or the hoarse bittern's solitary note,
I shall not want the world's delusive joys;
But, with my little scrip, my book, my lyre,
Shall think my lot complete, nor covet more;
And when, with time, shall wane the vital fire,
A CENTURY OF SONNETS
I'll raise my pillow on the desert shore,
And lay me down to rest where the wild wave
Shall make sweet music o'er my lonely grave.
197. The Winter Traveler
God help thee, Traveler, on thy journey far;
The wind is bitter keen,—the snow o'erlays
The hidden pits, and dangerous hollow-ways,
And darkness will involve thee.—No kind star
To-night will guide thee, Traveler,—and the war
Of winds and elements, on thy head will break,
And in thy agonizing ear the shriek,
Of spirits howling on their stormy car,
Will often ring appalling—I portend
A dismal night—and on my wakeful bed
Thoughts, Traveler, of thee, will fill my head,
And him, who rides where winds and waves contend,
And strives, rude cradled on the seas, to guide
His lonely bark through the tempestuous tide.
Mrs. B. Finch
Finch's 126-page book, Sonnets, and Other Poems: To Which are Added Tales in
Prose, was published in London in 1805 by Blacks and Parry. Its contents
suggest that she was born in the country, wrote from a place called "Duncroft
Cottage," was the mother of at least one son, and was interested in botany.
However, her first name, along with other biographical details, is now obscure.
198. Written in a Shrubbery Towards the Decline of Autumn
See, o'er its withering leaves, the musk-rose bend,
And scarce a purple aster paints the glade;
Yet, cease awhile, ye ruffling winds! to rend
This variegated canopy of shade.
Here, autumn's touch the rich dark brown bestows,
There, mixed with paler leaves of yellow hue,
The shining holly's scarlet fruitage glows,
And crimson berries stud the deep-green yew.
Thou radiant orb! whose mild declining ray
Now gilds with gayer tinge this loved retreat,
Yet, lingering, still prolong the golden day.—
How vain the wish! no more thy glories meet