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'How proudly Man usurps the power to reign'
A CENTURY OF SONNETS
269. To Mrs. Charlotte Smith
Sweet Poetess! as pensive oft I stray,
Amid the wilds thy steps were wont to trace,
Thy charmful strains impart a touching grace,
To each rude scene, where thou hast waked thy lay.
Some sweet enchantment soothes my soul to rest,
As memory oft, thy tuneful verse recalls,
While evening's pearly tear unheeded falls
On every vermeil floret's fragrant breast.
Sweet Poetess! around thy honored brow,
A wreath of simple flowers, I fain would twine;
But when its blooms are intermixed with thine,
(Where Poesy's most cultured blossoms glow)
To thee, its wild buds could no praise impart,
Thy proudest trophy, is the feeling heart.
Mary F. Johnson
(fl. 1810; d. 1863)
Mary F. Johnsons Original Sonnets, and Other Poems, penned at Wroxhall
Farm, Isle of Wight, was published in 1810 by Longmans. In her introduction, she calls her poems "the first attempt of a secluded, unknown and inexperienced female" who wrote these "spontaneous effusion[s] of solitude and
leisure" without having thought about publication until a male friend encouraged her. In addition to Miltonic, Spenserian, and irregular sonnets, the
volume contains eight odes. A handwritten inscription in one copy says that
Johnson later married George Moncrieff, younger brother of Sir Harry
Moncrieff, and died in 1863, having lost a daughter, Georgiana, nine months
270. Thunder Storm
Loud, louder still, resounds the thundering peal;
The troubled deep reflects the vivid flash;
Their bounds with deepened roar the white waves dash,
And yon black, billowy clouds their slow course wheel.
Mournful, amid the elemental crash,
Their hollow, broken groans the raised winds deal,
The sighing copses, bending to their lash,
Scarcely the frighted, moaning herd conceal.
Let fear, within the closet's gloom, deter
Them whose weak hearts amid the tempest shrink:
May I, whene'er these awful scenes occur,
Stand on this clefted rock's indented brink;
A CENTURY OF SONNETS
Here with the genius of the storm confer,
And let my soul from grandeur's fountain drink.
271. Second Evening
Exists there one, who carelessly can view
The vivid glory of the sun's last gleams
On the green wave reflect a vermeil hue,
And upward cast pale heat-portending beams?
When the white cliff receives the ruddy glow,
And splendid flushes smooth its craggy side;
When the glazed windows of the warship throw
A sparkling radiance o'er the crimsoned tide;
When rising Venus sheds her light of love,
Fresh from the main, as erst the Goddess rose;
When in his circuit shines the belted Jove,
And further orbs their twinkling sparks disclose:
Then lightly soars the meditative mind,
And leaves this little world and all its cares behind.
272. The Village Maid
Marked you, by yon thatched farm that skirts the down—
Though, but for neatness, could she draw your eye—
A maid, in apron white, and russet gown,
Who drove her kine, and passed, low courts'ying, by?
She, in whose grange her cares and pleasures lie;
Whose wishes never, in their loftiest flights,
Beyond the confines of her station fly;
She, in whose taste the wake or feast unites,
Of mortal gladness, the supreme delights—
Who all of fame concenters, in the boast
That hers, of dairies, is esteemed the most;
She, of her sex, my envy most excites.
I would, like hers, my soaring spirit found
Its limits in my station's narrow round.
275. Invocation to the Spirit Said to Haunt Wroxall Down
The solemn moon-beams fall, soft dews distill,
While now in pensive mood I lonely walk;
Come sullen spirit of the breezy hill,
Convince a skeptic, and before me stalk.
Skimm'st thou by night the heath's impurpled bloom,
To view the rocks abrupt, and white sailed bark,
A CENTURY OF SONNETS
While Luna's rays the sea and coast illume,
Gilding stacked farm, woods, meads, and mansioned park?
Wast thou a bard enkindling martial rage?
Wast thou a mighty chief in combat slain,
Still doomed to haunt this once embattled stage,
And guard the barrowed urns from aught profane?
Come, what thou wast, and what thou art reveal,
Show me what spirits are, and tell me what they feel.
274. The Idiot Girl
Start not at her, who, in fantastic guise,
Comes wildly chanting in a dirge-like tone,
With big tears trembling in her vacant eyes,
And uncoifed tresses by the breezes blown.
Recoil not from the harmless idiot maid,
Who often from a rugged beldame creeps
To yon deserted cottage in the shade,
And its fallen stones, to guard the entrance, heaps.
There was the home where passed her early years
With parents now withdrawn to final rest,
Who proved how infant helplessness endears;
And of a numerous offspring loved her best.
Now wails she, as she rudely blocks the door,
"They both are in, and will come out no more."
275. The Widow's Remarriage
While her fond heart against the deed rebels,
While to her buried lord her hopes ascend,
Maternal love the widow's vows impels,
To gain her only child one fostering friend.
True to the memory of her former love,
Rather a victim than a bride she seems;
Her feigned and cheerless smiles deep sighs reprove;
From her dim eye the tear unbidden streams;
Sorrow conflicts with duty in her breast.
The mournful privilege of grief destroyed,
Too feelingly her glowing looks attest
Esteem can never fill affection's void;
And prove, that, in the heart which loved indeed,
No second choice can to the first succeed.
Mary Tighes tour de force, Psyche; or the Legend of Love, a six-canto dreamlike allegory in Spenserian stanzas, was privately printed in 1805 for friends
and family. In 1811, a year after her death from tuberculosis, her brother-inlaw, William Tighe, edited and published Psyche, with Other Poems. All of the
most important journals reviewed it, to wide acclaim. Like Psyche, Tighe's
sonnets demonstrate great technical facility and contain unusually rich imagery. Her influence on the poetry of John Keats is well documented.
276. Written at Scarborough. August, 1799
As musing pensive in my silent home
I hear far off the sullen ocean's roar,
Where the rude wave just sweeps the level shore,
Or bursts upon the rocks with whitening foam,
I think upon the scenes my life has known;
On days of sorrow, and some hours of joy;
Both which alike time could so soon destroy!
And now they seem a busy dream alone;
While on the earth exists no single trace
Of all that shook my agitated soul,
As on the beach new waves for ever roll
And fill their past forgotten brother's place:
But I, like the worn sand, exposed remain
To each new storm which frets the angry main.
277. 'As one who late hath lost a friend adored'
As one who late hath lost a friend adored,
Clings with sick pleasure to the faintest trace
Resemblance offers in another's face,
Or sadly gazing on that form deplored,
Would clasp the silent canvas to his breast:
So muse I on the good I have enjoyed,
The wretched victim of my hopes destroyed;
On images of peace I fondly rest,
Or in the page, where weeping fancy mourns,
I love to dwell upon each tender line,
And think the bliss once tasted still is mine;
While cheated memory to the past returns,
And, from the present leads my shivering heart
Back to those scenes from which it wept to part.
A CENTURY OF SONNETS
278. 'When glowing Phoebus quits the weeping earth'
When glowing Phoebus quits the weeping earth,
What splendid visions rise upon the sight!
Fancy, with transient charms and colors bright,
To changing forms in Heaven's gay scene gives birth:
But soon the melting beauties disappear,
And fade like those which in life's early bloom
Hope bade me prize; and the approaching gloom,
These tints of sadness, and these shades of fear,
Resemble most that melancholy hour
Which, with a silent and resistless power,
Shrouded my joy's bright beam in shadowy night:
Till memory marks each scene which once shone gay;
As the dark plains, beneath the moon's soft light,
Again revealed, reflect a mellowing ray.
279. Written in Autumn
O Autumn! how I love thy pensive air,
Thy yellow garb, thy visage sad and dun!
When from the misty east the laboring Sun
Bursts through thy fogs, that gathering round him, dare
Obscure his beams, which, though enfeebled, dart
On the cold, dewy plains a luster bright:
But chief, the sounds of thy reft woods delight;
Their deep, low murmurs to my soul impart
A solemn stillness, while they seem to speak
Of Spring, of Summer now for ever past,
Of drear, approaching Winter, and the blast
Which shall ere long their soothing quiet break:
Here, when for faded joys my heaving breast
Throbs with vain pangs, here will I love to rest.
280. 'Poor, fond deluded heart!'
Poor, fond deluded heart! wilt thou again
Listen, enchanted, to the siren song
Of treacherous Pleasure? Ah, deceived too long,
Cease now at length to throb with wishes vain!
Ah, cease her paths bewildering to explore!
Betrayed so oft! yet recollect the woe
Which waits on disappointment; taught to know
By sad experience, wilt thou not give o'er
To rest, deluded, on the fickle wing
Which Fancy lends thee in her airy flight,