Sarah Josepha Hale


[Written immediately after reading the confirmation of the rumor that Miss Maclean, better known as Miss Landon, had died at Cape Town, Africa.]

And thou art gone! the Bridal Rose
Fresh on thy laurelled head;
A land of new, wild, wondrous scenes
Before thy fancy spread-
Song on thy lip.-It may not be;-
I scarce believe thee dead!
"Bring flowers, pale flowers!"-But who for thee
An offering meet can bring?
Who paint thy Muse, like Huma* bright,
For ever on the wing?
Or catch the tones that thrilled the soul,
Poured from thy Lyre's sweet string?
They say thy heart's warm buds of hope
Had never felt a blight;
That 'mid gay throngs, in brilliant halls,
Thy step was ever light,
At gatherings round the social hearth
None wore a smile more bright.
And yet, upon thy world of song,
Dark shadows always sleep;
The beings by thy fancy formed,
Seemed only born to weep,-
Why did thy Soul's sweet fountains pour
A tide of grief so deep?
Was the prophetic shadow cast
By Afric's land of gloom;
That thus thy fancy ever linked
The poison with the bloom?
And 'mid the fairest bowers of bliss
Still reared the lonely tomb?
In vain we search for Thought's deep source,
Its mysteries none can tell;
We only know thy dreams were sad,
And so it has befell
That Love's bright wreath crowned thee for Death!
-Dark fate-and yet 'tis well:-
Ay, well for thee; thy strength had failed
To bear the Exile's chain,
The weary, pining, homesick lot,
That withers heart and brain,-
And He, who framed thy soul's fine pulse,
In mercy spared the pain.
And while we mourn a Pleiad lost
From out Mind's lofty sky,
A Lyre unstrung, whose "charméd chords"
Breathed strains that ne'er can die,
Give us, O God, the faith that sees
The Spirit's Home on high.
Sweet Minstrel of the heart, farewell;
How many grieve for thee!
What kings might ne'er command is thine,
Love's tribute from the Free:
The flowery earth, the starry sky,
The mourner's tear, the lover's sigh,
Enshrine thy memory.
And this is fame! The glorious meed
Is thine beyond decay,
Landon will grace the Briton's lore
Till earth shall pass away;
What India's wealth were poor to buy
Won by a Woman's lay!

* Huma-a bird of the East, which the natives say never rests, as it is only seen flying. [Hale's note]

L.E.L.: Letitia E. Landon (1802-1838), prolific English poet, one of the most popular of the century. She died in Cape Coast Castle (now Ghana), possibly a suicide, a few months after marrying the governor, George Maclean. For a critical discussion of Landon, see Angela Leighton, Victorian Women Poets: Writing against the Heart (1992).