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Scenes In London I - Piccadilly

Letitia Elizabeth Landon 1802 (Chelsea) – 1838 (Cape Coast)

The sun is on the crowded street,
  It kindles those old towers;
Where England’s noblest memories meet,
  Of old historic hours.

Vast, shadowy, dark, and indistinct,
  Tradition’s giant fane,
Whereto a thousand years are linked,
  In one electric chain.

So stands it when the morning light
  First steals upon the skies;
And shadow’d by the fallen night,
  The sleeping city lies.

It stands with darkness round it cast,
  Touched by the first cold shine;
Vast, vague, and mighty as the past,
  Of which it is the shrine.

’Tis lovely when the moonlight falls
  Around the sculptured stone
Giving a softness to the walls,
  Like love that mourns the gone.

Then comes the gentlest influence
  The human heart can know,
The mourning over those gone hence
  To the still dust below.

The smoke, the noise, the dust of day,
  Have vanished from the scene;
The pale lamps gleam with spirit ray
  O'er the park's sweeping green.

Sad shining on her lonely path,
  The moon’s calm smile above,
Seems as it lulled life’s toil and wrath
  With universal love.

Past that still hour, and its pale moon,
  The city is alive;
It is the busy hour of noon,
  When man must seek and strive.

The pressure of our actual life
  Is on the waking brow;
Labour and care, endurance, strife,
  These are around him now.

How wonderful the common street,
  Its tumult and its throng,
The hurrying of the thousand feet
  That bear life's cares along.

How strongly is the present felt,
  With such a scene beside;
All sounds in one vast murmur melt
  The thunder of the tide.

All hurry on—none pause to look
  Upon another’s face:
The present is an open book
  None read, yet all must trace.

The poor man hurries on his race,
  His daily bread to find;
The rich man has yet wearier chase,
  For pleasure’s hard to bind.

All hurry, though it is to pass
  For which they live so fast—
What doth the present but amass,
  The wealth that makes the past.

The past is round us—those old spires
  That glimmer o’er our head;
Not from the present is their fires,
  Their light is from the dead.

But for the past, the present’s powers
  Were waste of toil and mind;
But for those long and glorious hours
  Which leave themselves behind.
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified by Madeleine Quinn

1:56 min read

Letitia Elizabeth Landon

Letitia Elizabeth Landon was an English poet. Born 14th August 1802 at 25 Hans Place, Chelsea, she lived through the most productive period of her life nearby, at No.22. A precocious child with a natural gift for poetry, she was driven by the financial needs of her family to become a professional writer and thus a target for malicious gossip (although her three children by William Jerdan were successfully hidden from the public). In 1838, she married George Maclean, governor of Cape Coast Castle on the Gold Coast, whence she travelled, only to die a few months later (15th October) of a fatal heart condition. Behind her post-Romantic style of sentimentality lie preoccupations with art, decay and loss that give her poetry its characteristic intensity and in this vein she attempted to reinterpret some of the great male texts from a woman’s perspective. Her originality rapidly led to her being one of the most read authors of her day and her influence, commencing with Tennyson in England and Poe in America, was long-lasting. However, Victorian attitudes led to her poetry being misrepresented and she became excluded from the canon of English literature, where she belongs. more…

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    "Scenes In London I - Piccadilly" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 9 May 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/25699/scenes-in-london-i---piccadilly>.

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