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She Sat Alone Beside Her Hearth



SHE sat alone beside her hearth—
For many nights alone;
She slept not on the pleasant couch
Where fragrant herbs were strewn.

At first she bound her raven hair
With feather and with shell;
But then she hoped; at length, like night,
Around her neck it fell.

They saw her wandering mid the woods,
Lone, with rite cheerless dawn,
And then they said, 'Can this be her
We called 'The Startled Fawn?' '

Her heart was in her large sad eyes,
Half sunshine and half shade;
And love, as love first springs to life,
Of every thing afraid.

The red leaf far more heavily
Fell down to autumn earth,
Than her light feet, which seemed to move
To music and to mirth.

With the light feet of early youth,
What hopes and joys depart,
Ah! nothing like the heavy step
Betrays the heavy heart.

It is a usual history
That Indian girl could tell;
Fate sets apart one common doom
For all who love too well.

The proud—the shy—the sensitive,—
Life has not many such;
They dearly buy their happiness,
By feeling it too much.

A stranger to her forest home,
That fair young stranger came;
They raised for him the funeral song—
For him the funeral flame.

Love sprang from pity,—and her arms
Around his arms she threw;
She told her father, 'If he dies,
Your daughter dieth too.'

For her sweet sake they set him free—
He lingered at her side;
And many a native song yet tells
Of that pale stranger's bride.

Two years have passed—how much two years
Have taken in their flight!
They've taken from the lip its smile,
And from the eye its light.

Poor child! she was a child in years—
So timid and so young;
With what a fond and earnest faith
To desperate hope she clung!

His eyes grew cold—his voice grew strange—
They only grew more dear.
She served him meekly, anxiously,
With love—half faith—half fear.

And can a fond and faithful heart
Be worthless in those eyes
For which it beats?—Ah! wo to those
Who such a heart despise.

Poor child! what lonely days she passed,
With nothing to recall
But bitter taunts, and careless words,
And looks more cold than all.

Alas! for love, that sits at home,
Forsaken, and yet fond;
The grief that sits beside the hearth—
Life has no grief beyond.

He left her, but she followed him—
She thought he could not bear,
When she had left her home for him,
To look on her despair.

Adown the strange and mighty stream
She took her lonely way;
The stars at night her pilots were,
As was the sun by day.

Yet mournfully—how mournfully!—
The Indian looked behind,
When the last sound of voice or step
Died on the midnight wind,

Yet still adown the gloomy stream
She plied her weary oar;
Her husband—he had left their home,
And it was home no more.

She found him—but she found in vain—
He spurned her from his side;
He said, her brow was all too dark,
For her to be his bride.

She grasped his hands,—her own were cold,—
And silent turned away,
As she had not a tear to shed,
And not a word to say.

And pale as death she reached her boat,
And guided it along;
With broken voice she strove to raise
A melancholy song.

None watched the lonely Indian girl,—
She passed unmarked of all,
Until they saw her slight canoe
Approach the mighty Fall!

Upright, within that slender boat
They saw the pale girl stand,
Her dark hair streaming far behind—
Upraised her desperate hand.

The air is filled with shriek and shout—
They call, but call in vain;
The boat amid the waters dash'd—
'Twas never seen again!

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:12 min read
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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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