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Autumn’s Warnings

Augusta Davies Webster 1837 (Poole, Dorset) – 1894

SOFT voices of the woods, that make
The summer air a harmony,
Winged whispers through the leaves where wake
Long wind-wafts dying in a sigh,
Replies of birds from brake to brake,
Plash of the runnel on its stones,
Soft voices, sweet for summer's sake,
There is a word in all your tones,
A word that not till now ye spake,
'Goodbye, goodbye.'

And yet, see, dearest, overhead
The branches bar a sultry sky,
No earliest fleck of tanned or red
'Mid all the leafage far and nigh,
And, with their serried curves outspread,
The fresh green fern-fronds know no frost.
Nought gone; but still some grace is dead:
Nought changed; but still some hope is lost:
Listen, and every voice has said
'Goodbye, goodbye.'

We shall not see the summer wane,
But, with a start of memory,
When the long chills have come again,
Awake and know that it did die:
So slowest loss is sudden pain;
We have not known till all is o'er;
'Tis summer till the autumn's rain.
Yet has there stolen long before
That sadness through some sweetest strain
'Goodbye, goodbye.'

Ah, love, hear all the thought that grew;
Mock it away; I'll mock it, I:
Summer, and I sit here with you,
Your great eyes smiling tenderly,
Your silence wooing me to woo,
A meaning in your lightest word
As though love made it something new—
And what if all the while I heard
The autumn whisper sighing through
'Goodbye, goodbye'?

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

1:15 min read
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Augusta Davies Webster

Augusta Webster born in Poole, Dorset as Julia Augusta Davies, was an English poet, dramatist, essayist, and translator. The daughter of Vice-admiral George Davies and Julia Hume, she spent her younger years on board the ship he was stationed, the Griper. She studied Greek at home, taking a particular interest in Greek drama, and went on to study at the Cambridge School of Art. She published her first volume of poetry in 1860 under the pen name Cecil Homes. In 1863, she married Thomas Webster, a fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge. They had a daughter, Augusta Georgiana, who married Reverend George Theobald Bourke, a younger son of the Joseph Bourke, 3rd Earl of Mayo. Much of Webster's writing explored the condition of women, and she was a strong advocate of women's right to vote, working for the London branch of the National Committee for Women's Suffrage. She was the first female writer to hold elective office, having been elected to the London School Board in 1879 and 1885. In 1885 she travelled to Italy in an attempt to improve her failing health. She died on 5 September 1894, aged 57. During her lifetime her writing was acclaimed and she was considered by some the successor to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. After her death, however, her reputation quickly declined. Since the mid-1990s she has gained increasing critical attention from scholars such as Isobel Armstrong, Angela Leighton, and Christine Sutphin. Her best-known poems include three long dramatic monologues spoken by women: A Castaway, Circe, and The Happiest Girl In The World, as well as a posthumously published sonnet-sequence, "Mother and Daughter". more…

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