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The Swallows

Augusta Davies Webster 1837 (Poole, Dorset) – 1894

AH! swallows, is it so?
Did loving lingering summer, whose slow pace
Tarried among late blossoms, loth to go,
Gather the darkening cloud-wraps round her face
And weep herself away in last week's rain?
Can no new sunlight waken her again?
'Yes,' one pale rose a-blow
Has answered from the trellised lane;
The flickering swallows answer 'No.'

From out the dim grey sky
The arrowy swarm breaks forth and specks the air,
While, one by one, birds wheel and float and fly,
And now are gone, then suddenly are there;
Till lo, the heavens are empty of them all.
Oh, fly, fly south, from leaves that fade and fall,
From shivering flowers that die;
Free swallows, fly from winter's thrall,
Ye who can give the gloom good-bye.

But what for us who stay
To hear the winds and watch the boughs grow black,
And in the soddened mornings, day by day,
Count what lost sweets bestrew the nightly track
Of frost-foot winter trampling towards his throne?
Swallows, who have the sunlight for your own,
Fly on your sunward way;
For you has January buds new blown,
For us the snows and gloom and grey.

On, on, beyond our reach,
Swallows, with but your longing for a guide:
Let the hills rise, let the waves tear the beach,
Ye will not balk your course nor turn aside,
But find the palms and twitter in the sun.
And well for them whose eager wings have won
The longed for goal of flight;
But what of them in twilights dun
Who long, but have no wings for flight?

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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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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