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The Wind’s Tidings In August 1870

Augusta Davies Webster 1837 (Poole, Dorset) – 1894

'OH voice of summer winds among the trees,
What soft news art thou bringing to us here?
Dost thou come whispering of hushed scenes like these,
Languid in sunlight, while the drowsy deer
Couch placidly at rest, and from the brake
The song of fearless wild birds rings out clear,
And groves and meadows and this baby lake
Are dreaming to thy dreaming lullaby?
Art telling of hushed scenes like these? Awake,
Answer, sweet dying wind, and do not die.'

And the voice of the faint winds, dying away,
Answered me, 'Nay.'

'Oh voice of summer winds, then art thou come
From fluttering in the tangles of the vines
Beside the blue blue seas, in the far home
Of the dim olives and the dusky pines,
And from the cypress bosks, and where the air
Grows lush and heavy 'twixt the dark starred lines
Of orange hedge a-bloom, and the wide glare
Floods soft round hills with southern perfect day?
Answer again, low voice, hast thou been there?
Art telling of the dreamland far away?'

And the voice of the winds sighed over my head,
'Nay, nay,' it said.

'Oh sweet low voice of winds, whose wavering flights
Smoothly, like flickering swallows, come and go,
What, is thy tale of where the ceaseless heights
Rest white and cloudlike in their virgin snow?
Hast thou been wandering round the scented firs,
And where the dauntless shrub-flowers bud and blow
Against the pale chill sea that never stirs,
And where the midway foam hangs o'er the cleft?
Speak, slumbrous voice, to slumbrous listeners,
Art telling us of these that thou hast left?'

And the voice of the dying winds breathed low,
'Nay, nay; not so.'

'Oh voice of dying winds, make sweet reply,
Whence hast thou come?
What does thy whisper say?
Answer, oh dying voice, and do not die.'
It whispered in a hush, 'The dead men lay
Fallen together like the sickled grain;
Onward still dashed the whirlwind and the fray;
The thunders and the tramplings shook the plain;
There was the crash and clash of host to host,
Throes, and the blood-pools widening, death and pain.'
And waning in a murmur it was lost.

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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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