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Scene in Kattiawar

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

I Have a steed, to leave behind
The wild bird, and the wilder wind :
I have a sword, which does not know
How to waste a second blow :
I have a matchlock, whose red breath
Bears the lightning's sudden death ;
I have a foot of fiery flight,
I have an eye that cleaves the night.
I win my portion in the land
By my high heart and strong right hand.

The starry heavens lit up the gloom
That lay around Al Herid's tomb ;
The wind was still, you might have heard
The falling leaf, the rustling bird ;
Yet no one heard my footstep fall,
None saw my shadow on the wall :
Yet curses came with morning's light,
Where was the gold they hid at night ?
Where was the gold they loved so well,
My heavy girdle best could tell !

Three travellers cross'd by yonder shrine ;
I saw their polish'd pistols shine,
And swore they were, or should be mine.
The first, his head was at my feet ;
The second I was glad to greet;
He met me like a man, his sword,
Damascus true, deserved its lord ;
Yet soon his heart's best blood ran red :
I sought the third—the slave hail fled.

I have a lovely mountain bower,
Where blooms a gentle Georgian flower ;
She was my spear's accustom'd prize,
The antelope hath not such eyes.
Now my sweet captive loves her lot,
What has a queen that she has not ?
Let her but wish for shawls or pearls,
To bind her brow, to braid her curls ;
And I from east to west would fly,
Ere she should ask and I deny.
But those rich merchants must be near,
Away, I cannot linger here ;
The vulture hovers o'er his prey,
Come, my good steed—away !—away ! 
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Submitted by Madeleine Quinn on November 18, 2015

1:31 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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