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

How sweet on the breeze of the evening swells
The vesper call of those soothing bells,
Borne softly and dying in echoes away,
Like a requiem sung to the parting day.
Wandered from roses the air is like balm,
The wave like the sleep of an infant is calm ;
No oars are now plying in flashes to wake
The blue repose of the tranquil lake ;
And so slight are the sighs of the slumbering gale,
Scarce have they power to waft my slack sail ;
Fair hour, when the blush of the evening light,.
Like a beauty is veiled by the shadow of night.
When the heart-heat is soft as the sun's farewell beams,
When the spirit is melting in tenderest dreams ;
A wanderer, dear England, from thee and from thine,
Yet the hearths I have left are my bosom's best shrine ;
And dear are those bells, for most precious to me,
Whatever can wake a remembrance of thee ;
They bring back the memory of long absent times,
Young hopes and young joys are revived in those chimes.
To me they are sweet as the meadows in June,
As the song which the nightingale pours to the moon.
Like the voice of a friend on my spirit they come,
Whose greeting is love, and whose tale is of home.
How blithely they're wont to ring in the new year,
The gayest of sounds amid Christmas time cheer.
How light was the welcome they gave the young May,
When sunshine and flowers decked her festival day.
How soft at the shade of the twilight that bell,
Rolled faintly away o'er my favourite dell ;
When his woodbine was fresh, and the tremulous shade
Of the aspen leaf over my path beneath played ;
When his day of toil over, the hind turned away
From the perfumed fields of the newly-mown hay;
When no sound was heard, save the woodlark's wild song,
And the peal of those bells borne in echoes along ;
They were dear to me then, but now they are brought
More home to my heart, for their music is fraught
With all that to memory is hallowed and dear,
With all those fond thoughts that but speak in a tear.
Voiceless and holy— that simple chime is,
As a spell on the heart at a moment like this ;
Yes, sweet are those bells, for most precious to me,
Whatever reminds me loved England of thee .
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Submitted by Madeleine Quinn on May 13, 2016

2:02 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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