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Mont Blanc

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

Heaven knows our travellers have sufficiently alloyed
the beautiful, and profaned the sublime, by associating these with themselves, the common-place, and the ridiculous ; but out upon them, thus to tread on the grey hairs of centuries,—on the untrodden snows of Mont Blanc.

THOU monarch of the upper air,
Thou mighty temple given
For morning's earliest of light,
And evening's last of heaven.
The vapour from the marsh, the smoke
From crowded cities sent,
Are purified before they reach
Thy loftier element.
Thy hues are not of earth but heaven ;
Only the sunset rose
Hath leave to fling a crimson dye
Upon thy stainless snows.

Now out on those adventurers
Who scaled thy breathless height,
And made thy pinnacle, Mont Blanc,
A thing for common sight.
Before that human step had left
Its sully on thy brow,
The glory of thy forehead made
A shrine to those below :
Men gaz'd upon thee as a star,
And turned to earth again,
With dreams like thine own floating clouds,
The vague but not the vain.
No feelings are less vain than those
That bear the mind away,
Till blent with nature's mysteries
It half forgets its clay.
It catches loftier impulses ;
And owns a nobler power ;—
The poet and philosopher
Are born of such an hour.

But now where may we seek a place
For any spirit's dream ;
Our steps have been o'er every soil,
Our sails o'er every stream.
Those isles, the beautiful Azores,
The fortunate, the fair !
We looked for their perpetual spring
To find it was not there.
Bright El Dorado, land of gold,
We have so sought for thee,
There's not a spot in all the globe
Where such a land can be.
How pleasant were the wild beliefs
That dwelt in legends old,
Alas ! to our posterity
Will no such tales be told.
We know too much, scroll after scroll
Weighs down our weary shelves ;
Our only point of ignorance
Is centered in ourselves.
Alas ! for thy past mystery,
For thine untrodden snow,
Nurse of the tempest, hadst thou none
To guard thy outraged brow ?
Thy summit, once the unapproached,
Hath human presence owned,
With the first step upon thy crest
Mont Blanc, thou wert dethroned.
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Submitted by Madeleine Quinn on May 15, 2016

1:53 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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