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The Altered River

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



Thou lovely river, thou art now
As fair as fair can be,
Pale flowers wreathe upon thy brow,
The rose bends over thee.
Only the morning sun hath leave
To turn thy waves to light,
Cool shade the willow branches weave
When noon becomes too bright.
The lilies are the only boats
Upon thy diamond plain,
The swan alone in silence floats
Around thy charm'd domain.
The moss bank's fresh embroiderie,
With fairy favours starr'd,
Seems made the summer haunt to be
Of melancholy bard.
Fair as thou art, thou wilt be food
For many a thought of pain;
For who can gaze upon thy flood,
Nor wish it to remain
The same pure and unsullied thing
Where heaven's face is as clear
Mirror'd in thy blue wandering
As heaven's face can be here.
Flowers fling their sweet bonds on thy breast,
The willows woo thy stay,
In vain,— thy waters may not rest,
Their course must be away.
In yon wide world, what wilt thou find ?
What all find—toil and care:
Your flowers you have left behind
Far other weight to bear.
The heavy bridge confines your stream,
Through which the barges toil,
Smoke has shut out the sun's glad beam,
Thy waves have caught the soil.
On — on— though weariness it be,
By shoal and barrier cross'd,
Till thou hast reach'd the mighty sea,
And there art wholly lost.
Bend thou, young poet, o'er the stream—
Such fate will be thine own;
Thy lute's hope is a morning dream,
And when have dreams not flown?
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Submitted by Madeleine Quinn on May 18, 2016

1:21 min read
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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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