Rate this poem:0.0 / 0 votes

Three Extracts from the Diary of a Week


A record of the inward world, whose facts
Are thoughts— and feelings— fears, and hopes, and dreams.
There are some days that might outmeasure years
Days that obliterate the past, and make
The future of the colour which they cast.
A day may be a destiny ; for life
Lives in but little— but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time :
A look— a word— and we are wholly changed.
We marvel at ourselves — we would deny
That which is working in the hidden soul ;
But the heart knows and trembles at the truth :
On such these records linger.


We might have been !— these are but common words,
And yet they make the sum of life's bewailing;
They are the echo of those finer chords,
Whose music life deplores when unavailing.
_ We might have been !

We might have been so happy ! says the child,
Pent in the weary school-room during summer,
When the green rushes 'mid the marshes wild,
And rosy fruits, attend the radiant comer.
_ We might have been !

It is the thought that darkens on our youth,
When first experience — sad experienceteaches
What fallacies we have believed for truth,
And what few truths endeavour ever reaches.
_ We might have been !

Alas ! how different from what we are
Had we but known the bitter path before us ;
But feelings, hopes, and fancies left afar,
What in the wide bleak world can e'er restore us ?
_ We might have been !

It is the motto of all human things,
The end of all that waits on mortal seeking ;
The weary weight upon Hope's flagging wings,
It is the cry of the worn heart while breaking.
_ We might have been !

And when, warm with the heaven that gave it birth,
Dawns on our world-worn way Love's hour Elysian,
The last fair angel lingering on our earth,
The shadow of what thought obscures the vision.
_ We might have been !

A cold fatality attends on love,
Too soon or else too late the heart-beat quickens ;
The star which is our fate springs up above,
And we but say — while round the vapour thickens —
_ We might have been !

Life knoweth no like misery ; the rest
Are single sorrows, — but in this are blended
All sweet emotions that disturb the breast ;
The light that was our loveliest is ended.
_ We might have been !

Henceforth, how much of the full heart must be
A seal’d book at whose contents we tremble ?
A still voice mutters 'mid our misery,
The worst to hear, because it must dissemble
_ We might have been !

Life is made up of miserable hours,
And all of which we craved a brief possessing,
For which we wasted wishes, hopes, and powers,
Comes with some fatal drawback on the blessing.
_ We might have been !

The future never renders to the past
The young beliefs intrusted to its keeping ;
Inscribe one sentence — life's first truth and last —
On the pale marble where our dust is sleeping
_ We might have been.


In the ancestral presence of the dead
Sits a lone power — a veil upon the head,
Stern with the terror of an unseen dread.

It sitteth cold, immutable, and still,
Girt with eternal consciousness of ill,
And strong and silent as its own dark will.

We are the victims of its iron rule,
The warm and beating human heart its tool ;
And man, immortal, godlike, but its fool.

We know not of its presence, though its power
Be on the gradual round of every hour,
Now flinging down an empire, now a flower.

And all things small and careless are its own,
Unwittingly the seed minute is sown, —
The tree of evil out of it is grown.

At times we see and struggle with our chain,
And dream that somewhat we are freed, in vain ;
The mighty fetters close on us again.

We mock our actual strength with lofty thought,
And towers that look into the heavens are wrought, -
But after all our toil the task is nought.

Down comes the stately fabric, and the sands
Are scatter'd with the work of myriad hands,
High o'er whose pride the fragile wild-flower stands.

Such are the wrecks of nations and of kings,
Far in the desert, where the palm-tree springs ;
'Tis the same story in all meaner things.

The heart builds up its hopes, though not addrest
To meet the sunset glories of the west,
But garnered in some still, sweet-singing nest.

But the dark power is on its noiseless way,
The song is silent so sweet yesterday,
And not a green leaf lingers on the spray.

We mock ourselves with freedom, and with hope,
The while our feet glide down life's faithless slope ;
One has no strength, the other has no scope.

So we are flung on Time's tumultuous wave,
Forced there to struggle, but denied to save,
Till the stern tide ebbs — and there is the grave.


I do not say bequeath unto my soul
Thy memory, — I rather ask forgetting ;
Withdraw, I pray, from me thy strong control,
Leave something in the wide world worth regretting.

I need my thoughts for other things than thee,
I dare not let thine image fill them only ;
The hurried happiness it wakes in me
Will leave the hours that are to come more lonely.

I live not like the many of my kind,
Mine is a world of feelings and of fancies,
Fancies whose rainbow empire is the mind,
Feelings that realise their own romances.

To dream and to create has been my fate,
Alone, apart from life's more busy scheming ;
I fear to think that I may find too late
Vain was the toil, and idle was the dreaming.

Have I uprear'd my glorious pyre of thought,
Up to the heavens, but for my own entombing ?
The fair and fragrant things that years have brought
Must they be gathered for my own consuming?

Oh ! give me back the past that took no part
In the existence it was but surveying ;
That knew not then of the awaken'd heart
Amid the life of other lives decaying.

Why should such be mine own ? I sought it not :
More than content to live apart and lonely,
The feverish tumult of a loving lot,
Is what I wish'd, and thought to picture only.

Surely the spirit is its own free will ;
What should o'ermaster mine to vain complying
With hopes that call down what they bring of ill,
With fears to their own questioning replying ?

In vain, in vain ! Fate is above us all ;
We struggle, but what matters our endeavour ?
Our doom is gone beyond our own recall,
May we deny or mitigate it ? — never !

And what art thou to me, — thou who dost wake
The mind's still depths with trouble and repining ?
Nothing; — though all things now thy likeness take ;
Nothing, — and life has nothing worth resigning.

Ah, yes ! one thing, thy memory ; though grief
Watching the expiring beam of hope's last ember,
Life had one hour, — bright, beautiful, and brief,
And now its only task is to remember.
Font size:
Collection  PDF     

Submitted by Madeleine Quinn on May 22, 2016

6:11 min read

Quick analysis:

Scheme Text too long
Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 6,627
Words 1,221
Stanzas 38
Stanza Lengths 1, 13, 1, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4

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…

All Letitia Elizabeth Landon poems | Letitia Elizabeth Landon Books

2 fans

Discuss this Letitia Elizabeth Landon poem with the community:



    Find a translation for this poem in other languages:

    Select another language:

    • - Select -
    • 简体中文 (Chinese - Simplified)
    • 繁體中文 (Chinese - Traditional)
    • Español (Spanish)
    • Esperanto (Esperanto)
    • 日本語 (Japanese)
    • Português (Portuguese)
    • Deutsch (German)
    • العربية (Arabic)
    • Français (French)
    • Русский (Russian)
    • ಕನ್ನಡ (Kannada)
    • 한국어 (Korean)
    • עברית (Hebrew)
    • Gaeilge (Irish)
    • Українська (Ukrainian)
    • اردو (Urdu)
    • Magyar (Hungarian)
    • मानक हिन्दी (Hindi)
    • Indonesia (Indonesian)
    • Italiano (Italian)
    • தமிழ் (Tamil)
    • Türkçe (Turkish)
    • తెలుగు (Telugu)
    • ภาษาไทย (Thai)
    • Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)
    • Čeština (Czech)
    • Polski (Polish)
    • Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian)
    • Românește (Romanian)
    • Nederlands (Dutch)
    • Ελληνικά (Greek)
    • Latinum (Latin)
    • Svenska (Swedish)
    • Dansk (Danish)
    • Suomi (Finnish)
    • فارسی (Persian)
    • ייִדיש (Yiddish)
    • հայերեն (Armenian)
    • Norsk (Norwegian)
    • English (English)


    Use the citation below to add this poem to your bibliography:


    "Three Extracts from the Diary of a Week" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2023. Web. 28 Mar. 2023. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/44795/three-extracts-from-the-diary-of-a-week>.

    Become a member!

    Join our community of poets and poetry lovers to share your work and offer feedback and encouragement to writers all over the world!

    March 2023

    Poetry Contest

    Enter our monthly contest for the chance to win cash prizes and gain recognition for your talent.

    Browse Poetry.com


    Are you a poetry master?

    Who wrote the poem "No Man Is An Island"?
    • A. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
    • B. John Donne
    • C. Robert Browning
    • D. Ezra Pound