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The Volcano of Ki-rau-e-a

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



An ebbing tide of fire, the evil powers
In fear and anger here are paramount,
Rending the bosom of the fertile earth,
And spreading desolation. Black as night,
And terrible, as if the grave had sent
Its own dark atmosphere to upper air,
The heavy vapours rise ; from out the smoke
Break the red volumes of the central flame,
And lava floods and burning showers descend,
Parching the soil to barrenness.
And yet there is the principle of life
Within that fiery waste : when years have past,
And Time, the beautifier, has been there,
Then will the fierce volcano have consumed
Its depths of flame, and there the coral reef
Will spread ; at first a bleak and dangerous waste;
Until the wind bear on its wandering wings
The fertilizing seeds; the salt sea tide
Leave shells and weeds behind, to vegetate.
The birds will come o'er ocean, and delight
To find a tranquil home remote from men.
Flowers will spring up, and trees ; and last some ship
Will penetrate the waste of waters round,
And marvel at the lovely solitude.

" Standing at an elevation of one thousand five hundred feet, we looked into a black and horrid gulf, not less than eight miles in circumference, so directly beneath us, that, in appearance, we might, by a single leap, have plunged into its lowest depth. The hideous immensity itself, independent of the many frightful images which it embraced, almost caused an involuntary closing of the eyes against it. But when to the sight is added the appalling effect of the various unnatural and fearful noises, the muttering and sighing, the groaning and blowing, the every agonized struggling, of the mighty action within, as a whole, it is too horrible. And for the first moment I felt like one of my friends, who, on reaching the brink, recoiled, and covered his face, exclaiming, "Call it weakness, or what you please, but I cannot look again."—p. 375.

  According to the theory generally received at present among scientific men, the numerous coral islands of the Pacific are supposed to be formations upon extinct volcanoes.
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Submitted by Madeleine Quinn on June 23, 2016

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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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