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

WHERE are they bound, those gallant ships,
That here at anchor lie,
Now quiet as the sleeping birds,
Beneath a summer sky ?

Their white wings droop, their shadows rest,
Unbroken on the deep,
As if the airy elements
Had their own hour of sleep.

A little while the wind will rise,
And every ship will be,
With plashing prow, and shining sail,
Afar upon the sea.

Some will go east, and some go west,
Some to the Indian isles,
Where spring is lavish of her bloom,
And summer of her smiles ;

And some will seek the latitudes
Where northern breezes blow,
And winter builds a throne of ice
Upon a world of snow :

Some will come back with plume, and pearl,
The attar, and the gem;
Little do the gay wearers think
How brave men toil for them.

The product of far distant lands,
Nurst by far distant skies,
Are here the triumph and reward
Of human enterprise.

Amid the ships that bear around
The wealth of half the world,
Are those that, for the Quorra bound,
Have just their sails unfurled.

Freighted with goods that new-found climes
May envy English skill,
They bear no thunders o’er the deep
To work our nation’s will.

In peace they go, with pure intent,
And with this noble aim ;
Barbaric hordes to civilize,
By traffic to reclaim.

Not as they went in former days,
To bear the wretched slave ;
To pine beneath a foreign sky,
Or perish on the wave.

They go for knowledge, and in hope
Such knowledge may avail,
To draw the savage and unknown
Within the social pale.

A deep and ardent sympathy,
The heart has with the bold ;
The cheek is flushed, the eye is bright,
Whene’er their deeds are told.

We half forget the conqueror’s crime,
In honour of the brave,
And raise the banner and the arch,
Although upon the grave.

But here the danger and the toil
Of no false light have need,
Tho’ courage and tho’ constancy
Deserve the highest meed.

The dreary day, ’mid trackless wood,
The lion at their side,
The gloomy night, when rocks, and foes,
Were on the faithless tide.

Mid slav’ry, suffering, deserts, death,
It has been theirs to roam,
Led onward by that general thought,
“What will they say at home ?”

Science, thy own adventurers
Again are on their way—
And but for thy most glorious hopes,
What were our mental day ?

Sail on, proud bark, a lofty aim
It was that freighted thee,
And for their sake who tread thy decks,
God speed thee o’er the sea !

July, 1832.
It need scarcely be stated, that the above verses refer to the Expedition which has been equipped by the enterprising merchants of Liverpool, to carry British commerce to the interior of Africa; and which is accompanied by the elder Lander, the faithful companion of the lamented Captain Clapperton. Although the direct object of this Expedition is to establish, by means of the river Quorra or Niger, an intercourse with hitherto inaccessible nations, the advancement of our geographical knowledge has not been neglected, as a naval officer, distinguished for his scientific attainments, proceeds with it, in order to take observations and make surveys.
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Submitted by Madeleine Quinn on July 20, 2016

2:40 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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    "Liverpool" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 26 Oct. 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/45019/liverpool>.

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