Boscastle Waterfall and Quarry

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

OH, gloomy quarry! thou dost hide in thee
The tower and shrine.
The city vast and grand and wonderful,
And strong, is thine.
Look at the mighty buildings of our land,
What once were they ?
Ere they rose fashioned by the cunning hand,
In proud array.
One fronts me now, a temple beautiful,
Touched by the light
Which has so much of heaven—the light of eve,
Golden and bright.
In dull relief against the cloudy sky
These turrets rise:
Our fine old Abbey, where the dust of kings,
Tranquilly lies.*
Winning the eye amid the crowded street,
To other thought,
Than that the haste, the noise, the changeful scene
Around me brought.
Mingling in air, the twin-born spires
So nobly stand:
They seem eternal, yet are they the work,
Man, of thy hand.
Yet, must they first have, in some quarry lain
Rude, shapeless, lone,
Until the mind of man inspired his hand
To work in stone.
Alas ! the contrast between us, and what
We can create;
That man should be so little in himself,
His works so great.

* We talk of the beauties of nature, I must own I am more pleased with those of art. I know no spectacle more impressive than a great street in a great city,—take Piccadilly, for instance; the immense variety of faces that hurry past, each without interest in the other, for how rare it is to remark the greeting even of acquaintance ; indeed, you may often walk for days, and not meet a creature you know. The houses, with all their daily life—associations of comfort, force you to think how man's ingenuity has been exerted for man's pleasure. The shops, where every article is a triumph of ingenuity—some curious, some beautiful. The sweep of the Green Park: grass close beside the worn pavement,—the beautiful garden of Lord Coventry,—the royal gift destined for the solace of the blind and of the aged friend. Westminster Abbey rising in dim and dusky grandeur,—Westminster Abbey, where history becomes poetry, and whose illustrious dead are familiar to every memory. The many carriages, each like a grade in the complicated grades of society ; the wealth few pause to envy, the poverty still fewer pause to pity. The gradual closing in of night, whose empire is here disputed by the lamps linked in one long line of light,—each holding its imprisoned flame, and, last, the triumphal arch at Hyde Park, while the open space behind is shrouded in unbroken darkness.
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Submitted by Madeleine Quinn on July 30, 2016

Modified on March 05, 2023

2:06 min read

Quick analysis:

Characters 2,339
Words 418
Stanzas 2
Stanza Lengths 32, 1

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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