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

GOOD Heaven! whatever shall I do ?
I must write something for my readers:
What has become of my ideas ?
Now, out upon them for seceders!
Of all the places in the world,
To fix upon a port in China;
Celestial empire, how I wish
I had been christened Celestina !
The wish however's served for rhyme,
But here again invention falters :
Had it but been a town in Greece;
I might have raved about its altars,
And talked of liberty and mass,
Of tyrants and Romaic dances,
Of Athens with a German king,
And fifty thousand other chances :
Or had it only been in Spain;
A few night-stars the midnight gemming,
And a guitar, I might have scribbled
The rest from Contarini Flemming :
Or Italy, the land of song;
Of myrtle, pictures, and of passion—
Ah ! that was for mine earlier lute,
I write now in another fashion :
Or France, which, like an invalid,
Goes patching up a constitution;
Those three most glorious days in June,
Might have lain under contribution :
Or had it only been Madeira;
I might have made a charming fiction,
Of some young maiden crossed in love,
And dying of the contradiction.
I’m like a sailor sent to sea,
Sent with “no, nothing” for his sea-hoard ;
What on earth can I find to say,
Of a pagoda, or a tea-board?
No love, no murder, no description,
Their only “old association”
Is with the willow-pattern plates,
That on the dresser have their station.
I give it up in pure despair;
But well the muse may turn refractory,
When all her inspiration is—
A Chinese Town, and an English Factory.
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Submitted by Madeleine Quinn on August 13, 2016

1:21 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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    "Macao" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2022. Web. 28 May 2022. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/45101/macao>.

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