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The Tomb of Aurungzebe

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

Oh, fleeting honours of the dead,
Oh, high ambition lowly laid.”

“A MIGHTY tomb, fit for a mighty king,
One last great mockery, a thousand slaves
Dug marble from the quarry, then arose
The slow foundation—men put forth their skill
In rich devices, and in ornament,
Then towered the rounded column, and the walls
Shone with red gold and many-coloured stones.
Then spread the broidered purple for a pall,
And all for what ?—to hide some grains of dust.”
So might the cynic say; so say not I.
It is a glorious thing for man to war
With time, by some great work. Wherefore was skill,
And energy, and industry, bestowed,
If that he use them not ? How many hearts
In the completion of this building throbbed
With the fine pride of art—that pride which leads
To all that can redeem or civilize
Our human nature. Now, what solemn thoughts
Brood here ! an atmosphere from which we draw
Such lessons as the dead alone can give,
And only they when present to the mind,
As they are present in this monument—
Oh, build tombs for the dead, they're mightier there
Than in their living palaces !
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Submitted by Madeleine Quinn on August 25, 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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