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The Cup of Circe

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

Sketches from Designs by Mr. Dagley.
Sketch the Third.

"All have drank of the cup of the enchantress."

She sat a crowned Queen—the ruby's light
Gleamed like a red star on the dark midnight
Amid her curls; but as they downward fell
To meet her ivory neck's luxuriant swell,
Some roses twined around the flowing hair—
Fair roses—yet her neck was far more fair:
They were in summer perfume, and they gave
Fresh fragrance forth at each light tress's wave.
Her cheek was crimson beauty, and her eye
Flashed light upon its varying brilliancy.
There was a spell in those dark eyes, and all
Bent joyfully beneath its radiant thrall:
Their power was on the heart. One white hand raised
A sparkling vase, where gold and opals blazed
Only less glorious than her starry eyes;
(How sweet the incensed breathings that arise
From that enchanted cup!) and she the while
Held the bright poison with a witching smile.
All gathered round. I marked a fair child stop
And kiss the purple bubbles from the top;
A white haired man, too, hung upon the brim—
Oh! that such pleasure should have charms for him
And by his side a girl, whose blue eyes, bent
On the seducer, looked too innocent
For passion's madness;—but love's soul was there—
And for young Love what will not woman dare!
There was a warrior—oh, the chain was sweet
That bound him prisoner to the Circe's feet:
He knelt and gazed upon her beauty; she
Smiled, and received his wild idolatry;
Then sighed that low sweet sigh, whose tender tone
Is witching, from its echo of our own.
The Painter's skill has seized a moment where
Her hand is wreathing mid his raven hair;
And he is bent in worship, as that touch,
That soft light touch, were ecstasy too much.
He is just turned from that bewildering face
To the fair arm that holds the magic vase—
The purple liquor is just sparkling up—
The youth has pledged his heart's truth on that cup!
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Submitted by Madeleine Quinn on February 09, 2020

1:45 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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