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Chapter-House, Furness Abbey

The following lines are a translation of an exquisite epistle addressed by St. Beuve to A. Fontenay. It applies very aptly to the fine old Abbey, whose ruins seem the very ideal of the poet's wish.

"Young friend, if, after struggles, toils, and many a passion past,
A vanquished one, who from his car has the worn harness cast;
Or whether, drawing in your sail, the first rude wind has thrown
Your vessel in some quiet port, henceforth to be your own;
Or either some unhappy love, which, lingering with you still,
For any further voyage in life has left you little will.
And from a path that charms you not—at the first step returning,
Like some pale lover during night, by some lone threshold mourning;
Or whether, full of hope and truth, you share life's better part,
Of love unconscious; though a man, a very child at heart.
"Dear friend, if it be your's to have in some deep vale a home,
Where you may dream of faith and fate, and all the great, to come.
If such a place of tranquil rest be to your future given,
Where every hour of solitude is consecrate to heaven,
Oh, leave it not! let this vain life fret its few hours afar,
Where joy departs, and glory mocks the wide world's weary war
Let not its rude and angry tide with jarring torrent wake
The silence that the poplars love, of your own limpid lake.
"Ah, stay! live lonely on, and soon, the silence and the sound
Of music by the wandering winds, amid the reed-tops found;
The colour which each various bough has on its various leaves,
The hue which the transparent wave from the bright morn receives;
Or nearer, from your window seen, your garden's pleasant trees,
Your chamber and its daily walls—or even less than these:
All round will be your comforters, and, living but for you,
Will talk to you in wordless speech, a language soft and true.
Like some safe friend with drooping head, who utters not a word,
But yet has guessed your inmost thoughts, and with a look has heard.
Yes, solitude amid her depths has many a hidden balm
Guarded for those who leave her not, to strengthen and to calm.
"It has been long a dream of mine—a lonely one to dwell,
Where some old abbey's ruins hide a solitary cell;
A gloomy room, with iron bars across the window placed,
And o'er the narrow panes of glass fantastic crossings traced;
And green moss peeping forth amid the riven granite stone,
And the dim arches over-head with ivy overgrown."
Such is the dwelling, grey and old, which, in some world-worn mood,
The youthful poet dreamed would suit his future solitude.
If the old abbey be his search, he might seek far and near
Ere he would find a gothic cell more lorn and lone than here:
Long years have darkened into time since vespers here were rung,
And here has been no other dirge than what the winds have sung;
And here the drooping ivy wreaths in ancient clusters fall,
And moss o'er each device hath grown upon the sculptured wall;
Yet might he find some southern cell, where sweet wild flowers are creeping,
And old pear trees below the arch—their autumn leaves are weeping.
There might he heap the treasured things he mentions in his song,
Scrolls, crayons, folios, which have been familiar friends so long;
⁠*A picture half effaced, (once dear), a lute, an oaken chair,
Black but inlaid with ivory, a lock of golden hair,
And letters dated years ago, and poems half complete,
In picturesque disorder flung, would make a dwelling meet
For the young poet anchorite, who from our world hath flown,
To build, in solitude and song, another of his own.

⁠* "Un portrait effacé
"Que fut cher autrefois."
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Submitted by Madeleine Quinn on February 11, 2020

3:18 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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