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Elegy

Charlotte Smith 1749 (London) – 1806 (Tilford, Surrey)



'DARK gathering clouds involve the threatening skies,
The sea heaves conscious of the impending gloom,
Deep, hollow murmurs from the cliffs arise;
They come--the Spirits of the Tempest come!

'Oh! may such terrors mark the approaching night
As reign'd on that these streaming eyes deplore!
Flash, ye red fires of heaven, with fatal light,
And with conflicting winds ye waters roar!
'Loud and more loud, ye foaming billows, burst!
Ye warring elements, more fiercely rave!
Till the wide waves o'erwhelm the spot accurst
'Where ruthless Avarice finds a quiet grave!' '
Thus with clasp'd hands, wild looks, and streaming hair,
While shrieks of horror broke her trembling speech,
A wretched maid--the victim of despair,
Survey'd the threatening storm and desert beech.
Then to the tomb where now the father slept
Whose rugged nature bade her sorrows flow,
Frantic she turn'd--and beat her breast and wept,
Invoking vengeance on the dust below.
'Lo! rising there above each humbler heap,
Yon cypher'd stones his name and wealth relate,
Who gave his son--remorseless--to the deep,
While I, his living victim, curse my fate.
'Oh, my lost love! no tomb is placed for thee,
That may to strangers' eyes thy worth impart;
Thou hast no grave but in the stormy sea,
And no memorial but this breaking heart.
'Forth to the world, a widow'd wanderer driven,
I pour to winds and waves the unheeded tear,
Try with vain effort to submit to Heaven,
And fruitless call on him--'who cannot hear.'
'Oh! might I fondly clasp him once again,
While o'er my head the infuriate billows pour,
Forget in death this agonizing pain,
And feel his father's cruelty no more!
'Part, raging waters! part, and show beneath,
In your dread caves, his pale and mangled form;
Now, while the demons of despair and death
Ride on the blast, and urge the howling storm:

'Lo! by the lightning's momentary blaze,
I see him rise the whitening waves above,
No longer such as when in happier days
He gave the enchanted hours--to me and love.
'Such, as when daring the enchafed sea,
And courting dangerous toil, he often said
That every peril, one soft smile from me,
One sigh of speechless tenderness o'erpaid.
'But dead, disfigured, while between the roar
Of the loud waves his accents pierce mine ear,
And seem to say--Ah, wretch! delay no more,
But come, unhappy mourner--meet me here.
'Yet, powerful Fancy, bid the phantom stay,
Still let me hear him!--'Tis already past;
Along the waves his shadow glides away,
I lose his voice amid the deafening blast.
'Ah, wild delusion, born of frantic pain!
He hears not, comes not from his watery bed;
My tears, my anguish, my despair are vain,
The insatiate ocean gives not up its dead.
' 'Tis not his voice! Hark! the deep thunders roll;
Upheaves the ground; the rocky barriers fail;
Approach, ye horrors that delight my soul,
Despair, and Death, and Desolation, hail!'
The Ocean hears--The embodied waters come--
Rise o'er the land, and with resistless sweep
Tear from its base the proud aggressor's tomb,
And bear the injured to eternal sleep.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:39 min read
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Charlotte Smith

Charlotte Turner Smith was an English Romantic poet and novelist. She initiated a revival of the English sonnet, helped establish the conventions of Gothic fiction, and wrote political novels of sensibility. A successful writer, she published ten novels, three books of poetry, four children's books, and other assorted works over the course of her career. She saw herself as a poet first and foremost, poetry at that period being considered the most exalted form of literature. Scholars now credit her with transforming the sonnet into an expression of woeful sentiment. more…

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