Felicia Dorothea Hemans

The Silent Multitude

Felicia Dorothea Hemans was an English poet. Two of her opening lines, "The boy stood on the burning deck" and "The stately homes of England", have acquired classic status.






"No conversation,
No joyful tread of friends, no voice of lovers,
No careful father's counsel; nothing's heard,
Nor nothing is, but all oblivion,
Dust and an endless darkness."
⁠Fletcher.


A mighty and a mingled throng,
  Were gather'd in one spot,
The dwellers of a thousand homes,
  Yet 'midst them voice was not.

The soldier and his chief were there,
  The mother and her child;
The friends, the sisters of one hearth—
  None spoke, none mov'd, none smiled.

Those lovers met, between whose lives
  Years had swept darkly by;
After that heart-sick Hope deferr'd,
  They met—but silently!

You might have heard the gliding brook,
  The breeze's faintest sound,
The shiver of an insect's wing,
  On that thick-peopled ground.

Your voice to whispers would have died
  For that deep Quiet's sake;
Your step the softest moss have sought,
  Such stillness not to break!

What held the countless multitude
  Bound in that spell of peace?
How could the ever-sounding life
  Among so many cease?

Was it some pageant of the heavens,
  Some glory high above,
That link'd and hush'd those human souls,
  In reverential love?

Or did some burdening Passion's weight
  Hang on this in-drawn breath?
Awe—the pale awe that freezes words?
  Fear—the strong fear of death?

A mightier thing—Death, Death himself,
  Lay on each lonely heart;
Kindred were these, yet hermits all—
  Thousands—but each apart!

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