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Letitia Elizabeth Landon (Летиция Элизабет Лэндон)

Linmouth, or, The Country Retreat

OH lone and lovely solitude,
    Washed by the sounding sea!
Nature was in a poet's mood,
    When she created thee.

How pleasant in the hour of noon
    To wander through the shade;
The soft and golden shade which June
    Flings o'er thy inland glade:

The wild rose like a wreath above,
    The ash-tree's fairy keys,
The aspen trembling, as if love
    Were whispered by the breeze;

These, or the beech's darker bough,
    For canopy o'er head,
While moss and fragile flowers below
    An elfin pillow spread.

Here one might dream the hours away,
    As if the world had not
Or grief, or care, or disarray,
    To darken human lot.

Yet 'tis not here that I would dwell,
    Though fair the place may be,
The summer's favourite citadel:—
    A busier scene for me!

I love to see the human face
    Reflect the human mind,
To watch in every crowded place
    Their opposites combined.

There's more for thought in one brief hour
    In yonder busy street,
Than all that ever leaf or flower
    Taught in their green retreat.

Industry, intellect, and skill
    Appear in all their pride,
The glorious force of human will
    Triumphs on every side.

Yet touched with meekness, for on all
    Is set the sign and seal
Of sorrow, suffering, and thrall,
    Which none but own and feel;

The hearse that passes with its dead,
    The homeless beggar's prayer,
Speak words of warning, and of dread,
    To every passer there.

Aye beautiful the dreaming brought
    By valleys and green fields;
But deeper feeling, higher thought,
    Is what the city yields.

Pope's hackneyed line of "An honest man’s the noblest work of God," has a companion in Cowper's "God made the country, but man made the town;" both are the perfection of copy-book cant. I am far from intending to deprecate that respectable individual, "an honest man," but surely genius, intellectual goodness and greatness, are far nobler emanations of the Divine Spirit than mere honesty. This is just another branch of that melodramatic morality which talks of rural felicity, and unsophisticated pleasures. Has a wife been too extravagant, or a husband too gay, all is settled by their agreeing to reform, and live in the country. Is a young lady to be a pattern person; forsooth, she must have been brought up in the country. Your philosophers inculcate it, your poets rave about it, your every-day people look upon it as something between a pleasure and a duty—till poor London has its merits as little understood as any popular question which every body discusses. I do own I have a most affectionate attachment for London—the deep voice of her multitudes "haunts me like a passion." I delight in observing the infinite variety of her crowded streets, the rich merchandise of the shops, the vast buildings, whether raised for pomp, commerce, or charity, down to the barrel-organ, whose music is only common because it is beautiful. The country is no more left as it was originally created, than Belgrave Square remains its pristine swamp. The forest has been felled, the marsh drained, the enclosures planted, and the field ploughed. All these, begging Mr. Cowper’s pardon, are the works of man’s hands; and so is the town—the one is not more artificial than the other. Both are the result of God’s good gifts—industry and intelligence exerted to the utmost. Let any one ride down Highgate Hill on a summer’s day, see the immense mass of buildings spread like a dark panorama, hear the ceaseless and peculiar sound, which has been likened to the hollow roar of the ocean, but has an utterly differing tone; watch the dense cloud that hangs over all—one perpetual storm, which yet bursts not—and then say, if ever was witnessed hill or valley that so powerfully impressed the imagination with that sublime and awful feeling which is the epic of poetry.

Letitia Elizabeth Landon's other poems:
  1. To Sir John Doyle, Bart
  2. Portrait
  3. Age and Youth
  4. The Tournament
  5. The Nameless Grave

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