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Poem by Robert Southey
HERE, in the fruitful vales of Somerset, Was Emma born, and here the maiden grew To the sweet season of her womanhood, Beloved and lovely, like a plant whose leaf And bud and blossom all are beautiful. In peacefulness her virgin years were passed; And, when in prosperous wedlock she was given, Amid the Cumbrian mountains far away She had her summer bower. ’T was like a dream Of old romance to see her when she plied Her little skiff on Derwent’s glassy lake; The roseate evening resting on the hills, The lake returning back the hues of heaven, Mountains and vales and waters, all imbued With beauty, and in quietness; and she, Nymph-like, amid that glorious solitude A heavenly presence, gliding in her joy. But soon a wasting malady began To prey upon her, frequent in attack, Yet with such flattering intervals as mock The hopes of anxious love, and most of all The sufferer, self-deceived. During those days Of treacherous respite, many a time hath he, Who leaves this record of his friend, drawn back Into the shadow from her social board, Because too surely in her cheek he saw The insidious bloom of death; and then her smiles And innocent mirth excited deeper grief Than when long-looked-for tidings came at last, That, all her sufferings ended, she was laid Amid Madeira’s orange-groves to rest. O gentle Emma! o’er a lovelier form Than thine earth never closed; nor e’er did heaven Receive a purer spirit from the world.
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