The Literary Maiden

A compendium of obscure 19th century writing.

Passage from Orion by Richard Henry Horne

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Pastoral Landscape: The Roman Campagna by Claude Lorrain (Claude Gellée)

Passage from Orion
Richard Henry Horne
From Horne’s Orion, Canto II, Book III, pg. 115

O’er meadows green or solitary lawn,
When birds appear earth’s sole inhabitants,
The long clear shadows of the morning differ
From those of eve, which are more soft and vague,
Suggestive of past days and mellowed grief.
The lights of morning, even as her shades,
Are architectural, and pre-eminent
In quiet freshness, midst the pause that holds
Prelusive energies. All life awakes.
Morn comes at first with white uncertain light;
Then takes a faint red, like an opening bud
Seen through grey mist: the mist clears off; the sky
Unfolds; grows ruddy; takes a crimson flush;
Puts forth bright sprigs of gold,—which soon expanding
In saffron, thence pure golden shines the morn;
Uplifts its clear bright fabric of white clouds,
All tinted, like a shell of polished pearl,
With varied glancings, violet gleam and blush;
Embraces Nature; and then passes on,
Leaving the Sun to perfect his great work.

“Twilight” by Nathaniel Parker Willis


Landscape with Ducks by Charles-François Daubigny

Nathaniel Parker Willis
From Sketches by Nathaniel Parker Willis, 1827

‘——When the fretful stir
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world
Have hung upon the beatings of my heart.’

O TWILIGHT hour! who art so very cool
And balmy in the summer eventide,
With thy rich breathing quieting the winds,
And the uneasy waters; twilight hour!
Whose mantle is the drapery of dreams,
And who hast ever been in poetry
Life’s holy time; thou who wert wont to steal
Upon us, as thy sandals were of dew!
How sadly comes the rustle of thy step,
In the decaying season of the year!

My early fire is low, and hurrying feet
In the short pauses of the wind go by,
And the unquiet leaves, that sighingly
Obey its gusty summons and sweep on,
Seem mourning for the green and pleasant trees;
And the clouds wear sad colors, and I feel
As there were nothing in this fading world,
That is not cold and sorrowful like this.
Thus is it with a spirit not at ease.
It turns no eye within; but, as it were
The mirror of the world’s poor circumstance,
It takes its hue from nature, as if earth
With its discordant elements could tune
The delicate harmonies of human mind.
We have within us fountains, and they flow
With fancy to create the beautiful,
And thought to search out knowledge, and deep love
To link us to society; light mirth
To gladden, and kind sympathies to shade
The spirit; and yet many will go out
With a sealed bosom wandering the world,
To satisfy a thirst for happiness.
How strange it is, that when the principle
Of light is living in us, we should shut
Its emanations in, and darkly stray
To catch a beam from nature, like a star
That should forget its glory and go out,
Because the moon was shining not in heaven!

“To the Dead” by John G. C. Brainard

To the Dead
John G. C. Brainard
From the Poets and Poetry of America, 1854, pg. 210

How many now are dead to me
That live to others yet!
How many are alive to me
Who crumble in their graves, nor see
That sickening, sinking look, which we
Till dead can ne’er forget.

Beyond the blue seas, far away,
Most wretchedly alone,
One died in prison, far away,
Where stone on stone shut out the day,
And never hope or comfort’s ray
In his lone dungeon shone.

Dead to the world, alive to me,
Though months and years have pass’d;
In a lone hour the hum of some wild bee,
And then his form and face I see,
As when I saw him last.

And one with a bright lip, and cheek,
And eye, is dead to me.
How pale the bloom of his smooth cheek!
His lip was cold—it would not speak:
His heart was dead, for it did not break:
And his eye, for it did not see.

Then for the living be the tomb,
And for the dead the smile;
Engrave oblivion on the tomb
Of pulseless life and deadly bloom,—
Dim is such glare: but bright the gloom
Around the funeral pile.

“My Lamp” by Park Benjamin


Sewing by Lamplight
After Jean-François Millet

My Lamp
Park Benjamin
From Godey’s Lady’s Book, Volume 41, pg. 360

Shine out, my lamp, with welcome ray,
Thou fair, domestic planet, shine!
For something dearer than by day
Is shown in this sweet light of thine.
My books, which, by the shadows pall
Of evening, hidden were from view,
Look from their shelves along the wall,
Each clothed with a serener hue.

My chairs and tables, like old friends,
Stand round, as if rejoiced to see
That Time is making some amends
For what his wings have swept from me;
Bestowing joys of ripened age,
Loves, friendships, intellectual hours,
Thoughts that maturest minds engage,
Fruits rich as youth’s unfolded flowers.

And better forms than these thy beams
Endow with beauty; kindlier looks
Yield to my soul diviner dreams
Than all the golden stores of books—
My lamp! and well thou know’st how bright
Their smiles appear, when, like a sun
Set sudden on the vault of Night,
Thou shin’st to cheer the saddest one.

My best companion! reft of thee,
What were my happiness below?
Half gone; for dearer far to me
Than daylight’s is thy gentler glow.
Since daylight shows the real scene;
But in thy lustre Fancy flings
A purer grace, a softer mien
Around earth’s frail and common things.

My evening lamp! still mayst thou burn
As constant through the coming years,
When towards the tomb my footsteps turn,
And Love’s fond eyes are wet with tears;
Still may thy radiance through the dark
Shine on with hope and comfort rife,
Till thou hast seen the latest spark
Fade slowly from my lamp of life.

“Spirit of May” by James Gates Percival

Spirit of May
James Gates Percival
From the United States Literary Gazette, Volume 4; May 1, 1826, pp. 109-111

Welcome, thrice welcome, Spirit of May!
Blessings be round thy airy way;
Come, with thy train of rainbow hues,
Of hovering clouds and falling dews,—
Come to our garden beds and bowers,
And cover them over with leaves and flowers.
Already the summer bird is there,
And he sings aloud to the warm, warm air;
There he carols strong and free,
And his song and his joy are all for thee.

Come, when the sparkling rivers run,
Full and bright, to the gladdening sun;
Come, when the grass and springing corn
In their newest and tenderest green are born;
When budding woods and tufted hills
Wake to the music of foaming rills,
As they rush from their fountains deep and strong,
And in calm and in sunshine roll along;
Come, when the soft and winning air
Tells us a quickening life is there.

Come to our bosoms, Spirit of May!
We would not be sad, when the earth is gay;
Wake, in the heart that is newly strung,
The love that dwells with the fair and young;
Give, to their full and speaking eyes,
Visions, that glitter like sunset skies;
Waft them with quick and favouring gales,
Filling with music their glancing sails;
Theirs be a flight o’er a summer sea,
Where nothing of cloud or storm can be.

And give us, who long have bode the storm,
To feel for a moment our spirits warm;
Let the hopes, that once were a world of light,
Look out from our sorrows serene and bright,
Like stars that come forth on the midnight air,
When the cloud has passed and the sky is fair;
Give us awhile to forget our cares,
And be light as thy own enlivening airs;
Let feelings of childhood awake like flowers,
When they open to catch the falling showers.

Come from thy palace, Spirit of May!
Where flowers ever blossom and fountains play!
Bring with thee Plenty’s brimming horn,
And the tears of evening and dews of morn;
Build thy throne in the clear, blue air,
And Earth shall be bright, and Heaven be fair,
And the winds, that rushed from the rolling cloud,
And lifted their voices and called aloud,
Shall sink to a softer and mellower tone,
Like gales from a happy island blown.

Then the sea shall glow in its darkest bed,
And life shall revisit the mountain head;
And the valley shall laugh, and the forest ring,
For Joy shall be out on his glittering wing;
And the old shall praise[*], and the young shall stare,
As they hear his voice in the sunny air;
Glad shall their hearts and their spirits be,
When they know he is sent to tell of thee,—
To tell them, the Queen of Love and May
Is now on her bright, triumphal way.

[*] Note: in Percival’s Clio, Volume III, “pause” is in place of “praise.”