The Literary Maiden

A compendium of obscure 19th century writing.

“Von Bissing” by Alexander Robertson

Von Bissing
Alexander Robertson
From Last Poems of Alexander Robertson, 1918

Your idol is a bloody sword
And you the worshipper:
So the one word, the saving word
You spoke it not for her.

You had your way. But you will be
Accurséd of mankind,
Both for the unexpressed decree
And motives, undivined,—

Her tending of the wounded foe,
Her dauntlessness, forgot,—
And for the lies you spoke, that so
Unchanged might be her lot.

And having slain, you spoke a word
That showed your soul of mire,
Yet the toiler, said your feignéd Lord,
Is worthy of his hire.

All who have lied before they killed
And slandered whom they slew,
Behold, with admiration filled
Yet envious of you!

“The Pilgrim’s Progress” by Alexander Robertson

The Pilgrim’s Progress
Alexander Robertson
From Last Poems of Alexander Robertson, 1918

The sweet Land of Delight
Lay beside the river
With vales and meadows bright
And warm air a-quiver;
Where pilgrims did repose
Before they set their feet,
Now at their journey’s close,
In waters dark and fleet.

Oh, fair land of Provence,
For weariness relief!
Country of our pleasaunce
And quiet lodgment brief!
Land of Delight art thou
For us? And are they near
The black swift waters now
Where all must disappear?

Written while in hospital in Provence before going to the Front line at the Battle of the Somme.

“Sonnet (I’m tir’d of this mortality…)” by John William Polidori

Sonnet.
John W. Polidori
From Ximenes, the Wreathe, and Other Poems, pg. 165

I’m tir’d of this mortality—for years
I scorn’d this nature; for methought I saw
Nought but the marks of virtue caused by fears
Of what the stronger might make into law.
Methought that souls, like the cameleon’s skin,
Could every hue invest—the hero, knave,
Or any mask that could a purpose win,
Or help the various plot of passion’s slave.
And now that I have found some who perform
The noblest acts, not for the use alone,
But that their natures form’d in virtue’s mould.
I scorn mortality, which cannot form
A word worthy of virtue’s heavenly throne,
At such a sight my feeling’s to unfold.

“Sonnet (I know not how it is…)” by John William Polidori

Sonnet.*
John William Polidori (author of “The Vampyre”)
From Ximenes, the Wreath, and Other Poems, Pg. 164
*Written in the Album, at Costessey, after [Polidori’s] recovery from an accident, 1817.

I know not how it is—you gave me life!
Yet, can’t my heart find words my lips may speak,
In thanks for such a gift?—vain, vain’s the strife!
The feeling’s strong!—for it words are weak.—
No muse of Helicon can here avail—
No muse-inspiring god can help me now!
They only aid when fiction forms her tale,
Or give a verse when all but feelings flow.—
Then where to look, if not to him alone,
Who touch’d Isaiah’s mouth with burning coal,
If thus he deign’d to touch my lips with fire—
Not then as now—I’d seem a breathing stone;—
But as I feel would speak, and show my soul
Well knows what all your kindness should inspire.