Landon in The Literary Gazette 1822/St George's Hospital

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For other versions of this work, see St. George's Hospital, Hyde Park Corner.
Poems by Letitia Elizabeth Landon
Second Series. Poetic Sketches. Sketch the Fourth. St.George’s Hospital, Hyde-Park Corner

Literary Gazette, 25th May, 1822, Page 331


Second Series—Sketch the Fourth.


These are familiar things, and yet how few
Think of this misery!—

I left the crowded street and the fresh day,
And entered the dark dwelling, where Death was
A daily visitant,— where sickness shed
Its weary languor o'er each fevered couch.
There was a sickly light, whose glimmer showed
Many a shape of misery: there lay
The victims of disease, writhing with pain;
And low faint groans, and breathings short and deep,
Each gasp a heartfelt agony, were all
That broke the stillness.—There was one, whose brow
Dark with hot climates, and gashed o'er with scars,
Told of the toiling march, the battle-rush,
Where sabres flashed, the red shots flew, and not
One ball or blow but did destruction's work:
But then his heart was high, and his pulse beat
Proudly and fearlessly:— now he was worn
With many a long day's suffering,— and death's
A fearful thing when we must count its steps!
And this was, then, the end of those sweet dreams,
Of home, of happiness, of quiet years
Spent in the little valley which had been
So long his land of promise? Farewell all
Gentle remembrances and cherished hopes!
His race was run, but its goal was the grave.—
I looked upon another, wasted, pale,
With eyes all heavy in the sleep of death;
Yet she was lovely still,—the cold damps hung
Upon a brow like marble, and her eyes,
Though dim, had yet their beautiful blue tinge.

Neglected as it was, her long fair hair
Was like the plumage of the dove, and spread
Its waving curls like gold upon her pillow.
Her face was a sweet ruin. She had loved,
Trusted, and been betrayed! In other days,
Had but her cheek looked pale, how tenderly
Fond hearts had watched it! They were far away,—
She was a stranger in her loneliness,
And sinking to the grave of that worst ill
A broken heart.—And there was one whose cheek
Was flushed with fever—'twas a face that seemed
Familiar to my memory,—'twas one
Whom I had loved in youth. In days long past,
How many glorious structures we had raised
Upon Hope's sandy basis! Genius gave
To him its golden treasures: he could pour
His own impassioned soul upon the lyre;
Or, with a painter's skill, create such shapes
Of loveliness, they were more like the hues
Of the rich evening shadows, than the work
Of human touch. But he was wayward, wild;
And hopes that in his heart's warm summer clime
Flourished, were quickly withered in the cold
And dull realities of life; - - - he was
Too proud, too visionary for this world,
And feelings which, like waters unconfined,
Had carried with them freshness and green beauty,
Thrown back upon themselves, spread desolation
On their own banks. He was a sacrifice,
And sank beneath neglect; his glowing thoughts
Were fires that preyed upon himself. Perhaps,
For he has left some high memorials, Fame
Will pour its sunlight o'er the picture, when
The artist's hand is mouldering in the dust,
And fling the laurel o'er a harp, whose chords
Are dumb for ever. But his eyes he raised
Mutely to mine—he knew my voice again,
And every vision of his boyhood rushed
Over his soul; his lip was deadly pale,
But pride was yet upon its haughty curve; - -
He raised one hand contemptuously, and seemed
As he would bid me mark his fallen state,
And that it was unheeded. So he died
Without one struggle, and his brow in death
Wore its pale marble look of cold defiance.

L. E. L.

  1. This poem appears in The Improvisatrice and Other Poems (1824)