Letitia Elizabeth Landon (L. E. L.) in Fisher's Drawing Room Scrap Book, 1833/Carmelite Friary

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79


1833-51-Interior of the Church of the Carmellite Friary.png


INTERIOR OF THE CHURCH OF THE CARMELITE FRIARY.

Artist: Geo. Petrie, Esq. F.R.A. - Engraved by: J. Rogers



CHURCH OF THE CARMELITE FRIARY.


LONG years have fled away since last
    I stood upon my native land,
And other longer years have past
    Since here I raised a suppliant hand;
And yet how oft the sacred shrine,
    How oft the holy vesper song
Again in slumber have been mine.
    Upon the night hour borne along;
And wakened in the wanderer's mind
    His early hope, and early fear,
All that my youth had left behind,
    All that my youth held more than dear;

Methinks it has not all been lost,
    The influence of that holy fane;
How often has its image crost,
    And checked when other checks were vain.
Rage and revenge, and worldly care,
    Have all been calmed and purified,
By memory of the childish prayer
    I whispered at my mother's side.
Again I see the sunbeams fall
    Upon the sculptured aisles’ array;
Again the marble saints recall
    The feelings of my earlier day.
Still be their holy presence given,
    Still be their faith alive in me,
For he hath need to hope in heaven,
    Whose home is on the stormy sea!



These lines refer to an anecdote told me by a young Naval Officer, respecting the capture of a piratical vessel, off the coast of Brazil, about eight years since. The crew consisted of a mixture of all nations, among whom there were two Irishmen and a Scotchman. They all fought with desperation, and several were killed in the action which took place between the boats of the English ship and the pirate. "I was made prize-master," said the gallant relater to me, "and amongst some papers which I found on board, was an unfinished letter in English, which made me lament the fate of the writer, who, no doubt, was one of the unfortunate trio of our fellow-subjects on board. The Scotchman made his escape; one of the Irishmen died of his wounds; the other was hanged at Rio, and, from his demeanour at the place of execution, I have always considered him to be the writer of the letter which I found."

I was afterwards presented with the original letter. It appears to have been addressed to an early friend in the West Indies, and from it the following passage is extracted:

"Amid all the chances of warfare, and through the changes of desperate years, I have never forgotten that holy chapel where first I was taught to pray, and its memory has often come over me with a blessed and saving influence. Fortune has made me not only the sport of the elements, but the companion in arms of daring and unprincipled men. I have been so familiar with scenes of murder, as scarcely to shudder at them; to this my evil destiny has forced me, but, though compelled to be a sharer in them, my heart has never scoffed at its Maker, nor has my hand been raised but in self-defence; or, what was the same thing, in the duty I was obliged to perform—in which disobedience, or even hesitation, would have caused instant death."