Poems of Letitia Elizabeth Landon (L. E. L.) in Friendship’s Offering, 1826/Emigrants
BY L. E. L.
Oh Love! oh Happiness! is not your home
Far from the crowded street, the lighted hall?
Are ye not dwellers in the vallies green,
In the white cottage? is not your abode
Amid the fields, the rivers, and the hills;
By the sea-shore—where, with its thousand waves,
The ocean casts its treasures of pink shells,
And makes its melancholy music?
They dwelt amid the woods, where they had built
Themselves a home;—it was almost a hut,
And rudely framed of logs and piled-up wood;
But it was covered with sweet creeping shrubs,
And had a porch of evergreens: it stood
Beneath the shelter of a maple tree,
Whose boughs spread over it, like a green tent.
'Twas beautiful, in summer, with gay flowers,
Green leaves, and fragrant grass strewn on the floor;
And, in the winter, cheerful with its hearth,
Where blazed the wood fire, and its tapestry
Of soft rich furs—each a memorial
Of some escape, some toil, some hunter's chance,—
And mixed with scarlet berries, and red plumes,
And glossy wings. There was one only thing
That spoke them strangers in the land, and told
The luxuries of other days: there hung
A Spanish maiden's ivory guitar,
With its rich fretting of gold ornament;
And that was often waked,—as memory lived
Chiefly on its dear chords; and she would sing,
That dark-eyed lady, sometimes when alone,—
And then her songs were sad: but when the eve
Came in the beauty of a June twilight,
With all its sleeping flowers, its dews, its clouds,
Touched with the sunset's crimson lingering,—
Or, when it came with its gay lighted hearth,
Sweet with the burning of the cedar wood,
Her voice was cheerful, as the sunny song
The lark pours to the morning and his mate;
For then her hunter sought his lonely bride,
And, like a victor, brought his trophies home.
It was a little nook,—as nature made,
In some gay mood, a solitude for love,
And, at her bidding, love had sought the place,
And made it paradise. On the west side,
Like a dark mountain, stood the forest old,
Guarding it from the wind,—which howled at night,
As if that wood were its chief treasure cave.
And, opposite, there was a clear small lake,
From whence the morning, like a beauty, came
Fresh from her bath;— the eye could span its breadth;
And green savannahs, on the further bank,
Were lost in the blue sky. Just where the trees
Met the bright waters, was a lighter space;
And, like the pillars of a mighty temple,
The pine, the beech, the maple stretched away,
In long and stately avenues—their dome
The glorious heaven! This was all nature's work,
And now was but as it had been for years.
But there were fragile flowers, and tender shrubs,
Whose feminine frail beauty asked for more
Than the rude nursing of the summer breeze.
There was the red rose, like an evening cloud;
The white rose, pale as pining for the song
Of her now absent love, the nightingale;
The orange tree—that miser of the spring,
Amassing gold and silver; jessamine,
Showering down pearl and amber; myrtle plants;
And, where the sun shone warmest, olives green:—
For Inez had collected all that, once,
Her early youth had loved in Arragon;
And, with all woman's sweet solicitude,
She had brought those, too, of his native land,
Her lover's England;—there, the violet shed
The treasures of its purple Araby;
The primrose, pale as the last star that fades
Before the day-break; and the honeysuckle,
Hung as around an English cottage walls.
—No marvel woman should love flowers, they bear
So much of fanciful similitude
To her own history; like herself, repaying,
With such sweet interest, all the cherishing
That calls their beauty or their sweetness forth;
And, like her, too—dying beneath neglect.
’Twas like a fairy tale to pass the woods,
And enter the sweet solitude, and gaze
On the fair Spirit of its loveliness.
Delicate as a creature that but breathes
The perfumed air of palaces; a foot
Light as but used to tread on silken down,
And echo music; and a hand that looked
But made to wander o'er the golden harp;
Eyes blue as a June sky, when stars light up
Its deep clear midnight,—languishing, as love
Were all their language,—eyes whose glance would make,
At masque or ball, full many a sleepless night;
That dark black hair, which pearls so well become;
And, added to young beauty's natural grace,
That courtly air which tells of gentle blood
And gentle nurture.—What can she do here?
She loves, she is beloved; and love is all
That makes a woman's world—her element—
Her life—her Eden. Native of that land
Where the sun lights the heart—romantic Spain,
Her early youth past in a convent's cell;
Thence to her father's palace: but, or ere
Her heart beat answered to the passionate songs
That round her lattice floated, at twilight,
They came to England; there the seal was set
Love never sets in vain,—and sets but once!
It was an English youth, with his fair brow,
And island colour. One eve, when the sound
Of music waked the spirit of delight,
From Inez' braided hair there fell a rose;
That night, that rose was treasured next a heart
Of which, henceforth, she was the destiny.
It needs not say how young affection sprung,
Gathered and grew in its sweet course; they hung,
Together, o'er the poet's breathing page,
Till their own eyes reflected every thought;
And both loved music, and love never yet
Had an interpreter like song.
But as the rose,
Flings on the ground its shadow,—even so
There is a shade attendant upon love.
And Inez was betrothed, in her own land,
To one she could not love—one whose dark brow
Suited his darker spirit.—One June eve,
Together they had read a traveller's tale
Of far America's majestic beauty,
Of its savannahs and its stately woods.
They read till the pale radiance of the west
Lighted the page no more; and, sighed the youth,
“How happy we might be in these wild scenes,—
A hunter I, and thou my gentle bride!
Far from the heartlessness of crowded court,
Where finest feelings are but as flowers sown
Upon a rock; where hope sinks as it soars,
Like a lark wounded in its morning flight.—
Our home should be amid the wilderness;
The leaves, flowers, clouds, echoes and singing birds
To us should be companions and dear friends;
And we would pair together like two doves,—
Our nest of happiness a solitude!"—
—The dream grew a reality;—they fled
O'er the Atlantic's mighty boundary,—
That stormy barrier of a parted earth;—
And in the woods they made themselves a home,
Each one the other's world! and, with them, dwelt
A circle of sweet feelings—peace, content,
And gentle hopes reposing on themselves,
Quiet but deep affection, and the health
That dwells but in the pure air of the fields.—
What though no train waited to catch the eye,
Ere the lip spoke its bidding! though no halls
Were filled with crowds that waited on their state!
Yet had they more than all that fortune gives;
For, there was nature's utmost luxury,
And theirs the happiness of heart and home
Lighted by love!