Poetical Remains of the Late Mrs Hemans/The Sculptured Children

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For other versions of this work, see The Sculptured Children.


On Chantrey's Monument in Lichfield Cathedral.

[The monument by Chantrey in Lichfield Cathedral, to the memory of the two children of Mrs Robinson, is one of the most affecting works of art ever executed. He has given a pathos to marble, which one who trusts to his natural feelings, and admires, and is only touched at their bidding, might have thought from any previous experience that it was out of the power of statuary to attain. The monument is executed with all his beautiful simplicity and truth. The two children, two little girls, are represented as lying in each other's arms, and, at first glance, appear to be sleeping;—

"But something lies,
Too deep and still on those soft-sealed eyes."

It is while lying in the helplessness of innocent sleep, that in fancy and childhood are viewed with the most touching interest; and this and the loveliness of the children, the uncertainty of the expression at first view, the dim shadowing forth of that

sleep from which they cannot be awakened, their hovering, as it were, upon the confines of life, as if they might still be recalled, all conspire to render the last feeling, that death is indeed before us, most deeply affecting. They were the only children of their mother, and she was a widow. A tablet commemorative of their father hangs over the monument. This stands at the end of one of the side aisles of the choir, where there is nothing to distract the attention from it, or weaken its effect. It may be contemplated in silence and alone. The inscription, in that subdued tone of strong feeling which seeks no relief in words, harmonises with the character of the whole. It is as follows:

Sacred to the Memory
Of Ellen Jane and Marianne, only children
Of the late Rev. William Robinson, and Ellen Jane, his wife;
Their affectionate mother,
In fond remembrance of their heaven-loved innocence,
Consigns their resemblance to this sanctuary,
In humble gratitude for the glorious assurance,
That "of such is the Kingdom of God."
A. N.]

    Fair images of sleep,
    Hallowed, and soft, and deep,
On whose calm lids the dreamy quiet lies,

    Like moonlight on shut bells
    Of flowers, in mossy dells,
Filled with the hush of night and summer skies!

    How many hearts have felt
    Your silent beauty melt
Their strength to gushing tenderness away!
    How many sudden tears,
    From depths of buried years
All freshly bursting, have confessed your sway!

    How many eyes will shed
    Still, o'er your marble bed,
Such drops from memory's troubled fountains wrung.
    While hope hath blights to bear,
    While love breathes mortal air;
While roses perish e'er to glory sprung,

    Yet from a voiceless home,
    If some sad mother come,

Fondly to linger o'er your lovely rest,
    As o'er the cheek's warm glow,
    And the sweet breathings low,
Of babes that grew and faded on her breast;

    If then the dove-like tone
    Of those faint murmurs gone,
O'er her sick sense too piercingly return;
    If for the soft bright hair
    And brow and bosom fair,
And life, now dust, her soul too deeply yearn:

    O gentle forms, entwined
    Like tendrils, which the wind
May wave, so clasped, but never can unlink!
    Send from your calm profound
    A still small voice, a sound
Of hope, forbidding that lone heart to sink!

    By all the pure meek mind
    In your pale beauty shrined,

By childhood's love—too bright a bloom to die!
    O'er her worn spirit shed,
    O fairest, holiest dead!
The faith, trust, joy, of immortality!