Charlotte Smith (1749-1806)

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Written near a Port on a Dark Evening

Huge vapours brood above the clifted shore,
Night on the ocean settles dark and mute,
Save where is heard the repercussive roar
Of drowsy billows on the rugged foot
Of rocks remote; or still more distant tone
Of seamen in the anchored bark that tell
The watch relieved; or one deep voice alone
Singing the hour, and bidding "Strike the bell!"

All is black shadow but the lucid line
Marked by the light surf on the level sand,
Or where afar the ship-lights faintly shine
Like wandering fairy fires, that oft on land
Misled the pilgrim--such the dubious ray
That wavering reason lends in life's long darkling way.


He may be envied who with tranquil breast
Can wander in the wild and woodland scene,
When summer's glowing hands have newly dressed
The shadowy forests and the copses green;
Who unpursued by care can pass his hours
Where briony and woodbine fringe the trees,
On thymy banks reposing, while the bees
Murmur "their fairy tunes in praise of flowers";
Or on the rock with ivy clad and fern
That overhangs the osier-whispering bed
Of some clear current, bids his wishes turn
From this bad world; and by calm reason led,
Knows in refined retirement to possess,
My friendship hallowed, rural happiness!

To the Goddess of Botany

Of folly weary, shrinking from the view
Of violence and fraud, allowed to take
All peace from humble life, I would forsake
Their haunts for ever, and, sweet nymph! with you
Find shelter; where my tired and tear-swoln eyes,
Among your silent shades of soothing hue,
Your "bells and florets of unnumbered dyes"
Might rest--and learn the bright varieties
That from your lovely hands are fed with dew;
And every veinéd leaf that trembling sighs
In mead or woodland; or in wilds remote;
Or lurk with mosses in the humid caves,
Mantle the cliffs, on dimpling rivers float,
Or stream from coral rocks beneath the ocean waves.

The Sea View

The upland shepherd, as reclined he lies
On the soft turf that clothes the mountain brow,
Marks the bright sea-line mingling with the skies;
Or from his course celestial sinking low
The summer sun in purple radiance glow
Blaze on the western waters; the wide scene
Magnificent and tranquil seems to spread
Even over the rustic's breast a joy serene,
When, like dark plague-spots by the demons shed,
Charged deep with death, upon the waves far seen
Move the war-freighted ships; and fierce and red
Flash their destructive fires--The mangled dead
And dying victims then pollute the flood.
Ah! thus man spoils glorious works with blood!

The Gossamer

Over faded heath-flowers spun, or thorny furze,
The filmy gossamer is lightly spread;
Waving in every sighing air that stirs,
As fairy fingers had entwined the thread:
A thousand trembling orbs of lucid dew
Spangle the texture of the fairy loom,
As if soft sylphs, lamenting as they flew,
Had wept departed summer's transient bloom:
But the wind rises, and the turf receives
The glittering web:--So, evanescent, fade
Bright views that youth with sanguine heart believes:
So vanish schemes of bliss, by fancy made;
Which, fragile as the fleeting dews of morn,
Leave but the withered heath, and barren thorn!


Should the lone wanderer, fainting on his way,
Rest for a moment of the sultry hours
And though his path through thorns and roughness lay,
Pluck the wild rose or woodbine's gadding flowers;
Weaving gay wreaths beneath some sheltering tree,
The sense of sorrow he awhile may lose;
So have l sought thy flowers, fair poesy
So charmed my way with friendship and the muse.

But darker now grows life's unhappy day,
Dark with new clouds of evil yet to come:
Her pencil sickening fancy throws away
And weary hope reclines upon the tomb;
And points my wishes to that tranquil shore
Where the pale spectre care pursues no more.

To the Moon

Queen of the silver bow!--by thy pale beam
Alone and pensive, I delight to stray,
And watch thy shadow trembling in the stream,
Or mark the floating clouds that cross thy way.
And while I gaze, thy mild and placid light
Sheds a soft calm upon my troubled breast;
And oft I think--fair planet of the night--
That in thy orb, the wretched may have rest:
The sufferers of the earth perhaps may go,
Released by Death--to thy benignant sphere,
And the sad children of Despair and Woe
Forget, in thee, their cup of sorrow here.
Oh! that I soon may reach thy world serene,
Poor wearied pilgrim--in this toiling scene!

To Sleep

Come balmy Sleep! tired Nature's soft resort!
On these sad temples all thy poppies shed;
And bid gay dreams from Morpheus' airy court,
Float in light vision round my aching head!
Secure of all thy blessings, partial Power!
On his hard bed the peasant throws him down;
And the poor sea boy, in the rudest hour,
Enjoys thee more than he who wears a crown.
Clasped in her faithful shepherd's guardian arms,
Well may the village girl sweet slumbers prove,
And they, O gentle Sleep! still taste thy charms,
Who wake to labor, liberty and love.
But still thy opiate aid dost thou deny
To calm the anxious breast; to close the streaming eye.

In a Churchyard

O thou, who sleep'st where hazel bands entwine
The vernal grass, with paler violets drest!
I would, sweet maid, thy humble bed were mine,
And mine thy calm and enviable rest.
For never more, by human ills opprest,
Shall thy soft spirit fruitlessly repine:
Thou canst not now thy fondest hopes resign
Even in the hour that should have made thee blest.
Light lies the turf upon thy virgin breast;
And lingering here, to love and sorrow true,
The youth who once thy simple heart possest
Shall mingle tears with April's early dew;
While still for him shall faithful memory save
Thy form and virtues from the silent grave.

(Text of last sonnet from The Book of Sorrow.)