Felicia Dorothea Browne Hemans.

The poetical works of Mrs. Hemans online

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1 He told of One the grave's dark bonds who broke,
And our hearts burned within us as he spoke." Page 352.




* *


Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara, California





The Forest Sanctuary 25

The Abencerrage 64

The Widow of Crescentius 97

1'he last Banquet of Antony and Cleopatra 104

Alaricin Italy 107

The Wife of Asdrubal no

Heliodorus in the Temple 1 1 j

Night-scene in Genoa 114

The Troubadour and Richard Coeur de Ljon 117

The Death of Conradin 1 19

Lays of Many Lands

Moorish Bridal Song 123

The Bird's Release 124

The Sword of the Tomb 125

Valkyriur Song 129

The Cavern of the Three Tells. 130

Swiss Song 132

The Messenger Bird 132

The Stranger in Louisiana 134

The Isle of Founts 135

The Bended Bow 136

He never Smiled again 137

Coeur de Lion at the Bier of his Father 138

The Vassal's Lament for the Fallen Tree 139

The Wild Huntsman 140

Brandenburg Harvest-Song 141

The Shade of Theseus 141

Ancient Greek Song of Exile 142

Greek Funeral Chant : or, Myriologue 143

Greek Partins Song 144

The Suliote Mother . 146

The Farewell to the Dead 148

Records of Woman

Arabella Stuart I4<i

The Bride of the Greek Isle 155

The Switzer's Wife i6c

Properzia Rossi 163

Gertrude ; or Fidelity till Death 16*

Imelda 167

Edith 170

The Indian City 175

The Peasant Girl of the Rhone 180

Indian Woman's Death-Song 183


Rw-ords of Woman, continued, PAGE.

Joan of Arc in Rheitns 184

Pauline iS6

(liana iSS

The American Forest Girl iqo

Costanza... 192

Madeline KJJ

The Queen of Prussia's Tomb 197

The Memorial Pillar 198

The Grave of a Poetess 199

i ^s of the Affections

A Spirit's Return 200

The Lady of Provence 206

The Coronation of Inex de Castro 210

Italian Girl's Hymn to the Virgin 212

To a Departed Spirit 212

The Chamois Hunter's Love 213

The Indian with his Dead Child 214

Song of Emigration 215

The King of Arragon's Lament for his Brother 2ift

The Return 218

The Vaudois Wife 219

The Guerilla Leader's Vow 220

Thekla at her Lover's Grave 221

The Sisters of Scio 222

Bernardo del Carpio 223

The Tomb of Madame Langhans 224

The Exile's Dirge 225

The Dreaming Child 226

The Charmed Picture ' 227

Parting Words 228

The Message to the Dead 229

The Two Homes 229

The Soldier's Deathbed 230

The Image in the Heart 231

The Land of Dreams 233

Woman on the Field of Battle 234

The Deserted House 235

The Stranger's Heart 236

To a Remembered Picture 236

Ome Home 237

The Fountain of Oblivion 238

VcUh Melodies

The Harp of Wales 30

Druid Chorus on the Landing of the Romans -to

The Green Isles of Ocean 240

The Sea-Sons of Gafran - 241

The Hirlas Horn 241

The Hall of Cynddylan 241

The Lament of Llywarch Hen , 243

Grufydd's Feast 244

The Cambrian in America 245

The Fair Isle 245

Taliesin's Prophecv 2 4 ft

Jwen Glynd wr's War-Song 246

Prince Madoc's Farewell 247

Caswallon's Triumph , 248

Howel's Song 248

The Mountain Fires 249

F.ryri Wen 249

Chants of the Bards before their Massacre by Edward 1 250

The Dying Bard's Prophecy 250

The Rock of Cader Idris 251


Songs of the Cid

The Cid's Departure into Exile 252

The Cid's I Jeathbed iSS

The Cid's Funeral Procession 251

The Cid's Rising 256

The Caravan in the Deserts 256'ms among tlie Ruins of Carthage 259

Sons; founded on an Arabian Anecdote 2'- '

The Cross of the South 262

The Sleeper of Marathon 263

To Miss F. A. L., on her Birthday 26j

Written in the First Leaf of the Album of the Same 264

To the Same, on the Death of her Mother 264

A Dirge 265

The Maremma 266

A Tale of the Fourteenth Century 272

3elshazzar's Feast 280

The Last Constantino 283

Greek Songs

1. The Storm of Delphi y>7

2. The Bowl of Liberty 309

3. The Voice of Scio " 3'<>

4. The Spartans' March 3 "

5. The Urn and Sword 3'i

6. The Myrtle Hough 3 '3

Elysium 3 '3

The Funeral Genius 3 '6

The Tombs of Platea 3>7

The View from Castri 3'S

The Festal Hour 3 '9

Song of the Battle of Morgan 322

On a Flower from the Field of Griitli 324

On a Leaf from the Tomb of Virgil 324

1'he Chieftain's Son 324

A Fragment 325

England's Dead 325

The Meeting of the Bards 326

The Voice of Spring 328


Lines written in a Hermitage on the Seashore 330

Dirge of a Child 331

Invocation - 331

To the Memory of Sir Edward Pakenham 332

To the Memory of Sir Henry Ellis, who full in the Rattle of Waterloo m

Guerilla Song, founded on the story related of the Spanish Patriot Mina ?3j

The Aged Indian 133

Evening amongst the Alps ;?4

Dirge of the Highland Chief in " Waverley " 334

The Crusaders' War-song 335

The Death of Clanronald 335

To the Eye . 336

The Hero's Death 337

The Treasures of the Deep 338

Bring Flowers . jjS

The Crusader's Return 330

Tlie Revellers 34 r

The Conqueror's Steep 3P

Our L.idy'sWell Ul

The P.iiting of Summer <4I

Thv.- S.. i .;j;s of our Fathers ^45



The World in the Open Air 346

Kindred Hearts 347

The Traveller at the Source of the Nile 34S

Casablanca 348

The Dial of Flowers 349

Our Daily Paths 350

The Cross in the Wilderness 351

Last Rites 353

The Hebrew Mother 3 54

The Wreck 356

The Trumpet 357

Evening Prayer at a Girls* School 357

The Hour of Death 358

The Lost Pleiad 359

The Cliffs of Dover ^ . . 360

The Graves of Martyrs 361

The Hour of Prayer 361

The Voice of Home to the Prodigal 362

The Wakening 362

The Breeze from Shore 363

The Dying Improvisatore 364

Music of Yesterday 366

The Forsaken Hearth , 367

The Dreamer 367

The Wings of the Dove 368

Psyche borne by Zephyrs to the Island of Pleasure 370

The Boon of Memory 370

I go, Sweet Friends 372

Angel Visits 372

Ivy Song ; 374

To one of the Author's Children on his Birthday 374

On a similar occasion 375

Christ stilling the Tempest 375

Epitaph over the Grave of Two Brothers, a Child and a Youth 375

Monumental Inscription 376

The Sound of the Sea 376

The Child and Dove 377

A Dirge 377

Scene in a Dalecarlian Mine 378

English Soldier's Song of Memory 379

Haunted Ground 380

The Child of the Forests 381

Stanzas to the Memory of 382

The Vaudois Valleys 383

Song of the Spanish Wanderer .-* 384

The Contadina 384

Troubadour Song 385

The Homes of England 385

The Sicilian Captive 3 S( >

Ivan the Czar 3SS

Carolan's Prophecy 380

The Lady of the Castle 392

The Mourner for the Barmecides 394

The Spanish Chape) 396

. The Kaiser's Feast - 397

Tasso and his Sister 398

The Release of Tasso .' , 399

The Necromancer < 403

Ulla ; or, The Adjuration 404

To Wordsworth 406

A Monarch's Deathbed 407

To the Memory of Heber 407

The Adopted Child - 408


Miscellaneous, continued.

Invocation 409

Korner and his Sister 410

The Death-Day of Korner 412

An Hour of Romance 412

A Voyager's Dream of Land 413

The Effigies 415

The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in Now England 416

The Spirit's Mysteries - 416

The Departed 418

The Palm-Tree 418

The Child's Last Sleep 419

The Sunbeam 420

Breathings of Spring 421

The I lluminated City 422

The Spells of Home 423

Roman Girl's Song 424

The Distant Ship 425

The Birds of Passage 425

The Graves of a Household 426

Mozart's Requiem 426

The Image in Lava 428

Christmas Carol 428

A Father reading the Bible 429

The Meeting of the Brothers 429

The Last Wish 430

Fairy Favors 432

The Siege of Valencia. A Dramatic Poem 434

The Vespers of Palermo. A Tragedy, in Five Act* 4f|


SENTIMENT without passion, and suffering without abjection*
these, along with a deep religious sense, and with the gifts of a
brilliant mind taking the poetical direction through eager sym-
pathy and some genuine vocation, constitute the life of Mrs.
Hemans. 1 Whatever may be the deservings of the poems in other
respects, they do not fail to convey to the reader a certain im-
pression of beauty, felt to be inherent as much in the personality
of the -authoress as in her writings : they show as being the out-
come of a beautiful life, and in fact they are so. The impression
which the reader will thus have received from perusing the poems
is not only confirmed but intensified when he knows the events of
the writer's life.

Felicia Dorothea Browne, born in Duke Street, Liverpool, on
the 25th of September, 1793, was daughter of a merchant of con-
siderable eminence, a native of Ireland, belonging to a branch of
the Sligo family. Her mother, whose maiden name was Wagner,
was partly Italian and partly German by extraction, her father
having held the post of Consul at -Liverpool for the Austrian and
Tuscan Governments. The surname Wagner was in reality a cor-
ruption from the illustrious Venetian name Veniero, borne by
three Doges, and by the Commander of the fleet of the Republic
at the great battle of Lepanto. Felicia was the fifth child in a
family of seven, of whom one died in infancy ; she was distin-
guished, almost from her cradle, by extreme beauty and preco-
cious talents. "The full glow of that radiant beauty which was
destined to fade so early " is one of the expressions used by the
poetess's sister in describing the former at the age of fifteen.
This reference to " early fading " appears to be intended to apply

1 The Memoir of Mrs. Hemans, written by her sister Mrs. Hughes, and prefixed to the
edition of the Poems in ^ vols. published by Messrs. Blackwood, is the best authority for the
facts of the poet's life. There are also the Memorials by Mr. Chorley in 2 vols., containing a
good deal of Mrs. Hemans's correspondence (reproduced to a large extent by Mrs. HughesV
and mostly bearing on her literary carerr rather than the circumstances of her private life. The
former of these accounts is pleasantly written, in a tone of deep affection, and admiration as well,
at which the reader will not be disposed to cavil.

1 2 PkEFA TOff Y MO T1CE.

rather to the death of Mrs. Hemans when only in her forty-second
year, and to the ravages of disease in the few years preceding,
than to any loss of comeliness in mature womanhood. An en-
graved portrait of her by the American artist William E. West,
one of three which he painted in 1827, shows us that Mrs.
Hemans, at the age of thirty-four, was eminently pleasing and
good-looking, with an air of amiability and sprightly gentleness,
and of confiding candor which, while none the less perfectly
womanly, might almost be termed childlike in its limpid depth.
The features are correct and harmonious ; the eyes full ; and the
contour amply and elegantly rounded. In height she was neither
tall nor short. A sufficient wealth of naturally clustering hair,
golden in early youth, but by this time of a rich auburn, shades
the capacious but not over-developed forehead, and the lightly-
pencilled eyebrows. The bust and form have the fulness of a
mature period of life ; and it would appear that Mrs. Hemans was
somewhat short-necked and high-shouldered, partly detracting
from delicacy of proportion, and ot general aspect or impression
on the eye. We would rather judge of her by this portrait (which
her sister pronounces a good likeness) than by another engraved
in Mr. Chorley's Memorials. This latter was executed in Dublin
in 1831 by a young artist named Edward Robinson. It makes
Mrs. Hemans look younger than in the earlier portrait by West,
and may on that ground alone be surmised unfaithful ; and,
though younger, it also makes her heavier and less refined.

The childhood of Felicia Browne was probably rendered all
the happier by a commercial reverse which befell her father be-
fore she was seven years of age. The family hereupon removed to
Wales, and for nine years they lived at Gwrych l near Abergele in
Denbighshire, close to the sea and amid mountains. This was the
very scene for the poetically-minded child to enjoy, and to have
her powers nurtured by : a great love of nature, and in particular
an affectionate delight in Wales, its people and associations, con-
stantly traceable in her writings, followed as an almost necessary
consequence. Her mother, a most amiable and excellent woman,
fully qualified to carry on her daughter's education, devoted the
most careful attention to this object, and was repaid by an un-
swerving depth and constancy of love. A large library was kept
in the house, and Felicia drew heavily upon its stores : a pretty
picture is presented to the mind's eye, and would not be unworthy

? So spelled by Mrs. Hughes :. " Grwych " by Mr. Chorley.


of realization by art, in the anecdote that it was her habit, at the
age of six, to read Shakspeare while seated in the branches of an
apple-tree. Along with great rapidity of comprehension, she had
a memory of surprising retentiveness, and would repeat whole
pages of poetry after a single reading. At the age of about eleven
she passed a winter in London, and was there again in the follow-
ing year never afterwards.

In 1808 age fourteen Felicia first appears as an authoress.
She published a volume of poems which got abused in some re-
view : this was the only time that really harsh criticism befell her.
The mishap so far affected the impressionable damsel as to keep
her in bed some days : but she surmounted it pretty soon and re-
sumed writing. In the same year she wrote a poem named Eng-
land and Spain ; being then under the influence of military enthu-
siasm arising from the events of the Peninsular War, in which one
of her brothers was serving : another of them was also in (he army,
and in the same regiment, the 23d Royal Welsh Fusiliers. The
next year was a momentous one in the life of Felicia Browne. She
met Captain Hemans, of the 4th (or King's Own) Regiment, an
officer not rich in purse, but having advantages, as we are in-.
formed, both of person and education : he professed admiration of
the bewitching girl, and she gave him her love. He shortly had
to return to Spain ; and nearly three years elapsed before they
again met. Meanwhile, in 1809, the Browne family removed to
Bronwylfa, near St. Asaph in Flintshire ; and in 1812, for the sec-
ond and last time, appeared a volume of poetry bearing the name
of Felicia Dorothea Browne, The Domestic Affections, and Other
Poems. In the summer of 1812 she married the man of her

Biographers have not permitted us to know distinctly whether
or not the conjugal life of Mrs. Hemans was happy, or what Cap-
tain Hemans might possibly have found to say on the subject : at
any rate, it was a short one, practically speaking. The wedded
couple resided at first at Daventry in Northamptonshire, where
the Captain .was Adjutant to the County Militia : here they re-
mained about a year, and here was born their son Arthur, the first
of a family of five, all of whom were boys. They then went to live
with Mrs. Hemans's own family at Bronwylfa; her mother was
now at the head of the house, as her father, having resumed the
mercantile career, had gone out to Quebec, where finally he died.
In 1818 Captain Hemans resolved to go to the south of Europe


" for the sake of his health " a very inconvenient motive, or a
highly convenient one, according to circumstances : he had suf-
fered much from the vicissitudes of a military life, especially dur-
ing the retreat to Corunna, and afterwards through fever caught
in the Walcheren expedition. He departed just before the birth
of his fifth son ; went to Rome ; and there settled down. The
parting proved to be a final one. It might have been fancied that
even the shattered frame of a young officer who had survived Cor-
unna and Walcheren would suffice for the effort of coming to
Wales, England, or Ireland, at some time between 1818 and 1835,
so as to rebehold a wife whom he had left in the bloom of youth
and loveliness, and whose literary fame, for many years succeed-
ing his departure, lent an ever-brightening lustre to the name of
Hemans, and so as to get a glimpse of his five promising boys.
But this was not to be : for some reason or other, not defined to
us, even the charms of Bronwylfa, with a wife, five sons, and a
resident mother-in-law, did not relax the tenacious grasp which
Italy and Rome obtained on Captain Hemans. Or again it might
have seemed conceivable that not only Captain Hemans but also
his wife, the author of Lays of Many Lands, sensitive to the his-
toric and romantic associations of such a country as Italy, would
find it compatible with her liking as well as her duties to pay a
visit to Rome, or possibly to make it her permanent dwelling-place.
As to this, it may perhaps be inferred, in a general way, that the
family affections of daughter and mother were more dominant and
vivid in Mrs. Hemans than conjugal love : her intense feeling of
the sacredness of home, which it would be both idle and perverse
to contest, may have set before her, as more binding and impera-
tive, the duties of service to her own mother, and of guidance to
her own children, than the more equal, passionate, and in some
sense self-indulgent relation between wife and husband. However,
abandoning conjecture, it may be best here to transcribe the reti-
cent hints on the subject which are given by the poetess's sister,
Mrs. Hughes, in her Memoir, and which show that the de facfa
separation between Captain and Mrs. Hemans depended partly
upon general considerations of family obligation, and partly upon
special circumstances not clearly indicated, but apparently reflect-
ing more or less on the marital deportment of the Captain. " It
has been alleged, and with perfect truth, that the literary pursuits
of Mrs. Hemans, and the education of her children, made it more
eligible for her to remain under the maternal roof than to- accom-


pany her husband to Italy. It is, however, unfortunately but too
well known that such were not the only reasons which led to this
divided course. To dwell on this subject would be unnecessarily
painful ; yet it must be stated that nothing like a permanent sep-
aration was contemplated at the time, nor did it ever amount to
more than a tacit conventional arrangement which offered no ob-
stacle to the frequent interchange of correspondence, nor to a
constant reference to their father in all things relating to the dis-
posal of her boys. But years rolled on seventeen years of
absence, and consequently alienation ; and, from this time to the
hour of her death, Mrs. Hemans and her husband never met

With this incident of the lifelong separation between her husband
and herself, anything of a romantic character in the occurrences
of Mrs. Hemans's career comes to a close ; although the coloring
of high-toned romance in her mind and writings never died out,
but to the last continued to permeate, enliven, and beautify, that
other element and staple of her life, its sweet and earnest domes-
ticity. Now we have only to contemplate the loving daughter,
glad, as long as fate permitted, to escape being the head of a
household, although invested with the matronly dignity proper to
the motherhood of five boys. We see in her the not less deeply
affectionate, tender, and vigilant mother ; the admired and popu-
lar poetess, distinguished and soon burdened by applause ; shortly
afterwards the cureless invalid, marked out for an early death, to-
wards which she progresses with a lingering but undeviating
rapidity calm in conscience, bright and cheerful in mind, full of
faith and hope for eternity, and of the gentlest charities of life for
her brief residue of time.

Tn 1818, before the departure of her husband, Mrs. Hemans
had published a volume of poetical Translations ; and about the
3ame time she wrote The Restoration of the Works of Art to Italy,
and Modern Greece, and other poems which were afterwards in-
cluded in the series named Talcs and Historic Scenes. In 1820
she brought out The Sceptic: a mild performance which some stiil
milder-minded disbeliever found of convincing efficacy,' assuring
Mrs. Hemans, in a personal interview not long before her death,
that it had wrought his conversion to the Christian religion. In
the same year she made the acquaintance of the Rev. Reginald
(afterwards Bishop) Heber, then Rector of Hodnet the first emi-
nent literary personage whom she knew well. He encouraged her


in the composition of another poem destined to extirpate religious
error, entitled Superstition and Revelation : it had been begun some
while before this, and was never distinctly abandoned, but remained
uncompleted. Towards this time also Mrs. Hemans wrote a set of
papers in the Edinburgh Monthly Magazine on Foreign Literature ;
almost the only prose that she ever published, and serving chiefly
as a vehicle for poetic translations. She obtained two literary
prizes for poems, and her ambition was equal to the composition
of a five-act tragedy intended for stage representation The Ves-
pers of Palermo. This was a work that occupied some time. At
last, after she had received 210 for the copyright of the tragedy,
it was produced at Covent Garden Theatre on the 1 2th of Decem-
ber, 1823. No doubt the authoress's own hopes were not alto-
gether low as to the success of the piece, and her friends were in
high expectancy. Young and Charles Kemble took the principal
male characters: Miss Kelly appeared as Constance. The acting
of this lady is said, fairly or unfairly, to have been disastrous to
the piece: it proved "all but a failure," and was withdrawn after
the opening night, and never reproduced in London. Not long
afterwards, however, the tragedy was acted in Edinburgh, and with
a considerable measure of success. A dispassionate reader of the
present day if indeed there exists a reader of The Vespers of l\i-
lermo will probably opine that the London audience showed at
least as much discrimination (apart from any question as to de-
merit in Miss Kelly) as that in Edinburgh. Mrs. Hemans's talent
was not of the dramatic kind. Perhaps there never yet was a good
five-act stage tragedy written by a woman ; and certainly the
peculiar tone and tint of Mrs. Hemans's faculty were not such as
to supply the deficiency which she, merely as a woman, was almost
certain to evince. Even as a narrative poet, not to speak of the
drama, she shows to no sort of advantage : her personages not
having anything of a full-bodied character, but wavering between
the romantically criminal and the longwindedly virtuous poor
supposititious creatures, inflated and diluted. Something better
may nevertheless be said for the second of her tragedies, The
Siege of Valencia, published in 1823 along with Bclshazzar's Feasi
and some other poems. This play appears to have been written
without any view to the stage : a condition of writing which acts
detrimentally upon a drama composed by a born dramatist, but;
which may rather have the opposite effect upon one coming from
a different sort of author. In The Siege of Valencia the situation


is in a high degree tragical even terrible or harrowing : and
there is this advantage, no small one in the case of a writer such
as Mrs. Hernans that, while the framework is historical, and the
crisis and passions of a genuinely heroic type, the immediate in-
terest is personal or domestic. Mrs. Hemans may be credited
with a good and unhacknied choice of subject in this drama, and
with a well-concerted adaptation of it to her own more special
powers: the writing is fairly sustained throughout, and there are
passages both vigorous and moving. As the reader approaches
the denouement, and finds the authoress dealing death with an un-
sparing hand to the heroically patriotic Gonzalez and all his off-
spring, he may perhaps at first feel a little ruffled at noting that
the only member of the family who has been found wanting
in the fiery trial wanting through an excess of maternal love is
also the only one saved alive : but in this also the authoress may
be pronounced in the right. Reunion with her beloved ones in
death would in fact have been mercy to Elmina, and would have
left her undistinguished from the others, and untouched by any
retribution : survival, mourning, and self-discipline, are the only
chastisement in which a poetic justice, in its higher conception,

Online LibraryFelicia Dorothea Browne HemansThe poetical works of Mrs. Hemans → online text (page 1 of 49)