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Felicia Dorothea Hemans

(25 September 1793 – 16 May 1835 / Liverpool, England)

Stanzas to the Memory of George the Third


'Among many nations was there no King like him.' -Nehemiah, xiii, 26.
'Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?' - 2 Samuel, iii, 38.

ANOTHER warning sound! the funeral bell,
Startling the cities of the isle once more
With measured tones of melanchoIy swell,
Strikes on the awakened heart from shore to shore.
He at whose coming monarchs sink to dust,
The chambers of our palaces hath trod,
And the long-suffering spirit of the just,
Pure from its ruins, hath return'd to God!
Yet may not England o'er her Father weep:
Thoughts to her bosom crowd, too many, and too deep.

Vain voice of Reason, hush!-they yet must flow,
The unrestrained, involuntary tears;
A thousand feelings sanctify the woe,
Roused by the glorious shades of vanished years.
Tell us no more 'tis not the time for grief,
Now that the exile of the soul is past,
And Death, blest messenger of Heaven's relief,
Hath borne the wanderer to his rest at last;
For him, eternity hath tenfold day,
We feel, we know, 'tis thus-yet nature will have way.

What though amidst us, like a blasted oak,
Saddening the scene where once it nobly reign'd,
A dread memorial of the lightning stroke,
Stamp'd with its fiery record, he remain'd;
Around that shatter'd tree still fondly clung
The undying tendrils of our love, which drew
Fresh nature from its deep decay, and sprung
Luxuriant thence, to Glory's ruin true;
While England hung her trophies on the stem,
That desolately stood, unconscious e'en of THEM.

Of them unconscious! Oh mysterious doom!
Who shall unfold the counsels of the skies?
His was the voice which roused, as from the tomb,
The realm's high soul to loftiest energies!
His was the spirit, o'er the isles which threw
The mantle of its fortitude; and wrought
In every bosom, powerful to renew
Each dying spark of pure and generous thought;
The star of tempests! beaming on the mast, {1}
The seaman's torch of Hope, 'midst perils deepening fast.

Then from the unslumbering influence of his worth,
Strength, as of inspiration, fill'd the land;
A young, but quenchless, flame went brightly forth,
Kindled by him-who saw it not expand!
Such was the will of heaven-the gifted seer,
Who with his God had communed, face to face
And from the house of bondage, and of fear,
In faith victorious, led the chosen race;
He through the desert and the waste their guide,
Saw dimly from afar, the promised land-and died.

O full of days and virtues! on thy head
Centred the woes of many a bitter lot;
Fathers have sorrow'd o'er their beauteous dead,
Eyes, quench'd in night, the sunbeam have forgot;
Minds have striven buoyantly with evil years,
And sunk beneath their gathering weight at length;
But Pain for thee had fill'd a cup of tears,
Where every anguish mingled all its strength;
By thy lost child we saw thee weeping stand,
And shadows deep around fell from the Eternal's hand.

Then came the noon of glory, which thy dreams
Perchance of yore had faintly prophesied;
But what to thee the splendour of its beams?
The ice-rock glows not 'midst the summer's pride!
Nations leap'd up to joy-as streams that burst,
At the warm touch of spring, their frozen chain,
And o'er the plains, whose verdure once they nursed,
Roll in exulting melody again;
And bright o'er earth the long majestic line
Of England's triumphs swept, to rouse all hearts-but thine.

Oh! what a dazzling vision, by the veil
That o'er thy spirit hung, was shut from thee,
When sceptred chieftains throng'd with palms to hail
The crowning isle, the anointed of the sea!
Within thy palaces the lords of earth
Met to rejoice-rich pageants glitter'd by,
And stately revels imaged, in their mirth,
The old magnificence of chivalry.
They reach'd not thee-amidst them, yet alone,
Stillness and gloom begirt one dim and shadowy throne.

Yet there was mercy still-if joy no more
Within that blasted circle might intrude,
Earth had no grief whose footstep might pass o'er
The silent limits of its solitude !
If all unheard the bridal song awoke
Our hearts' full echoes, as it swell'd on high;
Alike unheard the sudden dirge, that broke
On the glad strain, with dread solemnity!
If the land's rose unheeded wore its bloom,
Alike unfelt the storm that swept it to the tomb.

And she, who, tried through all the stormy past,
Severely, deeply proved, in many an hour,
Watch'd o'er thee, firm and faithful to the last,
Sustain'd inspired, by strong affection's power;
If to thy soul her voice no music bore-
If thy closed eye and wandering spirit caught
No light from looks, that fondly would explore
Thy mien, for traces of responsive thought;
Oh! thou wert spared the pang that would have thrill'd
Thine inmost heart, when death that anxious bosom still'd.

Thy loved ones fell around thee. Manhood's prime,
Youth, with its glory, in its fullness, age,
All, at the gates of their eternal clime
Lay down, and closed their mortal pilgrimage;
The land wore ashes for its perish'd flowers,
The grave's imperial harvest. Thou, meanwhile,
Didst walk unconscious through thy royal towers,
The one that wept not in the tearful isle!
As a tired warrlor, on his battle-plain,
Breathes deep in dreams amidst the mourners and the slain.

And who can tell what visions might be thine?
The stream of thought, though broken, still was pure!
Still o'er that wave the stars of heaven might shine,
Where earthly image would no more endure!
Though many a step, of once-familiar sound,
Came as a stranger's o'er thy closing ear,
And voices breathed forgotten tones around,
Which that paternal heart once thrill'd to hear;
The mind hath senses of its own, and powers
To people boundless worlds, in its most wandering hours.

Nor might the phantoms to thy spirit known
Be dark or wild, creations of remorse;
Unstain'd by thee, the blameless past had thrown
No fearful shadows o'er the future's course:
For thee no cloud, from memory's dread abyss,
Might shape such forms as haunt the tyrant's eye;
And, closing up each avenue of bliss,
Murmur their summons, to 'despair and die!'
No! e'en though joy depart, though reason cease,
Still virtue's ruin'd home is redolent of peace.

They might be with thee still-the loved, the tried,
The fair, the lost-they might be with thee still!
More softly seen, in radiance purified
From each dim vapour of terrestrial ill;
Long after earth received them, and the note
Of the last requiem o'er their dust was pour'd,
As passing sunbeams o'er thy soul might float
Those forms, from us withdrawn-to thee restored!
Spirits of holiness, in light reveal'd,
To commune with a mind whose source of tears was seal'd.

Came they with tidings from the worlds above,
Those viewless regions where the weary rest?
Sever'd from earth, estranged from mortal love,
Was thy mysterious converse with the blest?
Or shone their visionary presence bright
With human beauty?-did their smiles renew
Those days of sacred and serene delight,
When fairest beings in thy pathway grew?
Oh! Heaven hath balm for every wound it makes,
Healing the broken heart; it smites, but ne'er forsakes.

These may be fantasies-and this alone,
Of all we picture in our dreams, is sure;
That rest, made perfect, is at length thine own,
Rest, in thy God immortally secure!
Enough for tranquil faith; released from all
The woes that graved Heaven's lessons on thy brow,
No cloud to dim, no fetter to enthral,
Haply thine eye is on thy people now;
Whose love around thee still its offerings shed,
Though vainly sweet, as flowers, grief's tribute to the dead.

But if the ascending, disembodied mind,
Borne, on the wings of morning, to the skies,
May cast one glance of tenderness behind
On scenes once hallow'd by its mortal ties,
How much hast thou to gaze on! all that lay
By the dark mantle of thy soul conceal'd,
The might, the majesty, the proud array
Of England's march o'er many a noble field,
All spread beneath thee, in a blaze of light,
Shine like some glorious land, view'd from an Alpine height.

Away, presumptuous. thought!-departed saint!
To thy freed vision what can earth display
Of pomp, of royalty, that is not faint,
Seen from the birth-place of celestial day?
Oh! pale and weak the sun's reflected rays
E'en in their fervour of meridian heat,
To him, who in the sanctuary may gaze
On the bright cloud that fills the mercy-seat
And thou mayst view, from thy divine abode,
The dust of empires flit before a breath of God.

And yet we mourn thee! Yes! thy place is void
Within our hearts-there veil'd thine image dwelt,
But cherish'd still; and o'er that tie destroy'd,
Though faith rejoice, fond nature still must melt.
Beneath the long-loved sceptre of thy sway,
Thousands were born, who now in dust repose,
And many a head, with years and sorrows grey,
Wore youth's bright tresses, when thy star arose;
And many a glorious mind, since that fair dawn,
Hath fill'd our sphere with light, now to its source withdrawn.

Earthquakes have rock'd the nations:-things revered,
The ancestral fabrics of the world, went down
In ruins, from whose stones Ambition rear'd
His lonely pyramid of dread renown.
But when the fires that long had slumber'd, pent
Deep in men's bosoms, with volcanic force,
Bursting their prison-house, each bulwark rent,
And swept each holy barrier from their course,
Firm and unmoved amidst that lava-flood,
Still, by thine arm upheld, our ancient landmarks stood.

Be they eternal! -Be thy children found
Still to their country's altars true like thee!
And, while 'the name of Briton' is a sound
Of rallying music to the brave and free,
With the high feelings, at the word which swell,
To make the breast a shrine for Freedom's flame,
Be mingled thoughts of him, who loved so well,
Who left so pure, its heritage of fame!
Let earth with trophies guard the conqueror's dust,
Heaven in our souls embalms the memory of the just.

All else shall pass away-the thrones of kings,
The very traces of their tombs depart;
But number not with perishable things
The holy records Virtue leaves the heart,
Heirlooms from race to race!-and oh! in days,
When, by the yet unborn, thy deeds are blest,
When our sons learn, 'as household words', thy praise,
Still on thine offspring, may thy spirit rest!
And many a name of that imperial line,
Father and patriot! blend, in England's songs, with thine!

Submitted: Monday, March 26, 2012

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