Felicia Dorothea Hemans

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

The Domestic Affections


WHENCE are those tranquil joys, in mercy giv'n,
To light the wilderness with beams of Heav'n?
To sooth our cares, and thro' the cloud diffuse,
Their tempered sun-shine, and celestial hues?
Those pure delights, ordain'd on life to throw
Gleams of the bliss ethereal natures know?
Say, do they grace Ambition's regal throne,
When kneeling myriads call the world his own?
Or dwell with luxury, in th' enchanted bow'rs,
Where taste and wealth exert creative pow'rs?

Favor'd of Heav'n! O Genius! are they thine,
When round thy brow the wreaths of glory shine;
While rapture gazes on thy radiant way,
'Midst the bright realms of clear and mental day?

No! sacred joys! 'tis yours to dwell enshrin'd,
Most fondly cherish'd, in the purest mind;
To twine with flowers, those lov'd, endearing ties,
On earth so sweet,—so perfect in the skies!

Nurs'd on the lap of solitude and shade,
The violet smiles, embosom'd in the glade;
There sheds her spirit on the lonely gale,
Gem of seclusion! treasure of the vale!
Thus, far retir'd from life's tumultuous road,
Domestic bliss has fix'd her calm abode,
Where hallow'd innocence and sweet repose
May strew her shadowy path with many a rose:
As, when dread thunder shakes the troubled sky,
The cherub, infancy, can close its eye,
And sweetly smile, unconscious of a tear,
While viewless angels wave their pinions near;
Thus, while around the storms of discord roll,
Borne on resistless wing, from pole to pole;

While war's red lightnings desolate the ball,
And thrones and empires in destruction fall;
Then, calm as evening on the silvery wave,
When the wind slumbers in the ocean-cave,
She dwells, unruffled, in her bow'r of rest,
Her empire, home!—her throne, affection's breast!

For her, sweet nature wears her loveliest blooms,
And softer sun-shine ev'ry scene illumes.
When spring awakes the spirit of the breeze,
Whose light wing undulates the sleeping seas;
When summer, waving her creative wand,
Bids verdure smile, and glowing life expand;
Or autumn's pencil sheds, with magic trace,
O'er fading loveliness, a moon-light grace;
Oh! still for her, thro' Nature's boundless reign,
No charm is lost, no beauty blooms in vain;
While mental peace, o'er ev'ry prospect bright,
Throws mellowing tints, and harmonizing light!

Lo! borne on clouds, in rushing might sublime,
Stern winter, bursting from the polar clime,
Triumphant waves his signal-torch on high,
The blood-red meteor of the northern sky!
And high thro' darkness rears his giant-form,
His throne, the billow!—and his flag, the storm!

Yet then, when bloom and sun-shine are no more,
And the wild surges foam along the shore;
Domestic bliss! thy heaven is still serene,
Thy star, unclouded, and thy myrtle, green!
Thy fane of rest no raging storms invade,
Sweet peace is thine, the seraph of the shade!
Clear thro' the day, her light around thee glows,
And gilds the midnight of thy deep repose!
Hail, sacred home! where soft Affection's hand,
With flow'rs of Eden twines her magic band!
Where pure and bright, the social ardors rise,
Concentring all their holiest energies!

When wasting toil has dimm'd the vital flame,
And ev'ry power deserts the sinking frame;
Exhausted nature still from sleep implores
The charm that lulls, the manna that restores!
Thus, when oppress'd with rude tumultuous cares,
To thee, sweet home! the fainting mind repairs;
Still to thy breast, a wearied pilgrim, flies,
Her ark of refuge from uncertain skies!
Bower of repose! when torn from all we love,
Thro' toil we struggle, or thro' distance rove;
To thee we turn, still faithful, from afar,
Thee, our bright vista! thee, our magnet-star!
And from the martial field, the troubled sea,
Unfetter'd thought still roves to bliss and thee!

When ocean-sounds in awful slumber die,
No wave to murmur, and no gale to sigh;
Wide o'er the world, when peace and midnight reign,
And the moon trembles on the sleeping main;

At that still hour, the sailor wakes to keep,
'Midst the dead calm, the vigil of the deep!
No gleaming shores his dim horizon hound,
All heaven—and sea—and solitude—around!
Then, from the lonely deck, the silent helm,
From the wide grandeur of the shadowy realm;
Still homeward borne, his fancy unconfin'd,
Leaving the worlds of ocean far behind,
Wings like a meteor-flash her swift career,
To the lov'd scene, so distant, and so dear!
Lo! the rude whirlwind rushes from its cave,
And danger frowns—the monarch of the wave!
Lo! rocks and storms the striving bark repel,
And death and shipwreck ride the foaming swell!
Child of the ocean! is thy bier the surge,
Thy grave the billow, and the wind thy dirge?
Yes! thy long toils, thy weary conflicts o'er,
No storm shall wake, no perils rouse thee more!

Yet, in that solemn hour, that awful strife,
The struggling agony for death or life;
E'en then, thy mind, embitt'ring ev'ry pain,
Retrac'd the image so belov'd—in vain!
Still to sweet home, thy last regrets were true,
Life's parting sigh—the murmur of adieu!
Can war's dread scenes the hallow'd ties efface,
Each tender thought, each fond remembrance chase?
Can fields of carnage, days of toil, destroy
The lov'd impressions of domestic joy?
Ye day-light dreams! that cheer the soldier's breast,
In hostile climes, with spells benign and blest;
Sooth his brave heart, and shed your glowing ray,
O'er the long march, thro' desolation's way;
Oh! still ye bear him from th' ensanguin'd plain,
Armour's bright flash, and victory's choral strain;
To that lov'd home, where pure affection glows,
That shrine of bliss! asylum of repose!

When all is hush'd—the rage of combat past,
And no dread war-note swells the moaning blast;
When the warm throb of many a heart is o'er,
And many an eye is clos'd—to wake no more;
Lull'd by the night-wind, pillow'd on the ground,
(The dewy death-bed of his comrades round!)
While o'er the slain the tears of midnight weep,
Faint with fatigue, he sinks in slumbers deep!
E'en then, soft visions, hov'ring round, portray,
The cherish'd forms that o'er his bosom sway!
He sees fond transport light each beaming face,
Meets the warm tear-drop, and the long embrace!
While the sweet welcome vibrates thro' his heart,
'Hail, weary soldier! —never more to part!'

And, lo! at last, releas'd from ev'ry toil,
He comes! the wanderer views his native soil!
Then the bright raptures, words can never speak,
Flash in his eye, and mantle o'er his cheek!

Then love and friendship, whose unceasing pray'r,
Implor'd for him, each guardian-spirit's care;
Who, for his fate, thro' sorrow's lingering year,
Had prov'd each thrilling pulse of hope and fear;
In that blest moment, all the past forget,
Hours of suspense! and vigils of regret!

And, oh! for him, the child of rude alarms,
Rear'd by stern danger, in the school of arms;
How sweet to change the war-song's pealing note,
For woodland-sounds, in summer-air that float!
Thro' vales of peace, o'er mountain-wilds to roam,
And breathe his native gales, that whisper—'Home!'
Hail! sweet endearments of domestic ties,
Charms of existence! angel-sympathies!
Tho' pleasure smile, a soft, Circassian queen!
And guide her votaries thro' a fairy scene;
Where sylphid forms beguile their vernal hours,
With mirth and music, in Arcadian bow'rs;

Tho' gazing nations hail the fiery car,
That bears the son of conquest from afar;
While Fame's loud Pæan bids his heart rejoice,
And ev'ry life-pulse vibrates to her voice;
Yet from your source alone, in mazes bright,
Flows the full current of serene delight!
On Freedom's wing, that ev'ry wild explores,
Thro' realms of space, th' aspiring eagle soars!
Darts o'er the clouds, exulting to admire,
Meridian glory—on her throne of fire!
Bird of the sun! his keen, unwearied gaze,
Hails the full noon, and triumphs in the blaze!
But soon, descending from his height sublime,
Day's burning fount, and light's empyreal clime;
Once more he speeds to joys more calmly blest,
'Midst the dear inmates of his lonely nest!

Thus Genius, mounting on his bright career,
Thro' the wide regions of the mental sphere;

And proudly waving, in his gifted hand,
O'er Fancy's worlds, Invention's plastic wand;
Fearless and firm, with lightning-eye surveys
The clearest heav'n of intellectual rays!
Yet, on his course tho' loftiest hopes attend,
And kindling raptures aid him to ascend;
(While in his mind, with high-born grandeur fraught,
Dilate the noblest energies of thought
Still, from the bliss, ethereal and refin'd,
Which crowns the soarings of triumphant mind,
At length he flies, to that serene retreat,
Where calm and pure, the mild affections meet;
Embosom'd there, to feel and to impart,
The softer pleasures of the social heart!
Ah! weep for those, deserted and forlorn,
From ev'ry tie, by fate relentless torn!
See, on the barren coast, the lonely isle,
Mark'd with no step, uncheer'd by human smile;

Heart-sick and faint, the shipwreck'd wanderer stand,
Raise the dim eye, and lift the suppliant hand!
Explore with fruitless gaze the billowy main,
And weep—and pray—and linger!—but in vain!
Thence, roving wild thro' many a depth of shade!
Where voice ne'er echo'd, footstep never stray'd;
He fondly seeks, o'er cliffs and deserts rude,
Haunts of mankind, 'midst realms of solitude!
And pauses oft, and sadly hears alone,
The wood's deep sigh, the surge's distant moan!
All else is hush'd! so silent, so profound,
As if some viewless power, presiding round,
With mystic spell, unbroken by a breath,
Had spread for ages the repose of death!
Ah! still the wanderer, by the boundless deep,
Lives but to watch,—and watches but to weep!
He sees no sail in faint perspective rise,
His the dread loneliness of sea and skies!

Far from his cherish'd friends, his native shore,
Banish'd from being—to return no more;
There must he die!—within that circling wave,
That lonely isle—his prison and his grave!

Lo! thro' the waste, the wilderness of snows,
With fainting step, Siberia's exile goes!
Homeless and sad, o'er many a polar wild,
Where beam, or flower, or verdure, never smil'd;
Where frost and silence hold their despot-reign,
And bind existence in eternal chain!
Child of the desert! pilgrim of the gloom!
Dark is the path which leads thee to the tomb!
While on thy faded cheek, the arctic air
Congeals the bitter tear-drop of despair!
Yet not, that fate condemns thy closing day,
In that stern clime, to shed its parting ray;
Not that fair Nature's loveliness find light,
No more shall beam enchantment on thy sight;

Ah! not for this, far, far beyond relief,
Deep in thy bosom dwells the hopeless grief;
But that no friend of kindred heart is there,
Thy woes to meliorate, thy toils to share;
That no mild soother fondly shall assuage
The stormy trials of thy lingering age;
No smile of tenderness, with angel-power,
Lull the dread pangs of dissolution's hour;
For this alone, despair, a withering guest,
Sits on thy brow, and cankers in thy breast!

Yes! there, e'en there, in that tremendous clime,
Where desert-grandeur frowns, in pomp sublime;
Where winter triumphs, thro' the polar night,
In all his wild magnificence of might;
E'en there, Affection's hallow'd spell might pour,
The light of heav'n around th' inclement shore!
And, like the vales with bloom and sun-shine grac'd,
That smile, by circling Pyrennees embrac'd,

Teach the pure heart, with vital fires to glow,
E'en 'midst the world of solitude and snow!
The Halcyon's charm, thus dreaming fictions feign,
With mystic power, could tranquillize the main;
Bid the loud wind, the mountain-billow sleep,
And peace and silence brood upon the deep!
And thus, Affection, can thy voice compose
The stormy tide of passions and of woes;
Bid every throb of wild emotion cease,
And lull misfortune in the arms of peace!
Oh! mark yon drooping form, of aged mien,
Wan, yet resign'd, and hopeless, yet serene!
Long ere victorious time had sought to chase
The bloom, the smile, that once illum'd his face;
That faded eye was dimm'd with many a care,
Those waving locks were silver'd by despair!
Yet filial love can pour the sovereign balm,
Assuage his pangs, his wounded spirit calm!

He, a sad emigrant! condemn'd to roam
In life's pale autumn from his ruin'd home;
Has borne the shock of peril's darkest wave,
Where joy—and hope—and fortune—found a grave!
'Twas his, to see destruction's fiercest band,
Rush, like a TYPHON, on his native land,
And roll, triumphant, on their blasted way,
In fire and blood—the deluge of dismay!
Unequal combat rag'd on many a plain,
And patriot-valour wav'd the sword—in vain!
Ah! gallant exile! nobly, long, he bled,
Long brav'd the tempest gath'ring o'er his head!
Till all was lost! and horror's darkening eye,
Rous'd the stern spirit of despair—to die!

Ah! gallant exile! in the storm that roll'd
Far o'er his country, rushing uncontroll'd;
The flowers that grac'd his path with loveliest bloom,
Torn by the blast—were scatter'd on the tomb!

When carnage burst, exulting in the strife,
The bosom ties that bound his soul to life;
Yet one was spar'd! and she, whose filial smile,
Can sooth his wanderings, and his tears beguile,
E'en then, could temper, with divine relief,
The wild delirium of unbounded grief;
And whisp'ring peace, conceal, with duteous art,
Her own deep sorrows in her inmost heart!
And now, tho' time, subduing ev'ry trace,
Has mellow'd all, he never can erase;
Oft will the wanderer's tears in silence flow,
Still sadly faithful to remember'd woe!
Then she, who feels a father's pang alone,
(Still fondly struggling to suppress her own
With anxious tenderness is ever nigh,
To chase the image that awakes the sigh!
Her angel-voice his hinting soul can raise
To brighter visions of celestial days!
And speak of realms, where virtue's wing shall soar
On eagle-plume—to wonder and adore!

And friends, divided here, shall meet at last,
Unite their kindred souls—and smile on all the past!
Yes! we may hope, that Nature's deathless ties,
Renew'd, refin'd—shall triumph in the skies!
Heart-soothing thought! whose lov'd, consoling pow'r,
With seraph-dreams can gild reflection's hour;
Oh! still be near! and bright'ning thro' the gloom,
Beam and ascend! the day-star of the tomb!
And smile for those, in sternest ordeals prov'd,
Those lonely hearts, bereft of all they lov'd!

Lo! by the couch, where pain and chill disease,
In ev'ry vein the ebbing life-blood freeze;
Where youth is taught, by stealing, slow decay,
Life's closing lesson—in its dawning day;
Where beauty's rose is with'ring ere its prime,
Unchang'd by sorrow—and unsoil'd by time;
There, bending still, with fix'd and sleepless eye,
There, from her child, the mother learns—to die!

Explores, with fearful gaze, each mournful trace
Of ling'ring sickness in the faded face;
Thro' the sad night, when ev'ry hope is fled,
Keeps her lone vigil by the suff'rer's bed;
And starts each morn, as deeper marks declare
The spoiler's hand—the blight of death—is there!
He comes! now feebly in th' exhausted frame,
Slow, languid, quiv'ring, burns the vital flame!
From the glaz'd eye-ball sheds its parting ray,
Dim, transient spark! that flutt'ring, fades away!
Faint beats the hov'ring pulse, the trembling heart,
Yet fond existence lingers—ere she part!

'Tis past! the struggle and the pang are o'er,
And life shall throb with agony no more!
While o'er the wasted form, the features pale,
Death's awful shadows throw their silvery veil!
Departed spirit! on this earthly sphere,
Tho' poignant suff'ring mark'd thy short career;

Still could maternal love beguile thy woes,
And hush thy sighs—an angel of repose!
But who may charm her sleepless pang to rest,
Or draw the thorn that rankles in her breast?
And while she bends in silence o'er thy bier,
Assuage the grief, too heart-sick for a tear?
Visions of hope! in loveliest hues array'd,
Fair scenes of bliss! by Fancy's hand portray'd;
And were ye doom'd, with false, illusive smile,
With flatt'ring promise, to enchant awhile?
And are ye vanish'd, never to return,
Set in the darkness of the mouldering urn?
Will no bright hour departed joys restore?
Shall the sad parent meet her child no more;
Behold no more the soul-illumin'd face,
Th' expressive smile, the animated grace?
Must the fair blossom, wither'd in the tomb,
Revive no more in loveliness and bloom?—

Descend, blest Faith! dispel the hopeless care,
And chase the gathering phantoms of despair!
Tell, that the flow'r, transplanted in its morn,
Enjoys bright Eden, freed from every thorn;
Expands to milder suns, and softer dews;
The full perfection of immortal hues!
Tell, that when mounting to her native skies,
By death releas'd, the parent-spirit flies;
There shall the child, in anguish mourn'd so long,
With rapture hail her, 'midst the cherub-throng;
And guide her pinion, on exulting flight,
Thro' glory's boundless realms, and worlds of living light!

Ye gentle spirits of departed friends!
If e'er on earth your buoyant wing descends;
If, with benignant care; ye linger near,
To guard the objects in existence dear;
If hov'ring o'er, ethereal band! ye view
The tender sorrows, to your memory true;

Oh! in the musing hour, at midnight deep,
While for your loss Affection wakes to weep;
While ev'ry sound in hallow'd stillness lies,
But the low murmur of her plaintive sighs;
Oh! then, amidst that holy calm, be near!
Breathe your light whisper softly in her ear!
With secret spells, her wounded mind compose,
And chase the faithful tear—for you that flows!
Be near! when moon-light spreads the charm you lov'd,
O'er scenes where once your earthly footstep rov'd!
Then, while she wanders o'er the sparkling dew,
Thro' glens, and wood-paths, once endear'd by you;
And fondly lingers, in your fav'rite bow'rs,
And pauses oft, recalling former hours;
Then wave your pinion o'er each well-known vale,
Float in the moon-beam, sigh upon the gale!
Bid your wild symphonies remotely swell,
Borne by the summer-wind, from grot and dell;

And touch your viewless harps, and sooth her soul,
With soft enchantments and divine control!
Be near! sweet guardians! watch her sacred rest,
When slumber folds her in his magic vest!
Around her, smiling, let your forms arise
Return'd in dreams, to bless her mental eyes!
Efface the mem'ry of your last farewell,
Of glowing joys, of radiant prospects, tell!
The sweet communion of the past, renew,
Reviving former scenes, array'd in softer hue!

Be near, when death, in virtue's brightest hour,
Calls up each pang, and summons all his pow'r!
Oh! then, transcending Fancy's loveliest dream,
Then let your forms, unveil'd, around her beam!
Then waft the vision of unclouded light,
A burst of glory, on her closing sight!
Wake from the harp of heav'n th' immortal strain,
To hush the final agonies of pain!

With rapture's flame, the parting soul illume,
And smile triumphant thro' the shadowy gloom!

Oh! still be near! when, darting into day,
Th' exulting spirit leaves her bonds of clay;
Be yours to guide her flutt'ring wing on high,
O'er many a world, ascending to the sky!
There let your presence, once her earthly joy,
Tho' dimm'd with tears, and clouded with alloy;
Now form her bliss on that celestial shore,
Where death shall sever kindred hearts no more!

Yes! in the noon of that Elysian clime,
Beyond the sphere of anguish, death, or time;
Where mind's bright eye, with renovated fire,
Shall beam on glories—never to expire;
Oh! there, th' illumin'd soul may fondly trust,
More pure, more perfect, rising from the dust;
Those mild affections, whose consoling light
Sheds the soft moon-beam on terrestrial night;
Sublim'd, ennobled, shall for ever glow,
Exalting rapture—not assuaging woe!

Submitted: Thursday, April 08, 2010

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