Cafes In Damascus

Letitia Elizabeth Landon 1802 (Chelsea) – 1838 (Cape Coast)

"And Mahomet turned aside, and would not enter the fair city: 'It is,' said he, 'too delicious.'"


Languidly the night-wind bloweth
  From the gardens round,
Where the clear Barrada floweth
  With a lulling sound.

Not the lute note’s sweet shiver
  Can such music find,
As is on a wandering river,
  On a wandering wind.

There the Moslem leaneth, dreaming
  O’er the inward world,
While around the fragrant steaming
  Of the smoke is curled.

Rising from the coffee berry,
  Dark grape of the South;
Or the pipe of polished cherry,
  With its amber mouth.

Cooled by passing through the water,
  Gurgling as it flows—
Scented by the Summer’s daughter,
  June’s impassioned rose.

By that rose’s spirit haunted
  Are the dreams that rise,
Of far lands, and lives enchanted,
  And of deep black eyes.

Thus with some sweet dream’s assistance,
  Float they down life’s stream;
Would to heaven, our whole existence
  Could be such a dream!

The Cafés of the kind represented in the plate are perhaps the greatest luxury that a stranger finds in Damascus. Gardens, kiosques, fountains, and groves are abundant around every Eastern capital; but Cafés on the very bosom of a rapid river, and bathed by its waves, are peculiar to this ancient city: they are formed so as to exclude the rays of the sun while they admit the breeze.
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified by Madeleine Quinn

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Letitia Elizabeth Landon

Letitia Elizabeth Landon was an English poet. Born 14th August 1802 at 25 Hans Place, Chelsea, she lived through the most productive period of her life nearby, at No.22. A precocious child with a natural gift for poetry, she was driven by the financial needs of her family to become a professional writer and thus a target for malicious gossip (although her three children by William Jerdan were successfully hidden from the public). In 1838, she married George Maclean, governor of Cape Coast Castle on the Gold Coast, whence she travelled, only to die a few months later (15th October) of a fatal heart condition. Behind her post-Romantic style of sentimentality lie preoccupations with art, decay and loss that give her poetry its characteristic intensity and in this vein she attempted to reinterpret some of the great male texts from a woman’s perspective. Her originality rapidly led to her being one of the most read authors of her day and her influence, commencing with Tennyson in England and Poe in America, was long-lasting. However, Victorian attitudes led to her poetry being misrepresented and she became excluded from the canon of English literature, where she belongs. more…

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