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

City of idol temples, and of shrines,
Where folly kneels to falsehood—how the pride
Of our humanity is here rebuked !
Man, that aspires to rule the very wind,
And make the sea confess his majesty ;
Whose intellect can fill a little scroll
With words that are immortal ; who can build
Cities, the mighty and the beautiful:
Yet man, this glorious creature, can debase
His spirit down, to worship wood and stone,
And hold the very beasts which bear his yoke,
And tremble at his eye, for sacred things.
With what unutterable humility
We should bow down, thou blessed Cross, to thee!
Seeing our vanity and foolishness,
When, to our own devices left, we frame
A shameful creed of craft and cruelty.

Benares may be called the Rome of Hindostan, being the sacred city, the centre of the Hindoo religion. Bishop Heber states, that " no Europeans live in the town, nor are any of the streets wide enough to admit a wheel carriage." The streets are crowded with " the sacred bulls devoted to Seeva, tame and familiar as mastiffs, walking lazily up and down, and lying across them. Monkeys sacred to Hunooman, the divine ape who conquered Ceylon, are in some parts of the town equally numerous, clinging to all the roofs, and putting their heads or hands into every fruiterer's or confectioner's shop, and snatching the food from the children at their meals. Fakirs' houses occur at every turn, adorned with idols, and sending out an unceasing tinkling of vinas, bugals, and other discordant instruments : while religious mendicants, of every Hindoo sect, offering every conceivable deformity, which chalk, disease, matted locks, distorted limbs, and disgusting attitudes of penance, can shew, literally line the principal streets." "The houses are painted of a deep red, and covered with paintings, in gaudy colours, of flower-pots, men, women, bulls, elephants, gods and goddesses, in all their many-headed, many-handed, many-weaponed varieties." " The number of temples is very great, mostly small, and stand like shrines in the angles of the streets. Many of them are entirely covered over with beautiful and elaborate carvings of flowers, animals, and palm branches, equalling in minuteness and richness the best specimens I have seen of Gothic or Grecian architecture." Tavernier mentions a belief of the Brahmins, whence the classic allegory of the golden, silver, brazen, and iron ages originated. " This holy city," say they, " was originally built of gold, but, for the sins of mankind, it was successively degraded to stone, brick, and clay."
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Submitted by Madeleine Quinn on June 30, 2016


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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    "Benares" STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 27 Sep. 2020. <>.

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