The Chinese Pagoda

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

WHENE'ER a person is a poet,
No matter what the pang may be;
Does not at once the public know it ?
Witness each newspaper we see.

“The parting look,” “the bitter token,”
“The last despair,” “the first distress;”
“The anguish of a heart that’s broken—”
Do not these crowd the daily press ?

If then our misnamed “heartless city,”
Can so much sympathy bestow;
If there is so much public pity
For every kind of private woe ;

Why not for me ?—my care’s more real
Than that of all this rhyming band;
Whose hearts and tears are all ideal,
A sort of joint-stock kept on hand.

I’m one of those, I do confess,
Whom pity greatly can console ;
To tell, is almost to redress,
Whate’er the “sorrow of my soul.”

Now, I who thought the first* vexatious,
Despaired, and knew not what to do,
Abused the stars, called fate ungracious—
Here is a second Chinese view !

I sent to Messrs. Fisher, saying
The simple fact—I could not write ;
What was the use of my inveighing ?—
Back came the fatal scroll that night.

“But, madam, such a fine engraving,
The country, too, so little known!”
One’s publisher there is no braving—
The plate was work’d, “the dye was thrown.”

Macao.

But what’s impossible, can never,
By any hazard come to be,
It is impossible that ever
This place can furnish hints to me.

O Captain Elliot, what could make you
Forsake the Indian fanes of yore ?
And what in mercy’s name could take you
To this most stupid Chinese shore ?

If in this world there is an object,
For pity which may stand alone,
It is a poet with no subject,
Or with a picture worse than none.
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Submitted by Madeleine Quinn on August 16, 2016

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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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    "The Chinese Pagoda" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 27 Sep. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/45106/the-chinese-pagoda>.

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