The Troubadour. Canto 4 D (The Contest)

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

Alas for her whom ev'ry eye
Worshipp'd like a divinity!
Alas for her whose ear was fill'd
With flatteries like sweet woods distill'd!
Alas for EVA! bloom and beam,
Music and mirth, came like a dream,
In which she mingled not,—apart
From all in heaviness of heart.
There were soft tales pour'd in her ear,
She look'd on many a cavalier,
Wander'd her eye round the glad scene,
It was as if they had not been;—
To ear, eye, heart, there only came
Her RAYMOND'S image, RAYMOND'S name!

  There is a flower, a snow-white flower,
Fragile as if a morning shower
Would end its being, and the earth
Forget to what it gave a birth;
And it looks innocent and pale,
Slight as the least force could avail
To pluck it from its bed, and yet
Its root in depth and strength is set.
The July sun, the autumn rain,
Beat on its slender stalk in vain;—
Around it spreads, despite of care,
Till the whole garden is its share;
And other plants must fade and fall
Beneath its deep and deadly thrall.
This is love's emblem; it is nurst
In all unconciousness at first,
Too slight, too fair, to wake distrust;
No sign how that an after hour
Will rue and weep its fatal power.
'Twas thus with EVA; she had dream'd
Of love as his first likeness seem'd,
A sweet thought o'er which she might brood,
The treasure of her solitude;
But tidings of young RAYMOND'S fate
Waken'd her from her dream too late,
Even her timid love could be
The ruling star of destiny.
And when a calmer mood prevail'd
O'er that whose joy her father hail'd,
Too well he saw how day by day
Some other emblem of decay
Came on her lip, and o'er her brow,
Which only she would disallow;
The cheek the lightest word could flush
Not with health's rose, but the heart's gush
Of feverish anxiousness; he caught
At the least hope, and vainly sought
By change, by pleasure, to dispel
Her sorrow from its secret cell.
In vain;—what can reanimate
A heart too early desolate?
It had been his, it could not save,
But it could follow to his grave.

  The trumpets peal'd their latest round,
Stole from the flutes a softer sound,
Swell'd the harp to each master's hand,
As onward came the minstrel band!
And many a bright cheek grew more bright,
And many a dark eye flash'd with light,
As bent the minstrel o'er his lute,
And urged the lover's plaining suit,
Or swept a louder chord, and gave
Some glorious history of the brave.

  At last from 'mid the crowd one came,
Unknown himself, unknown his name,
Both knight and bard,—the stranger wore
The garb of a young Troubadour;
His dark green mantle loosely flung,
Conceal'd the form o'er which it hung;
And his cap, with its shadowy plume,
Hid his face by its raven gloom.
Little did EVA'S careless eye
Dream that it wander'd RAYMOND by,
Though his first tone thrill'd every vein,
It only made her turn again,
Forget the scene, the song, and dwell
But on what memory felt too well.

THE SONG OF THE TROUBADOUR.

  IN some valley low and lone,
  Where I was the only one
  Of the human dwellers there,
  Would I dream away my care:
  I'd forget how in the world
  Snakes lay amid roses curl'd,
  I'd forget my once distress
  For young Love's insidiousness.
  False foes, and yet falser friends,
  Seeming but for their own ends;
  Pleasures known but by their wings,
  Yet remember'd by their stings;
  Gold's decrease, and health's decay,
  I will fly like these away,
  To some lovely solitude,
  Where the nightingale's young brood
  Lives amid the shrine of leaves,
  Which the wild rose round them weaves,
  And my dwelling shall be made
  Underneath the beech-tree's shade.
  Twining ivy for the walls
  Over which the jasmine falls,
  Like a tapestry work'd with gold
  And pearls around each emerald fold:
  And my couches shall be set
  With the purple violet,
  And the white ones too, inside
  Each a blush to suit a bride.
  That flower which of all that live,
  Lovers, should be those who give,
  Primroses, for each appears
  Pale and wet with many tears.
  Alas tears and pallid check
  All too often love bespeak!
  There the gilderose should fling
  Silver treasures to the spring,
  And the bright laburnum's tresess [tresses]
  Seeking the young wind's caresses;
  In the midst an azure lake,
  Where no oar e'er dips to break
  The clear bed of its blue rest,
  Where the halcyon builds her nest;
  And amid the sedges green,
  And the water-flag's thick screen,
  The solitary swan resides;
  And the bright kingfisher hides,
  With its colours rich like those
  Which the bird of India shows.—
  Once I thought that I would seek
  Some fair creature, young and meek,
  Whose most gentle smile would bless
  My too utter loneliness;
  But I then remember'd all
  I had suffer'd from Love's thrall,
  And I thought I 'd not again
  Enter in the lion's den;
  But, with my wrung heart now free,
  So I thought I still will be.
  Love is like a kingly dome,
  Yet too often sorrow's home;
  Sometimes smiles, but oftener tears,
  Jealousies, and hopes, and fears,
  A sweet liquor sparkling up,
  But drank from a poison'd cup.
  Would you guard your heart from care
  Love must never enter there.
  I will dwell with summer flowers,
  Fit friends for the summer hours,
  My companions honey-bees,
  And birds, and buds, and leaves, and trees,
  And the dew of the twilight,
  And the thousand stars of night:
  I will cherish that sweet gift,
  The least earthly one now left
  Of the gems of Paradise,
  Poesy's delicious sighs.
  Ill may that soft spirit bear
  Crowds' or cities' healthless air;
  Was not her sweet breathing meant
  To echo the low murmur sent
  By the flowers, and by the rill,
  When all save the wind is still?
  As if to tell of those fair things
  High thoughts, pure imaginings,
  That recall how bright, how fair,
  In our other state we were.
  And at last, when I have spent
  A calm life in mild content,
  May my spirit pass away
  As the early leaves decay:
  Spring shakes her gay coronal,
  One sweet breath, and then they fall.
  Only let the red-breast bring
  Moss to strew me with, and sing
  One low mournful dirge to tell
  I have bid the world farewell.

  ————
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Submitted by Madeleine Quinn on September 01, 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 Troubadour. Canto 4 D (The Contest)" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 27 Sep. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/45132/the-troubadour.-canto-4-d-(the-contest)>.

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