Saturday, September 25, 2010

Felicia Dorothea Browne Hemans

The poet Felicia Hemans has a significant connection with Sir Walter Scott.  Hemans visited Scott at Abbotsford in 1828, and contributed her poem "The Funeral Day of Sir Walter Scott" after Scott passed (September 21, 1832).  Hemans herself did not live long after Scott died, passing in May 1835, less than 42 years old.

It is Hemans' birth that is celebrated today; September 25, 1793.  She was born in Liverpool, but felt more affinity to Wales, where she spent part of her youth after her father George Browne's business failed.  Hemans merited her first publication in 1808, when she was not yet 15 (and still named Browne). 

Hemans was well known among the poets of her day, including Shelley, Byron, and Wordsworth who composed a memorial in her honor.  According to UPenn's "A Celebration of Woman Writers" website, Hemans' style was influenced by Lord Byron.

From upenn.edu, here is a portion of "The Funeral Day of Sir Walter Scott", with a link to the full poem:

Many an eye
May wail the dimming of our shining star.–SHAKESPEARE.


A GLORIOUS voice hath ceased!–
Mournfully, reverently–the funeral chant
Breathe reverently! There is a dreamy sound,
A hollow murmur of the dying year,
In the deep woods. Let it be wild and sad!
A more Aeolian melancholy tone
Than ever wail'd o'er bright things perishing!
For that is passing from the darken'd land,
Which the green summer will not bring us back–
Though all her songs return. The funeral chant
Breathe reverently!–They bear the mighty forth,
The kingly ruler in the realms of mind–
They bear him through the household paths, the groves,
Where every tree had music of its own
To his quick ear of knowledge taught by love–
And he is silent!–Past the living stream
They bear him now; the stream, whose kindly voice
On alien shores his true heart burn'd to hear–
And he is silent! O'er the heathery hills,
Which his own soul had mantled with a light
Richer than autumn's purple, now they move–
And he is silent!–he, whose flexile lips
Were but unseal'd, and lo! a thousand forms,
From every pastoral glen and fern-clad height,
In glowing life upsprang:–Vassal and chief,
Rider and steed, with shout and bugle-peal,
Fast rushing through the brightly troubled air,
Like the wild huntsman's band. And still they live,
To those fair scenes imperishably bound,
And, from the mountain mist still flashing by,
Startle the wanderer who hath listen'd there
To the seer's voice: phantoms of colour'd thought,
Surviving him who raised.–O eloquence!
...

Sources: http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/hemans/biography.html
http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/hemans/works/hf-scott.html

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