A Century of Sonnets: The Romantic-Era Revival 1750-1850

By Paula R. Feldman; Daniel Robinson | Go to book overview

408. 'Oh! if thou lov'st me, love me not so well!'

Oh! if thou lov'st me, love me not so well!
For in this ceaseless mingling of the heart
I feel such power of mystery doth dwell,
I sicken with the weight, and weeping start!
Are we of earth, and subject to decay—
Walk we a world of sin, and change, and pain?
Yet dare we own that forms of mortal clay
Our all of wealth and happiness contain?
Oh! surely souls for higher aims were made
Than thus in love's fantastic realm to rove;
And ours might treasure find that ne'er shall fade,
And soar from human to immortal love!
Then, if thou lov'st me, teach my hopes to rise,
And lead my heart with thine home—home into the skies!

(1833)


Felicia Hemans
(1793–1835)

Felicia Hemans was one of the most highly influential and widely read
poets of the nineteenth century, both in Britain and America. Lord Byron
considered Hemans's Restoration of the Works of Art to Italy (1816) “a good
poem—very” even though he blasted her Modern Greece (1817) as the work
of someone who had never been there. Hemans became a regular contribu-
tor to periodicals, and her work was ubiquitous in the literary annuals. The
Forest Sanctuary, and other Poems
(1825) did well, but Records of Woman (1828),
a feminist rethinking of history and woman's artistic expression, was a
best-seller. In a similar vein, Hemans's sonnets on female Biblical figures
highlight the presence of women in the development of Western Culture.


409. The Vigil of Rizpah

And Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah, took sackcloth, and spread it
for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water
dropped upon them out of heaven; and suffered neither the birds
of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night.

—2 SAM. 21. 10.

Who watches on the mountain with the dead,
Alone before the awfulness of night?—
A seer awaiting the deep spirit's might?
A warrior guarding some dark pass of dread?
No, a lorn woman!—On her drooping head,
Once proudly graceful, heavy beats the rain;
She recks not—living for the unburied slain,
Only to scare the vulture from their bed.

-201-

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