Felicia Hemans on Marriage

A forgotten woman poet…

 Felicia Hemans was born in Liverpool in 1753 and died in Dublin in 1834 although she spent most of her life in Wales. She was an acclaimed poetess during her lifetime, admired by Byron, Wadsworth, and George Elliot among others. However, she is forgotten today; her flowery poetry out of style.

Separated from her husband when her children were under the age of six, she supported herself and her five sons on the income from her poems alone, an amazing feat at the time. Although she also wrote plays, all were poorly received.  The one line of poetry she is remembered for is: “A boy stood on a burning deck” Casabianca 1826,   a poem immortalized in the McGuffy Readers and memorized by thousands of unwilling school children.  What an epitaph for a poet.

The following excerpt is from The Bridal-Day and reflects, perhaps not surprisingly, an ambivalent view of marriage.

Bride! Upon thy marriage-day,

When thy gems in rich array

Made the glistening mirror seem

As a star reflecting stream;

When the clustering pearls lay fair

Midst thy braids of sunny hair,

And the white veil o’ve thee streaming

Like a silvery halo gleaming,

Mellow’d all that pomp and light

Into something meekly bright.

Did the fluttering of thy breath

Speak of joy or woe beneath?

And the hue that went and came

Flowed that crimson from the unrest

Or the gladness of thy breast?

Who shall tell us?– from thy bower

Brightly did thou pass that hour?

The Bridal-Day (pp. 319-320) in the Poetical Works of Felicia Dorothea Browne Hemans: Complete in One Volume 1856

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