Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. III. Sorrow and Consolation
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume III. Sorrow and Consolation.  1904.
 
III. Adversity
The Female Convict
Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802–1838)
 
SHE shrank from all, and her silent mood
Made her wish only for solitude:
Her eye sought the ground, as it could not brook,
For innermost shame, on another’s to look;
And the cheerings of comfort fell on her ear        5
Like deadliest words, that were curses to hear!—
She still was young, and she had been fair;
But weather-stains, hunger, toil, and care,
That frost and fever that wear the heart,
Had made the colors of youth depart        10
From the sallow cheek, save over it came
The burning flush of the spirit’s shame.
 
They were sailing over the salt sea-foam,
Far from her country, far from her home;
And all she had left for her friends to keep        15
Was a name to hide and a memory to weep!
And her future held forth but the felon’s lot,—
To live forsaken, to die forgot!
She could not weep, and she could not pray,
But she wasted and withered from day to day,        20
Till you might have counted each sunken vein,
When her wrist was prest by the iron chain;
And sometimes I thought her large dark eye
Had the glisten of red insanity.
 
She called me once to her sleeping-place,        25
A strange, wild look was upon her face,
Her eye flashed over her cheek so white,
Like a gravestone seen in the pale moonlight,
And she spoke in a low, unearthly tone,—
The sound from mine ear hath never gone!—        30
“I had last night the loveliest dream:
My own land shone in the summer beam,
I saw the fields of the golden grain,
I heard the reaper’s harvest strain;
There stood on the hills the green pine-tree,        35
And the thrush and the lark sang merrily.
A long and a weary way I had come;
But I stopped, methought, by mine own sweet home.
I stood by the hearth, and my father sat there,
With pale, thin face, and snow-white hair!        40
The Bible lay open upon his knee,
But he closed the book to welcome me.
He led me next where my mother lay,
And together we knelt by her grave to pray,
And heard a hymn it was heaven to hear,        45
For it echoed one to my young days dear.
This dream has waked feelings long, long since fled,
And hopes which I deemed in my heart were dead!
—We have not spoken, but still I have hung
On the Northern accents that dwell on thy tongue.        50
To me they are music, to me they recall
The things long hidden by Memory’s pall!
Take this long curl of yellow hair,
And give it my father, and tell him my prayer,
My dying prayer, was for him.”…

                            Next day
        55
Upon the deck a coffin lay;
They raised it up, and like a dirge
The heavy gale swept over the surge;
The corpse was cast to the wind and wave,—
The convict has found in the green sea a grave.        60
 
 
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