Felicia Dorothea Hemans (1794-1835)

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Flight of the Spirit

Whither, oh! whither wilt thou wing thy way?
What solemn region first upon thy sight
Shall break, unveiled for terror or delight?
What hosts, magificent in dread array,
My spirit! when thy prison-house of clay
After long strife is rent? Fond, fruitless quest!
The unfledged bird, within his narrow nest,
Sees but a few green branches oer him play,
And through their parting leaves, by fits revealed,
A glimpse of summer sky; nor knows the field
Wherein his dormant powers must yet be tried.
Thou art that bird!--of what beyond thee lies
Far in the untracked immeasurable skies
Knowing but this--that thou shalt find thy guide!

Sabbath Sonnet

How many blessed groups this hour are bending,
Through England's primrose meadow-paths, their way
Towards spire and tower, 'midst shadowy elms ascending,
Whence the sweet chimes proclaim the hallowed day!
The halls from old heroic ages gray
Pour their fair children forth; and hamlets low,
With those thick orchard-blooms the soft winds play,
Send out their inmates in a happy flow,
Like a freed vernal stream. I may not tread
With them those pathways, to the feverish bed
Of sickness bound; yet, O my God! I bless
Thy mercy, that with Sabbath peace hath filled
My chastened heart, and all its throbbings stilled
To one deep calm of lowliest thankfulness.

Design and Performance

They float before my soul, the fair designs
Which I would body forth to life and power,
Like clouds that with their wavering hues and lines
Portray majestic building--dome and tower,
Bright spire, that through the rainbow and the shower
Points to the unchanging stars; and high arcade,
Far-sweeping to some glorious altar made
For holiest rites.
                             Meanwhile the waning hour
Melts from me, and by fervent dreams overwrought
I sink. O friend! O linked with each high thought!
Aid me, of those rich visions to detain
All I may grasp; until thou seest fulfilled,
While time and strength allow, my hope to build
For lowly hearts devout, but one enduring fane!

(See Robert Frost's sonnet "Design"--not yet online.)