Mary Russell Mitford (1787-1855)

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On Being Requested to Write on Scottish Scenery

Fair art thou, Scotia. The swift mountain stream
Gushes, with deafening roar and whitening spray,
From thy brown hills; where eagles seek their prey,
Or soar undazzled in the solar beam.
But dearer far to me, be thou my theme,
My native Hampshire! Thy sweet valleys gay,
Trees, spires, and cots that in the brilliant ray
Confusedly glitter like a morning dream.

And thou, fair forest! lovely are thy shades,
Thy oaks majestic, over the billows pale,
High spreading their green arms: or the deep glades,
Where the dark holly, armed in prickly mail,
Shelters the yellow fern, and tufted blades
That wave responsive to the sighing gale.

A Canzonet

As in the bursting springtime over the eye
Of one who haunts the fields fair visions creep
Beneath the closéd lids (afore dull sleep
Dims the quick fancy) of sweet flowers that lie
On grassy banks, oxlip of orient dye,
And palest primrose and blue violet,
All in their fresh and dewy beauty set,
Pictured within the sense, and will not fly;

So in mine ear resounds and lives again
One mingled melody,--a voice, a pair
Of instruments most voice-like! Of the air
Rather than of the earth seems that high strain,
A spirit's song, and worthy of the train
That soothed old Prospero with music rare.


I could have lengthened out one fleeting hour
Into an age--sitting at set of sun
Under the long low open shed, where won
The mellow evening light through leaf and flower;
Playing the hostess in that summer bower
To such dear guests, whilst rose the antique song,
By those young sister voices poured along,
So wild, so pure, so clear, full of sweet power,
Ringing and vibrating.
                                   It was a lay
That sent a smile into the very heart:
As when the early lark shoots up in May
With his blithe matins, rarer than all art
Save this. O happiest and most fleeting day,
Why art thou gone so soon?--Why must we part?

Grasshopper and Cricket

How oft, amid the heaped and bedded hay,
Under the oak's broad shadow deep and strong,
Have we sat listening to the noon-day song
(If song it were), monotonously gay,
Which crept along the field, the summer lay
Of the grasshopper. Summer is come in pride
Of fruit and flower, garlanded as a bride,
And crowned with corn, and graced with length of day:
But cold is come with her.
                                        We sit not now
Listening that merry music of the earth,
Like Arid beneath the blossomed bough;
But all for chillness round the social hearth
We cluster.--Hark! a sound of kindred mirth
Echoes! O wintry cricket, welcome thou!

(See sonnets on the same topic by John Keats and Leigh Hunt.)

To My Mother Sleeping

Sleep on, my mother! sweet and innocent dreams
Attend thee, best and dearest! Dreams that gild
Life's clouds like setting suns, with pleasures filled
And saintly joy, such as thy mind beseems,
Thy mind where never stormy passion gleams,
Where their soft nest the dove-like virtues build;
And calmest thoughts, like violets distilled,
Their fragrance mingle with bright wisdom's beams.

Sleep on, my mother! not the lily's bell
So sweet; not the enamoured west-wind's sighs
That shake the dew-drop from her snowy cell
So gentle; not that dew-drop ere it flies
So pure. Even slumber loves with thee to dwell,
O model most beloved of good and wise.