A Celebration of Women Writers

"The Image in Lava" by Felicia Hemans (1793-1835) Records of Woman: With Other Poems. Edinburgh: William Blackwood, & London: T. Cadell, 1828, second edition. pp. 310-313.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


[Page 310] 

THE IMAGE IN LAVA.*


THOU thing of years departed!
  What ages have gone by,
Since here the mournful seal was set
  By love and agony!

Temple and tower have moulder'd,
  Empires from earth have pass'd,–
And woman's heart hath left a trace
  Those glories to outlast!

[Page 311] 

And childhood's fragile image
  Thus fearfully enshrin'd,
Survives the proud memorials rear'd
  By conquerors of mankind.

Babe! wert thou brightly slumbering
  Upon thy mother's breast,
When suddenly the fiery tomb
  Shut round each gentle guest?

A strange, dark fate o'ertook you,
  Fair babe and loving heart!
One moment of a thousand pangs–
  Yet better than to part!

Haply of that fond bosom
  On ashes here impress'd,
Thou wert the only treasure, child!
  Whereon a hope might rest.

[Page 312] 

Perchance all vainly lavish'd
  Its other love had been,
And where it trusted, nought remain'd
  But thorns on which to lean.

Far better then to perish,
  Thy form within its clasp,
Than live and lose thee, precious one!
  From that impassion'd grasp.

Oh! I could pass all relics
  Left by the pomps of old,
To gaze on this rude monument,
  Cast in affection's mould.

Love, human love! what art thou?
  Thy print upon the dust
Outlives the cities of renown
  Wherein the mighty trust!

[Page 313] 

Immortal, oh! immortal
  Thou art, whose earthly glow
Hath given these ashes holiness–
  It must, it must be so!


[Page 310]

* The impression of a woman's form, with an infant clasped to the bosom, found at the uncovering of Herculaneum.

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom