A Celebration of Women Writers

"The Spirit's Mysteries" by Felicia Hemans (1793-1835) Records of Woman: With Other Poems. Edinburgh: William Blackwood, & London: T. Cadell, 1828, second edition. pp. 267-269.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 267] 


And slight, withal, may be the things which bring
Back on the heart the weight which it would fling
  Aside for ever;–it may be a sound–
A tone of music–summer's breath, or spring–
  A flower–a leaf–the ocean–which may wound–
Striking th' electric chain wherewith we are darkly bound.
                                                                  Childe Harold.

THE power that dwelleth in sweet sounds to waken
  Vague yearnings, like the sailor's for the shore,
And dim remembrances, whose hue seems taken
  From some bright former state, our own no more;
Is not this all a mystery?–Who shall say
Whence are those thoughts, and whither tends their way?

[Page 268] 

The sudden images of vanish'd things,
  That o'er the spirit flash, we know not why;
Tones from some broken harp's deserted strings,
  Warm sunset hues of summers long gone by,
A rippling wave–the dashing of an oar–
A flower scent floating past our parents' door;

A word–scarce noted in its hour perchance,
  Yet back returning with a plaintive tone;
A smile–a sunny or a mournful glance,
  Full of sweet meanings now from this world flown;
Are not these mysteries when to life they start,
And press vain tears in gushes from the heart?

And the far wanderings of the soul in dreams,
  Calling up shrouded faces from the dead,
And with them bringing soft or solemn gleams,
  Familiar objects brightly to o'erspread;
And wakening buried love, or joy, or fear,–
These are night's mysteries–who shall make them clear?

[Page 269] 

And the strange inborn sense of coming ill,
  That ofttimes whispers to the haunted breast,
In a low tone which nought can drown or still,
  Midst feasts and melodies a secret guest;
Whence doth that murmur wake, that shadow fall?
Why shakes the spirit thus?–'tis mystery all!

Darkly we move–we press upon the brink
  Haply of viewless worlds, and know it not;
Yes! it may be, that nearer than we think
  Are those whom death has parted from our lot!
Fearfully, wondrously, our souls are made–
Let us walk humbly on, but undismay'd!

Humbly–for knowledge strives in vain to feel
  Her way amidst these marvels of the mind;
Yet undismay'd–for do they not reveal
  Th' immortal being with our dust entwin'd?–
So let us deem! and e'en the tears they wake
Shall then be blest, for that high nature's sake.


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom