A Celebration of Women Writers

"Tasso and His Sister" by Felicia Hemans (1793-1835) Records of Woman: With Other Poems. Edinburgh: William Blackwood, & London: T. Cadell, 1828, second edition. pp. 221-225.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 221] 


"Devant vous est Sorrente; là démeuroit la soeur de Tasse, quand il vint en pélérin demander à cette obscure amie, un asyle contre l'injustice des princes.–Ses longues douleurs avaient presque egaré sa raison; il ne lui restoit plus que son génie."–Corinne.

SHE sat, where on each wind that sigh'd,
  The citron's breath went by,
While the red gold of eventide
  Burn'd in th' Italian sky.
Her bower was one where daylight's close
  Full oft sweet laughter found,
As thence the voice of childhood rose
  To the high vineyards round.

[Page 222] 

But still and thoughtful, at her knee,
  Her children stood that hour,
Their bursts of song and dancing glee,
  Hush'd as by words of power.
With bright, fix'd, wondering eyes, that gaz'd
  Up to their mother's face,
With brows thro' parted ringlets rais'd,
  They stood in silent grace.

While she–yet something o'er her look
  Of mournfulness was spread–
Forth from a poet's magic book,
  The glorious numbers read;
The proud undying lay, which pour'd
  Its light on evil years;
His of the gifted pen and sword, *
  The triumph–and the tears.

[Page 223] 

She read of fair Erminia's flight,
  Which Venice once might hear
Sung on her glittering seas at night,
  By many a gondolier;
Of him she read, who broke the charm
  That wrapt the myrtle grove;
Of Godfrey's deeds, of Tancred's arm,
  That slew his Paynim love.

Young cheeks around that bright page glow'd,
  Young holy hearts were stirr'd;
And the meek tears of woman flow'd
  Fast o'er each burning word.
And sounds of breeze, and fount, and leaf,
  Came sweet, each pause between;
When a strange voice of sudden grief
  Burst on the gentle scene.

[Page 224] 

The mother turn'd–a way-worn man,
  In pilgrim-garb, stood nigh,
Of stately mien, yet wild and wan,
  Of proud yet mournful eye.
But drops which would not stay for pride,
  From that dark eye gush'd free,
As pressing his pale brow, he cried,
  "Forgotten! ev'n by thee!

"Am I so changed?–and yet we two
  Oft hand in hand have play'd;–
This brow hath been all bath'd in dew,
  From wreaths which thou hast made;
We have knelt down and said one prayer,
  And sung one vesper strain;
My soul is dim with clouds of care–
  Tell me those words again!

[Page 225] 

"Life hath been heavy on my head,
  I come a stricken deer,
Bearing the heart, midst crowds that bled,
  To bleed in stillness here."–
She gaz'd–till thoughts that long had slept
  Shook all her thrilling frame–
She fell upon his neck and wept,
  Murmuring her brother's name.

Her brother's name!–and who was he,
  The weary one, th' unknown,
That came, the bitter world to flee,
  A stranger to his own?–
He was the bard of gifts divine
  To sway the souls of men;
He of the song for Salem's shrine,
  He of the sword and pen!

[Page 222]

* It is scarcely necessary to recall the well-known Italian saying, that Tasso with his sword and pen was superior to all men.


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom