from Beachy Head

By Charlotte Smith 1749–1806 Charlotte Smith
On thy stupendous summit, rock sublime!
That o’er the channel reared, half way at sea
The mariner at early morning hails,
I would recline; while Fancy should go forth,
And represent the strange and awful hour
Of vast concussion; when the Omnipotent
Stretched forth his arm, and rent the solid hills,
Bidding the impetuous main flood rush between
The rifted shores, and from the continent
Eternally divided this green isle.
Imperial lord of the high southern coast!
From thy projecting head-land I would mark
Far in the east the shades of night disperse,
Melting and thinned, as from the dark blue wave
Emerging, brilliant rays of arrowy light
Dart from the horizon; when the glorious sun
Just lifts above it his resplendent orb.
Advances now, with feathery silver touched,
The rippling tide of flood; glisten the sands,
While, inmates of the chalky clefts that scar
Thy sides precipitous, with shrill harsh cry,
Their white wings glancing in the level beam,
The terns, and gulls, and tarrocks, seek their food,
And thy rough hollows echo to the voice
Of the gray choughs, and ever restless daws,
With clamor, not unlike the chiding hounds,
While the lone shepherd, and his baying dog,
Drive to thy turfy crest his bleating flock.

The high meridian of the day is past,
And Ocean now, reflecting the calm Heaven,
Is of cerulean hue; and murmurs low
The tide of ebb, upon the level sands.
The sloop, her angular canvas shifting still,
Catches the light and variable airs
That but a little crisp the summer sea,
Dimpling its tranquil surface.


Source: Norton Anthology of Poetry (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 2005)

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Poet Charlotte Smith 1749–1806

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Romantic

Subjects Landscapes & Pastorals, Nature

 Charlotte  Smith

Biography

Charlotte Smith wrote Elegiac Sonnets in 1783 while she was in debtor’s prison with her husband and children. William Wordsworth identified her as an important influence on the Romantic movement. She published several longer works that celebrated the individual while deploring social injustice and the British class system.

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Landscapes & Pastorals, Nature

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Romantic

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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