Sunday, August 26, 2012

Radiance Pale

Sonnet
on leaving Oxford in the evening May 14th 1785
by James Austen


What fondly cherish'd thoughts my bosom-fill,
As yon dark mansions from my sight retire,
As the last turret black & pointed spire
Vanish, slow sinking 'neath the far seen hill,
While half hushed murmurs from the distant mill
The white smoke rising from the village fire,
Wake in my breast such social soft desire,
And thoughts of Home into my heart instill.
Thus fondly wrapt in Fancy's magic dream
And many a Castle forming, on I stray
Cross the lone heath, or deeper shaded dale,
While soft reflected in the wavy stream
Night's full orbed Queen directs my dubious way
Tinting the woodlands round with radiance pale.

James Austen was Jane Austen's oldest brother; he was actually in most ordinary senses the literary one in the family, and seems to have been considered so even after Jane began publishing (but part of this was perhaps that Jane's being an author was kept pretty quiet by most of the family). His poems show skill but not ingenuity; the handful of poems we have by Jane Austen herself -- they are all humorous or satirical, except for one or two uncertain attributions -- are much more ingenious. He has an exceptional sense of poetic image, though. It would actually be a good poetic exercise to rework his images in a livelier, or at least less predictable, diction.

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