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The sight and sound of the sea were always connected in her mind with melancholy associations; with
“ Doubt, and something dark, Of the old Sea some reverential fear;" 1 with images of storm and desolation, of shipwreck and sea-burial: the last, indeed, was so often present to her imagination, and has so frequently been introduced into her poetry, that any one inclined to superstitious presentiments might also have been disposed to fancy it a fore-shadowing of some such dark fate in store either for herself or for some one dear to her. These associations, like those awakened by the wind, were perfectly distinct from any thing of personal timidity, and were the more indefinable, as she had never suffered any calamity at all connected with the sea: none of those she loved had been consigned to its reckless waters, nor had she ever seen it in all its terrors, for the coast on which her early years were passed is by no means a rugged or dangerous one, and is seldom visited by disaster.
In one of her later sonnetsa on this subject, a chord is struck, which may perhaps find an echo in other bosoms :
- Yet, O blue deep! Thou that no trace of human hearts dost keep, Never to thee did love with silvery chain Draw my soul's dream, which through all nature sought What waves deny,—some bower of steadfast bliss, A home to twine with fancy, feeling, thought, As with sweet flowers: -- But chastened Hope for this,
3“A Thought of the Sea."
Now turns from earth's green valleys as from thee,
The same feeling is expressed in one of her letters: —“ Did you ever observe how strangely sounds and images of watersrushing torrents, and troubled ocean waves, are mingled with the visionary distresses of dreams and delirium? To me there is no more perfect emblem of peace than that expressed by the Scriptural phrase, “ there shall be no more sea.”
How forcible is the contrast between the essential womanliness of these associations, so full of “the still sad music of humanity," and the “stern delight” with which Lord Byron, in his magnificent apostrophe to the sea, exults in its ministry of wrath, and recounts, as with a fierce joy, its dealings with its victim, man!
- The vile strength he wields
His petty hope in some near port or bay,
Childe Harold, Canto iv. Stanza CLXXX.
In the spring of 1825, Mrs. Hemans, with her mother and sister, and four of her boys, (che eldest having been placed at school at Bangor,) removed from Bronwylfa to Rhyllon, another house belonging to her brother, not more than a quarter of a mile from the former place, and in full view from its windows. The distance being so inconsiderable, this could, in fact, scarcely be considered as a removal. The two houses, each situated on an eminence, on opposite sides of the river Clwyd, confronted each other so conveniently, that a telegraphic communication was established between them (by means of a regular set of signals and vocabulary, similar to those made use of in the navy), and was carried on for a season with no little spirit, greatly to the amusement of their respective inhabitants.
Nothing could be less romantic than the outward appearance of Mrs. Hemans's new residence--a tall, staring brick house, almost destitute of trees, and unadorned (far, indeed, from being thus “adorned the most”) by the covering mantle of honeysuckle, jessamine, or any such charitable drapery. Bronwylfa, on the contrary, was a perfect bower of roses, and peeped out like a bird's nest from amidst the foliage in which it was embosomed. The contrast between the two dwellings was thus playfully descanted upon by Mrs. Hemans, in her contribution to a set of jeux d'esprit, called the Bronwylfa Budget for 1825. • DRAMATIC SCENE BETWEEN BRONWYLFA AND RHYLLON."
BRONWYLFA, after standing for some time in silent contemplation of RHYLLON, breaks out into the following vehement strain of vituperation : “ You ugliest of fabrics! you horrible eye-sore !
I wish you would vanish, or put on a vizor!
? Its conspicuousness has since been a good deal modified by the lowering of one story, and by the growth of the surrounding plantations.
· Bronwylfa is pronounced as if written Bronwilva ; and perhaps the nearest English approach to the pronunciation of Rhyllon, would be, by supposing it to be spelt Ruthlon, the u sounded as in but.
In the face of the sun, without covering or rag on,
(In a paroxysm of rage) —
RHYLLON-(with dignified equanimity)
(With a tone of prophetic solemnity)-
* Bronwylfa is here supposed to allude to the pate of Æschylus, upon which an eagle dropped a tortoise to crack the shell.
VOL. I. - 10
And in spite of thy scorn, and of all thou hast done,
In spite, however, of the unromantic exterior of her new abode, the earlier part of Mrs. Hemans's residence at Rhyllon, may, perhaps, be considered as the happiest of her life; as far, at least, as the term happiness could ever be fitly applied to any period of it later than childhood. The house, with all its ugliness, was large and convenient; the view from its windows beautiful and extensive, and its situation, on a fine green slope, terminating in a pretty woodland dingle, peculiarly healthy and cheerful. Never, perhaps, had she more thorough enjoyment of her boys than in witnessing, and often joining in, their sports, in those pleasant breezy fields, where the kites soared so triumphantly, and the hoops trundled so merrily, and where the cowslips grew as cowslips had never grown before. An atmosphere of home soon gathered round the dwelling; roses were planted, and honeysuckles trained, and the rustling of the solitary poplar near her window was taken to her heart, like the voice of a friend. The dingle became a favourite haunt, where she would pass many dreamlike hours of enjoyment with her books, and her own sweet fancies, and her children playing around her. Every tree and flower, and tuft of moss that sprung