1797 11

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The Female Exile
Charlotte Smith
The European Magazine, XXXII (October 1797), p. 264
The Scots Magazine, LIX (November 1797), p. 842

Written at Brighthelmstone, in Nov. 1792.

November's chill blast on the rough beach
                        is howling,
    The surge breaks afar, and then foams to the
Dark clouds o'er the sea gather heavy and
    And the white cliffs re'echo the wild wintry

Beneath that chalk rock, a fair stranger re-
    Has found on damp sea-weed a cold lonely
Her eyes fill'd with tears, and her heart with
    She starts at the billows that burst at
                        her feet.

There, day after day, with an anxious heart
    She watches the waves where they mingle
                        with air;
For the sail which, alas! all her fond hopes
    May bring only tidings to add to her care.

Loose stream to wild winds those fair flowing
    Once woven with garlands of gay summer
Her dress unregarded bespeaks her distresses,
    And beauty is blighted by grief's heavy

Her innocent children, unconscious of sorrow,
    To seek the gloss'd shell or the crimson
                        weed stray,
Amus'd with the present, they heed not to-
    Nor think of the storm that is gathering

The gilt, fairyship, with its ribbon-sail
    They launch on the salt-pool the tide
                        left behind;
Ah! victims—for whom their sad mother is
    The multiplied mis'ries that wait on

To fair fortune born, she beholds them, with
    Now wand'rers with her on a once hostile
Perhaps doom'd for life in chill penury to
    Or abject dependence, or soul-crushing toil.

But the sea-boat, her hopes and her terrors
    O'er the dim grey horizon now faintly appears;
She flies to the quay, dreading tidings of ruin,
    All breathless with haste, half-expiring with

Poor mourner!—I would that my fortune had
                        left me
    The means to alleviate the woes I deplore;
But, like thine, my hard fate has of affluence
                        bereft me,
     I can warm the cold heart of the wretched
                        no more.[1]


1. [Author's note]: "This little Poem, of which a sketch first appeared in blank verse in a poem called "The Emigrants," was suggested by the sight of the group it attempts to describe—a French Lady and her children."

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