1827
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Mont Blanc.

Mont Blanc, and other Poems. By Mary Ann Browne, in her fifteenth Year.

Mary Ann Browne


Fourteen Spenserians: a description of a glacier, a thunderstorm, and the mountain peak by moonlight. Mary Ann Browne writes very accomplished verse for a young woman of fifteen years; her chief influence naturally seems to be her older sister, Felicia Hemans. But compare the very similar Spenserians by Alaric Alexander Watts, "Stanzas, written near the Croix de la Flegere, in the Vale of Chamouni" first published in the Literary Gazette (22 July 1820).

Literary Chronicle: "Miss Browne, if she means to occupy a permanent place in the temple of the muses, must cultivate her judgment as well as indulge her fancy. With such culture, we think it highly probable that time and practice may entitle her to honourable distinction among the poetesses of the age; and there are sufficient symptoms enough of native good sense, and incipient taste, to encourage the hope that critical admonition, kindly intended, may not be thrown away upon her. Even, such as it is, her present volume may be read with considerable pleasure" 9 (11 August 1827) 486.

Literary Magnet: "Had this volume come before us as the production of an experienced writer, we should have considered many parts of it entitled to high praise; but when we take into account the tender age of the author (fifteen years, we believe), we cannot but regard it as the evidence of very exalted poetical talent. It contains poems in every variety of measure, on an infinite variety of subjects; all very much above mediocrity, and some of considerable beauty" NS 4 (1827) 117.

Monthly Review: "There is one circumstance, in particular, that distinguishes Miss Browne from her glittering contemporaries, which deserves particular notice. Her poetry is not mere egotism: she is so far from being the perpetual heroine of her own theme, or dwelling incessantly on her own concerns and feelings, that one could almost wish her to be a little more egotistical than she seems inclined to be. We could like to know a little more of herself than she is in the habit of unveiling. But it should seem, that young as she is, she is more a being of imagination than passion. She steps out of herself with a sort of dramatic tact; and writes almost always in an assumed character" S3 5 (July 1827) 467.

Samuel Austin Allibone: "Mary Anne Browne, 1812-1844, a native of Maidenhead, Berkshire, England, published poetry which did her great credit at the early age of 15. Her first work was Mont Blanc; she afterwards gave to the world, Ada, Repentance, The Coronal, Birthday Gift, Ignatia, a vol. of sacred poetry, and many fugitive pieces in prose and verse. In 1842 she was married to James Gray, a Scotch gentleman, a nephew of Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd. She died at Cork in 1844" Allibone, Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 1:262.



Monarch of mountains! in thy cloudy robe,
Thou sit'st secure upon thy craggy throne,
Seeming to lord it over half the globe,
As if the world beneath were all thine own:—
Encircled with thy pure, thine icy zone,
Thou lift'st towards heaven thy proud majestic breast;
Above this nether world thou stand'st alone,
And seem'st to dare the sun to touch thy vest;
Thou laugh'st and shak'st the storm from thy tremendous crest.

Thy cataract, rushing on with madd'ning force,
Leaps in its sport along thy fertile base:—
No human eye can search its mighty source—
No human thought its origin can trace—
They can but see it rush into the vase
Heaven hath assign'd it in the vale below—
They can but see it foam its desperate race
Amidst the scatter'd avalanche of snow
That thou hast shorn and thrown from thine exalted brow.

The sun is setting, — and his parting beams
Their own pure beauties o'er thy bosom shed,
And light clouds float around thee, like the dreams
That wave their pinions o'er the sleeper's bed;
And round thy form so desolate and dread
A flood of soft and rosy sun-light plays,
And brightness o'er thy snowy breast is spread,
Like memory revelling in past pleasure's blaze,
Or calling back the calm of other happier days.

Faster and faster sinks the setting sun,—
And now he reaches the horizon's verge;
His task is o'er, his daily race is run,
His flaming steeds their course no longer urge;
And now, like the low dash of distant surge,
The evening breezes sing their nightly song,
Solemn and low, as floats a funeral dirge;
The night-wind and its echoes creep along,
And the pines rustle that they walk their way among.

'Tis night, — and all is silent, all is dark—
No light is seen, and not a sound is heard,
Save 'tis a shepherd watchdog's distant bark,
Or the short twitter of some startled bird,
Until, as if by some enchanter stirr'd,
The moon slow rises in her bright array,
As, in obedience to the wizard word,
She came to chase the awful dark away,
And smile the night into a sweeter softer day.

Short is her reign; — for o'er thee broods a storm
That wraps in darkness thy stupendous height;
Its circling clouds are gathering round thy form;
Onward it comes in awful gloomy state,
In its dun bosom bears its fatal freight,
And o'er all nature spreads its pall of black,
And, as it flies, it seems to gather weight,
Till, in the madness of its desperate track,
It seems to seize the moon and hurl her struggling back.

The thunder bursts in one tremendous crash—
The lightning quivering leaps from rock to rock—
Peal answering peal, and flash succeeding flash;
While thousand echoes each new valley mock,
Till nature, rous'd by the electric shock,
Sends forth her groans to swell the dreadful choir;
And now the clouds their prison'd stores unlock,
And pour their torrents forth to quench the fire
That else might melt the earth in its too furious ire.

The storm is nearly o'er — the tempest clears—
The lightnings distant and more distant stream,—
The moon amidst the pris'ning clouds appears,
And looks forth with a trembling troubled beam;
And now the lightnings cease their baleful gleam,
The tempest sinks away to its abyss,
And she once more resumes her silver dream,
And pours upon the earth a shower of bliss,
And nature meets her soft, her reconciling kiss.

Amidst these changes, thou hast stood unchanged;
And haply shalt for many a coming age.
Thou risest o'er the mountains round thee ranged,
As independent; and the tempest's rage
Cannot destroy thee; and thou oft shalt wage
War with the elements while time shall be,—
The wonder of the poet and the sage,—
Till that day come, when heaven and earth shall flee,
And in the general wreck o'erwhelm thee — even thee.

Mountain of mountains! thy stupendous height,
On which the moon-beams now so softly shine,
Must bow before the Lord of power and might,
Must quake if touched by the hand divine;
Wrench'd from thy seat by mightier power than thine,
Hurl'd from thy throne of rocks, then even thou
Must all thy stedfast dignity resign;
And, headlong thrown, e'en thy gigantic brow
Must kiss the earth thou frownest proudly over now.

I turn to leave thee, King of thousand hills!
Lord of the valley that beneath thee lies!
I turn to leave thee and thy frozen rills,
Where the soft gentian opes its wild blue eyes;—
I leave thee, canopied beneath the skies,
And folded in thy robe of ermine snows;
And when thou tak'st again the veil of dyes
The parting glance of day-light o'er thee throws,
I shall be far from thee and all thy tints of rose.

Thy fast-receding summit seems a pile
Of light clouds, resting 'gainst the summer sky,
Brighten'd by the soft moon-beams' gentle smile
That lights around thy fleecy drapery
And on thy diadem, the forests lie,
Seeming but emeralds in thy crystal crown;
While, for a moment hanging awfully
Upon thy crest, as if it stopp'd to frown
Upon the scene beneath, the av'lanche totters down.

My lay is ended, — but my hand still lingers
Upon my harp, however harsh its tone;
And once again must my untutor'd fingers
Sweep o'er the chords I still may call my own.
Oh! be the parting accents o'er thee thrown,
And be thy valley with their echoes filled!
Oh! may they pierce thro' e'en thy snowy zone,
And reach thee, as they leave my heart, unchill'd,
And thro' th' electric chain of linking mountains thrill'd!

May'st thou long lift aloft thy snowy crest
Pure and unruffled, as I leave it now;
May calm long settle on thy peaceful breast,
And sweetest sun-light float around thy brow;
And may the summer sun-set's ruddy glow
Throw its soft influence round thee like a spell;
May thy blue gentians still upon thee blow,
And poets of thy wondrous beauties tell!
Monarch of rocks and hills! for ever fare thee well!

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