1827
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ocean: gratefully inscribed to Mr. Linfitt of Burnham Academy.

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

Mary Ann Browne


Fourteen Spenserian stanzas: devotional reflections on the sublimity of ocean waters: "Life is a billow on the sea of time | That, once burst, foams and rises never more:— | Perchance mine soon may melt amid the roar | Of tempests rising on that boundless sea; | Then will my grief and sorrow all give o'er."

Morning Post: "It is said that the Authoress of these Poems is only in her fifteenth year, and that, beyond the necessary instruction in reading and writing, she has received none of the advantages of education; but in a country retirement (Maidstone we understand), by an attentive study of our finest poetical writers, aided by a strong natural taste for the beauties of poetry, she has succeeded in catching the 'heavenly inspiration,' and has produced a work, the abstract merits of which would, under any circumstances, have demanded our unqualified approbation, but which, under those we have mentioned, must be considered most extraordinary. It will hardly be credited, for instance, that a person who has never had an opportunity of looking upon the sea, whether in its calm or ruffled state, should be enabled to describe it in so beautiful and original a strain as the following, especially as the assertion seems to be contradicted by the lines themselves" (18 July 1827).

Gentleman's Magazine: "What the Musae Etonenses, the Carmina Quadragesimalia, &c. are as imitations of Virgil, or the great Roman poets, these beautiful effusions are of Byron and Moore. The following lines are grand, and in pure Byronian style. They are addressed to the Ocean: 'And I have seen thy billows madly foam...'" 97 (November 1827) 426.

John Wilson: "SHEPHERD. There's a fine enthusiastic bit lassie, ca'd Browne — Ada Browne, I think, wha maun get an inveet, if she's no ower young to gang out to sooper; — but Miss Mitford, or Mrs. Mary Howitt, will ablins bring the bit timid cretur under their wing — and as for mysell, I shall be as kind till her as if she were my ain dochter" Blackwood's Magazine (December 1829) in Noctes Ambrosianae (1857) 3:416.

W. Davenport Adams: Mary Anne Browne, American poetess [sic] (b. 1812, d. 1844), wrote poetry at the early age of fifteen, and published, among other works, Mont Blanc, The Coronal, The Birthday Gift, and Ignatia. 'Though her poetry never reaches the height she evidently sought to attain, it is excellent for its pure taste and just sentiment, while a few instances of bold imagination show vividly,' says Mrs. Hale, in her Records of Women, 'the ardour of a fancy which prudence and delicacy always controlled'" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 100.



Oh! how I love to stand on some high rock,
And gaze upon the foaming wild abyss
Of Ocean — all unshaken by the shock
Of billows beating 'gainst the precipice!—
To gaze upon the whirl, and hear the hiss
Of thousand surges bursting at its base!—
To me there is a horrid charm in this—
A charm to see the white foam run its race,
And, as one wave dissolves, another take its place.

Unbounded Ocean! many a ship o'er thee
Hath swept, — and many another still shall sweep:
Yet of their track no traces can we see;
Still wildly o'er thy breast the billows leap—
Still over thee, unfathomable deep!
The surges lift their foaming crests in scorn—
Still over thee, the winds their revels keep;
And, as the gallant bark along is borne,
Thou closest o'er its way untrodden and untorn.

I oft have seen thee when the deep red West
Was mirror'd in thee, — and a glossy lake,
Calm and unruffled, seem'd thy peaceful breast,
And not an angry billow was awake,—
When not a breath of air was felt to shake
Thy quiet surface, — and the view on shore
Seem'd of thy gentle beauty to partake,—
While the serene blue sky smiled sweetly o'er,
And the whole scene around a heavenly aspect wore.

And I have gazed upon thee when thy waves
Rose up tumultously, to try their might
With winds and storms, — when billows left their caves
To swell the noises of that dreadful fight;—
E'en 'midst the horrors of a stormy night,
When surges roar'd, and the winds wildly blew,
I have gazed on thee with a stern delight,
And felt as if a part of thee, — and drew
More pleasure from thee as the tempest louder grew.

And I have seen thy billows madly foam,
And chase upon thy breast in hideous throng,
As if they left for ever their deep home,
Thy sunken rocks and hidden caves among;
While, as the wind wax'd stronger and more strong,
The roaring surges, like wild horses, rose
To whirl the chariot of the storm along,—
To deal around them shipwreck, death, and woes,
And rise to Heaven itself, as if its deadliest foes.

By Man the earthly wild may be reclaim'd:
Unmeasur'd Ocean! who can rule o'er thee?
Thy waves still roll — untameable — untam'd:
None can control thee; — thou art wild and free:
No earthly power can calm thee; — thou must be
Kept in subjection but by One alone:—
HE, who once calm'd the raging of the sea,
And still to thee, proud Ocean! will be known;—
HE holds thee in His hand, — thy might is all His own.

Thou hast thy creatures too, — a populous world
Of uncouth beings — monsters of the Deep,
That are born there and die: thy billows curl'd,
Mount over caverns where the white pearls sleep;
And, hid within thy depths, the sea-weeds creep,
And grow beneath the surf that wildly raves,
Unmindful of the storms that o'er them leap,
And the rude winds that lash the dreadful waves,
Until, like beaten bounds, they howling seek thy caves.

Above thee glides the happy mariner,—
All health and life; — beneath thee is his tomb:
He rides upon thy waters' angry stir,
And little thinks of what shall be his doom:—
He knows not of the dreadful death to come;
Nor thinks, perchance, the next returning wave
Shall sweep him from the deck and bear him home
To the recesses of some coral cave,
That serves at once for winding-sheet, and hearse, and grave.

GOD is in every thing; — HIS voice is heard
In the light murmur of the water-fall—
In the gay music of each singing bird,
That tells there is a Providence o'er all;
But most from thee, oh Ocean! does HE call,
And in thy wonders admiration claim;—
And where 'twixt nations stands thy liquid wall,
HE builds the lasting altar of his fame,
And writes on thee in waves His Everlasting Name.

Farewell, vast Ocean! — beautiful art thou
In calm and tempest: — now Calm reigns o'er thee:
Serene and quiet is thy glossy brow,
Thou glorious mirror of the Deity!
And how sublimely grand art thou, when HE,
In foaming characters, upon thy face
Writes His almighty anger! Thou, proud Sea!
Art the wide page — the chosen tablet-place—
On which HE chooses His tremendous wrath to trace.

Oh Ocean! it is o'er thy trackless way,
HE shews himself most mighty: — there HE wields
The sceptre that the winds and waves obey:—
HE rides in storms above thy watry fields.
Thou seemest most His own; — to Man HE yields
Part of the rule o'er earth, — but over thee
HE shows His anger, — and His mercy shields
The seaman over many a stormy sea,
And there sweeps many a one into Eternity.

Farewell, vast Ocean! — thou hast borne me home:—
Now, not a wave disturbs thy quiet breast;
But o'er that breast I never more shall roam,
For now my weary wanderings shall find rest;
I go to meet the beings I love best—
Beings from whom I've long been torn apart.
Yes; — I again shall see them and be blest;
And they shall heal the wounds of this worn heart:
I ne'er shall tempt thee more — tho' beautiful thou art.

Farewell! — perchance full many a year will pass,
Before I shall look on thy face again:—
Say, wilt thou be the clear pellucid glass
That now I leave thee? — wilt thou be so then?—
Or wilt thou, in thine anger and disdain,
Throw thy white foam upon this very spot,—
While o'er thee tempests shall assert their reign?
Thou art all silent — and thou answerest not.
Farewell, wide Sea! — this eve will long be unforgot.

I am not young; — my life has pass'd its prime.
Perhaps I ne'er again shall tread this shore.
Life is a billow on the sea of time
That, once burst, foams and rises never more:—
Perchance mine soon may melt amid the roar
Of tempests rising on that boundless sea;
Then will my grief and sorrow all give o'er;—
Then shall Life's joy or misery cease to be,
And I shall be resolv'd in vast Eternity.

[pp. 69-76]