Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday Poetry - Sarah Williams

I had never heard of Sarah Williams when I came across this lovely poem called Youth & Maidenhood. I haven't been able to find a picture of her (this picture is from here). I found out a little about her short life from The Feminist Companion to Literature in English by Blain, Clements & Grundy, one of my favourite reference books. Known as Sadie, Sarah was the daughter of a wealthy family who studied at Queen's College, London. She used the proceeds of her writing to help the poor. She died following an operation at the age of 27 & her poetry was published posthumously in a collection called Twilight Hours. I think it encapsulates that Victorian melancholy abvout love when death was never far away & maybe love was all the sweeter for that contrast.

Like a drop of water is my heart
Laid upon her soft and rosy palm,
Turned whichever way her hand doth turn,
Trembling in an ecstasy of calm.

Like a broken rose-leaf is my heart,
Held within her close and burning clasp,
Breathing only dying sweetness out,
Withering beneath the fatal grasp.

Like a vapoury cloudlet is my heart,
Growing into beauty near the sun,
Gaining rainbow hues in her embrace,
Melting into tears when it is done.

Like mine own dear harp is this my heart,
Dumb without the hand that sweeps its strings;
Though the hand be careless or be cruel,
When it comes my heart breaks forth and sings.


  1. What a beautiful peoem. How heartbreaking to think she died so young, yet it makes her poetry all the more poignant. Thank you for sharing this gem. Becks x

    1. Thank you Rebecca, it is lovely, isn't it?

  2. The poem is poignant and beautiful I agree. I have been trying for years to find out more about this beautiful young British poet who died so early in her life (cancer I think). She is most famous for her poem "The Old Astronomer to his Pupil". Two lines from this poem appear on many astronomy websites "Though my soul be set in darkness it shall rise in perfect light/ I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night." I also read another great poem by Sarah which I think was titled "What of the Deep". I would love to read that poem again , but can't seem to find it anywhere. Do you know of such a poem?


    1. Ron, I don't know the poem but her collection, Twilight Hours, is available as a free e-book from Google Books,
      I tried searching for deep but although there were several references, none seemed to be the title of a poem. I believe Twilight Hours was her collected verse, published after her death so you may find it there.

  3. Thanks Lyn
    I have been searching off and on for that poem for a few years now. The reason I hadn't found it was that I had the wrong title. The proper title is called Deep Sea Soundings. I will copy it in below for your reading pleasure


    by Sarah Williams (1841 1868)

    Mariner, what of the deep?
    This of the deep:
    Twilight is there, and solemn, changeless calm;
    Beauty is there, and tender healing balm-
    Balm with no root in earth, or air, or sea,
    Poised by the finger of God, it floateth free;
    And, as it threads the waves, the sound doth rise-
    Hither shall come no further sacrifice;
    Never again the anguished clutch at life
    He who hath suffered all, need fear no more,
    Quiet his portion now, for evermore.

    Mariner, what of the deep?
    This of the deep:
    Solitude dwells not there, though silence reign;
    Mighty the brotherhood of loss and pain;
    There is communion past the need of speech,
    There is a love no words of love can reach;
    Heavy the waves that superincumbent press,
    But as we labour here with constant stress,
    Hand doth hold out to hand not help alone,
    But the deep bliss of being fully known.
    There are no kindred like the kin of sorrow,
    There is no hope like theirs who fear no morrow.

    Mariner, what of the deep?
    This of the deep:
    Though we have travelled past the line of day,
    Glory of night doth light us on our way,
    Radiance that comes we know not how nor whence,
    Rainbows without the rain, past duller sense,
    Music of hidden reefs and waves long past,
    Thunderous organ tones from far-off blast,
    Harmony, victrix, throned in state sublime,
    Couched on the wrecks be-gemmed with pearls of time;
    Never a wreck but brings some beauty here;
    Down where the waves are stilled the sea shines clear;
    Deeper than life the plan of life doth lie,
    He who knows all, fears naught. Great Death shall die.

    1. What a beautiful poem, Ron. Thanks for giving me the chance to read it. It reminds me of Death, Where is Thy Sting? Sarah Williams certainly had talent, what a shame she died so very young.

    2. Though my soul may set in darkness it will rise in perfect light, I have loved the stars too foundly to be fearful of the night.