Epistle to Augusta

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Epistle to Augusta

My sister!
my sweet sister! if a name
Dearer and
purer were, it should be thine.
Mountains and
seas divide us, but I claim
No tears, but
tenderness to answer mine:
Go where I
will, to me thou art the same
A lov’d regret
which I would not resign.
There yet are
two things in my destiny–
A world to
roam through, and a home with thee.

The first
were nothing–had I still the last,
It were the
haven of my happiness;
But other claims
and other ties thou hast,
And mine is
not the wish to make them less.
A strange doom
is thy father’s son’s, and past
as it lies beyond redress;
Revers’d for
him our grandsire’s fate of yore–
He had no rest
at sea, nor I on shore.

If my inheritance
of storms hath been
In other elements,
and on the rocks
Of perils,
overlook’d or unforeseen,
I have sustain’d
my share of worldly shocks,
The fault was
mine; nor do I seek to screen
My errors with
defensive paradox;
I have been
cunning in mine overthrow,
The careful
pilot of my proper woe.

Mine were
my faults, and mine be their reward.
My whole life
was a contest, since the day
That gave me
being, gave me that which marr’d
The gift–a
fate, or will, that walk’d astray;
And I at times
have found the struggle hard,
And thought
of shaking off my bonds of clay:
But now I fain
would for a time survive,
If but to see
what next can well arrive.

Kingdoms and
empires in my little day
I have outliv’d,
and yet I am not old;
And when I
look on this, the petty spray
Of my own years
of trouble, which have roll’d
Like a wild
bay of breakers, melts away:
know not what–does still uphold
A spirit of
slight patience; not in vain,
Even for its
own sake, do we purchase pain.

Perhaps the
workings of defiance stir
Within me–or
perhaps a cold despair,
Brought on
when ills habitually recur,
Perhaps a kinder
clime, or purer air
(For even to
this may change of soul refer,
And with light
armour we may learn to bear),
Have taught
me a strange quiet, which was not
The chief companion
of a calmer lot.

I feel almost
at times as I have felt
In happy childhood;
trees, and flowers, and brooks,
Which do remember
me of where I dwelt
Ere my young
mind was sacrific’d to books,
Come as of
yore upon me, and can melt
My heart with
recognition of their looks;
And even at
moments I could think I see
Some living
thing to love–but none like thee.

Here are the
Alpine landscapes which create
A fund for
contemplation; to admire
Is a brief
feeling of a trivial date;
But something
worthier do such scenes inspire:
Here to be
lonely is not desolate,
For much I
view which I could most desire,
And, above
all, a lake I can behold
Lovelier, not
dearer, than our own of old.

Oh that thou
wert but with me!–but I grow
The fool of
my own wishes, and forget
The solitude
which I have vaunted so
Has lost its
praise in this but one regret;
There may be
others which I less may show;
I am not of
the plaintive mood, and yet
I feel an ebb
in my philosophy,
And the tide
rising in my alter’d eye.

I did remind
thee of our own dear Lake,
By the old
Hall which may be mine no more.
Leman’s is
fair; but think not I forsake
The sweet remembrance
of a dearer shore:
Sad havoc Time
must with my memory make
Ere that or
thou can fade these eyes before;
Though, like
all things which I have lov’d, they are
Resign’d for
ever, or divided far.

The world
is all before me; I but ask
Of Nature that
with which she will comply–
It is but in
her summer’s sun to bask,
To mingle with
the quiet of her sky,
To see her
gentle face without a mask,
And never gaze
on it with apathy.
She was my
early friend, and now shall be
My sister–till
I look again on thee.

I can reduce
all feelings but this one;
And that I
would not; for at length I see
Such scenes
as those wherein my life begun,
The earliest–even
the only paths for me–
Had I but sooner
learnt the crowd to shun,
I had been
better than I now can be;
The passions
which have torn me would have slept;
I had not suffer’d,
and thou hadst not wept.

With false
Ambition what had I to do?
Little with
Love, and least of all with Fame;
And yet they
came unsought, and with me grew,
And made me
all which they can make–a name,
Yet this was
not the end I did pursue;
Surely I once
beheld a nobler aim.
But all is
over–I am one the more
To baffled
millions which have gone before.

And for the
future, this world’s future may
From me demand
but little of my care;
I have outliv’d
myself by many a day,
Having surviv’d
so many things that were;
My years have
been no slumber, but the prey
Of ceaseless
vigils; for I had the share
Of life which
might have fill’d a century,
Before its
fourth in time had pass’d me by.

And for the
remnant which may be to come
I am content;
and for the past I feel
Not thankless,
for within the crowded sum
Of struggles,
happiness at times would steal,
And for the
present, I would not benumb
My feelings
further. Nor shall I conceal
That with all
this I still can look around,
And worship
Nature with a thought profound.

For thee,
my own sweet sister, in thy heart
I know myself
secure, as thou in mine;
We were and
are–I am, even as thou art–
Beings who
ne’er each other can resign;
It is the same,
together or apart,
From life’s
commencement to its slow decline
We are entwin’d–let
death come slow or fast,
The tie which
bound the first endures the last!

Published 1830.