This week our Featured Poem is by British Romantic poet, Anna Seward who reflects on the humble poppy in this sonnet.
Anna Seward was born in Derbyshire, the daughter of a clergyman, one of four children and the only one to survive into adulthood.
In 1750 the family relocated to Lichfield where her father became Canon at the Cathedral. Seward was active in the literary community there, meeting the likes of William Hayley, Erasmus Darwin and Richard Lovell Edgeworth.
Seward lived out her life at Bishop’s Palace, Wells, remaining at home to care for her father after her mother’s death in 1780. Much of her published works followed this time, although her first, The Visions: An Elegy, was published in 1764. Seward was often called ‘the swan of Lichfield’ due to the romantic themes which prevailed in her poetry but she also wrote a biography of Erasmus Darwin, grandfather to Charles Darwin.
She was a prolific literary correspondent during her lifetime and following her death in 1809, three volumes of her letters and poems were published, with an introduction from Sir Walter Scott.
Sonnet: To the Poppy [“While summer roses all their glory yield”]
While summer roses all their glory yield
To crown the votary of love and joy,
Misfortune’s victim hails, with many a sigh,
Thee, scarlet Poppy of the pathless field,
Gaudy, yet wild and lone; no leaf to shield
Thy flaccid vest that, as the gale blows high,
Flaps, and alternate folds around thy head.
So stands in the long grass a love-crazed maid,
Smiling aghast; while stream to every wind
Her garish ribbons, smeared with dust and rain;
But brain-sick visions cheat her totured mind,
And bring false peace. Thus, lulling grief and pain,
Kind dreams oblivious from thy juice proceed,
Thou flimsy, showy, melancholy weed.