1793–1835

Introduction

portrait

Born: Sep­tem­ber 25, 1793, Li­ver­pool, Eng­land.

Died: May 16, 1835, Dub­lin, Ire­land.

Buried: St. Ann’s Church, Daw­son Street, Dub­lin, Ire­land.

portrait

Biography

In 1800, Fe­li­cia’s fa­ther hav­ing suf­fered se­vere bus­i­ness loss­es, the He­mans fa­mi­ly moved to near Ab­er­gele, North Wales.

In 1812, Fe­li­cia mar­ried Cap­tain He­mans, who, on re­tir­ing from the ar­my some­time af­ter, moved to Bronnylfa (near St. Asaph).

Some years later, he left his wife and child­ren and went to It­a­ly, where he died.

In 1828, Fe­li­cia moved to Wa­ver­tree, near Li­ver­pool, and in 1831 to Du­blin.

Publications

The Breaking Waves Dashed High

The breaking waves dashed high,
On a stern and rockbound coast,
And the woods against a stormy sky,
Their giant branches tossed,
And the heavy night hunk dark,
The hills and waters o’er,
When a band of exiles moored their bark
On the wild New England Shore.

Not as the conqueror comes,
They, the true-hearted, came;
Not with the roll of stirring drums,
And the trumpet that sings of fame;
Not as the flying come,
In silence and in fear—
They shook the depths of the desert’s gloom
With their hymns of lofty cheer.

Amidst the storm they sang,
And the stars heard and the sea!
And the sounding aisles of the dim woods
Rang to the anthem of the free!
The ocean eagle soared from his nest
By the white waves’ foam,
And the rocking pines of the forest roared—
This was their welcome home!

There were men with hoary hair
Amidst that pilgrim band—
Why had they come to wither there,
Away from their childhood’s land?
There was woman’s fearless eye,
Lit by her deep love’s truth;
There was manhood’s brow, serenely high,
And the fiery heart of youth.

What sought they thus afar?
Bright jewels of the mine?
The wealth of seas? the spoils of war?
They sought a faith’s pure shrine!
Ay, call it holy ground,
The soil where first they trod;
They left unstained what there they found—
Freedom to worship God.

Felicia Dorothea Browne Hemans, 1828

Sitting at the tea-table one ev­en­ing, near a cen­tu­ry ago, Mrs. He­mans read an old ac­count of the Land­ing of the Pil­grims, and was in­spired to write this po­em, which be­came a fa­vo­rite in Am­er­i­ca—like her­self, and all her oth­er works.

The bal­lad is in­ac­cu­rate in de­tails, but pre­sents the spir­it of the scene with true spir­it in­sight. Mr. James T. Fields, the not­ed Bos­ton pub­lish­er, vis­it­ed the la­dy in her old age, and re­ceived an au­to­graph co­py of the po­em, which is seen in Pil­grim Hall, Ply­mouth, Mass.

Brown, p. 323

The Better Land

I hear thee speak of the better land,
Thou callest its children a happy band;
Mother! oh where is that radiant shore?
Shall we not seek it, and weep no more?
Is it where the flower of the orange blows,
And the fire-flies glance through the myrtle boughs?

Not there, not there, my child!

Is it where the feathery palm-trees rise,
And the date grows ripe under sunny skies?
Or ’midst the green islands of glittering seas,
Where fragrant forests perfume the breeze,
And strange, bright birds, on their starry wings,
Bear the rich hues of all glorious things?

Not there, not there, my child!

Is it far away, in some region old,
Where the rivers wander o’er sands of gold?
Where the burning rays of the ruby shine,
And the diamond lights up the secret mine,
And the pearl gleams forth from the coral strand?
Is it there, sweet mother, that better land?

Not there, not there, my child!

Eye hath not seen it, my gentle boy!
Ear hath not heard its deep songs of joy;
Dreams can not picture a world so fair—
Sorrow and death may not enter there;
Time doth not breathe on its fadeless bloom,
For beyond the clouds, and beyond the tomb,
—It is there, it is there, my child!

Felicia Dorothea Browne Hemans (1793–1835)

Sources

Lyrics