1793-1835
portrait

September 25, 1793, Liverpool, England.

May 16, 1835, Dublin, Ireland.

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

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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. Her works include:

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 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

  1. Answer Me, Burning Stars of Light
  2. Breaking Waves Dashed High, The
  3. Calm on the Bosom of Thy God
  4. Child, Amidst the Flowers at Play
  5. Church of Our Fathers, So Dear to Our Souls, The
  6. Come to Me, Dreams of Heaven
  7. Come to the Land of Peace
  8. Earth! Guard What Here We Lay in Holy Trust
  9. Father! Who in the Olive Shade
  10. Father, Who Art on High
  11. Fear Was Within the Tossing Bark
  12. He Knelt, the Savior Knelt and Prayer
  13. I Hear Thee Speak of the Better Land
  14. Kings of Old Have Shrine and Tomb, The
  15. Leaves Have Their Time to Fall
  16. Lowly and Solemn Be Thy Children’s Cry to Thee
  17. No Cloud Obscures the Summer’s Sky
  18. Now Autumn Strews on Every Plain
  19. O Lovely Voices of the Sky
  20. Praise Ye the Lord! On Every Height
  21. Savior, Now Receive Him
  22. Where Is the Tree the Prophet Threw?