Charlotte Smith

Today’s poem is a rather humorously-titled sonnet by Charlotte Smith,

On Being Cautioned against Walking on an Headland Overlooking the Sea, Because It Was Frequented by a Lunatic

Is there a solitary wretch who hies

To the tall cliff, with starting pace or slow,

And, measuring, views with wild and hollow eyes

Its distance from the waves that chide below;

Who, as the sea-born gale with frequent sighs

Chills his cold bed upon the mountain turf,

With hoarse, half-uttered lamentation, lies

Murmuring responses to the dashing surf?

In moody sadness, on the giddy brink,

I see him more with envy than with fear;

He has no nice felicities that shrink

From giant horrors; wildly wandering here,

He seems (uncursed with reason) not to know

The depth or the duration of his woe.

First off, Smith favored poetry closer to the Spenserian sonnet, which follows a different rhyme scheme than most of us, having read endless Shakespeare, are used to:

a b a b

b c b c

c d c d

e e

Smith’s poem varies a little, going,

a b a b

a c a c

d e d e

b b

Moving onto the poem, we can see a speaker who is less concerned about the lunatic frequenting the headland, but is wishing for a life more like his. It’s out in the open in line 10:

I see him more with envy than with fear;

The lunatic, because of his madness, does not understand his misfortune and nor does he much care. Nor is he afraid of “giant horrors,” in life or by the sea that she fears.

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