Mary Tighe: Irish Woman Poet

Mary Tighe was born in Dublin in 1772 and died in London in 1810 of tuberculosis. In London she was friendly with Thomas Moore and other literary figures. The long poem in Spenserian stanzas, Psyche, was published in 1805 and a posthumous reprint with additional unpublished poems in 1811. Her work was admired by Keats, among others and she has a good claim to be considered as Ireland’s best Romantic poet. The Lily is one of the shorter poems from the 1811 volume.

The Lily

How wither’d, perish’d, seems the form
Of yon obscure unsightly root!
Yet from the blight of wintry storm
It hides secure the precious fruit.

The careless eye can find no grace,
No beauty in the scaly folds,
Nor see within the dark embrace
What latent loveliness it holds.

Yet in that bulb, those sapless scales
The lily wraps her silver vest,
Till vernal suns and vernal gales
Shall kiss once more her fragrant breast.

Yes, hide beneath the mould’ring heap,
The undelighting slighted thing;
There in the cold earth buried deep,
In silence let it wait the spring.

Oh! many a stormy night shall close
In gloom upon the barren earth,
While still in undisturb’d repose,
Uninjur’d lies the future birth.

And ignorance, with sceptic eye,
Hope’s patient smile shall wond’ring view;
Or mock her fond credulity,
As her soft tears the spot bedew;

Sweet smile of hope, delicious tear,
The sun, the show’r indeed shall come
The promised verdant shoot appear,
And nature bid her blossoms bloom.

And thou, O virgin queen of spring,
Shalt from thy dark and lowly bed,
Bursting thy green sheath’s silken string,
Unveil thy charms, and perfume shed;

Unfold thy robes of purest white,
Unsullied from their darksome grave,
And thy soft petals’ flow’ry light,
In the mild breeze unfett’d wave.

So faith shall seek the lowly dust,
Where humble sorrow loves to lie,
And bid her thus her hopes intrust,
And watch with patient, cheerful eye;

And bear the long, cold, wintry night,
And bear her own degraded doom,
And wait till heav’n’s reviving light,
Eternal spring! shall burst the gloom.

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