I had never heard of Sarah Williams when I came across this lovely poem called Youth & Maidenhood. I haven’t been able to find a picture of her (this picture is from here). I found out a little about her short life from The Feminist Companion to Literature in English by Blain, Clements & Grundy, one of my favourite reference books. Known as Sadie, Sarah was the daughter of a wealthy family who studied at Queen’s College, London. She used the proceeds of her writing to help the poor. She died following an operation at the age of 27 & her poetry was published posthumously in a collection called Twilight Hours. I think it encapsulates that Victorian melancholy abvout love when death was never far away & maybe love was all the sweeter for that contrast.
Like a drop of water is my heart
Laid upon her soft and rosy palm,
Turned whichever way her hand doth turn,
Trembling in an ecstasy of calm.
Like a broken rose-leaf is my heart,
Held within her close and burning clasp,
Breathing only dying sweetness out,
Withering beneath the fatal grasp.
Like a vapoury cloudlet is my heart,
Growing into beauty near the sun,
Gaining rainbow hues in her embrace,
Melting into tears when it is done.
Like mine own dear harp is this my heart,
Dumb without the hand that sweeps its strings;
Though the hand be careless or be cruel,
When it comes my heart breaks forth and sings.