I’m afraid I have no other excuse for choosing this week’s poem other than that I love the title. It’s so completely Gothic & wacky. As Charlotte Smith was a novelist as well as a poet & said to be an influence on the Gothic novels of Ann Radcliffe, it’s probably not so odd after all. The title of the poem is almost as long as the sonnet itself – On Being Cautioned against Walking on an Headland Overlooking the Sea, because It Was Frequented by a Lunatic is one of Smith’s Elegiac Sonnets, published in 1797.
Is there a solitary wretch who hies
To the tall cliff, with starting pace or flow,
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-utter’d lamentation, lies
Murmuring responses to the dashing surf?
In moody sadness, on the giddy brink,
I see him m ore 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.