Rose Aylmer "What Avails The Sceptered Race"
by Walter Savage Landor

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"What Avails The Sceptered Race"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: This short poem, in the twentieth century probably Landor's best-known work, was first published in his little volume entitled Simonidea. The real-life Rose Aylmer, whose death in 1800 prompted Landor to write the poem, was the daughter of Lord Aylmer. Landor had become a friend of the Aylmer family shortly after he left Oxford University in 1794, when he went to Wales. As a poet he was at least somewhat in debt to Rose Aylmer, as it was she who had introduced him to Clara Reeve's Progress of Romance, from which he admittedly received the suggestion for Gebir (1798), a long, blank-verse narrative poem. Rose Aylmer had been sent, after her mother's second marriage, to live with an aunt, in India, where the girl died. Landor wrote of her:

Ah, what avails the sceptered race,
Ah, what the form divine!
What every virtue, every grace!
Rose Aylmer, all were thine.
Rose Aylmer, whom these wakeful eyes May weep, but never see,
A night of memories and of sighs
I consecrate to thee.