The Legend of Teignmouth

Letitia Elizabeth Landon

Letitia Elizabeth Landon

Today’s poem is a curious post. It is called ‘The Legend of Teignmouth’ and appears to be about Sir Francis Drake (though only mentioned as ‘Sir Francis’). Unless anyone knows any different I think the poet, Letitia Elizabeth Landon, might have got it wrong!

She was an early 19th century poet living in London. I suspect she hadn’t been to the West Country but moved in circles where Teignmouth would have been known and spoken about. So maybe she inadvertently associated Drake with Teignmouth rather than Tavistock where he was born. Who knows? Anyway it is called what is called and therefore, mistaken or not, it deserves a place in this collection.

(Incidentally, Thomas Aggett referred to his poem ‘Parson and the Clerk’ as ‘A legend of Teignmouth’ and, as we saw in the last post, Elias Parish Alvars composed a piece of music also entitled ‘Legend of Teignmouth’).

A Legend of Teignmouth
(Letitia Elizabeth Landon)

A story of the olden time, when hearts
Wore truer faith than now—a carved stone
Is in a little ancient church which stands
‘Mid yonder trees, ’tis now almost defaced;
But careful eye may trace the mould’ring lines,
And kind tradition has preserved the tale;
I tell it nearly in the very words
Which are the common legend.

Some few brief hours, my gallant bark,
And we shall see the shore;
My native, and my beautiful,
That I will leave no more.

And gallantly the white sails swept
On, on before the wind;
The prow dash’d through the foam and left
A sparkling line behind.

The sun look’d out through the blue sky,
A gladsome summer sun;
The white cliffs like his mirrors show
Their native land is won.

And gladly from the tall ship’s side,
Sir Francis hail’d the land,
And gladly in his swiftest boat,
Row’d onward to the strand.

“I see my father’s castle walls
Look down upon the sea;
The red wine will flow there to-night,
And all for love of me.

“I left a gentle maiden there:
For all the tales they say
Of woman’s wrong and faithlessness
To him who is away;

“I’ll wager on her lily hand,
Where’s still a golden ring;
But, lady, ’tis a plainer one
That o’er the seas I bring.”

His bugle sound the turret swept
They meet him in the hall;
But ‘mid dear faces where is hers,
The dearest of them all?

Ah! every brow is dark and sad,
And every voice is low;
His bosom beats not as it beat
A little while ago.

They lead him to a darken’d room.
A heavy pall they raise;
A face looks forth as beautiful
As in its living days.

A ring is yet upon the hand,
Sir Francis, worn for thee.
Alas! that such a clay-cold hand,
Should true love’s welcome be!

He kiss’d that pale and lovely mouth,
He laid her in the grave;
And then again Sir Francis sail’d
Far o’er the ocean wave.

To east and west, to north and south,
That mariner was known;
A wanderer bound to many a shore,
But never to his own.

At length the time appointed came,
He knew that it was come;
With pallid brow and wasted frame,
That mariner sought home.

The worn-out vessel reach’d the shore,
The weary sails sank down;
The seamen clear’d her of the spoils
From many an Indian town.

And then Sir Francis fired the ship;
Yet tears were in his eyes,
When the last blaze of those old planks
Died in the midnight skies.

Next morning, ’twas a Sabbath morn
They sought that church, to pray;
And cold beside his maiden’s tomb
The brave Sir Francis lay.

O, Death! the pitying that restored
The lover to his bride;
Once more the marble was unclosed,
They laid him at her side.

And still the evening sunshine sheds
Its beauty o’er that tomb;
Like heaven’s own hope, to mitigate
Earth’s too unkindly doom.

Want to know more?  Check out:

Letitia Elizabeth Landon


3 thoughts on “The Legend of Teignmouth

  1. Peter Bolton

    A Legend of Teignmouth
    Although Miss Landon never visited the West Country, she was very well informed and it is extremely unlikely she was unaware of Sir Francis Drake’s history. It is probable she made the story up, or took it from another source, because it was her usual practice to provide footnotes with factual details where such existed. The name Francis is no doubt merely generic for this part of the world. Incidentally, this poem illustrates an engraved picture in Fisher’s Drawing Room Scrap Book, 1834, which I would send you if I could make an attachment.

    1. pherecrates1 Post author

      Hi Peter. Thanks for that information about Miss Landon. The mystery is partly solved. If she just made up the story I wonder if she was pointed in the direction of Teignmouth by the piece of music “Legend of teignmouth” by Elias Parrish Alvers who came from Teignmouth around that time. I’d love to see the engraved picture if you can find a way of attaching it.


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