She penned numerous noteworthy pieces, some of which are discussed below. Her poems often used simple rhyme schemes and metrical patterns and touched on topics that were close to her heart.
Some poems hint at her opinion on a woman’s role in society, while others are more light-hearted and humorous. At the same time, some of the best are incredibly personal and address losses that Jane Austen experienced in her own life, such as that of her close friend Anne Lefroy. Another is addressed to her niece, while another still was written only days before Austen died (in 1817). It is about Winchester, where she passed away and is now buried.
I’ve a Pain in my Head
‘I’ve a Pain in my Head’ is a short narrative poem in which the speaker describes an interaction between a doctor and patient. The latter is complaining of a headache while the doctor fails to respond to her problem adequately. In the end, the lady, Beckford, comes up with a solution the doctor agrees to. He then decides that he’ll also “have such a potion.”
To the Memory of Mrs. Lefroy who Died Dec:r 16— my Birthday
In ‘To the Memory,’ Austen describes her close friend, Anne Lefroy, who died on Austen’s birthday, the 16th of December. She calls her birthday her “natal day” in the first lines and expresses the mix of emotions that come upon her whenever the day rolls around. Her friend died four years ago, she says, on that very day, and now she has to contend with it every year. The day should be filled with “Life and Light and Hope” regarding Austen’s birth, but now it only brings back “bitter pang of torturing Memory” of Anne’s death.
In ‘When Stretch’d on One’s Bed,’ the poet expresses the importance of not taking one’s health for granted. She describes her experience with a painful, unending headache. Although not debilitating, it’s enough to make her appreciate the times when she feels well. She calls on the readers to take the same steps she has to remember how important one’s wellbeing is in the broader scheme of things.
Jane Austen wrote this piece three days before she published Sense and Sensibility in 1811. It is interesting to consider if these two things, her book, and her headache, had anything to do with one another. Perhaps Austen was preoccupied with the fate of her novel, and her anxiety was making her head hurt.
‘Venta’ was written three days before Jane Austen died. It is a satirical poem that focuses on the people of Winchester, a town in Hampshire, England. Austen herself was buried in Winchester Cathedral after her death. She died in the city in 1817. The word “Venta” is Latin for “Winchester.” It is light-hearted and celebratory, focusing in on Swithun, the town’s saint. She explains how the people of Winchester care more about the “races” than they do about their “Old Saint.”
The poem is perfectly rhymed, playing into the satirical nature of the text and helping to bring the character of Swithun to life as he “made but one Spring from his Shrine to the Roof” and addressed the people of Winchester. He calls them “rebellious” and “depraved,” reminding them that he isn’t, in fact dead, but immortal. In the end, as punishment for their sinful love of the races, he doomed the town to rains in July every year.
My Dearest Frank, I Wish You Joy
‘My Dearest Frank, I Wish You Joy’ is one of the longer poems on this list. In it, Austen address Frank, who she wishes “joy” in regards to the birth of a new child. This is at least the second child that Frank and Mary have had, and ideally an easier birth than Mary Jane. Like most of Austen’s poems, this one maintains a simple AABBCCDD rhyme scheme throughout.
Verses to Rhyme with “Rose”
This poem was included in a letter Jane Austen wrote around 1807. In it, she explores all the things that rhyme with “Rose,” as the title suggests. Throughout, the poet ends each line of the poem with a word that rhymes with “rose.” For example, “clothes,” “hose,” “goes,” and “throws,” which conclude the first four lines. The content describes a laborer, what he wears, his “cabbage rose” on his lapel, his trip to church, his prayers, and how he dozes off during the sermon. It’s clear that the entire narrative was crafted around a desire to use as many rhymes “rose” words as possible.
Mock Panegryric on a Young Friend
The title of this piece is somewhat confusing as it references a “mock panegyric,” r a poem that appears to praise someone but is, in reality, making fun of them. This one was written about Austen’s niece, Anna, and attached to a poem written by Austen’s nephew, J.E. Austen-Leigh, which he included in his memoir about his aunt.
Throughout the text, Austen describes Anna. She starts with her mind which, “is unconfined / Like any vast savannah,” and then moves on to her “fancy,” which is “ample bound,” and her wit, which “descends on foes and friends / like famed Niagra’s fall.” In conclusion, the writer says that it’s actually impossible for her to depict her niece adequately. Her face is impossible to “trace.” An entirely new language must be invented in order to do her justice.
Ode to Pity
‘Ode to Pity’ is a two stanza poem in which the speaker uses nature-related imagery to describe walk in the moonlight. It was written while Austen was still a teenager and cleverly addresses 18th-century meditative odes while actually speaking on an entirely different topic. Jane Austen never mentions pity in the two stanzas, focusing instead on the sights, sounds, and feelings to be found in the evening amongst nature.