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The Devil's Walk, Edited by Neil Fraistat and Donald H. Reiman


by Southey and Coleridge

This on-line version of "The Devil's Thoughts" by Robert Southey and Samuel Taylor Coleridge was prepared as part of The Devil's Walk: A Hypertext Edition, edited by Donald H. Reiman and Neil Fraistat. "The Devil's Thoughts" was first published in The Morning Post and Gazetteer, 6 Sept 1799; this version, revised by Coleridge, is taken from The Poetical Works of Coleridge, Shelley, and Keats. Complete in One Volume (Paris, A. and W. Galignani, 1829, pages 214-215). In our hypertext, we also include Southey's 1827 version, entitled "The Devil's Walk."


FROM his brimstone bed at break of day
A walking the DEVIL is gone,
To visit his little snug little farm of the earth,
And see how his stock went on.
Over the hill and over the dale,
And he went over the plain,
And backward and forward he swish'd his long tail
As a gentleman swishes his cane.
And how then was the Devil drest?
Oh! he was in his Sunday's best:
His jacket was red and his breeches were blue,
And there was a hole where the tail came through .
He saw a LAWYER killing a Viper
On a dung-heap beside his stable,
And the Devil smiled, for it put him to mind
Of Cain and his brother, Abel.
A POTHECARY on a white horse
  Rode by on his vocations;
And the Devil thought of his old Friend
  DEATH in the Revelations.
He saw a cottage with a double coach-house,
  A cottage of gentility!
And the Devil did grin, for his darling sin
  Is pride that apes humility.
He went into a rich booksller's shop,
  Quoth he! we are both of one college;
For I myself sate like a cormorant once
  Fast by the tree of knowledge.[1]
Down the river there plied with wind and tide,
  A pig with vast celerity;
And the Devil look'd wise as he saw how the while,
It cut its own throat. There! quoth he with a smile,
   "Goes England's commercial prosperity."
As he went through Cold-Bath Fields he saw
  A solitary cell,
And the Devil was pleased, for it gave him a hint
  For improving his prisons in Hell.
     * * * * * * *        
General ___ burning face
  He saw with consternation,
And back to hell his way did he take,
For the Devil thought by a slight mistake
  It was general conflagration.
  [1]And all amid them stood the TREE OF LIFE
High eminent, blooming ambrosial fruit
Of vegetable gold (query paper money:) and next to Life
Our  Death, the TREE OF KNOWLEDGE, grew fast by,- -
     * * * * * *        
     * * * * * *        
So clomb this first grand thief - - -
Thence up he flew, and on the tree of life
Sat like a cormorant.       PAR. LOST. IV

  The allegory here is so apt, that in a catalogue of various  readings obtained from collating the MSS. one might expect to find it noted, that for "LIFE" cod. quid habent, "TRADE." Though indeed THE TRADE, i.e. the bibliopolic, so called [series of Greek letters], may be regarded as LIFE sensu eminentiori; a suggestion, which I owe to a young retailer in the hoisery line, who on hearing a description of the net profits, dinner parties, country houses, etc. of the trade, exclaimed, "Ay! that's what I call LIFE now!" - - This "Life, our Death," is thus happily contrasted with the fruits of Authorship. - - Sic nos non mellifacmus Apes.

  Of this poem, which with the Fire, Famine, and Slaughter, first appeared in the Morning Post, the three first stanzas, which are worth all the rest, and the ninth, were dictated by Mr. Southey. Between the ninth and the concluding stanza, two or three are omitted as grounded on subjects that have lost their interest - - and for better reasons. See Apologetic Preface, vol. i.

  If any one should ask who General ___ meant, the Author begs leave to inform him, that he did once see a red-faced person in a dream whom by the dress he took for a General; but he might have been mistaken, and most certainly he did not hear any names mentioned. In simple verity, the Author never meant any one, or indeed any thing but to put a concluding stanza to his doggerel.

1799 Version: "The Devil's Thoughts"

Published @ RC

September 1997