2024. Robert Southey to Walter Savage Landor, [c. 31 January 1812] 

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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 4: 1810-1815

2024. Robert Southey to Walter Savage Landor, [c. 31 January 1812]⁠* 

4. [1] 

Thus long had Roderick heard her powerful words
In silence, awed before her; but his soul
Was fill’d the while with swelling sympathy,
And now with impulse not to be restrain’d
The feeling overpowerd him. Hear me too,
Auria, & Spain & Heaven! he cried; & thou
Who risest thus above mortality,
Sufferer & Patriot, Saint & Heroine,
The Servant & the Chosen of the Lord,
For surely such thou art, – receive in me
The first fruits of thy calling! – Kneeling then
And placing as he spake his hands in hers,
As thou hast sworn, the Royal Goth pursued,
Even so I swear. My soul hath found at length
Her rest & refuge: in the invaders blood
She must efface her stains of mortal sin,
And in redeeming this fallen land work out
Redemption for herself. Herein I place
My penance for the past, my hope to come,
My faith & my good works, here offer up
All thoughts & passions of mine inmost heart,
My days & nights, this flesh, this blood, this life
Yea this whole being, – I revoke it thus
For Spain! Receive the vow all Saints in Heaven
And prosper its good end.
Clap now your wings,
The Goth with louder utterance as he rose
Exclaimd, – clap now your wings exultingly
Ye ravenous fowl of Heaven; & in your dens
Set up ye Wolves of Spain a yell of joy!
For lo! a Nation hath this day been sworn
To furnish forth your banquet; for a strife
Commenceth which must know no end or rest
Till in this land the last invader bow
Beneath the exterminating sword!
With that,
Said I not rightly, Adosinda cried,
The will which goads me on is not mine own,
Tis from on high, – yea verily, of Heaven!
But who art thou who hast professd with me
My first sworn brother in the appointed rule?
Tell me thy name!
Ask any thing but that!
The fallen King replied. My name was lost
When from the Goths the sceptre past away.
The nation will arise regenerate,
Strong in her second youth, & beautiful,
And like a Spirit which hath shaken off
The clay of dull mortality, shall Spain
Arise in glory; but for my good name
No resurrection is appointed here, –
Let it be blotted out on Earth, – in Heaven
There will be written with it penitence,
And grace & saving faith, & such good deeds
Wrought in atonement as my soul, this day
Hath sworn to offer up.
Then be thy name,
She answered, Maccabee from this day forth,
For this day art thou born again, & like
Those brethren of old times, whose holy names
Live in the memory of all noble hearts
For love & admiration, ever young, –
So for our native country, for our hearths
And altars, for her cradles & her graves,
Hast thou thyself devoted. Let us now
Each to our work: among the neighbouring hills
I to the vassals of my fathers house
Thou to Visonia; tell the Abbot there
What thou hast seen in Auria, & with him
Take counsel who of our old baronage
Is worthiest to lead on the sons of Spain
And wear upon his brow the Spanish crown.
Now brother fare thee well! We part in hope,
And we shall meet again, be sure, in joy

So saying, Adosinda left the King
Alone amid the ruins: There he stood
As when Elisha on the farther bank
Of Jordan, saw that elder prophet mount
The fiery chariot, & the steeds of fire
Trampling the whirlwind, bear him up the sky.
Thus gazing after her did Roderick stand;
And as the immortal Tishbite left behind
His mantle & prophetic power, even so
Had her inspiring presence left infusd
The spirit which she breathd. Gazing he stood
As at a heavenly visitation there
Vouchsafed, in mercy to himself & Spain;
And when the heroic mourner from his sight
Had past away, still reverential awe
Held him suspended there & motionless.
Then turning from the ghastly scene of death,
Up murmuring Lona he began toward
The holy Bierzo his obedient way.
Sils ample stream he crost, where thro the vale
Of Orras from that sacred land he bears
The whole collected waters; northward then
Skirting the heights of Aguiar, he reached
That consecrated pile amid the wild,
Which sainted Fructuoso in his zeal
Reard to St Felix on Visonias banks.

In commune with a Priest whose {of} age mature
Whose thoughtful visage & majestic mien
Bespake authority & weight of care,
Odoar the venerable Abbot sate,
When ushering Roderick in the Porter said
A stranger came from Auria & requird
His private ear. From Auria? said the old man,
Comst thou from Auria brother? I can spare
Thy painful errand then; – we know the worst.

Nay, answerd Roderick, but thou hast not heard
My tale. Where that devoted City lies
In ashes, mid the ruins of the dead
I found a woman whom the Moors had borne
Captive away: but she, by Heaven inspird
And her good heart, with her own hand wrought
Her own deliverance, smiting in his tent
A lustful Moorish miscreant, as of yore
By Judiths holy deed the Assyrian fell;
And that same spirit which had strengthend her
Workd in her still. Four walls with patient toil
She reard, wherein as in a sepulchre
With her own hands she laid her murderd babe,
Her husband & her parents, sid side by side;
And when we covered in this shapeless tomb,
There on the grave of all her family,
Did this courageous mourner dedicate
All thoughts & actions of her future life
To her poor country; for she said, that Heaven
Supporting her, in mercy had vouchsafd
A foretaste of revenge, – that like the grace
Of God revenge had savd her; that in it
Spain must have her salvation, & henceforth
That passion thus sublim’d & sanctified
Must be to all the loyal sons of Spain
The pole star of their faith, their rule & rite
Observances & holiest sacrifice
I took the vow, unworthy as I am,
Her first sworn follower in the appointed rule,
And then we parted: She among the hills
To rouse the vassals of her fathers house,
I at her bidding hitherward, to ask
Thy counsel, who of our old baronage
Shall place upon his brow the Spanish crown.

The Lady Adosinda? – Odoar cried.
Roderick made answer, so she calld herself.

O none but she! exclaimd the good old man,
Clasping his hands, which trembled as he spake
In act of pious passion raisd to heaven,
O none but Adosinda! none but she –
None but that noble heart, which was the heart
Of Auria while it stood, its life & strength,
More than her fathers presence, or the arm
Of her brave Lord, all-valiant as he was.
Hers was the spirit which inspird old age,
Ambitious boy-hood, girls in timid youth,
And virgins in the beauty of their spring,
And youthful mothers, doting like herself
With ever anxious love, – she breathd thro all
That zeal & that devoted faithfulness
Which to the invaders threats & promises
Turn’d a deaf ear alike, which in the head
And flood of prosperous fortune checkd his course
Repelld him from the walls, & when at length
His overpowering numbers forced their way,
Even in that uttermost extremity
Unyielding, still from street to street, from house
To house, from floor to floor, maintaind the fight
Till by their altars falling, in their doors,
And on their household hearths, & by their beds
And cradles & their fathers sepulchres,
This noble army, gloriously revenged,
Embraced their martyrdom. Heroic souls
Well have ye done, & righteously discharged
Your arduous part! your service is performd
Your earthly warfare done! ye have put on
The purple robe of everlasting peace,
Ye have received your crown, ye bear the palm
Before the throne of grace!
With that he paused
Checking the strong emotions of his soul.
Then with a calmer tone addressing him
Who shard his secret thoughts, thou knowest
O Urban, that they have not fallen in vain
For by their virtuous sacrifice, they thinnd
Alcamans thousands, & his broken force
Exhausted by their dear-bought victory
Turn’d back from Auria, leaving us to breathe
Among our mountains yet. We want not here
Good hearts, nor valiant hands. What walls or towers
Or battlements, are like these fastnesses
These rocks & glens & everlasting hills
Give but that Aurian spirit, & the Moors
Will spend their force as idly on these holds
As round the rocky girdle of the land
The wild Cantabrian billows waste their rage.
Give but that spirit? – Heaven hath given it us
If Adosinda thus as from the dead
Be granted to our prayers.
And who art thou
Said Urban, who hast taken on thyself
This rule of warlike faith? thy countenance
And those poor weeds bespeak a life xxx
Devoted to austere observances.

Roderic replied, I am a sinful man,
One who in solitude hath long deplord
A life misspent, but never bound by vows
Till Adosinda taught me where to find
Comfort, & how to work forgiveness out.
When that exalted woman took thy vow
She calld me Maccabee; from this day forth
Be that my earthly name. But tell me now
Whom shall we rouse, & place upon his head
The crown of Spain? Where are the Gothic Chiefs
Sacaru, Theudemir, Athanagild,
All who survivd that days obstinate fight,
When cloggd with bodies Chrysus scarce could force
Its bloody stream along. Witizas sons,
Bad offspring of a stock accurst, I know,
Have put the turban on their recreant heads.
Where are your own Cantabrian Lords? I ween
Eudon & Pedro & Pelayo now
Have ceasd their rivalries. If Pelayo live
His were a noble heart & worthy head
To wield the sceptre & the sword of Spain.

Odoar & Urban eyed him while he spake,
As if they wondered whose the tongue might be,
Familiar thus with chiefs & thoughts of state.
They scannd his countenance, but not one trace
Betrayd the royal Goth, sunk was that eye
Of sovereignty, & on the emaciate cheek
Had penitence & anguish deeply drawn
Their furrows premature, forestalling time,
And shedding upon thirtys brow more snows
Than three score winters in their natural course
Might else have sprinkled there. It seems indeed
That thou hast past thy days in solitude,
Replied the Abbot, or thou wouldst not ask
Of things so long gone by. Athanagild
And Theudemir have taken on their necks
The yoke. Sacaru playd a nobler part.
Long within Merida did he withstand
The invaders hot assault, & when at length
Hopeless of all relief, he yielded up
The gate, disdaining in his fathers land
To breathe the air of bondage, with a few
Found faithful to the last, indignantly
Toward the ocean did he bend his way,
And shaking from his feet the dust of Spain,
Took ship & hoisted sail thro seas unknown
To seek for freedom. Our Cantabrian Chiefs
All have submitted, but the wary Moor
Trusteth not all alike. At his own Court
He holds Pelayo, as suspecting most
That calm & manly spirit. Pedros son
There too he holds as hostage, & secures
His fathers faith. Count Eudon is despisd
And so lives unmolested: when he pays
His heavy tribute, then perhaps a thought
Of sorrow may disturb him; or more like
He meditates how profitable ’twere
To be a Moor, & if apostacy
Were all, & to be unbaptized might serve –
But I waste breath upon a wretch like this,
Pelayo is the only hope of Spain,
Only Pelayo.
If as we believe
Said Urban then, the hand of Heaven is here,
And dreadful tho they be, yet for wise end
Of good, these visitations do its work,
All dimly as our mortal sight may scan
The future, yet methinks my soul descries
How in Pelayo should the purposes
Of Heaven be best accomplishd. All too long
Here in their own inheritance the sons
Of Spain have ground beneath a foreign yoke,
Punic & Roman, Kelt & Greek & Goth;
This later tempest comes to sweep away
All proud distinctions which commingling blood
And times long course had faild to efface; & now
Perchance it is the will of fate to rear
Upon the soil of Spain a Spanish throne,
Restoring in Pelayos mountain line
The sceptre to the Spaniard.
Go thou then
And seek Pelayo at the Conquerors court.
Tell him the mountaineers are unsubdued,
The precious time they needed hath been gaind
By Aurias sacrifice, & all they ask
Is him to guide them on. In Odoars name
And Urbans, tell him that the hour is come.
Then pausing for a moment he pursued,
The rule which thou hast taken on thyself
Toledo ratifies; tis meet for Spain
And as the will divine to be received,
Observed & spread abroad. Come hither thou
Who for thyself hast chosen the good part.
Let me lay hands on thee & consecrate
Thy life unto the Lord.
Me! Roderick cried;
Me sinner that I am! – & while he spake
His withered cheek grew paler, & his limbs
Shook; As thou goest among the infidels
Pursued the Primate, many thou wilt find
Fallen from the faith, by weakness some betrayd,
Some led astray by baser hope of gain,
And haply too by ill example led
Of those in whom they trusted. Yet have these
Their lonely hours, when sorrow, or the touch
Of sickness, or that aweful power divine
Which hath its dwelling in the heart of man,
Life of his soul, his monitor & judge
Move them with silent impulse, but they look
For help, & finding none to succour them
The irrevocable moment passes by.
Therefore my brother, in the name of Christ
Thus I lay hands on thee, that in his name
Thou with his gracious promises mayst raise
The fallen, & comfort those that are in need,
And bring salvation to the penitent.
Now brother go thy way, the peace of God
Be with thee, & his blessing prosper us.

________


Notes

* MS: National Art Library, London, MS Forster 48 G.31 2/8–9
Unpublished.
Dating note: dating from content; this is probably the book Southey noted as having sent to Landor ‘some ten days ago’; see Southey to Walter Savage Landor, 9 February 1812, Letter 2033. BACK

[1] This letter contains a draft of the fourth book of Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013