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

2388. Robert Southey to Walter Savage Landor, 9 March 1814 ⁠* 

13. [1] 

That aweful silence still endured, when one
Who to the northern entrance of the vale
Had turned his casual eye, exclaimd, the Moors!
For from the forest verge a troop were seen
Hastening toward Pedro’s hall. Their forward speed
Was checkd when they beheld his banner spread,
And saw his ordered spears in prompt array
Marshalld to meet their coming. But the pride
Of power & insolence of long command
Pricked on their chief presumptuous. We are come
Late for prevention, cried the haughty Moor
But never time more fit for punishment!
These unbelieving slaves must feel & know
Their masters arm! – on faithful Musselmen
On – on, & hew down the rebellious dogs.
Then as he spurrd his steed Allah is great
Mohammed is his prophet, he exclaimd
And led the charge.
Count Pedro met the Chief
In full career: he bore him from his horse
A full spears length upon the lance transfixd,
Then leaving in his breast the mortal shaft
Past on, & breaking thro the turbaned files
Opened a path. Pelayo who that day
Fought in the ranks afoot, for other war
Yet unequipped, pursued & smote the foe;
But ever on Alphonso at his side
Retained a watchful eye, The gallant boy
Gave his gold sword that hour its earliest taste
Of Moorish blood, – that sword whose hungry edge
Thro the fair course of all his perilous life
From that auspicious day, was fed so well
Cheap was the victory now for Spain atchieved;
For the first fervour of their zeal inspired
The mountaineers, – the presence of their chiefs,
The sight of all dear objects, all dear ties.
The air they breathd, the soil wherein they trod,
Duty, devotion, faith & hope & joy.
And little had the misbelievers ween d
In such impetuous onset to receive
A greeting deadly as their own intent;
Victims they thought to find, not men prepard
And eager for the fight; their confidence
Therefore gave way to wonder, & dismay
Effected what astonishment began.
Scattered before the impetuous mountaineers
Buckler & spear & scymitar they dropt
As in precipitate rout they fled before
The Asturian sword. The vales & hills & rocks
Received their blood, & where they fell the wolves
At evening found them.
From the fight apart
Two Africans had stood who held in charge
Count Eudon. When they saw their countrymen
Falter, give way & fly before the foe,
One turn d toward him with malignant rage,
And saying, Infidel thou shalt not live
To join their triumph, aim d against his neck
The moony falchions point. His comrade rais’d
A hasty hand, & turn d its edge aside,
Yet so that oer the shoulder glancing down
It scarrd him as it past. The murderous Moor
Not tarrying to secure his vengeance fled,
While he of milder mood at Eudons feet
Fell & embraced his knees. The conqueror
Who found them thus withheld at Eudons voice
His wrathful hand, & led them to his Lord

Count Pedro & Alphonso & the Prince
Stood on a little rocky eminence
Which overlooked the vale. Pedro had put
His helmet off, & with sonorous horn
Blew the recall, – for well he knew what thoughts
Calm as the Prince appeard & undisturbed;
Lay underneath his silent fortitude,
And that at this eventful juncture speed
Imported more than vengeance. Thrice he sent
The long-resounding signal forth, which rung
From hill to hill, reechoing far & wide.
Slow & unwillingly his men obeyed,
The swelling horns reiterated call,
Repining that a single foe escaped
The retribution of that righteous hour.
With lingering step reluctant from the chase
They turn d, – their veins full swoln, their sinews strung
For battle still, their hearts unsatisfied;
Their swords were dripping still with Moorish gore,
And where they wiped their reeking brows, the stain
Of Moorish blood was left. But when they came
Where Pedro with Alphonso at his side
Stood to behold their coming, then they prest
All emulous with gratulation round,
Extolling for his deeds that day display d
The noble boy. Oh when had Heaven, they said
With such especial favour manifest
Illustrated a first essay in arms!
They blest the father from whose loins he sprung
The mother at whose happy breast he fed;
And prayed that their young heros fields might be
Many, & all like this.
Thus they indulged
The honest heart, exuberant of love,
When that loquacious joy at once was checkd
For Eudon & the Moor were led before
Count Pedro. Both came fearfully & pale,
But with a different fear; the African
Felt at this crisis of his destiny
Such apprehension as without reproach
Might blanch a soldiers cheek, when life & death
Hang on anothers will, & helplessly
He must abide the issue. But the thoughts
Which quaild Count Eudons heart & made his limbs
Quiver, were of his own unworthiness,
Old enmity, & that he stood in power
Of hated & hereditary foes.
I came not with them willingly, – he cried,
Addressing Pedro & the Prince at once,
Rolling from each to each his restless eyes
Aghast, – the Moor can tell I had no choice,
They forced me from my Castle; – in the fight
They would have slain me, – see I bleed – the Moor
Can witness that a Moorish scymitar
Inflicted this; – he saved me from worse hurt, –
I did come in arms, – he knows it all, –
Speak man, & let the truth be known to clear
My innocence.
Thus as he ceased with fear
And rapid utterance panting open mouthd,
Count Pedro half represt a mournful smile
Wherein compassion seemed to mitigate
His deep contempt. Methinks, said he, the Moor
Might with more reason look himself to find
An intercessor, than be called upon
To play the pleaders part. Didst thou then save
The Baron from thy comrades?
Let my Lord
Shew mercy to me, said the Musselman
As I am free from falsehood. We were left,
I & another, holding him in charge; –
My fellow would have slain him when he saw
How the fight fard, – I turn’d the scymitar
Aside, & trust that life will be the meed
For life by me preserved.
Nor shall thy trust
Rejoind the Count, be vain. Say farther now
From whence ye came, – your orders what, – what force
In Gegio, & if others like yourselves
Are in the field.
The African replied,
We came from Gegio, ordered to secure
This Baron on the way, & seek thee here
To bear thee hence in bonds. A messenger
From Cordoba, whose speed denoted well
He came with urgent tidings, was the cause
Of this our sudden movement. We went forth
Three hundred men; an equal force was sent
To Cangas, on like errand as I ween:
Four hundred in the city then were left.
If other force be moving from the south
I know not, – save that all appearances
Denote alarm & vigilance.
The Prince
Fix’d upon Eudon then his eye severe.
Baron, he said, the die of war is cast.
What part art thou prepared to take – against
Or with the oppressor?
Not against my friends,
Not against you, the irresolute wretch replied
Hasty, yet faltering in his fearful speech
But have ye weighed it well? – it is not yet
Too late, – their numbers, – their victorious force
Which hath already trodden in the dust
The Sceptre of the Goths: – the throne destroyed
Our towns subdued, – our country over-run
The people to the yoke of their new Lords
Resignd in peace. – Can I not mediate
Were it not better thro my agency
To gain such terms, – such honourable terms

Terms! cried Pelayo, cutting short at once
That dastard speech, & checking ere it grew
Too powerful for restraint the incipient rage
Which in indignant murmurs breathing round
Rose like a gathering storm; – learn thou what terms
Asturias this day speaking by my voice
Doth constitute to be the law between
Thee & thy country! Our portentous age
As with an earthquakes desolating force
Hath loosened & disjointed the whole frame
Of social order, & she calls not now
For service with the voice of sovereign will
That which was common duty in old times
Becomes an arduous glorious virtue now,
And every one as between Hell & Heaven
In free election, must be left to chuse
Asturias asks not of thee to partake
The cup which we have pledged; she claims from none
The dauntless fortitude, the mind resolved
Which only God cangive; – therefore such peace
As thou canst find where all around is war
She leaves thee to enjoy. But think not Count
That because thou art weak one valiant arm,
One generous spirit must be lost to Spain!
The vassal owes no service to the Lord
Who to his country doth acknowledge none.
The summons which thou hast not heart to give
I & Count Pedro over thy domains
Will send abroad; the vassals who were thine
Will fight beneath our banners, & our wants
Shall from thy lands, as from a patrimony
Which hath reverted to the common stock
Be fed. – Such tribute too as to the Moors
Thou renderest we will take; it is the price
Which in this land for weakness must be paid
While evil stars prevail. And mark me Chief!
Fear is a treacherous counsellor. I know
Thou thinkest that beneath his horses hoofs
The Moor will trample our poor numbers down.
But join not in contempt of us & Heaven
His multitudes! for if thou shouldst be found
Against this country, on the nearest tree
Thy recreant bones shall rattle in the wind
When the crows have left them bare!
The Baron stood
Trembling with mingled feelings: every joint
Was loosened; every fibre of his flesh
Thrilld, & from every pore effused cold sweat
Clung on his quivering limbs: shame forced it forth
Envy & inward consciousness, & fear,
Predominant, which stifled in his heart
Hatred & rage. Before his livid lips
Could shape to utterance their essayed reply
Compassionately Pedro interposed.
Go Baron, to the Castle, said the Count
There let thy wounds be lookd to, & consult
Thy better mind at leisure. Let this Moor
Attend upon thee there, & when thou wilt
Follow thy fortune. – To Pelayo then
He turn’d, & saying, all too long O Prince
Hath this unlookd for conflict held thee here, –
He bade his gallant men begin to march.

Flushd with success, & in auspicious hour
The mountaineers set forth. Blessings & prayers
Pursued them at their parting, & the tears
Which fell, were tears of fervour, not of grief.
The Sun was verging to the western slope
Of Heaven, – but they till midnight travelled on;
Renewing then at early dawn their way
They hold their unremitting course from morn
Till latest eve, such urgent cause impelld;
And night had closed around, when to the vale
Where Sella in her ampler bed receives
Pionia’s stream they came. Massive & black
Pelayo’s castle there was seen, its lines
And battlements against the deep blue sky
Distinct in solid darkness visible.
No light is in the tower. Eager to know
The worst & with that fatal certainty
To terminate intolerable dread
He spurrd his courser forward. – All his fears
Too surely are fulfilld, for open stand
The doors, & mournfully at times a dog
Fills with his howling the deserted hall
A moment overcome with wretchedness
Silent Pelayo stood; recovering then,
Lord God, resigned he cried, thy will be done!

____

Keswick. March 9. 1814

The Letters of Calvus [2]  will probably arrive in my next booksellers parcel, – Did you see my ode in the Courier beginning Who calls for peace at this momentous hour, it grew out of the castrations of the Carmen Triumphale, wherein I xxx could not say all I wished & wanted to say, – because a sort of official character attached to it. [3]  For five years I have been preaching the policy, the duty, the necessity of put declaring Buonaparte under the Ban of Human Nature, – & if this had been done in 1808, when the Bayonne iniquity [4]  was fresh in the feelings of the public, I believe that the Emperor xxxx of Austria, wretch as he is, could never have given him his daughter in marriage; [5]  – be that as it may Spain & Portugal would have joined us in the declaration, the terms of our alliance would have been never to make peace with him, & France knowing this would ere then have delivered herself from him. My present hope is, that he will require terms of peace to which the allies will not consent, – a little success is likely enough to inflate him, – for the wretch is equally incapable of bearing prosperous or adverse fortune. As for the Bourbons I do not wish to see them restored, – unless there was no other means of effecting his overthrow. Restorations are bad things, when the expulsion has taken place from internal causes, & not by foreign force. They have been a detestable race, & the adversity which they have undergone is not of that kind which renovates the intellect or calls xx into life the virtues which royalty has stiffled. I used to think that the Revolution would not have done its work till the houses of Austria & Bourbon were both destroyed, a consummation the history of both houses has taught me devoutly to wish for. Did I ever tell you Hofer [6]  got himself arrested under a false t name & thrown into prison at Vienna, & that he was actually turned out of the asylum by the Austrian Government. If any member of that Government escapes the halter sword or the halter there will be a lack of justice in this world, which will require some expence of brimstone in the next to balance the account. The fact is one of the most damnable in human history, – but a fact it is, tho it has not got abroad. Adair [7]  told it me.

I shall rejoice to see your Idyllia. [8]  The printer is treading close on my heels, & keeping me close to work with this poem. [9]  – I shall probably send you two sections more in a few days

RS.


Notes

* Address: To/ Walter Savage Landor Esqre/ Swansea./ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: National Art Library, London, MS Forster 48 G.31 2/22–23
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 60–61 [in part]. BACK

[1] What follows is a draft of the thirteenth book of Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

[2] Letters Addressed to Lord Liverpool: And the Parliament on the Preliminaries of Peace (1814), published under the pseudonym ‘Calvus’. Landor’s pamphlet demanded that Napoleon be deprived of all his power, preferably his life, and that France at least be stripped of all territory acquired since the French Revolution. The Letters were modelled on Junius’s. Landor had originally sent 3 of the letters to the Courier. He then prepared them for separate publication, adding a fourth letter. The Courier eventually published part of this fourth letter on 12 January 1814. BACK

[3] Southey’s first official poem as Poet Laureate was extremely controversial and much altered prior to publication. In particular, five stanzas were considered by Croker and Rickman to be inflammatory. Southey bowed to pressure and deleted them from the version published as Carmen Triumphale in a quarto of 30 pages on 1 January 1814. He incorporated the deleted stanzas into an ‘Ode Written During the Negotiations with Bonaparte’ (‘Who counsels peace’), published in the Courier, 3 February 1814. BACK

[4] In April-May 1808 Napoleon summoned both Charles IV (1748–1819; King of Spain 1788–1808), who had just abdicated as King of Spain, and his son Ferdinand VII (1784–1833; King of Spain 1808, 1813–1833), to Bayonne, allegedly to mediate between them. In fact he persuaded Ferdinand to abdicate in favour of his father and Charles to abdicate in favour of Napoleon’s elder brother, who thus became Joseph I (1768–1844; King of Spain 1808–1813). BACK

[5] Francis I (1768–1835; Holy Roman Emperor 1792–1806; Emperor of Austria 1804–1835), whose daughter Marie-Louise (1791–1847) became Napoleon’s second wife on 11 March 1810. BACK

[6] The Tyrolean patriot Andreas Hofer (1767–1810), executed for his leadership of a failed rebellion against France’s ally, Bavaria. BACK

[7] The politician and diplomat Sir Robert Adair (1763–1855; DNB), who had been posted to Vienna from 1806–1809. BACK

[8] Landor had announced his intention to print his Latin poems privately, under the title Idyllia Heroun atque Herodium. BACK

[9] Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814). BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013