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

2395. Robert Southey to Walter Savage Landor, [22 March 1814]⁠* 

15. [1] 

How calmly gliding thro the dark-blue sky
The midnight Moon ascends! her placid beams
Thro thinly scattered leaves & boughs grotesque,
With mazy shadowing spot the orchard slope;
Here oer the chesnuts fretted foliage grey
And massy, motionless they spread; here shine
Upon the crags, deepening with blackening shade
Their chasms; & there the glittering argentry
Ripples & glances on the confluent streams
A lovelier purer light than that of day
Rests on the hills; & oh how awefully
Into that deep & tranquil firmament
The summits of Auseva rise serene!
The watchman on the battlements partakes
The stillness of the solemn hour: he feels
The silence of the earth; the endless sound
Of flowing water soothes him; & the stars
Which in that brightest moonlight well nigh quenchd
Scarce visible, as in the utmost depth
Of yonder sapphire infinite, are seen,
Draw on with elevating influence
Toward eternity her softened mind.
Mus[MS obscured] beyond the grave he stands,
And [MS obscured] Mother silently
Br[MS obscured] of praise.
The mountaineers
Before [MS obscured] round their mouldering fires
Lie on the [MS obscureds] outstretchd. Pelayo’s hall
Is full, & he upon his careful couch
Hears all around the deep & long drawn breath
Of sleep; for gentle night hath brought to these
Perfect & undisturbed repose, alike
Of corporal powers & inward faculty.
Wakeful the while he lay, yet more by hope
Than grief or anxious thoughts possessd, – tho grief
For Guisla’s guilt, which freshened in his heart
The memory of their wretched mothers crime,
Still made its presence felt, like the dull sense
Of some perpetual inward malady;
And the whole peril of the future lay
Before him clearly seen. He had heard all, –
How that unworthy sister, obstinate
In wrong & shameless, rather seemd to woo
The upstart renegado, than to wait
His wooing; how as guilt to guilt led on,
Spurning at gentle admonition first,
When Gaudiosa hopelessly forbore
From farther counsel, then in sullen mood
Resentful, Guisla soon began to hate
The virtuous presence before which she felt
Her nature how inferior, & her fault
How foul. Despiteful thus she grew, because
Humbled yet unrepentant. Who could say
To what excess bad passions might impel
A woman thus possessd? She could not fail
To mark Siverians absence, – for what end
Her conscience but too surely had divined,
And Gaudiosa well aware that all
Thus was to her vile paramour made known
Had to safe hiding-place with timely fear
Removed her children. Well the event had proved
How needful was the caution; for at night
She sought the mountain solitudes, & morn
Beheld Numacians soldiers at the gates.
Yet did not sorrow in Pelayo’s heart
For this domestic shame prevail that hour,
Nor gathering danger weigh his spirit down;
The anticipated meeting put to flight
These painful thoughts; tomorrow will restore
All whom his heart holds dear, his wife beloved
No longer now remembered for regret,
Is present to his soul with hope & joy;
His inward eye beholds Favila’s form
In opening youth robust, & Hermesind
His daughter, lovely as a budding rose:
Their images beguile the hours of night
Till with the earliest morning he may seek
Their secret hold.
The nightingale not yet
Had ceased her song, nor had the lark forsook
Her dewey nest, when he began his way
Toward Auseva. Heavily to him,
Impatient for the morrows happiness
Long night had lingered, but it seem d more long
To Rodericks aching heart. He too had watchd
For dawn, & seen the earliest break of day
And heard its earliest sounds; & when the Prince
Went forth, the melancholy man was seen
With pensive face upon Pionias side
Wandering alone & slow. For he had left
The wearying place of his unrest, that morn
With its cold dews might bathe his throbbing brow
And with its breath allay the feverish heat
That burnt within. Alas the gales of morn
Reach not the fever of a wounded heart!
How shall he meet his mothers eye, – how make
His secret known, & from that voice revered
Obtain forgiveness, all that he has now
To ask, ere on the lap of earth in peace
He lay his head resignd. In silent prayer
He supplicated Heaven to strengthen him
Against that trying hour, there seeking aid
Where all who seek shall find; & thus his soul
Received support, & gathered fortitude
Never than now more needful, for the hour
Was nigh. He saw Siverian drawing near
And with a dim but quick foreboding met
The good old man: yet when he heard him say
My Lady sends to seek thee, like a knell
To one expecting & prepared for death,
But fearing the dread point that hastens on,
It smote his heart. He followed silently
And knit his suffering spirit to the proof

He went resolved to tell his mother all,
Fall at her feet, & drinking the last dregs
Of bitterness receive the only good
Earth had in store for him. Resolved for this
He went, yet was it a relief to find
That painful resolution must await
A fitter season, when no eye but Heavens
Might witness to their mutual agony.
Count Julians daughter with Rusilla sate,
Both had been weeping, both were pale, but calm.
With head as for humility abased
Roderick approach’d, & bending, on his breast
He cross’d his humble arms. Rusilla rose
In reverence to the priestly character,
And with a mournful eye regarding him
Thus she began. Good Father, I have heard
From my old faithful servant & true friend
Thou didst reprove the inconsiderate tongue
That in the anguish of its spirit pour’d
A curse upon my poor unhappy child,
O Father Maccabee this is a hard world
And hasty in its judgements! Time has been
When not a tongue in the Pyrenees
Dared whisper in dispraise of Rodericks name,
Lest if the conscious air had caught the sound
The vengeance of the honest multitude
Should fall upon the traitrous head, or brand
For life-long infamy the lying lips.
Now if a voice be raised in his behalf
Tis noted for a wonder, & the man
Who utters the strange speech shall be admired
For such excess of Christian charity!
Thy Christian charity hath not been lost, –
Father, – I feel its virtues. It hath been
Balm to my heart, – with words & grateful tears.
All that is left me now for gratitude –
I thank thee, & beseech thee in thy prayers
That thou wouldst still remember Rodericks name.

Roderick so long had to this hour look d on
That when the central point of trial came
Torpid & numbed it found him: cold he grew
And as the vital spirits to his heart
Retreated, oer his withered countenance
Deathly & damp a whiter paleness spread.
Unmoved the while this inward feeling seemd,
Even in such dull insensibility
As gradual age brings on, or slow disease
Beneath whose progress lingering life survives
The power of suffering. Wondering at himself,
Yet gathering confidence, he raised his eyes,
Then slowly shaking as he bent his head,
O venerable Lady, he replied,
If aught may comfort that unhappy soul
It must be thy compassion & thy prayers.
She whom he must have wronged, – she who alone
On earth can grant forgiveness for his crime,
She hath forgiven him; & thy blessing now
Were all that he could ask, – all that could bring
Profit or consolation to his soul
If he hath been, – as sure we may believe –
A penitent sincere.
Oh had he lived,
Replied Rusillla, never penitence
Had equalled his! full well I know his heart
Vehement in all things. – He would on himself
Have wreakd such penance as had reachd the height
Of fleshly suffering; – yea, which being told
With its portentous rigour should have made
The memory of his fault, oerpowered & lost
In shuddering pity & astonishment,
Fade like a feebler horror. Otherwise
Seem’d good to Heaven. I murmur not, nor doubt
The boundless mercy of redeeming love.
For sure I trust that not in his offence
Hardened & reprobate was my lost son,
A child of wrath, cut off MS obscured] that dreadful thought
Not even amid the [MS obscured] fresh wretchedness
When the ruin burst [MS obscured] me like a flood
Assailed my soul. [MS obscured] deemd his fall
An act of sudden [MS obscured] & this day
Hath in unlook’d for confirmation given
A livelier hope, a more assured faith.
Smiling benignant then amid her tears
She took Florinda by the hand, & said,
I little thought that I should live to bless
Count Julians daughter! she hath brought to me
The last, the best, the only comfort Earth
Could minister to this afflicted heart,
And my grey hairs may now unto the grave
Go down in peace.
Happy, Florinda cried,
Are they for whom the Grave hath peace in store
The wrongs they have sustained, the woes they bear
Pass not that holy threshold where Death heals
The broken heart. O Lady thou mayest trust
In humble hope thro him who on the Cross
Gave his atoning blood for lost mankind,
To meet beyond the grave thy child forgiven,
I too with Roderick there may interchange
Forgiveness. But the grief which wastes away
This mortal part {frame}, hastening the happy hour
Of my enlargement, is but a light part
Of what my soul endures; – that grief hath lost
Its sting: – I have a keener sorrow here
One which, – but God forefend that dire event
May pass with me the portals of the grave,
And with a thought, like sin which cannot die,
Embitter Heaven. My father hath renounced
His hope in Christ: – it was his love for me
Which drove him to perdition, – I was born
To ruin all who loved me, – all I loved.
Perhaps I sinn d in leaving him, – that fear
Rises within me to disturb the peace
Which I should else have found! –
To Roderick then
The pious mourner turnd her suppliant eyes,
O Father there is virtue in thy prayers, –
I do beseech thee offer them to Heaven
In his behalf! for Rodericks sake, for mine
Wrestle with Him whose name is merciful
That Julian may with penitence be touchd,
And clinging to the Cross implore that grace
Which neer was sought in vain. For Rodericks sake
And mine, pray for him! We have been the cause
Of his offence! What other miseries
May from that same unhappy source have risen,
X Are earthly, temporal, reparable all; –
But if a soul be lost thro our misdeeds
That were eternal evil! Pray for him
Good Father Maccabee, & be thy prayers
More fervent, as the deeper is the crime.

While thus Florinda spake, the Dog who lay
Before Rusillas feet, eyeing him long
And wistfully [MS obscured] recognized at length,
Changed as he was, & in those sordid weeds
His royal master. And he rose & licked
His withered hand, & earnestly look’d up
With eyes whose human meaning did not need
The aid of speech, & moan d as if at once
To court & chide the long withheld caress.
Then Rodericks heart was bursting; – hastily
He answered to Florinda & withdrew.
The faithful Whitefoot followed; – he retired
Into the thickest grove, there from all eyes
Apart, he cast himself upon the ground
And threw around the dog his arms, & cried
While tears streamed down, – thou Whitefoot then hast known
Thy poor lost master! – Whitefoot – none but thou!

______


Notes

* Address: To/ Walter Savage Esqre/ Swansea./ Single Sheet
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
MS: National Art Library, London, MS Forster 48 G.31 2/26–27
Unpublished.
Dating note: Southey’s letter to Landor of 21 March 1814, Letter 2393, contained the fourteenth book of Roderick, the Last of the Goths (1814) and promised ‘more tomorrow’. As this letter contains the fifteenth book of Roderick, it was probably the ‘more’ that was promised for 22 March 1814. BACK

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

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August 2013