2437. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 10 June 1814 

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

2437. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 10 June 1814 ⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

Tell me by return of post if this will do. There are but two things in it which may require explanation, – that is to say which are not perhaps generally known. That the French burnt Manresa the largest city in Catalonia, (Barcelona excepted, & that all the cannon taken in Buonapartes flight are to be form built up into two triumphal pillars at Moscow & Petersburgh. – There can be no harm in showing cause why Paris should have been burnt, for the gratification of the rest of Europe. [1] 

The Carmen was oratory in verse. [2]  This is properly an ode. Send me your comments, & afterwards you may insert the corrections in this copy & send it by twopenny post to the Printer, – which will save me time & trouble. I will send you the other two in due as soon as they are finished.

God bless you

RS.

Keswick June 10. 1814

Ode

To the Emperor Alexander.

1.

Conqueror, Deliverer, Friend of human-kind,
The free, the happy Island welcomes thee!
Thee from thy wasted realms,
So signally revenged;
From Prussia’s rescued plains;
From Dresden’s field of slaughter, where the ball
Which struck Moreau’s dear life,
Was turn’d from thy more precious head aside;
From Leipsic’s dreadful day,
From Elbe, & Rhine, & Seine.
In thy career of conquest overpast;
From the proud Capital
Of haughty France subdued,
Then to her rightful line of Kings restored.
Thee Alexander, thee the Great, the Good,
The Glorious, the Beneficent, the Just,
Thee to her honour’d shores
The mighty Island welcomes in her joy.

2.

Six-score full years have past
Since to these friendly shores
Thy famous ancestor,
Illustrious PETER came.
Wise traveller He, who over Europe went,
Marking the ways of men.
That so to his dear country, which then rose
Among the nations in uncultured strength,
He might bear back the stores
Of elder polity,
Its sciences & arts,
Little did then the industrious German think, ..
The soft Italian, lapt in luxury, ..
Helvetia’s mountain sons, of freedom proud, ..
The patient Hollander,
Prosperous & warlike then, ..
Little thought they that in that farthest North,
From PETER’S race should the Deliverer spring,
Destined by Heaven to save
Art, Learning, Industry,
Beneath the bestial hoof of Godless Might
All trampled in the dust.
As little did the French,
Vaunting the power of their Great Monarch then,
(His schemes of wide ambition yet uncheck’d)
As little did they think,
That from rude Muscovy the stone should come,
To smite their huge Colossus, which bestrode
The subject Continent;
And from its feet of clay,
Breaking the iron limbs & front of brass,
Strew the rejoicing nations with the wreck.

3.

Roused as thou wert with insult & with wrong,
Who should have blamed thee if, in high-wrought mood
Of vengeance, & the sense of injured power,
Thou from the flames which laid
The City of thy Fathers in the dust,
Hadst bade a spark be brought,
And borne it in thy tent,
Religiously by night & day preserved,
Till on Montmartre’s height,
When open to thine arms,
Her last defence o’erthrown,
The guilty city lay,
Thou hadst call’d every Russian of thine host
To light his flambeau at the sacred fire,
And sent them through her streets,
And wrapt her roofs & towers,
Temples & palaces,
Her wealth & boasted spoils,
In one wide flood of fire?
Making the xxxx hated nation feel herself
The miseries she had spread.

4.

Who should have blamed the Conqueror for that deed?
Yea, rather would not one exulting cry
Have risen from Elbe to Nile,
How is the Oppressor fallen!
Moscow’s re-rising walls
Had rung with glad acclaim;
Thanksgiving hymns had fill’d
Tyrol’s rejoicing vales;
How is the Oppressor fallen!
The Germans in their grass-grown marts had met
To celebrate the deed;
Holland’s still water had been starr’d
With festive lights, reflected there
From every house & hut,
From every town & tower;
The Iberian & the Lusian’s injured realms,
From all their mountain-holds,
From all their ravaged fields,
From cities sack’d, from violated fanes,
And from the sanctuary of every heart,
Had pour’d that pious strain,
How is the Oppressor fallen!
Righteous art thou, O Lord!
Thou Zaragoza, from thy sepulchres
Hadst join’d the hymn, & from thine ashes thou,
Manresa, faithful still!
The blood that calls for vengeance in thy streets
Madrid, & Porto thine,
And that which from the beach
Of Tarragona sent its cry to Heaven,
Had rested then appeased.
Orphans had clapt their hands,
And widows would have wept exulting tears,
And childless parents with a bitter joy
Have blest the avenging deed.

5.

But thou hadst seen enough
Of horrors, . . amply hadst avenged mankind.
Witness that dread retreat,
When God & Nature smote
The Tyrant in his pride,
No wider ruin overtook
Sennacherib’s impious host;
Nor when the frantic Persian led
His veterans to the Lybian sands;
Nor when united Greece
O’er the barbaric power that victory won
Which Europe yet may bless.
A fouler Tyrant cursed the groaning earth, ..
A fearfuller destruction was dispensed.
Victorious armies followed in his flight;
On every side he met
The Cossacks’ dreadful spear;
On every side he saw
The injured nation rise,
Invincible in arms.
What myriads, victims of one wicked will,
Spent their last breath in curses on his head.
There where the soldiers’ blood
Froze in the festering wound;
And nightly the cold moon
Saw sinking thousands in the snow lie down,
Whom there the morning found
Stiff, as their icey bed.

6.

Rear high the monument!
In Moscow & in proud Petropolis,
The brazen trophy build;
Cannon on cannon piled,
Till the huge column overtop your towers!
From France the Tyrant brought
These instruments of death
To work your overthrow;
He left them in his flight
To form the eternal record of his own.
Raise, Russia, with thy spoils,
A nobler monument
Than e’er imperial Rome
Built in her plenitude of pride & power!
Still Alexander on the banks of Seine,
Thy noblest monument
For future ages stands –
Paris subdued & spared.

7.

Conqueror, Deliverer, Friend of human-kind,
The free, the happy Island welcomes thee!
Thee Alexander, thee the Great, the Good,
The Glorious, the Beneficent, the Just,
Thee to her honoured shores
The mighty Island welcomes in her joy.

Notes

* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ 9. Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [Illegible]
Endorsement: 10 June 1814/ with the Ode to Emperor Alexander
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25 (letter); Houghton Library, Harvard, bMS Eng 265.2 (9) (poem).
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey included these details in his odes to Alexander I (1777–1825; Emperor of Russia 1801–1825) and Frederick William III (1770–1840; King of Prussia 1797–1840) and the Prince Regent, published as Congratulatory Odes. Odes to His Royal Highness The Prince Regent, His Imperial Majesty The Emperor of Russia, and His Majesty the King of Prussia (London, 1814), pp. 20, 30. Manresa was burnt by retreating French troops in June 1808; captured French cannon were used in monuments at the Spaso-Preobrazhensky Cathedral in St Petersburg and the Kremlin Arsenal in Moscow. BACK

[2] Southey’s first official work as Poet Laureate, Carmen Triumphale, published in a quarto of 30 pages on 1 January 1814. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2013