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

2438. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 12 June 1814 ⁠* 

Keswick June 12 1814

My dear Grosvenor

I see with dismay that these Personages will {be} gone before my unhappy Welcome will come into the world. If possible I must write the remaining one to be sent off by tomorrows post or at latest by the following day, – & (unless you are of opinion that the whole had better be sufficient & that I may as well hold my tongue) you had better send the two which are finished to Longmans without delay, for the printer, & correct the proofs for me to save time. They should be printed like the Carmen, [1]  & with the {same} lapidary arrangement of the lines, – xx this to the Prince should I suppose lead the way. [2] 

How you may like these things I cannot anticipate. I confess that I have stuck the Emperor Alexander as fu thickly with magnanimous epithets as he sticks his favourites with stars & insignia. But bating this which will be no fault at Court, & a very venial one (all things considered) any where else, – the praise in both is strictly appropriate. I wish I may satisfy myself as well in the third.

God bless you

RS.

Ode

To The Prince Regent

1.

PRINCE of the mighty Isle!
Proud day for thee & for thy kingdoms this,
When Britain round her spear
The olive garland twines, by Victory won.

2.

Rightly may’st thou rejoice,
For in a day of darkness & of storms,
An evil day, a day of woe,
To thee the sceptre fell.
The Continent was leagued,
Her numbers wielded by one will,
Against the mighty Isle;
All shores were hostile to the Red-Cross flag,
All ports against her closed;
Save where, behind their ramparts driven,
The Spaniard, & the faithful Portugal,
Each, on the utmost limits of his land,
Invincible of heart,
Stood firm, & put their trust
In their good cause & thee.
Such perils menaced from abroad,
At home worse dangers compass’d thee,
Where shallow counsellors,
A weak but clamorous crew,
Pestered the land, & with their withering breath
Poison’d the public ear.
For peace, the feeble raised there factious cries cry:
Oh madness, to resist
The Invincible in arms!
Seek the peace-garland from his dreadful hand!
And at the Tyrant’s feet
They would have knelt, to take
The wreath of aconite for Britain’s brow.
Prince of the mighty Isle!
Rightly may’st thou rejoice,
For in the day of danger thou did’st turn
From their vile counsels thine indignant heart;
Rightly may’st thou rejoice,
When Britain round her spear
The olive-garland twines, by Victory won.

III.

Rejoice, thou mighty Isle,
Queen of the Seas, rejoice!
Ring round, ye merry bells,
Till every steeple rock,
And the wide air grow giddy with your joy!
Flow, streamers, to the breeze,
And ye victorious Banners, to the sun
Unroll the proud Red-Cross;
Now let the anvil rest;
Shut up the loom; & open the school-doors,
That young & old may with festivities
Hallow for memory through all after years
This memorable time:
This memorable time,
When Peace, long absent, long deplored, returns:
Not as base faction would have brought her home,
With {Her} countenance fl for shame abased,
In servile weeds array’d,
Submission leading her,
Fear, Sorrow, & Repentance following close.
Honour in his right hand
Doth lead her like a bride;
And Victory goes before;
Hope, Safety, & Prosperity, & Strength,
Come in her joyful train.
Now let the Churches ring
With high thanksgiving songs,
And the full organ pour
Its swelling peals to Heaven,
The while the joyful grateful nation bless in prayers
Their Warriors & their Statesmen & their Prince,
Whose will, whose mind, whose arm
Hath thus with happy end their efforts crown’d.
Prince of the mighty Isle,
{Rightly may’st thou rejoice}
When Britain round her spear
The olive garland twines, by Victory won.

4.

Enjoy thy triumph now,
Prince of the mighty Isle!
Enjoy the rich reward, so rightly due,
When rescued nations, with one heart & voice,
Thy counsels bless & thee.
Thou on thine own Firm-Island seest the while,
As if the tales of old Romance
Were but to typify these splendid days,
Princes & Potentates,
And Chiefs renown’d in arms,
From their great enterprize atchieved,
In friendship & in joy collected here.
Rejoice, thou mighty Isle!
Queen of the Seas, rejoice!
For ne’er in elder nor in later times
Have such illustrious guests
Honour’d thy silver shores.
No such assemblage shone in Edward’s hall,
Nor brighter triumphs graced his glorious reign.
Prince of the mighty Isle,
Proud day for thee & for thy kingdoms this!
Rightly may’st thou rejoice,
When Britain round her spear
The olive garland twines, by Victory won.

5.

Yet in the pomp of these festivities,
One mournful thought will rise within thy heart mind,
The thought of Him who sits
In mental as in visual darkness lost.
How had his heart been fill’d
With deepest gratitude to Heaven,
Had he beheld this day!
O King of Kings, & Lord of Lords,
Thou who hast visited thus heavily
The anointed head,
Oh! for one little interval,
One precious hour,
Remove this blindness from his soul,
That he may know it all,
And bless thee ere he die.

6.

Thou also should’st have seen
This harvest of thy hopes,
Thou, whom the guilty act
Of a great spirit overthrown,
Sent to thine early grave in evil hour!
Forget not him, my Country, in thy joy!
But let thy grateful hand
With laurel garlands hang
The tomb of Perceval.
Virtuous & firm & wise,
The Ark of Britain in her darkest day
He steer’d thro stormy seas –
And long shall Britain hold his memory dear,
And faithful History give
His meed of lasting praise.

7.

That earthly meed shall his compeers enjoy,
Britain’s true counsellors,
Who see with just success their counsels xxxxxd {crownd}.
They have their triumph now, to him denied.
Proud day for them is this.
Prince of the mighty Isle!
Proud day for them & thee,
When Britain round her spear
The olive garland twines, by Victory won.

Notes

* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ 9. Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate/ London/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 13 JU 13/ 1814
Endorsement: 12 June 1814/ with the ode to the P. R.
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25 (letter); Houghton Library, Harvard, bMS Eng 265.2 (8) (poem)
Unpublished. BACK

[1] i.e. in the style of Southey’s first Laureate poem Carmen Triumphale (1814). BACK

[2] The paragraph deals with arrangements for the publication of Southey’s odes paying tribute to the Prince Regent and celebrating the 1814 visit to London of Alexander I (1777–1825; Emperor of Russia 1801–1825) and Frederick William III (1770–1840; King of Prussia 1797–1840); 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 (1814). Unfortunately for Southey, the visiting sovereigns did not stay as long as expected – they left Dover for the Continent on 27 June 1814. BACK

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August 2013