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

2439. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 14 June 1814 ⁠* 

Keswick. Tuesday June 14. 1814

My dear Grosvenor

You will get this on Friday, & if you should have sent the other two to the printer, he may very well have the whole ready for publication on Monday morning. [1]  I have worked hard at them, & like them a good deal better in their way that I did the Carmen. [2]  Your letter tomorrow will give me your opinion, & if they should be printed, a puzzle will occur whether copies ought to be presented to the personages beöded a new word for the nonce. I believe my best way will be to write to Croker, send him some copies & request him to dispose of it of them, as may be proper. [3] 

I should have been ready a day sooner, if of all guest imaginable guests chance had not sent to me last week an officer [4]  of Suchets army, who served at the siege of Tarragona, & was afterwards taken by Eroles! I could not help more than once thinking what hearty satisfaction I should have had in cleaving him from shoulder to chine if we had met in Catalonia. However Tom who has seen many Frenchman pronounced him a remarkably good specimen: he had grace enough to admit that the war was unjust; – & tickled me a little by remarking that the Spaniards were very hard-hearted; – to which I made answer that they had xx not invited him & his countrymen. There is some grace in the poor fellow – he is only 22, & had been living twelve months in Scotland upon ‘tatees [5]  for breakfast, dinner & supper, to save money out of 18d. a day for buying decent clothes – till {having landed at Leithx in November with nothing but nankeen dresses.} his friends in France found means to write to Wordsworth whom they knew, – & so he came to thank W. for good services, on his way home, & then must come & see me too {also}, with a fine French compliment in his mouth. I must not forget to tell you that he has foresworn ‘tatees’ for life.

God bless you. The Docstor will show you a worthier poem of mine upon the Russian war than either of these odes. [6] 

RS.

Ode

To the King of Prussia

1.

Welcome to England, to the happy Isle,
Brave Prince of gallant People! Welcome thou,
In adverse as in prosperous fortune tried!
Frederick, the well-beloved!
Greatest & best of that illustrious name.
Welcome to these free shores!
In glory art thou come,
Thy victory perfect, thy revenge compleat.

2.

Enough of sorrow hast thou known,
Enough of evil hath thy realm endured,
Oppress’d, but not debased,
When thine indignant soul
Long suffering, bore its weight of heaviest woe.
But still, thro that dark day
Unsullied Honour was thy counsellor;
And Hope, that had its trust in Heaven,
And in the heart of man
Its strength, forsook thee not.
Thou had’st thy faithful people’s love,
The sympathy of noble minds;
And wistfully, as one
Who through the weary night has long’d for day
Looks eastward for the dawn,
So Germany to thee
Turn’d in her bondage her imploring eyes.

3.

Oh grief of griefs, that Germany,
The wise, the virtuous land,
The land of mighty minds,
Should bend beneath a vile Barbarian’s yoke!
Oh grief of griefs, to think
That she should groan in bonds,
She who had blest all nations with her gifts!
There had the light of Reformation risen,
The light of Knowledge there was burning clear.
Oh grief, that her unhappy sons
Should toil & bleed & die,
To quench that sacred light,
The wretched agents of a Tyrants will!
How often hath their blood
In his accursed cause
Reek’d on the Spaniard’s blade!
Their mangled bodies fed
The Wolves & Eagles of the Pyrenees,
Or stiffening in the snows of Moscovy,
Amid the ashes of the watch-fire lay,
Where dragging painfully their frozen limbs,
With life’s last effort, in the flames they fell.

4.

Long, Frederick, did’st thou bear
Her sorrows & thine own;
Seven miserable years
In patience did’st thou feed thy heart with hope;
Till, when the arm of God
Smote the blaspheming Tyrant in his pride,
And Alexander with the voice of power
Raised the glad cry, deliverance for mankind,
First of the Germans, Prussia broke her chains.

5.

Joy, joy for Germany,
For Europe, for the World,
When Prussia rose in arms!
Oh, what a spectacle
For present & for future times was there,
When for the public need
Wives gave their marriage rings,
And mothers, when their sons
The Band of Vengeance join’d,
Bade them return victorious from the field,
Or with their country fall.

6.

Twice o’er the field of death
The trembling scales of Fate hung equipoised:
For France, obsequious to her Tyrant still,
Mighty for evil, put forth all her power;
And still beneath his hateful banners driven,
Against their mother-land father-land
Unwilling Germans raisd {bore} unnatural arms.
What tho’ the Boaster made his temples ring
With vain thanksgivings for each doubtful day –
What tho’ with false pretence of peace
His old insidious arts he tried –
The spell was broken! Austria threw her sword
Into the inclining scale,
And Leipsic saw the wrongs
Of Germany avenged.

7.

Ne’er till that aweful time had Europe seen
Such multitudes in arms;
Nor ever had the rising Sun beheld
Such mighty interests of mankind at stake;
Nor o’er so wide a scene
Of slaughter e’er had Night her curtain closed.
There on the battle-field
With one accord the grateful Monarchs knelt,
And raised their voice to Heaven;
“The cause was thine, O Lord!
O Lord! thy hand was here!”
What Conquerors e’er deserved
So proud, so pure a joy!
It was a moment when the exalted soul
Might almost wish to burst its mortal bounds,
Lest all of life to come
Vapid & void should seem
After that high-wrought hour.

8.

But thou hadst yet more toils,
More duties & more triumphs yet in store.
Elbe must not bound thine arms,
Nor on the banks of Rhine
Thine Eagles check their flight,
When o’er that barrier stream,
Awakened Germany
Drove her invaders with such rout & wreck
As overtook the impious Gaul of old,
Laden with plunder, & from Delphi driven.

9.

Long had insulting France
Boasted her arms invincible,
Her soil inviolate;
At length the hour of retribution comes!
Avenging nations on all sides move on;
In Gascony the flag of England flies,
Triumphant, as of yore,
When sable Edward led his peerless host.
Behold the Spaniard & the Portugal,
For cities burnt, for violated fanes,
For murders, massacres,
All monstrous, all unutterable crimes,
Demanding vengeance with victorious cries,
Pour from the Pyrenees.
The Russian comes, his eye on Paris fix’d,
The flames of Moscow present to his heart;
The Austrian to efface
Ulm, Austerlitz, & Wagram’s later shame;
Rejoicing Germany
With all her nations swells the avenging train,
And in the field & in the triumph first,
Thy banner, Frederick, floats.

10.

Six weeks in daily strife
The veteran Blucher bore the brunt of war.
Glorious old man,
The last & greatest of his master’s school,
Long may he live to hear
The people bless his name!
Late be it ere the wreath
That crowns his silver hair
Adorn his monument!
Glorious old man,
How oft hath he discomfited
The boasted Chiefs of France,
And foil’d her vaunting Tyrant’s desperate rage!
Glorious old man,
Who from Silesia’s fields,
O’er Elbe, & Rhine, & Seine,
From victory to victory marching on,
Made his heroic way; till at the gates
Of Paris, opened by his arms, he saw
His King triumphant stand.

11.

Bear back the sword of Frederick now!
The sword which France amid her spoils display’d,
Proud trophy of a day by treachery won.
With laurels wreathe the sword;
Bear it in triumph back,
Thus gloriously regain’d!
And when thou lay’st it in its honour’d place,
O Frederick, well-beloved,
Greatest & best of that illustrious name,
Lay by its side thine own,
A holier relic there!

12.

Frederick, the well-beloved!
Welcome to these free shores,
To England welcome, to the happy Isle!
In glory art thou come,
Thy victory perfect, thy revenge compleat.

Notes

* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ 9. Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate/ London/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 17 JU 17/ 1814
Endorsement: 14 June 1814/ with ode to the King of Prussia
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25; Houghton Library, Harvard, bMS Eng 265.2 (10) (poem)
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The paragraph deals with arrangements for the publication of Southey’s three 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), ruler of Prussia since 1797; 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). BACK

[2] Southey’s first Laureate poem Carmen Triumphale (1814). BACK

[3] See Southey to John Wilson Croker, 14 June 1814, Letter 2440. BACK

[4] The French officer was Eustace Baudouin (b. c. 1792). He served in the army of Louis Gabriel Suchet, 1st Duc d’Albufera (1770–1826), Marshal of France, and saw action at the first siege of Tarragona, 1811. In the same year he was captured by the guerilla army of Joaquin Cuevas Ibanez y de Valonga, Baron de Eroles (1784–1825). Baudouin spent time in Britain as a prisoner of war, and at one point was held at Oswestry, in Shropshire. On his release, he visited the Wordsworths before returning to France. Baudouin had made contact with Wordsworth in 1812 via mutual acquaintances: his brother was engaged to Caroline (1792–1862), daughter of Wordsworth and Annette Vallon (1766–1841). Caroline and Jean Baptiste Baudouin (b. c. 1780) married in February 1816. Southey travelled to France and visited them and their infant daughter in 1817, when he also renewed his acquaintance with Eustace Baudouin, who had retained his dislike for potatoes; see Southey to Edith Southey, 17 May 1817. BACK

[5] Potatoes. BACK

[6] ‘The March to Moscow’, a ‘droll ballad’, published in the Courier, 23 June 1814. BACK

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August 2013