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

2563. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 3 March 1815 ⁠* 

My dear Grosvenor

What I meant to do has taken the form of an Inscription for the blank leaf of your Book. [1]  Upon reading it you will perceive why I feel it better to send it to you, than directly to Mr Roberts. [2]  – My minor poems are now in the press in a collected form; shall I insert this among them? [3]  The Inscriptions xxx are printed, but this may easily be added to them. You Remember that my can judge what his feeling what would be concerning this, which is the only thing to be considered. And now I must charge you to express my thanks for the morocco copy, [4]  – I delayed doing it in order to send the verses, & now that they are written I should not know to speak of them. I trust to you to make this appear as it is, – & not take any disrespect. The book has found a family place in my library, next to your Musæus. [5] 

I shall probably be able to improve these lines, – & perhaps you may help me to do it.

God bless you

RS.

3d. March. 1815.

Inscription

{Written in the Volume of Letters & Miscellaneous papers by

Barré Charles Roberts} [6] 

Not often hath the cold insensate earth
Closed over hopes so fair as when the Grave
Received young Barre’s perishable part,
And seldom hath so sweet a dream of life
Been broken by the inexorable law
Nature who sometimes lavisheth her gifts
With ruinous bounty, had conferrd on him
Even such endowments as parental love
Might in its wisest prayers have ask’d of Heaven,
An Intellect that chusing for itself
The better part went forth into the fields
Of learning {knowledge}, [7]  & with never-sated thirst
Drank of the living springs, – a judgement calm
And clear, a heart affectionate, a soul
{Within whose gentle sphere, no vanities}
Above all vanities, all low desires
{Or low desires found place}
Ennobled & upraised. Nor had these {were the} seeds
{Of excellence thus largely given & left}
To struggle with impediment of clime
Austere or niggard soil: all circumstance
Of happy fortune was to him vouchsafed;
His way of life was as thro garden walks
Wherein no thorns are found, save such as grow
Types of our human state on fruits & flowers
In all things highly favourd, but in this
Especially of his auspicious lot,
That as parents boast a child like him
So {That} scarce like Barré ever hath a son
Been in his Father blest. An intercourse
So beautiful no former record shows
In such relationship displayd; where thro’
Familiar friendship’s perfect confidence
The parents {father’s} ever watchful tenderness
Meets ever in the sons entire respect
Its due return devout. This pure delight {Should we then say}
(The deepest which the heart of man can know.)
{The parent purchased, at too dear a price}
Was it then purchased at too dear a price
{This deep delight, – the deepest, purest joy}
By that poor father, when he saw the child
{Which Heaven hath here assign’d us, when he saw}
Of all his {This child of} hopes just in the May of life
Beneath a slow & cankering malady
With irremediable decay consumed
Sunk to the untimely grave? Oh think not thus
Nor deem that that {such} long anguish, & the grief
Which in the inmost soul hath struck {doth strike} its roots
There to abide thro time, can overpay
The blessings which hath {have} been, & yet shall be
Think not that He in whom we live doth mock
Our holiest aspirations, – think not love
Genius & virtue should inhere alone
In mere mortality & {that} Earth can quench
The sparks which are of Heaven! We are not left
In darkness nor devoid of hope. We know
That He who wounds will heal, & Death restore
With ample increase all that it hath reft.

R. S.

{Recd. the corrections in here from R.S. of 18 March 1815.} [8] 


Notes

* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer./ 3 March 1815 –
Endorsement: March 1815
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25
Unpublished. BACK

[1] i.e. for Grosvenor Bedford’s Letters and Miscellaneous Papers … With a Memoir of His Life (1814) of his cousin Barré Charles Roberts, who had died in 1810 aged 21. The poem was not published until it appeared as ‘Written in an unpublished Volume of Letters, and Miscellaneous Papers, by Barré Charles Roberts’, Poetical Works, 10 vols (London, 1837–1838), III, pp. 157–159, where it is mis-dated ‘Keswick, 1814’. BACK

[2] Southey had originally planned to send the poem to Roberts; see Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 1 March 1815, Letter 2561. BACK

[3] The poem was not added to the inscriptions in Minor Poems (1815). BACK

[4] i.e. a copy of Bedford’s Letters and Miscellaneous Papers bound in red morocco leather and with gilt leaves; no. 2371 in the sale catalogue of Southey’s library. BACK

[5] Musaeus, the Loves of Hero and Leander, Greek and English, by G. C. Bedford (1797). Southey possessed two copies, nos 1896–1897 in the sale catalogue of his library. One was described as ‘russia, gilt leaves’; the other as ‘Presentation Copy, uncut’. BACK

[6] Written in … Roberts: inserted in another hand, probably Bedford’s. BACK

[7] knowledge: Throughout the poem all deletions and insertions are in another hand, probably Bedford’s. BACK

[8] Recd … 1815: inserted in another hand, probably Bedford’s. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013