104. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 10 September 1794 

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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 1: 1791-1797, Edited By Lynda Pratt

104. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 10 September 1794 ⁠* 

Bristol. Sept. 10. 1794.

Bedford — my kalendar shall mark this day
Sacred to Friendship — for to Orsons [1]  soul
Dear wilt thou be tho absent. far away
Memory to thee shall fill the votive bowl
And mingle in the cup one pious tear.
Fancy shall oft revisit thee & hold
High converse; & thine image will appear
Such as I leave thee. sometimes changd & old,
Bearing like me the mark of many a year —
Deep on thy furrowed front, I shall behold
Thy form amid my slumbers. let this day
Be hallowed. when the friends thou holdst most dear
For natal festivals to come shall pray,
Think I am thinking of thee far away.

———

Not to thee Bedford mournful is the tale [2] 
Of days departed. Time in his career
Arraigns thee not that the neglected year
Has past {fled} unheeded onward. to the vale
Of years thou journiest, may the future road
Be pleasant as the past, & on my friend
Friendship & Love best blessing still attend
Thus {Till}, full of days, he reach the calm abode
Where Nature slumbers. lovely is the age
Of Virtue. with such reverence we behold —
The silver hairs, as some gray oak grown old
That whilome mockd the rushing tempests rage
Now like the monument of strength decayd
With rarely scatterd leaves casting a trembling shade.

————

Parturiunt montes nascitur ridiculus mus — [3] 

But better are two good sonnets than nothing. — Grosvenor I verily sat down last night to indite an ode — like Jupiter I thought my brain pregnant with wisdom — & behold it was full of Self!!! however take the odious composition. the two sonnets are this mornings work.

————

Driven by Misfortunes ruthless hand
To sojourn in some foreign land
Will not the exile drop the tear
Ere yet the swift bark quits his natal shore,
Lamenting all his soul held dear
Lamenting all he leaves to meet no more?
And if in childhoods early year
Some favorite tree he wont to rear
And see with anxious joy the sapling grow,
Till widely bowering oer his head
A grateful shade its broad boughs spread
Will he not heave the sigh of woe
As to the accustomd seat he looks adieu
And lingering as he goes oft turn again to view?

Ah Bedford — even with such joy
I markd our growing friendship. & I dwell
With pleasure on that hour when, yet a boy
I sought thy converse. careless then & wild
Tho sorrow even then I knew full well
With many a rudest song that sorrow I beguild.

Thou knewest my every thought
What time with anguish fraught
The high-tond spirit murmured at its wrong,
Or Pleasures mantling tide rolld high,
Throbbd in my heart & glistned in mine eye
Or Fancy pourd her wild enthusiast song,
Thou didst partake each feeling, & thy heart
Dwelt in my bosom. — now my friend we part.

We part. yet tho between us Oceans roll
Still shall we commune thro the unmeasurd space
Thy form unfaded still mine eye will trace,
And from domestic joys sometimes my soul,
Wafted on Memorys wing, to thee shall fly
Whilst pensive Friendship heaves the sorrowing sigh.

Far oer the Atlantic main
In woodland scenes we woo the cherub Peace.
And Love & Friendship join our blameless train,
And Care his racking sway shall cease,
Anxiety no more molest
Fear harrow up no more the breast,
Nor the pale forms of Pleasures fled
Float round the melancholy head,
But Memory in her fond employ
Reflect on sorrows past & heighten present joy

Let Fancy Bedford paint the lot
Of calm Contentments woodbind cot —
At summer evenings gentle gloom
The smile that bids me welcome home
The high heapd hearth the social bowl
And every charm that soothes the soul —
Pourtray each feeling Virtue must approve
And see me blest with Friendship & with Love.

There each beneath his mantling vine
Shall quaff in peace the generous wine
No worldly cares shall there intrude
On our calm of Solitude
But stern Ambitions hideous brood
On Europes shores shall bathe in blood
Where Discord rouses all her hellish train
Where Slaughter strides oer hills of slain,
Death triumphs in the battles roar
And the gorged Ravens surfeit them with gore.

Meantime secluded from a world of woe
The wood nymph Peace will smile on that far shore.
And as the Pilgrim when the wild winds blow
Tho shelterd — sadly lists the tempests roar
And sighs to think some way-worn form
Abides the pelting of the pityless storm;
Such grief such only we shall know
And heave (secure ourselves) the sigh for Europes woe.

Robert Southey.


Notes

* Address: Grosvenor Charles Bedford Esqr/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster/ Single
Stamped: BRISTOL
Postmark: ASE/ 11/ 94
Watermarks: G R in a circle; figure of Britannia
Endorsements: Recd. Septr 11. 1794; Wrote to R.S. Septr 29/ & 30th. & sent
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 22
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 76–79. BACK

[1] A pseudonym, taken from medieval romance, used by Southey in the mid 1790s, particularly for his planned volume of poems with Robert Lovell in 1794. BACK

[2] The sonnet was published in Southey’s Poems (1797). BACK

[3] Horace (65–8 BC), Ars Poetica, line 139. The Latin translates as ‘The mountains labour and give birth to a ridiculous mouse’. BACK

Published @ RC

March 2009