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

44. Robert Southey to Nicholas Lightfoot, 25 March 1793 ⁠* 

Sapey. March 25. 1793.

Since no mortal on earth could have packd our things better
You deserve at least Lightfoot the thanks of a letter —
A long one indeed full of thanks — but — God knows
I cannot pack a letter as you pack up cloaths.
As you put a stocking where a shirt will not fit
Could I fill each loophole of sense full of wit
What a letter were mine! but with this be content
Tho’ tis badly performd tis exceeding well meant.

Perhaps you suppose that poor Seward & me
Side by side are fallen down & dead felo-de-se
Or whilst all our unhappy limbs blister & ache
Laid up on the road have found out our mistake.
No, no, no mischances like these can I tell.
Here we are both arrived both alive & both well

We set off Wednesday morn but too lazy were you
To bring us on our journey a furlong or two —
Of Braybrook & Woodstock & Heythrop & Enstone
Of Salford & Kitebrook were tedious to mention
At Morton we slept, miles from you twenty seven
In state apostolic & equal & even.
For when in the morning together we rose
He had seizd all the bed & Id taken the cloaths.

Do not think for a rhyme only I have been cobling
When I ask why old grave one walkd like Mr Hoblyn?
For like him he was. but how you must discover.
And so pray suppose that our breakfast was over.
From Broadway six miles unto Evesham we came
A place much renownd for monastical fame
In grandeur majestic the Gothic piles stand
In age more admird & in ruins more grand.

Memorial where Priesthood once stretchd his fell sway
But Priesthood dear Lightfoot has seen his best day
The Nation resumes all the long lazy grounds
And the twelve great Apostles melt into half crowns —
Een the old Abbots bones into bullets are made
Which when hurld at the foe but continue his trade
Mid the heretic ranks as they ravage pell mell
And whom he anathematisd hurry to hell.

How often did I all my hungry thoughts please
With devouring in fancy the brown bread & cheese
Like a great carp just taken — expanding his jaws
In the place of good water thin air only draws
So I dreamt of good eating & fed upon air
For me no cameleon most horrible fare.
At last upon Friday we came — o ye powers
That preside over the cheese which your votary devours
(For surely some Numen [1]  presides over the cheese
So give him what name & what virtues you please)
O ye powers ye beheld what I fear to relate
How I eat till I almost had swallowed the plate.
Old Gravity eat quite as hearty as me
And we left off our dinner to fall to our tea.
Thus the French Democrats take one king a head shorter
And set off directly the others to halter,
And as Dumourier [2]  does as old Joshua [3]  of yore
So we eat as you, I & Combe once eat before.

To describe as truth wills all the country around
The high towering hill or the well wooded ground
The hoarse stream roughrolling oer each craggy stone
Besprinkled with foam & with green moss oergrown
The house on the bank whence the eyes ample gaze
Oer hills mountains vallies & rivulets strays

All these to describe — indeed Lightfoot I would
With truth & with elegance too if I could
But here Reason bids me my Rashness restrain
Nor attempt to describe where description were vain.

Let Burke [4]  talk of Freedom & bellow away
Let Reason attend be convinced & obey
Of humility modesty let Bishops preach
And enforce by their lives what their sermons but teach
Let Pitt [5]  fear to give & his slaves take a bribe
And then I perhaps may attempt to describe

this drawing may exercise the speculative abilities of you & Lewis till our return.

[Southey adds a rough sketch of the ground plan of the Sewards’ house & garden]


Notes

* Address: Nich.s Lightfoot Esqr/ Ball. Coll/ Oxford/ Single
Stamped: WORCESTER
Watermark: Figure of Britannia; WT [or TW?]
Endorsement: 2/6
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng Lett. c. 453
Unpublished. BACK

[1] In Roman mythology, the name given to a spirit or deity that presides over a place. BACK

[2] Charles-Francois du Perier Dumouriez (1739–1823), French General, victor at Jemappes, 1792. After defeat at the battle of Neerwinden in March 1793, he switched allegiance to Austria and her allies. BACK

[3] The Old Testament hero, Joshua, who conquered the land of Canaan. BACK

[4] Edmund Burke (1729/30–1797; DNB), author of Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). BACK

[5] William Pitt, the Younger (1759–1806; DNB), Prime Minister 1783–1801 and 1804–1806. BACK

Published @ RC

March 2009