69. Robert Southey to Horace Walpole Bedford, 13–16 November 1793 

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

69. Robert Southey to Horace Walpole Bedford, 13–16 November 1793 ⁠* 

College Green. Wednesday. 1/2 past six evening . Nov 13. 93.

Oh Horace oh
Woe Bedford woe
Oh oh
Woe woe
Woe woe
Oh oh
Which you can never know
Unless I tell you so —
I must to dinner go
And I shall think it is hard
If I do not dine well tho your letter sticks in my gizzard
Ay & whats worse I swear
Tenpennyworth of halfpence sticking there.

As I am a sinner
I made a good dinner.
Then to the post office I walkd again hence
To rid my stomach of this odious ten pence
For of your letter the expence
(Tho on the outside as you ought
Single you had wrote)
Amounted unto fifteen pence!
I raved & said & almost then had swore
Five pennys was the price & I would pay no more
So to the post office with this intent
When I had eat my midday meal I went
And there (for the post men demurred not)
The ten pence got.

Lift aloud the mirthful cry
To tenpence! To I!

———

Time ruthless deity — how swift thy way
Thou wing’st when Pleasure fills the short livd hour —
And rich Delight would lengthen out the day —
And pour the prayer to thee unsparing power —
Yet how thy wings their lagging course delay
When stern Misfortunes clouds tremendous lower —
And baleful Misery lifts her venomd dart
And Sorrows lethal dews ychill the drooping heart

Thus oer Silurias fields [1]  where Vegas course [2] 
Meanders wild & paints the flowery plain
When Summer drys the earth with arid force
The fearful farmer invocates for rain
Anon when Winter comes with tempests hoarse
The torrent rolls along with force amain
Sweeps in resistless fury oer the ground
From Cambrias mountains black & deluges around

Oh I have prayed thee erst to stay thy flight
And check the current of the hastening day
When passd the blissful hours in full delight
And blameless Pleasure held Elysian sway
Then have I bannd the moments swift wingd flight
And wishd but wishd in vain their course to stay
For soon the sun shot down the western steep
And I retird alone in darksome woe to weep.

And I have prayd thee in the hour of woe,
When rankling Sorrow sped her iron dart
Deep in this breast, with added speed to go
And to my ills some distant hope impart —
That as the rapid waves eternal flow
Some transient gleam of bliss might chear my {heart}
Then Time hast thou despisd my suppliant prayer
And loaded every hour with lingering deep despair.

I invocate no more — my shielded breast
Mocks at thy rage & spurns thy ruthless power
By thee Philosophy in peace possest
I fly from Miserys soul afflicting showr —
And lull Regrets stern voice at length to rest
And give to Apathy the listless hour
And only wish thy transient reign was oer
And I was landed safe upon the unknown shore.

That unknown shore where husht in endless peace
Affliction drops at length her rankling dart
And Deaths stern sway relaxd to listless ease
Chills with oblivious dews the slumbering heart
Where every joy & every grief shall cease
Nor Woe shall feel Remembrance poignant smart
But kind Oblivion still her sway shall keep
And hush the harrowed soul in one eternal sleep.

Fill high the lethal bowl. shall Man endure
The load of sorrow & the weight of woe?
Fill high the lethal bowl — the eternal cure
And waft the spirit to the shades below
Fill high the lethal bowl — let grief inure
The mind to think of Death no more a foe
Till stern Despair shall lift the bowl on high
And Sorrow sink to rest without one fearful sigh.

—————


Ah Time how slow thy moments fly
When Sorrow heaves the loaded sigh
And glooms the darkling day —
How often have I pourd the prayer
How often filld with deep despair
Ybannd thy dull delay.

Now when Philosophys kind art
Has fenced from every ill my heart —
Roll on thy stream in peace —
And I no more to thee will pray
Or urge thy flight or ask thy stay
For Apathy is ease

Be mine to read the classic page
Retrace each old heroic age
And live in long past days
With Hector [3]  dare the patriot war
Mourn oer Achilles [4]  murderous car
And curse the heroes bays.

Be mine oer many a realm to roam
With him exild from long lovd home
The much enduring chief
Be mine to heave the heartfelt sigh
When Fancy sees old Argus [5]  die —
And seek from tears relief

Oer Marathons [6]  embattled plain
Or oer Jamappe [7]  stern Slaughters reign
Be mine the exulting glow —
Or wrapt in Sorrows darksome gloom
Oer Socrates or Brissots [8]  tomb
To drop the tear of woe.

And let me high in hope attend
The welcome letter from my friend
And break in haste the seal
Then rush the friendly lines to read
Oer every word ten times proceed
And still fresh pleasure feel. [9] 

——————

Saturday Nov 16.

I lay down Leonidas [10]  to go on with your letter. it has ever been a favorite poem with me — I have read it perhaps {more} frequently than any other composition & always with renewd pleasure. it possesses not the “thoughts that breathe & words that burn” [11]  but there is a something very different from those strong efforts of imagination that pleases the judgment & feed the fancy without moving the heart. the interest I feel in the poem is perhaps chiefly owing to the subject — certainly the noblest ever undertaken. it needs no argument to prove this assertion. Miltons is above comparison & stands alone as much from the singularity of the subject as the excellence of the diction. there remains Homer Virgil Lucan Statius S Italicus & V Flaccus [12]  among the antients. I recollect no others — & amongst these subjects you will find none so interesting as the the self devoted Leonidas

among the moderns we know Ariosto Tasso Camoens [13]  Voltaire — & our own immortal Spenser. the other Italian authors in this line & the Spanish ones I know not.

indeed that period of history upon which both Glovers epics [14]  are founded is the grandest ever yet displayd. a constellation of such men never honord mankind at any other time or at least never were calld into the energy of action. Leonidas & his immortal band Æschylus Themistocles & Aristides the perfect republican. [15]  even the satellites of Xerxes [16]  were dignified by Artemisia [17]  & the injurd Spartan Demaratus. [18]  to look back into the page of history — to be present at Thermopylæ — at Salamis & Platæa [19]  to hear the song of Æschylus & the lessons of Aristides & then — behold what Greece is — how fallen even below contempt — is one of the most miserable reflections the classic mind can endure. what a republic! what a province!

If this world did but contain ten thousand people of both sexes visionary as myself how delightfully would we repeople Greece & turn out the Moslem. I would turn crusader & make a pilgrimage to Parnassus [20]  at the head of my republicans (NB — only lawful head) & there reinstate the muses in their original splendour. we would build a temple to Eleutherian Jove [21]  from the quarries of Paphos. [22]  replant the groves of Academus. [23]  aye & the garden of Epicurus [24]  where your brother & I would commence teachers — yes your brother — for if he would not comb out the powder & fling away the poultices to embark in such an expedition he deserves to be made a German Elector or a West Indian Planter. Charles Collins should occupy the chair of Plato (pretty Plato) & hold forth to the Societas scientium literariorum studiosorum (not unaptly stiled the society of knowing ones) & we would actually send for Sawkins [25]  to represent Euclid. [26]  now could I lay down the whole plan — build my house in the prettiest Doric stile — plant out the garden like Wolmars [27]  & imagine just such a family to walk in it — when here comes a rascal by crying Hare skins & rabbit skins — & my poor house which was built in the air falls to pieces & leaves me like most such visionary projectors staring at disappointment.

with a friend you say you would have no reserve. for the future have none with me. surely reserve in trifles would be unworthy of both. make your requests known & you know my will, ability I cannot so certainly promise. when we meet at Oxford which I hope we shall in January there are a hundred things better communicated in conversation than by correspondence. I have no object of pursuit in life — but to fill the passing hour & fit myself for death: beyond these views I have nothing — to be of service to my friends would be serving myself most essentially — & there are few enterprizes however hazardous & however romantic in which I would not most willingly engage.

it was the favorite intention of Cowley [28]  to retire with his books to a cottage in America & seek that happiness in solitude which he could not find in society. my asylum there would be sought for different reasons (& no prospect in life gives me half the pleasure this visionary one affords.) I should be pleased to reside in country where mere abilities would ensure respect. where society was upon a proper footing & Man was considered as more valuable than money & where I could till the earth & provide by honest industry the meal which my wife would dress with pleasing care. redeunt spectacula mane [29]  reason comes with the end of the paper

yrs most sincerely

R Southey.

remember me respectfully to all friends.

beg Grosvenor to send the rest of my baggage as soon as convenient. I want bear & boots. you have read of puss in boots? why not not bear likewise?

write soon. [30] 


Notes

* Address: Horace Walpole Bedford Esqr/ Old Palace Yard/ Westminster/ Single
Stamped: BRISTOL
Postmark: NO/ 18/ 93
Watermarks: Figure of Britannia; G R in a circle
Seal: Red wax [design illegible]
Endorsement: Recd. Mond. 13th. Oct./ 1793 [The endorsement is misdated October.]
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 22
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849–1850), I, pp. 191–194 [in part; a section from the 13 November section is misdated 16 November]. BACK

[1] A poetic name for South Wales, derived from the Silures who had inhabited the area in Roman times. BACK

[2] Vega was the Latin name for the River Wye. BACK

[3] In the Iliad, the son of Priam, King of Troy. BACK

[4] A Greek hero, whose exploits are described in the Iliad. He killed Hector and dragged his body round the walls of Troy behind his chariot. BACK

[5] In the Odyssey, Book 17, Odysseus’ dog, who recognises his master on his return home after twenty years and then dies. BACK

[6] The Greek victory over the Persians at the battle of Marathon 490 BC. BACK

[7] The battle of Jemappes, 6 November 1792, saw the defeat of the Austrians and their allies by the French General Charles-Francois du Perier Dumouriez (1739–1823). Both sides sustained heavy casualties. BACK

[8] Jacques Pierre Brissot (1754–1793), a leading Girondist, was executed in October 1793. BACK

[9] Oh Horace ... feel: Verse written in double columns. BACK

[10] Richard Glover (1712–1785; DNB), Leonidas, A Poem (1737). BACK

[11] Thomas Gray (1716–1771; DNB), ‘The Progress of Poesy. A Pindaric Ode’ (1757), III. 3, line 4. BACK

[12] The epic poets Marcus Annaeus Lucanus (AD 39–65), author of the Pharsalia; Publius Papinius Statius (c. AD 45–96), author of Thebaid; Tiberius Catius Silius Italicus (c. AD 25–101), author of Punica; Gaius Valerius Flaccus (died c. AD 90), author of Argonautica. BACK

[13] The poets Lodovico Ariosto (1474–1533); Torquato Tasso (1544–1595); Luis Vaz de Camoëns (1524–1580). BACK

[14] Richard Glover, Leonidas, A Poem (1737) and The Athenaid, published posthumously in 1787. BACK

[15] Leonidas, King of Sparta (reigned 487–480 BC), killed at the battle of Thermopylae; Æschylus (525–456 BC), writer of tragedy, who fought at the battles of Salamis and Platæa; Themistocles (c. 528–462 BC), Athenian statesman and general, victor at the naval battle of Salamis; Aristides (c. 530–468 BC), Athenian statesman and general. BACK

[16] King of Persia (reigned 486–465 BC), who invaded Greece and was defeated at the battles of Salamis and Platæa. BACK

[17] Artemisia I of Caria, ruler of Halicarnassus, fought bravely on the side of Xerxes in the Battle of Salamis, 480 BC. See Richard Glover, Leonidas, A Poem (London, 1737), p. 307, for ‘the martial queen of Caria’. BACK

[18] Demaratus, King of Sparta 519–491 BC. Deposed, he fled to Persia and accompanied Xerxes in his invasion of Greece. See Richard Glover, Leonidas, A Poem (London, 1737), p. ii. BACK

[19] Three battles fought by Greeks against Persian invaders: Thermopylae and Salamis (both 480 BC) and Platæa (479 BC). BACK

[20] In Greek mythology, Mount Parnassus was the home of the Muses. BACK

[21] The festival celebrated at Platæa in honour of Jupiter Eleutherius as the asserter of liberty. It was instituted after the Greek victory over the Persians in 479 BC. BACK

[22] A town in Cyprus, centre of the cult of Aphrodite. BACK

[23] A place near Athens dedicated to the hero Academus, and the site of Plato’s school of philosophy, the Academia. BACK

[24] Epicurus (341–270 BC), philosopher, founder of Epicureanism, who reputedly taught in his garden in Athens. His school was therefore known as ‘the Garden’. BACK

[25] Possibly Charles Sawkins (d. 1818), educated at Christ Church, Oxford, BA 1778, and from 1797, Perpetual Curate of Binsey, Oxfordshire. BACK

[26] Euclid of Alexandria (dates uncertain, between 325 and 250 BC), mathematician. BACK

[27] In Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s (1712–1778) Julie, ou la Nouvelle Héloïse (1761), the tutor Saint-Preux, his lover Julie and her husband Baron Wolmar create an ideal virtuous life on the Wolmars’s estate at Clarens by Lake Geneva. BACK

[28] Abraham Cowley (1618–1667; DNB), royalist poet. BACK

[29] A commonplace saying, which can be translated as ‘spectacles return by morning’. BACK

[30] beg ... soon: Written on the address section. BACK

Published @ RC

March 2009