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525. Robert Southey to Joseph Cottle, 9 May 1800 ⁠* 

Dear Cottle, d’ye see
In writing to thee
I do it in rhyme
That I may save time;
Determined to say
Without any delay
Whatever comes first
Whether best or worst.
Alack poor me!
When I was at sea,
For I lay like a log
As sick as a dog.
And whoever this readeth
Must pity poor Edith
Indeed it was shocking,
The vessel was fast rocking,
The timbers all creaking,
And when we were speaking
It was to deplore
That we were not on shore
And to swear we would never go voyaging more.

The fear of our fighting [1] 
Did put her a fright in,
And I had alarms
For my legs & my arms,
When the matches were smoking
I thought twas no joking,
And tho honor & glory
And fame were before me,
Twas a great satisfaction
That we had not an action,
And I felt somewhat bolder
When I knew that my head might remain on my shoulder.

But o twas a pleasure
Exceeding all measure,
On the deck to stand
And look at the land!
And when I got there
I vow & declare
The pleasure was even
Like getting to xxx heaven.
I could eat & drink
As you may think
I could sleep at ease.
Except for the fleas.
But still the sea feeling,
The drunken reeling,
Did not go away
For more than a day
Like a cradle the bed
Seemed to rock my head,
And the room & the town
Went up & down.

My Edith here
Thinks all things queer
And some things she likes well
But then the street
She thinks not neat
And does not like the smell.
Nor do the fleas
Her fancy please,
Altho the fleas like her,
They at first view
Fell merrily to,
For they made no demur.
But oh the sight!
The great delight
From this my window west!
This view so fine,
This scene divine!
The joy that I love best!
The Tagus here
So broad & clear
Blue in the clear blue noon –
And it lies light
All silver white
Under the silver moon!

Adieu adieu
Farewell – to you –
Farewell my friend so dear
Write when you may
I need not say
How gladly we shall hear.

I leave off rhyme –
And so next time
Prose writing you shall see –
Rhy But {in} rhyme or prose
Dear Joseph knows –
The xxxx {same old} friend in me.

So God bless you. & our love to your sisters & mother & father & Amos & Robert, with whom I would shake hands if I could reach so far. & how comes on Alfred? [2] 

R.S.

Lisbon. May 9. 1800.


Notes

* Address: To/ Mr Cottle/ Gloucester Street/ Brunswick Square/ Bristol/ Single
Stamped: LISBON
Endorsement: 36 (114)
MS: Cornell University Library
Previously published: Joseph Cottle, Early Recollections of the Late Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 2 vols (London, 1837), II, pp. 14–18; Joseph Cottle, Reminiscences of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey (London, 1847), pp. 221–224; Adolfo Cabral (ed.), Robert Southey: Journals of a Residence in Portugal 1800–1801 and a Visit to France 1838 (Oxford, 1960), pp. 87–89. BACK

[1] The alarm when the passengers and crew of the packet, King George, on which Southey was sailing, feared that an approaching ship was a French cutter. It turned out to be HMS Endymion. BACK

[2] Joseph Cottle, Alfred, An Epic Poem. In Twenty-Four Books (1800). BACK

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August 2011