708. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, [started before and continued on] 19 August 1802 

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708. Robert Southey to Thomas Southey, [started before and continued on] 19 August 1802 ⁠* 

That sort of owl light when one {I} can neither see to transcribe a fair page, nor to compile a rough one – does well for a letter where it all dribbles as John Bunyan calls it thro the pen, – straight from the old moveable at the left breast. [1]  – I wish you dear Tom – to feel that while you are onshore your home is with me – & I am mistaken if you will find not soon find pursuits enough & amusements enough to make all you lose all feeling of idleness. Of Cumberland I think very seriously – & have almost indeed decided to go there. if the climate should affect me – it is only going to Lisbon two years earlier than my history [2]  would call me there – & the passage from Liverpool is a good one. As for friends I have but one here who is indeed worth a post. [3]  but the Lakes resemble Bath in that – you see some of your friends or other unexpectedly every season. beauty of country – is something with me – & expence with every body. now I can have as much as I want – furnished – in a good house & well furnished – for twenty guineas a year, with a large study – & a spare bed-room. this is not all – the difference of provisions is very great. even in my expenditure so great that were I so disposed I might keep a horse with the saving. now Tom what say you – with a boat on the Lake – & a fowling piece for idler hours – books – bottles & backgammon for wet weather – & a mountain-poney for the sunny days – what say you to the mountains?


Thursday 19 August. 1802.

I have been prevented from finishing the letter by the unexpected appearance of a friend from London – Duppa, who has taken up my time right pleasantly. last night he went to be the guest of another house & I take a half hours leisure this morning before I set out to carry him to Leigh Woods.

____          The verbs are all underlined. [4] 

Moro Alcayde, Moro Alcayde,
El de la belluda [5]  barba,
El Rey te manda prender  [6] 
Por la perdida de Alhama,
Y cortarte la cabeza
Y ponerla  [7]  en la Alhambra
Porque a ti sea castigo
Y otros tiemblen  [8]  en mirarla  [9] 
Pues perdiste la tenencia [10] 
De una Ciudad tan preciada.

El Alcayde respondia,
Desta manera las habla.
Cavalleros y hombres buenos,
Los que regis  [11]  a Granada,
Decid de mi parte al Rey.
Como no le debo  [12]  nada.
Yo me estaba en Antequera
En bodas [13]  de una mi hermana;
(Mal fuego quemen las bodas,
Y quien a ellos me llamara.)
El Rey me dia licencia,
Que yo no me la tomara,
Pedila fior quinze dias,
Diomela  [14]  por tres semañas.
De averse Alhama perdida

A mi me pisa  [15]  en el Alma,
Que si el Rey perdia su tierra,
Yo perdi mi honra y fama.
Perdi hijos y muger,
Las cosas que mas amaba!
Perdi una hija doncella,
Que era la flor de Granada.
El que la tiene cautiva
Marques de Cadiz se llama;
Cien doblas le doy por ella,
(No me las estima en nada)
La respuesta que me han dado
Es que mi hija es Christians;
Y por nombre la avian puesto
Doña Maria de Alhama.
El nombe [16]  que ella tenia,
Mora Fatima se llama.

Diciendo esto el Alcayde
Le llesaron  [17]  a Granada.
Y siendo  [18]  puesto ante el Rey
La sentencia le fue dada,
Que le corten la cabeza,
Y la lleven al Alhambra
Executose  [19]  justicia
Assi como el Rey lo menda  [20] 


You will not I think be much puzzled with the ballad. with the help of my underlining the grammar will stand you in better stead than the dictionary.

In about three weeks I shall know how to dispose of myself – & x trust to be able to set off with you for Wales. think you if you think the proposal will be civilly answered – before I leave this place finally – I will offer to visit your Uncle. I see no reason why it should be misunderstood or refused. meantime give my respects again.

All well in whom you are concerned – that – is myself – EdithDanvers – & Mrs D – Mary & Bella [21]  & Joe [22]  & the Cat. Smut [23]  is discarded, her unhappy beauty the cause – as all the dogs in the neighbourhood thoug[MS obscured by binding]proper to lift up their legs against Danvers’s door. We dine at Kings (that is Duppa & I) on Saturday. huzza for a bag full of happiness [24]  I forgot to say – that I have bought a whole lot of books – about fifty in all – for sixpence a piece. fine dung for manure. A Dios! hermaño m[MS obscured by binding] [25] 

R. Southey.


* Address: To/ Thomas Southey Esqr/ with John Southey Esqr/ Cottage/ Taunton
Postmark: [partial] STOL/ AUG 20
MS: British Library, Add MS 30927. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Kenneth Curry (ed.), New Letters of Robert Southey, 2 vols (London and New York, 1965), I, pp. 281-282 [in part; verses omitted; dated [August 19 1802]]. BACK

[1] John Bunyan (1628-1688; DNB), The Holy War (1682), ‘An Advertisement to the Reader’, lines 13-14. BACK

[2] Southey’s uncompleted ‘History of Portugal’. BACK

[4] Southey’s underlining is reproduced here as italics. BACK

[5] belluda: Southey inserts a note ‘x soft, downy’. BACK

[6] prender: Southey inserts a note ‘x to take’. BACK

[7] ponerla: Southey inserts a note ‘x to place’. BACK

[8] tiemblen: Southey inserts a note ‘x may fear’. BACK

[9] mirarla: Southey inserts a note ‘x to behold’. BACK

[10] tenencia: Southey inserts a note ‘x the keeping’. BACK

[11] regis: Southey inserts a note ‘x govern’. BACK

[12] debo: Southey inserts a note ‘x I owe him’. BACK

[13] bodas: Southey inserts a note ‘x marriage’. BACK

[14] Diomela: Southey inserts a note ‘x he gave me it. BACK

[15] pisa: Southey inserts a note ‘x grieves’. BACK

[16] This should be ‘nombre’. BACK

[17] llesaron: Southey inserts a note ‘x they took’. BACK

[18] siendo: Southey inserts a note ‘x being placed’. BACK

[19] Executose: Southey inserts a note ‘x was executed’. BACK

[20] Southey had already published his translation of the poem in the Morning Post, 21 July 1798, as ‘From the Spanish. Closely Translated, and in the Metre of the Original’:

Moor Alcayde, Moor Alcayde,
With the long and flowing beard;
The King has sent us to arrest thee
For the capture of Alhama.
He has bade us cut thy head off,
And expose it on the palace,
That others may behold and fear.

Then the old Alcayde answer’d,
Thus in answer did he say, –
Cavaliers and gentle Moslem,
Honourable of Granada,
Tell the King, for me, I pray you,
I have not deserv’d to die.
I was gone to Antequera
To the marriage of my sister,
(Pestilence upon the marriage,
And on those who ask’d me there).
I had licence from the Monarch,
Licence more than I had taken;
I for fifteen days petition’d,
He allowed me twenty-one.
And indeed my soul is sorry
For the capture of Alhama.
If the King has lost his city,
I have lost my fame and honour;
I have lost my wife and children,
All that I on earth lov’d best.
I have lost a damsel daughter,
Once the flow’r of Moorish maids;
To the Count of Cales for ransom
I a hundred doblas offer’d.
And it is no little sum;
And the answer he return’d me
Was, that she was turn’d a Christian,
And the name that they have giv’n her,
Donna Maria de Alhama.
This the name of my dear Daughter
Fatima, the Moorish maid!
Thus exclaim’d the good Alcayde.

Then they took him to Granada,
And they brought him to the King;
Sentence then was pass’d upon him,
Instantly to cut his head off,
And expose it on the palace;
Sentence was perform’d upon him
As the Monarch had decreed.

[21] Bella was a servant in the Southey household, she died in 1804. Mary is either another servant, or possibly Southey’s sister-in-law Mary Lovell. BACK

[22] Tom Southey’s dog. BACK

[23] A dog that belonged to Danvers. BACK

[24] i.e. nitrous oxide, or ‘laughing gas’. Its effects on Southey had been described in Thomas Beddoes, Notice of Some Observations Made at the Medical Pneumatic Institution (Bristol, 1799), p. 11; and Humphry Davy, Researches, Chemical and Philosophical, Chiefly Concerning Nitrous Oxide, or Dephlogisticated Nitrous Air, and Its Respiration (London, 1800), pp. 507–509. BACK

[25] The Spanish translates as ‘Farewell m[y] brother’. BACK

Published @ RC

August 2011