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

84. Robert Southey to Horace Walpole Bedford, 4 April 1794 ⁠* 

Balliol. Thursday {Friday} morning April 4th. 1794.

My dear Horace

Tho your petrifying silence be enough to freeze the pen in my inkstand — yet as I have no right to accuse on this head whilst at Oxford, I send this to say I am alive & enquire whether or no you are in the same predicament. & as a small sheet of paper is better than none, & as mine was Hobsons choice you must be content with this quarto & thank me for it. I go to Bristol next week & there shall expect to hear from you.

now this is this abominable chapel bell reminding me of morning prayers. seven o clock & I have breakfasted & written half an ode & seven lines & 3 quarters of a letter beside date & exordium already. by the by suppose I try a pindaric to this said chapel bell?

Horrida Bella! [1] 

tis an old pun

Lo I the man whose Muse of late her maskd
As Time her taught in rustic shepherd weeds
Am now enforced a far unfitter tasks
For cap & gown to change my Doric weeds
And sit in chapel whilst the snaffling Ginger reads

Ginger of snaggling snoffling sniveling nose
Ginger whose stream of elocution flows
Foul as the channel thro the which it goes.
AMEN.
The bell warns me. — And Imposition threatens oer my head
Five times already have I truant playd
From chapel — & five time the scholars pin
Has prickd the accusing paper thro & thro
Ah ruthless scholar & ah ruthless pin
To prick the accusing paper thro & thro
When every hole wounds my fair character
And adds irregular to Southeys name!
So witches stab the enchanted form of wax
And every stab some wretched victim feels.
I must go & I must run — Swifter than the setting sun. & the morning is wet — & I am engaged out to breakfast at nine — & my pindaric to the chapel bell not yet finishd — finishd said I?
not yet begun!
Oh Horace Horace
Oh ROBERT SOUTHEY

——— [2] 

Tis half past eight.
My ode is finished & I must go to breakfast.

12 o clock

Dr Southey presents his compliments to Dr Bedford & {hopes} his brothers purge worked well.

Doctores vim promovent instutam [3] 

—————

To the Chapel Bell. [4] 

————

Lo I — the man whose Muse whylome did maske
As time her taught in outcast felons weeds —
Am now enforst a far unfitter taske
For cap & gown to chaunge mine oaten reeds
For yon dull sound long lingering on the air
Bids me lay by the lyre & go to morning prayer.

Dull dismal sound devout I hate thy knell
That tolls a requiem to the studious hour
For loth am I at Superstitions bell
To quit the lovely Muses laurelld bower
Where chastend Pleasure holds elysian reign
To hear still mumbled oer the same eternal strain.

For hast thou ever summoned by thy sound
One being with religious awe imprest?
Wakd ever in thy never-varying round
The fire of full Devotion in his breast?
Or rather do not all reluctant creep
To linger out the hour in listlessness or sleep?

I love the bell that on the sabbath day
Chimes from the village church its chearful sound
When the sun smiles on Labors holyday
And all the village train are gathered round
Each deftly deckd & dizend in his best
The honest index these of true religious breast.

I love to see the aged spirit soar
The narrow confines of the world above
I love to see the honest youth adore
Thank in respect & magnify in love
To know the priest of forty pounds a year
His lowly life to see — his simple truths to hear.

Or when inumbring oer the face of day
Slow rise the mists of evening all around
As thro the forest glade I wend my way
I love the distant curfews hollow sound
I love to pause its pensive toll to hear
As made by distance soft it strikes the listening ear.

Or sadder still — I love the nightly knell
That tells the exit of some vital breath —
Slow on my sense the sounds tremendous dwell
And make Mortality remember Death.
For Virtue loves in native vigor brave
To list the friendly toll & ponder oer the grave.

But thou memorial of monastic zeal,
What lovd remembrance bringst thou to the mind?
What does thy oft-repeated sound reveal?
Devotion dull & Superstition blind
The sniffling snaffling chaplains nasal note —
And eke the Scarlet Dame by her red petticoat. [5] 

————


I want.
a letter.
my boots
my great coat
my books

———

you want
A HORSE-WHIP
for your silence.

———

& tho I have as great a regard for thee as Sancho had for Dapple [6]  I could xxxx lay it on with a hearty good will.

————

Clodius accuset mœchos. [7]  so take this meekly.


Now I have punishd your silence by this letter write directly to

your sincere friend

And dignified brother

Doctor Southey that is to be.


make my best respects to your father & mother. how is Mr Bs gout? remember me to Mrs Deacon &c in some pretty phrase that means much.


Do not let

Doctors differ.

nor

Doctor defer

to answer my letter with due deference. for in punctuality there is no difference between us. [8] 


Notes

* Address: Horace Walpole Bedford Esqr/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster
Stamped: OXFORD
Postmark: SAP/ 5/ 94
Watermark: Crown [rest obscured by binding]
Endorsement: Recd. April 4th. 1794
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 22
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Virgil (70–19 BC), Aeneid, Book 6, line 86. The Latin translates as ‘wars are horrendous’. BACK

[2] out to breakfast ... : Written in the margin of fol. 1 r. BACK

[3] Horace (65–8 BC), Odes, Book 4, no. 4, line 33. The Latin can be translated as ‘training develops innate powers’. BACK

[4] A revised version was published in Southey’s Poems (1797). BACK

[5] Lo ... petticoat: Verse in double columns. BACK

[6] In Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616), Don Quixote (1605–1615), Sancho is the servant and companion of Don Quixote, and Dapple is his ass. BACK

[7] Juvenal (fl. AD late C1 and early C2), Satire 2, line 27. The Latin translates as ‘Clodius accused adulterers’. BACK

[8] Do not let ... between us: Written in the margin of fol. 2 r. BACK

Published @ RC

March 2009