197. To Robert Southey Address: Robert Southey | at Mrs Barnes's | Burton, near Ringwood | Hampshire Single MS.Lord Latymer. Pub. with omis. Letters, i.221. Stamped: Bridgewater [Circa 17 July 1797] Dear Southey You are acting kindly in your exertions for Chatterton's sister: 1 but I doubt the success. Chatterton's or Rowley's poems were never popular -- the very circumstance which made them so much talked of -- their ancientness -- prevented them from being generally read ---- in the degree, I mean, that Goldsmith's poem or even ____________________ 1 The Works of Thomas Chatterton, to which Cottle contributed 'most of the editorial part', and Southey 'advice and a preface', did not appear until 1808. Jack Simmons, Southey, 68. -332- Rogers's thing upon memory has been. -- The sale was never very great. -- Secondly, the London Edition & the Cambridge Edition, which are now both of them the property of London Booksellers, are still on hand -- & these Booksellers will 'hardly exert their interest for a rival.' Thirdly, these are bad times. Fourthly, all who are sincerely zealous for Chatterton, or who from knowlege of her are interested in poor Mrs Newton, will come forwards first ---- & if others should drop in but slowly, Mrs Newton will either receive no benefit at all from those, her friends, or one so long procrastinated from the necessity of waiting for the complement of subscribers, that it may at last come too late. -- For these reasons I am almost inclined to think, a subscription simply would be better. ---- It is unpleasant to cast a damp on any thing; but that benevolence alone is likely to be beneficent, which calculates. -- If however you continue to entertain higher hopes, than I -- believe me, I will shake off my sloth, & use my best muscles in gaining subscribers. I will certainly write a preliminary Essay, and I will attempt to write a poem on the life & death of Chatterton, but the Monody must not be reprinted. -- Neither this or the Pixies' Parlour would have been in the second Edition, but for dear Cottle's solicitous importunity. Excepting the last 18 lines of the Monody, which tho' deficient in chasteness & severity of diction, breathe a pleasing spirit of romantic feeling, there are not 5 lines in either poem, which might not have been written by a man who had lived & died in the self-same St Giles's Cellar, in which he had been first suckled by a drab with milk & Gin. -- The Pixies is the least disgusting; because the subject leads you to expect nothing -- but on a life & death so full of heart-giving realities, as poor Chatterton's to find such shadowy nobodies, as cherub-winged DEATH, Trees of HOPE, barebosom'd AFFECTION, & simpering PEACE -- makes one's blood circulate like ipecacacuanha [sic]. -- But so it is. A young man by strong feelings is impelled to write on a particular subject -- and this is all, his feelings do for him. They set him upon the business & then they leave him. -- He has such a high idea, of what Poetry ought to be, that he cannot conceive that such things as his natural emotions may be allowed to find a place in it -- his learning therefore, his fancy, or rather conceit, and all his powers of buckram are put on the stretch --. It appears to me, that strong feeling is not so requisite to an Author's being profoundly pathetic, as taste & good sense. -- Poor old Wag! ---- his mother died of a dish of a clotted Cream, which my mother sent her as a present. I rejoice that your poems are all sold. 1 -- In the ballad of Mary, ____________________ 1 Poems by Robert Southey, 1797. -333- the Maid of the Inn, you have properly enough made the diction colloquial -- but 'engages the eye', applied to a gibbet strikes me as slipsloppish -- from the unfortunate meaning of the word 'engaging'. 1 -- Your praise of my Dedication gave me great pleasure -- From the 9th to the 14th the five lines are flat & prosish -- & the versification ever & anon has too much of the rhyme or couplet cadence -& the metaphor on the diverse sorts of friendship is hunted down 2 -but the poem is dear to me, and in point of taste I place it next to "Low was our pretty cot ['] which I think the best of my poems. -- I am as much a Pangloss as ever -- only less contemptuous, than I used to be, when I argue how unwise it is to feel contempt for any thing ---- I had been on a visit to Wordsworth's at Racedown near Crewkherne -- and I brought him & his Sister back with me & here I have settled them --. By a combination of curious circumstances a gentleman's seat, with a park & woods, elegantly & completely furnished -- with 9 lodging rooms, three parlours & a Hall -- in a most beautiful & romantic situation by the sea side -- 4 miles from Stowey -- this we have got for Wordsworth at the rent of 23| a year, taxes included!! -- The park and woods are his for all purposes he wants them -- i.e. he may walk, ride, & keep a horse in them -& the large gardens are altogether & entirely his. -- Wordsworth is a very great man -- the only man, to whom at all times & in all modes of excellence I feel myself inferior -- the only one, I mean, whom I have yet met with -- for the London Literati appear to me to be very much like little Potatoes -- i.e. no great Things! -- a compost of Nullity & Dullity. -- Charles Lamb has been with me for a week -- he left me Friday morning. -- / The second day after Wordsworth came to me, dear Sara accidently emptied a skillet of boiling milk on my foot, which confined me during the whole time of C. Lamb's stay & still prevents me from all walks longer than a furlong. -- While Wordsworth, his Sister, & C. Lamb were out one evening; / sitting in the arbour of T. Poole's garden, which communicates with mine, I wrote these lines, 3 with which I am pleased ---- Well -- they are gone: and here must I remain, Lam'd by the scathe of fire, lonely & faint, This lime-tree bower my prison. They, meantime, ____________________ 1 Southey later altered the line to 'His irons you still from the road may espy'. See Poet. Works, 1838, vi.9. 2 See lines 20-30, Poems, i.174. 3 Poems, i.178. Another copy of these lines was sent in a letter to Charles Lloyd, which has not come to light. See Campbell, Poetical Works, 591, for the version sent to Lloyd. -334- My friends, whom I may never meet again, On springy * heath, along the hill-top edge, Wander delighted, and look down, perchance, On that same rifted Dell, where many an Ash 1 Twists it's wild limbs beside the ferny rock, Whose plumy ferns ** for ever nod and drip Spray'd by the waterfall. But chiefly Thou, My gentle-hearted CHARLES! thou, who hast pin'd And hunger'd after Nature many a year In the great City pent, winning thy way, With sad yet bowed soul, thro' evil & pain And strange calamity. -- Ah slowly sink Behind the western ridge; thou glorious Sun! Shine in the slant beams of the sinking orb, Ye purple Heath-flowers! Richlier burn, ye Clouds! Live in the yellow Light, ye distant Groves! And kindle, thou blue Ocean! So my friend Struck with joy's deepest calm, and gazing round On the wide view, † may gaze till all doth seem Less gross than bodily, a living Thing That acts upon the mind, and with such hues As cloathe the Almighty Spirit, when he makes Spirits perceive His presence! A Delight Comes sudden on my heart, and I am glad As I myself were there! Nor in this bower Want I sweet sounds or pleasing shapes. I watch'd The sunshine of each broad transparent Leaf Broke by the shadows of the Leaf or Stem, Which hung above it: and that Wall-nut Tree Was richly ting'd: and a deep radiance lay Full on the ancient ivy which usurps Those fronting elms, and now with blackest mass ____________________ * elastic, I mean. -- [S.T.C.] ** The ferns, that grow in moist places, grow five or six together & form a complete 'Prince of Wales's Feather' -- i.e. plumy. -- [S.T.C.] 1 Wand'ring well-pleas'd, look down on grange or dell Or deep fantastic [originally that deep gloomy] Rift, where many an Ash [Cancelled version of lines 6 and 7.] Cf. Kubla Khan, line 12, 'But oh! that deep romantic chasm'. Should the 'wild, romantic dell' near Alfoxden described in This Lime-Tree join the combe at Culbone as a possible influence on Kubla Khan? See Thomas Poole, i.288; Early Letters, 170-1; W. Sypher, "Coleridge's Somerset: a Byway to Xanadu", Philological Quarterly, Oct 1939, p. 353; and Letter 209. † You remember, I am a Berkleian. -- [S.T.C.] -335- Makes their dark foliage gleam a lighter hue Thro' the last twilight. -- And tho' the rapid bat Wheels silent by and not a swallow twitters, Yet still the solitary humble-bee Sings in the bean flower. Henceforth I shall know That nature ne'er deserts the wise & pure, No scene so narrow, but may well employ Each faculty of sense, and keep the heart Awake to Love & Beauty: and sometimes 'Tis well to be bereav'd of promis'd good That we may lift the soul, & contemplate With lively joy the joys, we cannot share. My Sister & my Friends! when the last Rook Beat it's straight path along the dusky air Homewards, I bless'd it; deeming, it's black wing Cross'd, like a speck, the blaze of setting day, 1 While ye stood gazing; or when all was still, Flew creaking o'er your heads, & had a charm For you, my Sister & my Friends! to whom No sound is dissonant, which tells of Life! I would make a shift by some means or other to visit you, if I thought, that you & Edith Southey would return with me. -- I think, indeed I almost am certain that I could get a one horse chair free of all expence -- I have driven about the country a great deal lately -- & brought back Miss Wordsworth over forty miles of execrable road: & have been always a very cautious & am now no inexpert, whip. -- And Wordsworth at whose house I now am for change of air has commissioned me to offer you a suit of rooms at this place, which is called 'All-foxen' -- & so divine and wild is the country that I am sure it would increase your stock of images -- & three weeks' absence from Christ-Church will endear it to you -- & Edith Southey & Sara may not have another opportunity of seeing each other -- & Wordsworth is very solicitous to know you -- & Miss Wordsworth is a most exquisite young woman in her mind, & heart. -- I pray you, write me immediately, directing Stowey near Bridgewater, as before. -- God bless you & your affectionate S. T. Coleridge I heard from C. Lamb of Favell & Legrice. Poor Allen! 2 I know ____________________ 1 Had cross'd the flood [originally orb] & blaze of setting day, [Cancelled version of line above.] 2 Robert Allen had been appointed Assistant Surgeon to the Second Royals, then stationed in Portugal. -336- nothing of it -- As to Rough, he is a wonderful fellow. -- And when I returned from the army, cut me for a month, till he saw that other people were as much attached [to] me as before.