2523. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 21 December 1814

2523. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 21 December 1814 ⁠* 

Ode [1] 


When shall the Island Queen of Ocean lay
The thunderbolt aside.
And twining olives with her laurel crown
Rest in the Bower of Peace?


Not long may that unnatural strife endure
Which insolent men corrupt,
Obsequious to the Tyrant whom they deemd
Invincible, on causeless pretext raised
Beyond the Atlantic deep.
Not long may their misrule
Curse that indignant land
Where Washington [2]  hath left
His aweful memory beloved
A light for after times.
Soon may the better Genius there prevail
Then will the Island Queen of Ocean lay
The thunderbolt aside
And twining olives olives with her laurel crown
Rest in the Bower of Peace.


But not in ignominous ease supine
Within that blissful bower
The Ocean Queen will rest.
Her other toils await;
A holier warfare, nobler victories
And amaranthine wreaths
Which when the laurel crown grows sere
Will live fore for ever green –


Hear me O England! rightly may I claim
Thy favourable audience, Queen of Isles,
My Mother-Land revered!
For in the perilous hour
When weaker spirits stood aghast,
And sophist-tongues to thy dishonour bold,
Spit their cold venom on the public ear;
My voice was heard, a voice of hope,
Of confidence & joy, –
Yea of such prophecy
As Wisdom to her sons doth aye vouchsafe,
When with pure heart & diligent desire
They seek the fountain springs,
And of the Ages past
Take counsel reverently.


Nobly hast thou stood up
Against the foulest tyranny that eer
Outraged opprest mankind!
O glorious England thou hast borne thyself
Religiously & bravely in that strife.
And happier victory hath blest thine arms
Than in the days of yore
Thine own Plantagenets [3]  achievd
Or Marlborough [4]  skilld in council as in fields,
Or Wolfe, [5]  heroic name!
Now gird thyself for other war!
Look round thee & behold what ills,
Remediable, & yet unremedied,
Afflict mans wretched race!
Put on the panoply of faith!
Bestir thyself against thine inward foes,
Ignorance & Want with all their brood
Of Miseries & of Crimes!


O Queen of Ocean powerful thou art;
Imperial Rome when it in the Augustan age
She closed the temple of the two-faced God
Could boast no power like thine.
Less opulent was Spain,
When Mexico her sumless riches sent
To that proud monarchy;
And Hayti’s ransackd bowels gave their gold;
And from Potosi’s recent veins
The unabating stream of treasure flowd.
And blest art thou; above all Nations blest,
For thou art Freedoms own beloved Isle!
The light of science shines
Conspicuous like a beacon on thy shores;
Thy martyrs purchased at the stake
Pure faith for thine inheritance:
And by thy hearths Domestic Purity
Safe from the infection of a tainted age
Hath kept her sanctuaries.
O dear dear England, powerful as thou art,
And rich & wise & blest
Yet would I see thee, O my Mother Land
Mightier & wealthier, wiser, happier still.


For still doth Ignorance
Maintain large empire here
Dark & unblest amid surrounding light;
Even as within this favourd spot
Earths wonder & her pride,
The traveller on his way
Beholds with weary eye
Bleak moorland, noxious fen, & lonely heath
In drear extension spread.
Oh grief that spirits of celestial seed
Whom ever-teeming Nature hath brought forth
With all the human faculties divine
Of sense & soul endued, –
Disherited of knowledge & of bliss,
The creatures of brute life
Should grope in darkness lost!


Must this reproach endure?
Honour & praise to him
The universal friend,
The general benefactor of mankind,
He who from Coromandels shores
His perfected discovery brought;
He by whose generous toils
This foul reproach ere long shall be effaced.
This root of evil be eradicate!
Yea generations yet unborn
Shall owe their weal to him
And future nations bless
The honourd name of Bell!


From public fountains the perennial stream
Of public weal must flow.
O England wheresoeer thy churches stand
There on the sacred ground
Where the rich harvest of mortality
Is laid, as in a garner, treasured up,
There plant the Tree of Knowledge! Water it
With thy perpetual bounty! It shall spread
Its branches oer the Church
Shield it against the storm
And bring forth fruits of life.


Train up thy Children England in the ways
Of righteousness, & feed them with the bread
Of wholesome doctrine. Where hast thou thy mines
But in their industry?
Thy bulwarks where but in their breasts,
Thy strength but in their arms?
Shall not their numbers therefore be thy pride
Security & power?
O grief then, grief & shame
If in this flourishing land
There should be dwellings where the newborn babe
Doth bring unto its parents soul no joy!
Where squalid Poverty
Receives it at its birth,
And on her withered knees
Gives it the scanty food of discontent!


Queen of the Seas, enlarge thyself!
Redundant as thou art of life & power,
Be thou the Hive of nations
And send thy swarms abroad!
Send them like Greece of old
With arts & science to enrich
The uncultivated earth;
But with more precious gifts than Greece or Tyre,
Or elder Egypt to the world bequeathd,
The dearest boon of Heaven
Its blood & will revealed.


Queen of the Seas enlarge thyself,
Send thou thy swarms abroad!
For in the years to come,
Tho centuries or millenniums intervene,
Whereer thy progeny
Thy language & thy spirit shall be found:
If on Ontarios shores;
Or late-explored Missouri’s pastures wide;
Or in that Austral world long sought,
The many-isled Pacific, – yea where waves
Now breaking over coral reefs affright
The venturous mariner.
When islands shall have grown, & cities risen
In cocoa groves embowerd;
Whereer thy language lives
By whatsoever name the land be calld
That land is English still!
Thrones fall, & Dynasties are changed;
Empires decay & sink
Beneath their own unwieldy weight;
Dominion passeth like a cloud away.
The imperishable mind
Survives all meaner things.


Train up thy children England in the ways
Of righteousness & feed them with the bread
Of wholesome doctrine! Send thy swarms abroad
Send forth thy humanizing arts
Thy liberal polity, thy gospel-light.
Illume the dark idolater;
Reclaim the savage; O thou Ocean Queen
Be these thy toils when thou has laid
The thunderbolt aside;
He who hath blest thine arms
Will bless thee in these holy works of peace

My dear G.

I must work hard to get this sheet ready for the post, – for tomorrow is Thursday, & there is no time to be lost. This Ode is so utterly unlike all odes which have ever have been Pyed [5]  & Parsons’d, & then fiddled at St James’s, that it is very likely to make my Lord Chamberlain stare, & it has occurred to me that it might produce two possible consequences, – the one an intimation that I need write no more odes – which would be a xx consumation devoutly to be wished, [6]  – & the other the less agreable hint that it is expected I should keep like my predecessors within the usual bounds, & confine myself to the public events of the year, – in short to write verse laudatory & not admonitory. However the spirit of the thing is so perfectly clear & unobjectionable that I will venture it. You will probably advise me to omit the fourth stanza; & if you do I shall certainly follow your advice, tho it is the only stanza in the poem which thoroughly satisfies me, for, setting aside the self-application, the six concluding lines are sound philosophy as well as good verse. To Sir Wm P. I mean to send the 1. 2. 3. 7. 8 & 9 telling him to cut down as he pleases. Send me your general opinion by return of post. If you like the Ode on the whole, & do not dissuade from the publication, it will save time if you transmit it to Longman to be printed like its predecessors, [7]  & in that case you may or may not expunge the fourth stanza if you think best. In that case the 5th must begin in the third person – Nobly hath she stood up. – If you think it better to print no more of the Ode then must go pro formâ – [MS torn] forma! tell me so, – & I will weigh x perpend your opinion & <then> follow my own.

Between ourselves it is very clear that Croker has not taken those mea means to effect the abolition of this silly custom which he promised to do. – Conceding that this is an imposition, I think I have done it in go very good humour.

Most likely I shall mend the Ode, & must perhaps, add something about the National Society. [8] 

God bless you


Keswick. 21 Dec. 1814.


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ 9. Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate/ London/ Single
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 24 DE 24/ 1814
Endorsement: 21 Decr. 1814
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] ‘Ode, Written in December 1814’. It was thought unsuitable by the authorities, and was not published until a different version from that sent to Bedford on 21 December 1814, appeared in Southey’s Minor Poems, 3 vols (London, 1815), II, pp. 227–238. It was retitled ‘Ode, Written During the War with America, 1814’ in the 1837–1838 edition of Southey’s poetical works. BACK

[2] George Washington (1732–1799), first President of the United States of America 1789–1797. BACK

[3] i.e. the Plantagenet kings who had achieved victories in wars against France. BACK

[4] The army officer and politician John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650–1722; DNB), commander during the War of the Spanish Succession 1701–1713. BACK

[5] James Wolfe (1727–1759; DNB), British general killed in the victory at Quebec during the Seven Years War 1756–1763. BACK

[5] A swipe at Southey’s predecessor as Poet Laureate, Henry James Pye (1745–1813; DNB). BACK

[6] Hamlet, Act 3, scene 1, lines 65–66. BACK

[7] Congratulatory Odes. Odes to His Royal Highness The Prince Regent, His Imperial Majesty The Emperor of Russia, and His Majesty the King of Prussia (1814). BACK

[8] The National Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Christian Church, founded in November 1811 it championed the Madras system of Andrew Bell. BACK

Places mentioned

Keswick (mentioned 1 time)