457. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 28 November [1799]

457. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 28 November [1799] ⁠* 

My dear Wynn

Halto is the printers blunder. [1]  Bishop is my own wilful one – however the Arch may be hammered on with very little tinker trouble. according to my authority here – which is Coryat the Oddcombian [2]  – he was eat by Mice & the Tower is called Mouse-Tower. read the last stanza thus improved

And in at the window & in at the door
And thro the wall by thousands they pour
And down from the cieling, & up from the floor
From the right & the left, from behind & before
From within & without, from above & below,
And all at once to the Bishop they go. [3] 

This pain in my side troubles me – whether it be pleurisy – or consumption – or some disease at heart for in that part it lies – I know not. I am going to winter at Bristol for the sake of medical advice. this nervous fever has left me very weak & emaciated.

Bedfords extract is curious. Xx I should like to trace its historical foundation. I weave the story into Thalaba, which is the why I sent for it. [4]  Purchas relates it from Marco Polo. [5]  I have prest into my service most of the ingenious lies which I have found in travellers. Maundeville is worth reading [6]  – he will tell you of a Valley where the Devils head always appears above ground – & of a Faery Falcon which whoso could watch for 7 days & nights should have his wish cum multis aliis quæ nunc perseribere longum est. [7] 

I am going to work at Queen Mary [8]  with all the little spirits I now possess. we go to Bristol on Monday – unless I should have a relapse – which I am fearful of.

Heywood lies before me P. 600. the tale will do. [9]  there is another in the Sphynx of Heidfeldius. [10]  of a man who sold his soul at a tavern to a strange man – the famous single combat in France between the man & the dog would balladize, but I want documents – & names. [11]  Thalaba you will like I think – if you will endure the metre ecce exemplum. [12] 

Who shall seek thro Araby
Hodeirahs dreaded son?
They mingle the arrows of chance,
The lot of Abdaldar is drawn.
Thirteen moons must wax & wane
Ere his quest he may relinquish.
He must visit every tribe
That roams the desert wilderness or dwells,
Beside perennial streams, till he has found
The boy whose blood alone
Can quench that fated fire.

A ring of crystal formd Abdaldar bore,
The powerful gem condensed
Primæval dews that upon Caucasus
Felt the first winters frost.
Ripening there it lay beneath
Rock above rock & mountain ice up-piled
On mountain, till the mighty mass assumed
So huge its bulk, the oceans azure hue.

With this he sought the inmost den
There where the image of dark Eblis stood
And by it burnt the eternal flame
Like waters gushing from some channelld rock
Full thro a narrow opening, from a chasm
The eternal flame streamd up.
No eye beheld the xxxxx fount
Of that up-flowing flame,
That blazed self nurtured, & for ever, there.
It was no mortal element. the Abyss
Supplied it, from the fountains at the first
Prepared, in the heart of earth it lives & glows
Her vital heat, till at the day decreed
The voice of God shall let its billows loose,
To deluge oer with no abating flood
The consummated world, that thro the heaven
Thenceforth must roll, the penal orb of fire.

Unturband & unsandalld there
Abdaldar stood before the flame,
And held the ring beside, & spake
The language that the Elements obey.
The obedient flame detached a portion forth

That in the crystal entering, was condensed
Gem of the gem, its living eye of fire.
When the hand that wears the spell
Shall touch the destined boy
Then shall that eye be quenchd,
And the freed element
Fly to its sacred & remembered spring. [13] 

This ring with a little hell-fire set in it, is a very material <important> ring. the regular blank verse is not usually so much mingled with the shorter lines in the dialogue (for part is dramatic) I employ it, & in parts that require a loftier tone.

God bless you. I am an unlucky fellow to have the heartache, with every reason & inclination to be happy.

yrs affectionately

Robert Southey

Burton. Thursday 28 Nov.

All the imprecations of Ernulphus on my Biographer! [14] 


* MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4811D. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] ‘God’s Judgement On A Bishop’, Morning Post, 27 November 1799, dealt with legends that surrounded Hatto I (c. 850–913; Archbishop of Mainz, 891–913). BACK

[2] Thomas Coryat (1577–1617; DNB), Coryat’s Crudities Hastily Gobbled up in Five Months Travel to France, Italy &c (London, 1611), pp. 571–572. Coryat was an ‘Oddcombian’ because he was from Odcombe in Somerset. BACK

[3] This revised version was used in the penultimate stanza of ‘God’s Judgement On A Bishop’ in Annual Anthology (Bristol, 1800), p. 263. BACK

[4] On 24 October 1799 (Letter 450) Southey had asked Bedford to find information about the garden of Aloaddin or Aladeules. It was used in a note to Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), Book 7, line 256. BACK

[5] Marco Polo (c. 1254–1324); Samuel Purchas (c. 1577–1626; DNB), Purchas his Pilgrimage, 2nd edn (1614), pp. 237, 317. BACK

[6] Sir John Mandeville, The Voiage and Travaile of Sir John Maundeville (London, 1727), pp. 340–344, 176–178. For the ‘faery falcon’ see also Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 90–91. BACK

[7] The Latin translates as ‘with many others which now it would be too lengthy to describe in full.’ BACK

[8] Southey’s proposed play on ‘The Days of Queen Mary’, set in the time of Mary I (1516–1558; reigned 1553–1558; DNB); see Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, pp. 190–192. BACK

[9] Thomas Heywood (1570s–1641; DNB), The Hierarchie of the Blessed Angells (1635), p. 600, relates the tale of a nobleman who feasted with the ‘divells of hell’. Southey did not turn this into a poem, though he had previously made use of Heywood’s book in the supernatural ballads ‘Donica’ and ‘Rudiger’, both published in Poems (1797). BACK

[10] Johannes Heidfeld (1563–1629), Sextum Renata, Renovata ac Longe Ornatius Etiam, Quam Anquam Autea Exculta Sphinx Theologica-Philosophica (1612). BACK

[11] The story that in France in c. 1400 the Chevalier Maquer murdered a man called Montdidier. Montdidier’s greyhound found the corpse and accused Maquer by attacking him. In a trial by combat between the man and the dog, Maquer was overpowered, confessed to his crime and was executed; see Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, p. 197. BACK

[12] The Latin translates as ‘behold an example’. BACK

[13] An early version of Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), Book 2, lines 223–272. BACK

[14] Possibly a reference to Southey’s biography in Public Characters of 1799–1800 (London, 1799), pp. 224–231. Ernulphus (c. 1040–1124, Bishop of Rochester 1115–1124) was famous for a Latin curse, used in the excommunication rite. BACK

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Burton (mentioned 1 time)