2730. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 1 March 1816

2730. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 1 March 1816⁠* 

My dear R.

You will see that the second part of the Poem [1]  leads to the moral strain which you feel wanting. I shall dwell upon the effects of war, & show the possible prospects of society, – thus winding up at the conclusion.

That ran is not ignorance, but license, & I fear I shall not be able to discard it. The Greeks had their Doricé, Attice Ionicé, Ӕolice & Beoticé on an occasion, & we poor Englishmen are not even allowed a Rhymicé, – all these were not enough for them, but they h must have their Poeticé into the bargain. [2]  How oddly an English poem would look with a mixture of all our dialects, provincialisms, brogues as far as they can be expressed in letters, elongations of some words & curtailments of others!

I cut off the corners of the inclosed, for fear of weight, the insertions [3]  have increased its bulk. As it was determined to give a print of Ligny [4]  (being the most picturesque subject of the whole) – it becomes proper to give more than the cursory mention which I had at first intended to make.

Thank you for the Treaties. [5] 


March 1. 1816


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqre/ St Stephens Court/ New Palace Yard/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: [partial] FREE/ MR/ 1816
Endorsement: 1: March 1816
MS: Huntington Library, RS 271. ALS; 2p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Part Two of The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816), which Rickman was reading in manuscript before passing it on to Grosvenor Bedford, who saw the poem through the press. BACK

[2] Southey lists here some of the regional variants of Ancient Greek and regrets that English poets are not permitted to alter words for the sake of rhyme, even though this creates difficulties for poetry. BACK

[3] The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (1816), Part One, Book 4, stanzas 12–21, 25–26 and 29–34 were added later to the poem and included in a section headed ‘Insertions’ in the manuscript now in the Houghton Library, Harvard, MS Eng 934. BACK

[4] The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (London, 1816), between pp. 90–91 included an engraving of ‘The Ruins of Ligny’ after a drawing by Edward Nash. The inserted stanzas 29–34 gave a much fuller description of the scene at Ligny, where French forces had defeated a Prussian Army on 16 June 1815. BACK

[5] Rickman sent Southey copies of the Treaties of Paris (1814 and 1815), which laid the basis of many of the boundaries of post-Napoleonic Europe. BACK