2884. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 23 December 1816

2884. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 23 December 1816⁠* 

There Mr Bedford is the work of an ill-spent morning; – & now you may send Sir William Parsons Mus: Doc: which you like, – & do what you like with the other. [1] 

23 Dec. 1816.

The Mus: Doc: is accommodated with regular metre & short stanzas.

Ode [2] 


One day of dreadful occupation more
Ere Englands gallant ships
Shall, of their beauty, pomp & power disrobed,
Like seabirds on the sunny main
Rock idly in the port. [3] 


One day of dreadful occupation more!
A work of righteousness,
Yea of sublimest mercy must be done!
England will break the oppressors chain
And set the captives free.


Red Cross of England whom all shores have seen
Triumphantly displayed
Thou sacred banner of the glorious Isle,
Known wheresoever keel hath cut
The navigable deep!


Neer didst thou float more proudly on the storm
Of havoc & of death,
Then when resisting fiercely but in vain,
Algiers her moony standard [4]  lowered
And signed the Conqueror’s law.


Oh if the Grave were sentient, as these Moors
Hold in their vain belief, [5] 
And joy could reach the innumerable dead
Who in the Grave alone found rest
From bondage & from pain; –


Sure their rejoicing dust upon that day
Had heaved the oppressive soil;
And earth been shaken like the Mosques & Towers
When Exmouth on those guilty walls
His fiery vengeance sent.


Seldom hath Victory given a joy like this, –
When the delivered slave
Revisits once again his own dear home,
And tells of all his sufferings past,
And blesses Englands name.


Far – far & wide the happiness extends
Oer all the Italian shores;
Sardinian mothers pay their vows fulfilld;
And hymns are heard upon thy banks
O fountain Arethuse! [6] 


Churches will blaze with light, & ring with praise,
And purer strains will rise
From many an overflowing heart to Heaven,
Nor in those prayers of gratitude
Shall England be forgot.



* Address: [deletion and readdress in another hand] To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Stafford Row/ Pimlico
Postmarks: 7 o’Clock/ 26 DE/ 1816 N.T; Two Py Po/ Unpaid/ Bge St We
Endorsements: 23 Decr. 1816./ With Ode for 1817; for Ltr of 23 Decr 1816
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. c. 25. ALS; 5p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Southey was forwarding, via Bedford, verses for his Laureate New Year Ode, so that they might be set to music for performance at court by Sir William Parsons, the Master of the King’s Music (these performances had actually been suspended since 1810). He had previously sent verses on the bombardment of Algiers in his letter to Bedford of 13 December 1816 (Letter 2877); in this letter he sends an alternative set. BACK

[2] Ode: ‘1817’ inserted after in another hand. BACK

[3] On 27 August 1816, in an attempt to put an end to piracy in the Mediterranean and to the enslavement of captured Europeans, an Anglo-Dutch fleet under the command of Admiral Edward Pellew, 1st Viscount Exmouth (1757–1833; DNB) bombarded the port of Algiers. The action caused the Dey of Algiers to release about 1200 slaves and to sign a treaty undertaking to end the practice. BACK

[4] Algiers was theoretically part of the Ottoman Empire (though in practice independent) and flew the red Ottoman flag, decorated with a crescent moon. BACK

[5] A reference to the Islamic belief that the grave constitutes the ‘third stage’ of human existence. Until the Day of Judgement the wicked are punished in the grave, while the righteous are rewarded. BACK

[6] Arethusa was a nymph in Greek mythology who gave her name to a fountain on the small island of Ortygia, off the coast of Sicily. Ortygia was the ancient centre of the city of Syracuse. BACK

People mentioned

Parsons, William (1745/6–1817) (mentioned 2 times)