3050. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 15 December 1817

3050. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 15 December 1817⁠* 

My dear G.

If you think the 1st 2d & last stanzas of the inclosed will do for the purpose pray copy them for me (ten minutes will do it) & send them in due form to the Novus Mus Doc. [1]  I have x copied the whole to show you how much trouble I have taken, & to how very little purpose.

I have been looking every day to hear from you.

Nash left us to day. He reckons upon being fixed in his nest by this day week.

RS.

Monday 15 Dec. 1817.

Ode [2] 

1

In its summer pride arrayed
Low our Tree of Hope is laid,
Low it lies in evil hour,
Visiting the bridal bower,
Death hath levell’d root & flower.
Windsor in thy sacred shade,
(This the end of pomp & power!)
Have the rites of death been paid,
Windsor, in thy sacred shade
Is the Flower of Brunswick laid.

2

Ye whose relics rest around
Tenants of this funeral ground,
Know ye, Spirits, who is come,
By the immitigable doom
Summon’d to the untimely tomb?
Late with youth & splendour crown’d
Late in beautys vernal bloom,
Late with love & joyaunce blest!
Never more lamented guest
Was in Windsor laid to rest.

3

Henry [3]  thou of saintly worth,
Thou to whom thy Windsor gave
Name, nativity & grave,
Thou art in this hallowed earth
Cradled for the immortal birth.
Heavily upon his head
Ancestral crimes were visited. [4] 
He in spirit like a child,
Meek of heart & undefiled,
Patiently his crown resign’d
And fix’d on Heaven his heavenly mind.
Blessing while he kissd the rod
His Redeemer & his God.
Now may he in realms of bliss
Greet a soul as pure as his.

4

Passive as that humble spirit
Lies his bold dethroner [5]  too
A dreadful debt did he inherit
To his injured lineage [6]  due
Ill-starred Prince, whose martial merit
Bleeding England long might rue.
Mournful was that Edwards fame,
Won in fields contested well
While he sought his rightful claim.
Witness Aires unhappy water [7] 
Where the ruthless Clifford [8]  fell,
And when Wharfe ran red with slaughter [9] 
Gathering from those guilty plains
The streams of forty thousand veins.
Cressy [10]  was to this but sport;
Poictiers [11]  like a pageant vain
And the victory of Spain
Seem’d a strife for pastime meant,
And the work of Agincourt [12] 
Only like a tournament.
Half the blood which thus was spent,
Had sufficed again to gain
Anjou and ill-yielded Maine
Normandy & Aquitaine; [13] 
And Our Ladys [14]  ancient towers,
Maugre all the Frenchmans powers
Had a second time been ours
The gentle daughter [15]  of thy line,
Edward lays her dust with thine.

5

Thou Elizabeth, art here
Who didst lay thy hapless head
Far more gladly on the bier
Than upon the bridal bed.
Fatal daughter, fatal mother
Raised to that ill-omened station
Father, Uncle, Sons, & Brother
Mournd in blood her elevation
Woodville, [16]  in the realms of bliss
To thine offspring thou mayest say
Early death is happiness;
And favoured in their lot are they
Who are not left to learn below
That length of life is length of woe.
Lightly let this ground be prest,
A broken heart is here at rest.

6

But thou, Seymour, with a greeting
Such as sisters use at meeting.
Joy & sympathy & love
Wilt hail her to the seats above
Like in loveliness were ye;
By a like lamented doom
Hurried to the untimely tomb.
Fellow Angels shall ye be
In the Angelic Company
While together, Sprits blest,
Here your earthly relics rest.

7

Henry too hath here his part;
By the gentle Seymours [17]  side
By his best-beloved bride
Cold & quiet here are laid
The ashes of that fiery heart
Not with his tyrannic spirit
Shall our Charlottes soul inherit!
Not by Fishers [18]  hoary head;
By the life so basely shed
Of the flower of Howards line, <Norfolk’s>* [19] 
By the axe so often red;
By those blessed souls divine
With whose frames the fire was fed;
By learned More & Cromwell good [20] ,
By Catharines wrongs, & Boleyns blood [21] ,
Hateful Henry, not with thee
May her happy spirit be!

8

Here doth the royal sufferer lie,
The hapless Stuart, [22]  whom the Grave,
Revealing its long secret gave
Again to sight that we might spy
His comely face, & waking eye. [23] 
Open <There> thrice fifty years it lay,
Bright, & exempted from decay,
That open eye, as if to say
A plague of bloodier baser birth
Than that beneath whose rage he bled
Was loose upon our guilty earth. [24] 
Such aweful warning from the dead
Was given by that portentous eye,
Then it closed eternally.

9.

Ye whose relics rest around
Tenants of this funeral ground
Even in your immortal spheres
What old yearnings will ye feel
When this earthly guest appears!
Us she leaves in grief & tears
But to you will she reveal
Thee xxxxxx xxx of <Glad tidings of your> Englands weal;
Of a righteous war [25]  pursued
Long through evil & through good
With unshaken fortitude;
Of peace in battle twice achieved
<Of her fiercest foe [26]  subdued,>
And Europe from the yoke relieved
Upon that Brabantine plain. [27] 
He who wore the sable mail [28] 
Might at this heroic tale
Wish himself on earth again!
Such the proud, the virtuous story,
Such the great, the endless glory,
Of her Fathers splendid reign.
How he governed she shall tell,
How firmly & how wisely well:
And how she left the mighty State
Again in all things fortunate,
Save in that decree of Fate
Which from Britains prayers & love
Called her to the world above.

Notes

* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer
Endorsements: 15. Dec. 1817; 15 Decr. 1817. With the Ode for/ 1 Jany 1818/ Recd 18 Decr 1817
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 4p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] Princess Charlotte had died in childbirth, after 18 months of marriage, on 6 November 1817, and Southey had been considering whether to make this event the subject of his New Year’s Ode as Poet Laureate. Parts of the poem would need to be sent to William Shield, the Master of the King’s Music, to be set to music (though no performance of such an ode had taken place since 1810). Shield was ‘Novus’ (new) to this appointment as he had just succeeded Sir William Parsons, who had died on 21 July 1817. BACK

[2] ‘Funeral Song for the Princess Charlotte’; this finally appeared in Friendship’s Offering: A Literary Album and Christmas and New Year’s Present, for 1828 (London, 1828), pp. 1–6. BACK

[3] Henry VI (1421–1471; King of England 1422–1461 and 1470–1471; DNB). He was born at Windsor Castle and his body was interred there after first being buried at Chertsey Abbey. BACK

[4] Henry VI’s grandfather Henry IV (1366–1413; King of England 1399–1413; DNB) had usurped the throne and ordered the killing of his predecessor Richard II (1367–c. 1400; King of England 1377–1399; DNB). BACK

[5] Edward IV (1442–1483; King of England 1461–1470 and 1471–1483; DNB). BACK

[6] Edward IV’s father, Richard, Duke of York (1411–1460; DNB), and younger brother Edmund, Earl of Rutland (1443–1460) were killed in the Wars of the Roses. BACK

[7] The Battle of Towton, near the River Aire, on 29 March 1461 was one of the bloodiest battles fought on English soil. BACK

[8] John Clifford, 9th Baron de Clifford (1435–1461) was killed at the Battle of Ferrybridge, just before the Battle of Towton. He was ‘ruthless’ because he had ordered the killing of the seventeen year-old Earl of Rutland. BACK

[9] As the defeated Lancastrians fled the Battle at Towton, many were killed crossing the River Wharfe. BACK

[10] English victory over the French in 1346. BACK

[11] English victory over the French in 1356. BACK

[12] English victory over the French in 1415. BACK

[13] English possessions in France, all lost by the end of the Hundred Years’ War between England and France 1337–1453. BACK

[14] The twelfth century Notre Dame (Our Lady) Cathedral of Paris. BACK

[15] Princess Charlotte herself. BACK

[16] Elizabeth Woodville (c. 1437–1492; DNB), wife of Edward IV. Woodville’s father, sons, uncle and brother all died violently during the Wars of the Roses. BACK

[17] Jane Seymour (c. 1508–1537; DNB), third wife of Henry VIII (1491–1547; King of England 1509–1547; DNB). She died in childbirth, like Princess Charlotte, and was buried at Windsor, as was Henry VIII. BACK

[18] John Fisher (1469–1535; DNB), Bishop of Rochester 1501–1535, executed by Henry VIII for upholding Papal supremacy. BACK

[19] <…> insertion in another hand, probably Bedford’s. * Southey adds a note: ‘Lord Surrey’. [Editors’ note: Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1516/1517–1547; DNB), poet and courtier, son of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk (1473–1554; DNB). Surrey was executed at the behest of Henry VIII.] BACK

[20] Sir Thomas More (1478–1535; DNB), Lord Chancellor 1529–1532, executed by Henry VIII for upholding Papal supremacy; Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex (c. 1485–1540; DNB), English statesman who played a decisive role in organizing the Church of England’s break with the Papacy and was later executed by Henry VIII. BACK

[21] Catherine of Aragon (1485–1536; DNB), first wife of Henry VIII. He had their marriage annulled despite the refusal of the Papacy to agree to this measure, thus initiating the Church of England’s break with Rome; Anne Boleyn (c. 1501/1507–36; DNB), Henry VIII’s second wife. He annulled their marriage and ordered her execution. BACK

[22] Charles I (1600–1649; King of Great Britain 1625–1649; DNB). He was executed after the civil war against Parliamentary forces. BACK

[23] On 1 April 1813, the Prince Regent had attended the opening of the coffin of Charles I. It was reported that ‘the left eye [of the corpse], in the first moment of exposure, was open and full, though it vanished almost immediately; see Sir Henry Halford (1766–1844), An Account of What Appeared on Opening the Coffin of King Charles First, in the Vault of King Henry the Eighth in St George’s Chapel at Windsor (London, 1813), p. 8. BACK

[24] Southey here implies that the various radical movements current in 1817 are worse than those that had led to the Parliamentary revolt against Charles I, and probably just as likely to lead to civil war. BACK

[25] The war against France pursued 1793–1802, 1803–1814 and finally in 1815. BACK

[26] Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821; Emperor of France 1804–1814, 1815). BACK

[27] The Battle of Waterloo, 18 June 1815. Waterloo was in the medieval province of Brabant. BACK

[28] Edward, Prince of Wales (1330–1376; DNB), known as the Black Prince because of the colour of his armour. His victories in France in the Hundred Years War included Crécy (1346) and Poitiers (1356). BACK

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