3465. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 15 April 1820

3465. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 15 April 1820⁠* 


Ten fateful years have passd away,
Since last within this court preferrd
Upon the Sovereigns natal day,
The voice of song was heard. [1] 
With mournful recollections fraught,
Music no more its wonted tribute brought,
When silence best might prove
The feeling & the pensive thought
Of reverential love.


But now when chearful duty calls,
And joyaunce hath resumed its reign,
Fitly within these festive halls
The song is heard again. [2] 
Nor happier theme might Bard desire
Wherewith to wake the gratulating lyre
And fill his votive lays,
For Truth & Freedom may inspire
The strain of virtuous praise.


The World no nobler period shows
Recorded in historians page,
Than highly-favourd Britain knows
In this her Georgian age.
Learning with her hath fixd her seat;
Abroad the triumph of her Arms compleat;
While arts have risen at home,
Soon in their progress to compete
With Greece or later Rome.


The vigorous counsels of her King
That high renown in arms obtaind;
Fosterd beneath the royal wing
Hath art her triumphs gaind.

Arms, Arts &

Arms, Arts & Learning owe their praise
To him; & wheresoeer in after-days
Shall Britains fame be known,
The glory with its brightest rays
Shall gather round the Throne. [3] 

There Grosvenor is rhyme-per-se-rhyme for you, & a regular measure to boot; so that if Mr Shields will befiddle the first stanza, the same tune will do for all the rest. The whole is as worthless as it well can be. [4]  But I did not know till last night that the Birth day was to be kept on the 24; & I am in the midst of preparations for starting on Monday, with a great deal to do in the mean time. Judge then with what a willing Minerva [5]  I have wasted the whole morning in hammering out such trash as this. However I am in hopes that no more use will be made of it, than of the New Years Ode, & as long as we keep out of the Newspapers, all is well.

However I shall try at something respectable for the Coronation. [6]  So give these to Shields. And if I am obliged to go on Birth daying it year after year, if he likes his tune I will stick to it, for the sake of saving him trouble.

This is miserable trash – perfectly Pye-bald [7]  for its inanity. Whitehead [8]  did well at this work, & Warton [9]  better; – he always wrote like a scholar & like one who had the feeling of genius.

God bless you


Saturday 15 April. 1820

I have just received an invitation to dinner for this day three weeks. [10] 


* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ Exchequer/ Westminster
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 18 AP 18/ 1820
Endorsement: 15. Apl. 1820/ Birth day Ode
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The last performance at court of a King’s Birthday Ode was in June 1810. George III (1738–1820; King of Great Britain 1760–1820; DNB) had become permanently incapacitated by mental illness in October 1810 and such court occasions were suspended. BACK

[2] George IV had succeeded to the throne on 29 January 1820 and had decided to celebrate his ‘official’ birthday on 23 April, St George’s Day, unless it fell on a Sunday (as it did in 1820), in which case it was celebrated on 24 April. Southey had been informed that he would now be required to produce an annual Birthday Ode, as well as a New Year’s Ode. BACK

[3] Southey’s Birthday Ode, as Poet Laureate, for 1820. It was not published. BACK

[4] It was William Shield’s role as Master of the Kings Music to set the Birthday Ode to music in case it should be performed at court. BACK

[5] The Roman goddess of poetic inspiration. BACK

[6] George IV was not crowned until 19 July 1821; Southey did not write a poem for this occasion. BACK

[7] Henry James Pye (1745–1813; DNB), Poet Laureate 1790–1813. BACK

[8] William Whitehead (1715–1785; DNB), Poet Laureate 1757–1785. BACK

[9] Thomas Warton (1728–1790; DNB), Poet Laureate 1785–1790. BACK

[10] i.e. 6 May 1820. The invitation was from Robert Harry Inglis; see Southey to Robert Harry Inglis, 15 April 1820, Letter 3466. BACK

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