324. Robert Southey to Daniel Stuart [fragment], [c. 8 June 1798]

324. Robert Southey to Daniel Stuart [fragment], [c. 8 June 1798] ⁠* 


The circumstance related in the following lines occurred during the American War. [1]  no alteration or addition has been made to the story.


The guns have ceased their thunder! – dreadful pause –
Hark! twas the shout of conquest – & again!
Louder it rose. the flag of England floats
Triumphant: from their ranks the victors rush
They speed them to the spoil: – no human tongue
Hath told what followed. to the distant shores
Of England tidings came of victory;
She heard, & in her bloody annals wrote
One day of glory more. the conquerors deeds
A prudent silence veiled, yet one was wrought
That shall not be forgotten.
To their prey
They rushd in scattered troops from house to house.
A band of four at one were entering
When from the window came a female arm
And fired its only weapon; one fell dead,
The rest burst in & called with oaths for her
Who did the murder. She came forth & said
She was the murderer, & she askd for death –
A Woman – a young Woman, who that day
Had seen her brother slaughtered, whom that day
Had widowed.
They were men & Englishmen:
And they took counsel or to murder her
Or glut their lust amid t her agonies
And let her live polluted. There was one
Amid these ruffians to whom God had given
A heart that war & sociate wickedness
Had not corrupted quite. he drew his sword
And swore that should not be. – in after years
He told the tale; – aye with a bitterness
That made his eye look terrible, he told
How he had done thus much, & cursed himself,
For he stood by, stood patiently & saw
His comrades strip even her last garments off
Then spurn her forth all naked on the world. [2] 


Descriptive Fragment.


—— Every where
Nature is lovely; on the mountain height,
Or where the embosomed mountain glen displays
Secure sublimity, or where around
The undulated surface gently slopes
With mingled hill & valley, – every where
Nature is lovely. Even in scenes like these
Where not a hillock breaks the unvaried plain
The eye may find new charms that seeks delight.
At eve I walk abroad: the setting sun
Hath softened with a rich & mellow hue
The cool, fresh, air; below, a bright expanse,
The waters of the Broad lie luminous.
I gaze around – the unbounded plain presents
Ocean immensity, whose circling line
The bending heaven shuts in. [3] 

[MS missing]

And naked in thy paramours embrace,
Till the avenging sword awake & strike. [4] 


I write from Norwich. on my way to town where I expect to [5]  [remainder of MS missing]


* Address: [partial] nd/ ndon
Stamped: NORWICH
MS: British Library, Add MS 34046. AL; 4p.
Previously published: Letters from the Lake Poets, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, Robert Southey, to Daniel Stuart (London, 1889), p. 442 [in part, ‘Descriptive Fragment’ only published].
Dating note: Dating from Southey’s reference to his journey from Norwich to London, which took place during the night of 8–9 June 1798. BACK

[1] The American War of Independence of 1775–1783. BACK

[2] This poem was not published in the Morning Post. BACK

[3] Sent to Edith Southey on 4 June 1798 (Letter 322), as lines 20–36 of a poem addressed to her. This poem was not published in the Morning Post. BACK

[4] ‘From Filicaia’, lines 12–13, Common-Place Book, ed. John Wood Warter, 4 series (London, 1849–1850), IV, p. 87. These lines were omitted when the poem was published anonymously as ‘Translated from the Italian’ in Morning Post, 24 July 1798. BACK

[5] I write ... expect to: This section struck through, probably in another hand. BACK

People mentioned

Fricker, Edith (1774–1837) (mentioned 1 time)

Places mentioned

Norwich (mentioned 1 time)