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Roderick received the alms; his wandering eye
Wept like a child.
A Moonlight Scene in Spain.
Breathes forth her hymn of praise. Southey having in 1813, accepted the office of poet-laureate, composed some courtly strains that tended little to advance his reputation. His . Carmen Triumphale’ (1814) and “The Vision of Judg. ment' (1821) provoked much ridicule at the time, and would have passed into utter oblivion, if Lord Byron had not published another * Vision of Judgment'-one of the most powerful, though wild and profane, of his productions, in which the laureate received a mercisess and witty castigation, that even his admirers admitted to be not unmerited. The latest of our author's poetical works was a volume of narrative verse, 'All for Love,' and The Pilgrim of Compostella' (1829). He continued ceaseless round of study and composition, writing on all subjects, and filling ream after ream of paper with his lucubrations on morals, philosophy, poetry, and politics. He was offered a baronetcy and a seat in parliament, both of which he prudently declined. His fame and his fortune, he knew, could only be preserved by adhering to his solitary studies; but these were too constant and uninterrupted. The poet forgot one of his own maxims, that ‘frequent change of air is of all things that which most conduces to joyous health and long life.'
From the year 1833 to 1837 he was chiefly engaged in editing the works of Cowper, published in fifteen volumes. About the year 1834, his wife, the early partner of his affections, sank into a state of mental imbecility, ‘å pitiable state of existence,' in which she continued for about three years, and though he bore up wonder: fully during this period of affliction, his health was irretrievably shattered. In about a year and a half afterwards, however, he married a second time, the object of his choice being Miss Caroline Bowles, the poetess. ‘My spirits,' he says, 'would hardly recover their habitual and healthful cheerfulness, if I had not prevailed upon Miss Bowles to share my lot for the remainder of our lives. There is just such a disparity of age as is fitting; we have been well acquainted with each other more than twenty years, and a more perfect conformity of disposition could not exist." Some members of the poet's grown-up family seem to have been averse to this union, but the devoted attentions of the lady, and her exemplary domestic virtues, soothed the few remaining years of the poet's existence. Those attentions were soon painfully requisite. Southey's intellect became clouded, his accustomed labours were suspended, and though he continued his habit of reading, the power of comprehension was gone. ‘His dearly prized books,' says his son, 'were a pleasure to him almost to the end, and he would walk slowly round his library looking at them, and taking them down mechanically.'
Wordsworth, writing to Lady Frederick Bentinck in July 1840, says, that on visiting his early friend, he did not recognise him till he was told. Then his eyes flashed for a moment with their former brightness, but he sank into the state in which I had found him, patting with both hands his books affectionately like a child.' Three years were passed in this deplorable condition, and it was a matter of satisfaction rather than regret that death at length stepped into shroud this painful spectacle from the eyes of affection as well as from the gaze of vulgar curiosity. He died in his house at Greta on the 21st of March 1843. He left at his death a sum of about £12,000, to be divided among his children, and one of the most valuable private libraries in the kingdom. The life and correspondence of Southey have been published by his son, the Rev. Charles Cuthbert Southey, in six volumes. His son-in-law, the Rev. J. Wood Warter, published his Commonplace Book,' 4 vols., and Selections from his Letters,' 4 Vols. In these works the amiable private life of Southey-his index
fatigable application, his habitual cheerfulness and lively fancy, and
Wordsworth's Epitaph on Southey.
Calmed in his soul the fear of change and death. Few authors have written so much and so well, with so little real popularity, as Southey. Of all his prose works, admirable as they are in purity of style, the Life of Nelson' alone is a general favourite. The magnificent creations of his poetry-piled up like clouds at sunset, in the calm serenity of his capacious intellect-have always been duly appreciated by poetical students and critical readers; but by the public at large they are neglected. An attempt to revive them, by the publication of the whole poetical works in ten uniform and cheap volumes, has only shewn that they are unsuited to the taste of the present generation. The reason of this may be found both in the subjects of Southey's poetry, and in his manner of treating them. His fictions are wild and supernatural, and have no hold on human affections. Gorgeous and sublime as some of his images and descriptions are, they come like shadows, so depart.' They are too remote, too fanciful, and often too learned. The Grecian mythology is graceful and familiar;
but Southey's Hindu superstitions are extravagant and strange. To relish them requires considerable previous reading and research, and this is a task which few will undertake. The dramatic art or power of vivid delineation is also comparatively unknown to Southey, and hence the dialogues in ‘Madoc' and ‘Roderick’are generally flat and uninteresting. His observation was of books, not nature. Some affectations of style and expression also marred the effect of his conceptions, and the copious flow of his versification, unrelieved by bursts of passion or elegant sentiment, sometimes becomes heavy and monotonous in its uniform smoothness and dignity.
The Battle of Blenheim. It was a summer evening,
I could not well make out. Old Kaspar's work was done,
But everybody said,' quoth he, And he before his cottage-door
• That 'twas a famous victory. Was sitting in the sun : And by him sported on the green
My father lived at Blenheim then, His little grandchild Wilhelmine..
Yon little stream hard by;
They burned his dwelling to the ground, She saw her brother Peterkin
And he was forced to fly;
Nor had he where to rest his head.
And many a childing mother then,
And new-born baby, died ; Old Kaspar took it from the boy,
But things like that, you know, must be Who stood expectant by;
famous victory. And then the old man shook his head, And with a natural sigh,
They say it was a shocking sight ''Tis some poor fellow's skull,' said he,
After the field was won ; "Who fell in the great victory.
For many thousand bodies here
Lay rotting in the sun ; 'I find them in the garden,
But things līke that, you know,'must be For there's many here about;
After a famous victory. And often, when I go to plough,
The ploughshare turns them out! • Great praise the Duke of Marlbro', For many thousand men,' said he,
won, "Were slain in that great victory.'
And our good prince, Eugene.'
Why 'twas a very wicked thing !' Now tell us what 'twas all about,'
Said little Wilhelmine. Young Peterkin he cries :
Nay-nay--my little girl,' quoth he, While little Wilhelmine looke up,
'It was a famous victory, With wonder-waiting eyes; Now tell us all about the war,
"And everybody praised the duke, And what they kill each other for.'
Who this great fight did win.'
' And what good came of it at last?' 'It was the English,' Kaspar cried,
Quoth little Peterkin. Who put the French to rout;
"Why, that I cannot tell,' said he, But what they killed each other for, But 'twas a famous victory.'
The Holly Tree.
The holly tree?
Its glossy leaves
Wrinkled and keen;
Can reach to wound;
I love to view these things with curious eyes,
Can emblems see
Harsh and austere,
Reserved and rude,
Some harshness shew,
Would wear away,
So bright and green,
Less bright than they,
The thoughtless throng,
As the green winter of the holly tree. Some of the youthful ballads of Southey were extremely popu. lar._His 'Lord William,’ ‘Mary the Maid of the Inn,' The Welf of St. Keyne,' ' and The Old Woman of Berkeley,' were the delight of most young readers seventy years since. He loved to sport with subjects of diablerie ; and one satirical piece of this kind, The Devils Thoughts,' the joint production of Southey and Coleridge, had the honour of being ascribed to various persons. The conception of the piece was Southey's, who led off with the following opening stanzas:
From his brimstone bed at break of day
A-walking the devil is gone,
snug little farm the earth,
And he went over the plain,
As a gentleman switches his cane.
He saw a cottage with a double coach-house,
A cottage of gentility;
Is pride that apes humility.