The Devil's Thoughts

The Devil's Thoughts

by Coleridge and Southey

This text is from the Morning Post and Gazetteer, 6 Sept. 1799 (No. 9569), which went through various reprintings, but which represents the text of the poem as Shelley would have known it. However, we also include in this hypertext Robert Southey's 1827 revision of the poem, which he retitled "The Devil's Walk", as well as Coleridge's 1829 and 1835 versions (in parallel frames).


FROM his brimstone bed at break of day,
    A walking the Devil is gone,
To look at his snug little farm of the earth,
    And see how his stock went on.
Over the hill and over the dale,
    And he went over the plain,
And backward and forward he swish'd his long tail,
    As a Gentleman swishes his cane.
He saw a lawyer killing a viper
    On the dunghill beside his stable;
Oh-oh; quoth he, for it put him in mind
    Of the story of Cain and Abel.
An apothecary on a white horse,
    Rode by on his vocation,
And the Devil thought of his old friend
    Death, in the Revelation.*
He went into a rich bookseller's shop,
    Quoth he, We are both of one college,
For I sate myself like a cormorant once
    Upon the Tree** of Knowledge.
He saw a turnkey in a trice
    Handcuff a troublesome blade-
Nimbly, quoth he, do the fingers move,
    If a man be but us'd to his trade.
He saw the same turnkey unfettering a man
    With but little expedition;
And he laugh'd, for he thought of the long debates
    On the Slave Trade Abolition.
As he went through -- -- fields he look'd
    At a solitary cell-
And the Devil was pleas'd, for it gave him a hint,
    For improving the prisons of Hell.
He past a cottage with a double coach-house,
    A cottage of gentility,
And he grinn'd at the sight, for his favourite vice
    Is pride, that apes humility.
He saw a pig right rapidly
    Adown the river float,
The pig swam well, but every stroke
    Was cutting his own throat.
Old Nicholas grinn'd, and swish'd his tail
    For joy and admiration-
And he thought of his daughter, Victory,
    And her darling babe, Taxation.
He met an old acquaintance
    Just by the Methodist meeting;
She held a consecrated flag,
    And the Devil nods a greeting.
She tip'd him the wink, then frown'd and cri'd
    Avaunt! my name's --,
And turn'd to Mr. W-- --
    And leer'd like a love sick pigeon.
General --'s burning face
    He saw with consternation,
And back to Hell his way did take,
For the Devil thought, by a slight mistake,
    It was General Conflagration.

* And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death. Revel. vi. 8. [Note in Morning Post.]

** This anecdote is related by that most interesting of the Devil's biographers, Mr. John Milton, in his Paradise Lost, and we have here the Devil's own testimony to the truth and accuracy of it. [Note in Morning Post.]

Southey's Revised Version: "The Devil's Walk"