333. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 14 July 1798

333. Robert Southey to Henry Herbert Southey, 14 July 1798 ⁠* 

Martin-Hall. July 14th 98.

My dear Harry

I thank you for your ode of Anacreon. [1]  the Greek metre in which you have translated it is certainly the best that could be chosen but perhaps the most difficult; as the accent should flow so easily that a bad reader may not be able to spoil them. this is the case with your 4th & 5th lines. an old woman cannot read them out of the proper cadence. indeed this is correct enough in the whole ode except in the word changed which is too commonly made two syllables to be stand at the in an Anacreontic as one.

I think this metre much improved to an English ear by sometimes ending a line with a long syllable instead of a trochee. this you will see regularly done in the following translation from the Spanish of Villegas. [2]  the original metre is that of Θελω λεγείν Ατρειδην, [3]  & the verses flow as harmoniously as those of Anacreon.

The Maidens thus address me,
How is it Don Esteban,
That you of Love sing always
And never sing of war?

I answer thus the question,
Ye batchelor young damsels {this is literal. the original is
It is that men are ugly, muchachas bachilleras –
It is that you are fair. batchelor girls.

For what would it avail me
To sing to drums & trumpets
Whilst marching sorely onwards
Encumberd by my shield?

Think you the tree of Glory
Delights the common soldier?
That tree so full of blossoms,
That xx never bears a fruit?

Let him who gains in battle
His glorious wounds enjoy them,
Let him praise war, who knows not
The happiness of peace.

I will not sing of soldiers,
I will not sing of combats,
But only of the Damsels
My combats are with them. [4] 


Danvers is about to send a parcel to Burnett in which you will find a letter from your Mother & a guinea & half – enough to buy a hat & some stockings. the stockings you had better buy at Nottingham. I have written to Burnett by the same conveyance.

We are now tolerably settled at Martin-hall. I have laboured much in making it comfortable, & comfortable it now is. our sitting room is large, with three windows, & two recesses once windows, but now converted into book-cases, with green baize hanging half way down the books as in the College Green. the room is papered with cartridge paper bordered with yellow vandykes edged with black. I have a good many books tho not all that I want, as many of my most valuable ones are lying in London. I shall be very glad to get settled in a house at London, where I may collect all my chattels together & move on contentedly for some dozen years in my profession.

You will find little difficulty either in Anacreon or in Homer, the language will soon become familiar to you, & you will I hope apply yourself to it with assiduity. I remember William Taylor promised to give you some instruction in German when you were well enough acquainted with the ancient languages to begin the modern ones. I need not tell you how valuable such instruction would be, or how gladly I should avail myself of such an opportunity were it in my power. It is of very great advantage to a young man <to> be a good linguist; he is more respected & may be more useful; his sources of pleasure are increased, & what in the present state of the world is to be considered, in case of necessity he has additional means of supporting himself. the languages Harry which I learnt almost as an amusement have considerably contributed, & still in some degree do contribute to my support.

You will send me your other translations from Anacreon & in return I will always send you some piece which you had not before seen. I wish you would sometimes on a fine evening walk out, & write as exact a description of the sunset – & the appearances of every thing around as you can. you would find it a pleasant employment, & I can assure you it would be a very useful one. I should like you to send me some of these sketches – not of sunset only, but of any natural scene. if you have Ossian [5]  at hand you may see what I mean in the descriptions of night by five Scotch Bards. your neighbourhood to the sea gives you opportunities of seeing the finest effects of sun rise, fine weather or storms. & you may contrast it with inland views – & forest scenery of which I believe you will see much in Nottinghamshire.

Let me hear from you soon – & often & regularly. our love to Burnett.

God bless you.

yr affectionate brother

Robert Southey.

I should have sent you a copy of Joan of Arc [6]  to give your friend – but Mr Cottle has disposed of the whole edition to a London bookseller & I cannot therefore get them with the same ease, nor under the booksellers price.


* Address: To/ Henry Herbert Southey/ with the Reverend George Burnett/ at Mrs Whitesides/ Quay/ Yarmouth/ Single
Stamped: [twice] BRISTOL
Postmark: B/ JY/ 17/ 98
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Don.D3. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Charles Cuthbert Southey (ed.), Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey, 6 vols (London, 1849-1850), I, pp. 341–343 [in part]. BACK

[1] Anacreon (570–488 BC), Greek poet. BACK

[2] Esteban Manuel de Villegas (1585–1669), ‘De Si Mismo’, in Vincente de los Rios (1736–1779), Las Eroticas, y Traduccion De Boecio, 2 vols (Madrid, 1774), I, pp. 192–193. BACK

[3] The Greek translates as ‘I want to say Agamemnon’. BACK

[4] Published anonymously as ‘Anacreontic. From Villegas’ in the Morning Post, 20 July 1798. BACK

[5] Ossian, the supposed author of a cycle of Celtic heroic poems, probably composed by James Macpherson (1736–1796; DNB). BACK

[6] The epic with which Southey had made his name in 1796. A second, revised edition appeared in 1798. BACK

People mentioned

Places mentioned

Martin Hall (mentioned 2 times)
College Green, Bristol (mentioned 1 time)