367. Robert Southey to Daniel Stuart [fragment], 3 January 1799

367. Robert Southey to Daniel Stuart [fragment], 3 January 1799 ⁠* 

My dear Sir

Whether or no the following dramatic fragment is upon too invidious a subject, you must be a better judge than me. if you think so throw it behind the fire. I wrote it with a feeling of interest that makes me think it good.

yrs truly

R. Southey.

Dramatic fragment.

The scene in Holland. the time about 1570. [1] 


Not complain?
Endure in silence? suffer with beast patience
Oppressions such as these?

Nay – an it please you
Rail on – rail on! no doubt when you are feeling
The vengeance of the state, twill comfort you
Amid your dungeon miseries to reflect
How valiantly you talkd! – you know Count Roderick –
He would be railing too.

And what has followed?

I saw him in his dungeon. tis a place
Where the hell-haunted murderer might almost
Rejoice to hear the hangman summons him.
By day he may divert his solitude
With watching thro the grate the snow-flakes fall,
Or counting the long icicles above him,
Or he may trace upon the ice-glazed wall
Lines of most brave sedition! & at night
The frosty moon beam for his meditation
Lends light enough. he told me that his feet
Were ulcered with the biting cold. – I would
Thou hadst been with me Ellis.

But does Philip [2] 
Command these things? or knowingly permit
The punishment to go before the judgement?

Knowest thou not with what confidence the King
Reposes upon Alva? [3]  & admit,
As sure I trust, to hear & to redress
Injustice be with him one act, the groans
Of misery reach not to the royal ear.

But sure Count Rodericks service –
Powerful plea!
He served his country & his country paid him
The wages of his service. why but late
A man that in ten several fields had fought
His countrys battles, by the hangmans hand
Died like a dog. & for a venial crime –
A deed that could not xxx trouble with one doubt
A dying man. at Lepanto [4]  he had shared
The danger of that day whose triumph broke
The Ottomans power, & this was pleaded for him;
Six months they stretchd him on the rack of hope,
Then took his life.

I would I were in England!

Aye get thee home again! you islanders
Live under such good laws, so mild a sway,
That you are no more fit to dwell abroad
Than a doting mothers favorite to endure
His first school hardships. We in Holland here
Know tis as idle to exclaim against
These state oppressions, as with childish tears
To weep in the stone, or any other curse
Wherewith Gods wrath afflicts <us>, & for struggling –
Why twould be like an idiot in the gout
Stamping for pain! [5] 

[MS missing]

Or if, the drudge of house maids daily toil,
Cobwebs & dust thy pinion white besoil,
Departed Goose! I neither know nor care,
But this I know that thou wert very fine
Seasoned with sage & onions & port wine. [6] 


Jany. 3. 99.


* Address: [partial] Strand/ London
Stamped: BRISTOL
MS: British Library, Add MS 34046. ALS; 4p.
Previously published: Letters from the Lake Poets, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, Robert Southey, to Daniel Stuart (London, 1889), pp. 439–441. BACK

[1] The ‘Dramatic fragment’ is set in the Netherlands during a period of acute discontent against Spanish rule, which was to lead to open rebellion in 1572. BACK

[2] Philip II (1527–1598; King of Spain 1556–1598). BACK

[3] Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alba (1507–1582), Governor of the Spanish Netherlands 1567–1573. BACK

[4] A naval battle in 1571 off the coast of western Greece, in which a coalition fleet defeated the Ottoman Navy. BACK

[5] Published in Annual Anthology (Bristol, 1800), pp. 273–276. BACK

[6] The closing lines of Southey’s ‘Sonnet. To a Goose’, published Morning Post, 10 January 1799. BACK