464. Robert Southey to Daniel Stuart, 19 December 1799

464. Robert Southey to Daniel Stuart, 19 December 1799 ⁠* 

Ode. [1] 


To whom of all the Powers that throng
The earth & air & sea,
Unknowing have I offered wrong?
Laments some wood-nymph for her favourite tree
Or Satyr for his summer bower
By me destroyed in evil hour?
Falls for my crime the Naiads wrathful tear?
Or have I chaced to death Dianas [2]  hallowed deer?

Or, Lord of Ocean! is it thou
Whose anger I am doomd to know,
That from the fountains of my head
The briny floods must flow
Earth-shaking Neptune, [3]  for no broken vow
Dost thou thy fury on the sufferer shed,
I never yet put out a Cyclops eye! [4] 
Did ever I profane
High Jove, or Juno’s [5]  fane.
Or make too free with subtle Mercury? [6] 
That like the fair Sicilian virgin coy [7] 
A spring of living streams I flow away,
Or as the wretch who, on his desert way,
Bit by the Seps, [8]  dissolving lies,
Hisses like melting snow on the hot sands, & dies.

Weave the warp, & weave the woof,
The pocket-handkerchief for me,
Give ample room, & verge enough,
To hold the flowing sea.
Heard ye the din of trumpets bray?
Nose to napkin – nostril force?
Long currents force urge their way
And thro the kindred fountains speed their course.
Mark the social hour of night,
When the house-roof shall echo with affright
The sneezes sudden thunder!
The neighbours leap with wonder.
A room-quake follows; each upon his chair
Starts at the fearful sound, & interjects a prayer.

Days of delight return! return!
Ye angry Powers enough!
Relent & give me once again
The joy of health & Snuff!
Oh give me once again to feel
The gentle titillation steal
Thro all the mazes <windings> of the œthmoid maze!
And thou return, thou wanderer Smell!
Back to thy native home return in haste
And with thee bring again thy brother wanderer Taste.

Dreams of recovery are ye fled?
That sneeze has scared the faëry forms away
And yet again out-rushing from my head
The torrent tides have forced their way.
So when the Senators of Gaul require
Defensive armour for their coursers feet,
The civic Mulciber [9]  prepares his fire
With quick obedience meet.
The chimneys leathern lungs he works away
And blow, blow, blow, becomes the order of the day.


Thursday 19. Dec. 99.


* Address: To/ Mr Stuart/ 335. Strand/ London/ Single
Postmarks: [partial] BRISTOL/ DEC; [partial] B/ DEC 20
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), pp. 442–444. BACK

[1] Not published in the Morning Post or elsewhere. BACK

[2] Greek goddess of the hunt. BACK

[3] Roman god of the sea. BACK

[4] A race of one-eyed giants. In Homer’s Odyssey, the hero blinds the cyclops Polyphemus, son of the sea god Poseidon (the Greek equivalent of Neptune). BACK

[5] The chief of the Roman gods and his consort (the Roman equivalents of Zeus and Hera). BACK

[6] Messenger of the Roman gods, but also god of trickery. BACK

[7] Arethusa, a nymph who was desired by a river god. In order to save her, Diana turned her into the spring on the island of Ortygia, off the coast of Sicily. BACK

[8] According to Lucan (AD 39–65), Pharsalia, Book 9, line 723, the seps is a snake whose bite is so deadly it dissolves the victim’s whole body, including the bones. BACK

[9] An alternative name for Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and metalworking. BACK