1823 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Southey

Anonymous, "Epitaph for Robert Southey, Esq. Poet Laureat, Author of Wat Tyler, &c. &c." Morning Chronicle (16 July 1823).



Here lies our good Laureat, whom BYRON has sent hence,
Without any time for "a death-bed repentance;"
Of his Sapphics, so cruelly mangled by CANNING—
So safely remov'd both from sense and from manning;
(For our Laureat dealt largely in Sapphics seditious,
Before he got scent of the loaves and the fishes),
Or his Botany Eclogues, from which one would swear
That the Poet had learnt his morality there.
POOR JOAN! ever doom'd to be burnt in our ire,
Once more by all England condemn'd to the fire.
Sure SOUTHEY, like BEDFORD, was born for thy curse,
And we burn thee again to atone for his verse.

Next THALABA came, that self-slaying destroyer,
Of readers and conjurors too the annoyer;
Let him murder magicians and all their relations,
But why did he murder our rhyme and our patience?

Then MADOC'S adventures so oddly were sung,
You'd think they were told in his own native tongue.

For the Curse of KEHAMA, one cannot help dreading it,
The curse is so cursedly felt in the reading it.

Then a Monarch of Spain — how strange he should blast one!
For though he's a Goth, he might surely have past one,
Since he is (the Belov'd, not excepted) the last one.

But as soon as our Bard got attach'd to the Crown,
He try'd to sing up what he us'd to sing down;—
One day BRIBERY'S slave, and the next it's reviler,
Praising CASTLEREAGH now, and now praising WAT TYLER.
To Constraint and Corruption now bidding defiance,
And now lauding the deeds of the Holy Alliance.
Enduring the scorn of all England most martyrly,
Secure that his sores would be lick'd by The Quarterly.

Then forth came that Letter, or crack "branding-iron,"
Which the Laureat so cackles about to Lord BYRON.
That Letter so famous, in which he advances
Truths such as you find in the Spanish Romances
Traduced by our Bard, who contriv'd, in abridging all,
To make one, for shortness, desire the original.

Next like some "obscene birds" of his feather, he flew
To prey on the stain of thy field, Waterloo!
Then return'd to o'ershade, with his sad gratulation,
An event that awak'd all the hopes of a Nation—
And surely the Laureat alone could have told it
In rhymes, that had STERNHOLD himself out-Sternholded.

Then BYRON and Juan eternally lamming him,
Play'd the devil with him — so he set about damning him;
And if to his foes or his friends he a grudge meant,
What could he do worse than his Vision of Judgment?

But 'twas fit that this model of tergiversation
Who began in sedition, should end in damnation.

To atone for all this, what must now be his lot?
Shall he, "lie," like his Works, "in obstruction, and rot?"
No — let him be punished by quitting his urn to
See all the "vile uses" they're sure to return to.