1824 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Southey

Anonymous, "An Ode (not a-la-mode) for the New Year, 1824" Morning Chronicle (1 January 1824).



New Year, all hail! — I love thee, for thou'rt new,
As Courtiers a young Monarch do,
When first upon the Throne he takes a spring:
And ever still I feel myself inclin'd
To give a parting kick behind
To the old Year — as they to an old King.
Besides, thou com'st with such smooth smiling face,
With such a mild, benignant kind of grace,
Where we no cold and frosty looks can trace;
A simile more pat and new 'twere very hard to bring.

But why should I
Adventure on this theme?—
Spirit of PYE,
Wake from thy dream,
Sound as my sleep when "Alfred" I had read;
Or tried to read I should have rather said;
As good narcotic as a man could try!
I know thou'rt happy in Elysian mirth,
With all thy sins of authorship forgiven,
Odes to New Year and Sovereign's birth,
For those so doubly damned on earth
Must be twice blest in Heaven!
Where in thy great successor,
The present proud possessor
Of laurel crown, when thine by no means new?
Why don't he loudly sing
An Ode to Year or King,
As you and former Laureates us'd to do
Say is it in derision?
Or has he one more "Vision"
He and his readers cannot well got through?
Since octave rhymes are now so much the fashion,
Thus does my Muse to him breathe forth her passion.

Oh, Mr. S—TH—Y! wherefore art thou Mister?
Why not Sir ROBERT — just like SCOTT, Sir WALTER?
Would not a title be a great assister?
Then sure thy vagrant pen could never alter.
Then might, indeed, thy "branding-iron" blister!
If thou'rt so royal now, then thy exalter
Might claim the quintessence of praise, and how they
(His Ministers) might doat upon their S—TH—Y!

In truth, perhaps, they only think as I do,
Your best is far too bad to earn your Sherry;
For your last "Vision" (never be't denied you)
Has only serv'd to make opponents merry.
I'm sure they're disappointed now they've tried you,
And would be glad to get another, very
Another Laureate: they no longer want ye
Altho' you think yourself a second DANTE.

You've tried all metres and all kinds of writing;
You've fought on every side to be its ruin;
But that which now you chiefly take delight in
Is the sweet task of Quarterly Reviewing.
I must confess your choice that you are right in:—
Since folks will read no Epics of your doing,
Take care that others shall not use the pen, Sir,
Without damnation from an envious Censor!

But to my theme — come back, come back,
My Muse, into the beaten track.
And sing the year that's new!
Methinks you need not he so sorry at
S—TH—Y's appointment to the Laureate,
Since it gives room to you,
The praises of the new year sing,
Each spark of hope still fanning;
Remember, too, to praise the KING,
For virtues — aye, for every thing,
And also Mr. CANNING!
He is the man to tell a pleasant story,
We all with joy have read it,
Of future happiness and coming glory,
If we but give him credit.
Let praises ring of GEORGE the Fourth and Minister,
From JOHNNY GROAT'S abode to joyous England's Finisterre!

Ye wretches all in rage sing out,
Altho' ye know not what about,
Upraise your "most sweet voices!"
Shew your delight most true and rational,
For taxes and the debt call'd national,
Doubt not nor fear, but trust the known sincerity
Of CANNING'S tale of Britain's great prosperity:
Seek not for woe is one of wisdom's rules.
Ye're starving — true — and holes have in your breeches,
But what of that? It cools.
Wait but a while, and ye shall all have riches,
And if not meat, ye shall meantime have speeches:
Then swallow them, ye fools!

And see a Comet new appear
To grace the advent of the year,
Altho' 'tis somewhat pale:
Its tail may well seem wanting light,
For how can any tail be bright
Compar'd with CANNING'S tale!