1811 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Southey

Leigh Hunt, in Feast of the Poets (1811; 1815); Poems, ed. Milford (1923) 151.



You'd have thought 'twas the Bishops or Judges a-coming,
Or whole court of Aldermen hawing and humming,
Or Abbot, at least, with his ushers before
But 'twas only Bob Southey and two or three more,
Bob walked at the head with a tattered bay crown,
And looked such a compound of courtier and clown,
Such a thing of pure nature that should have been true,
With such an assumption of tenfold his due,
That a jerk took the eye-brows of every one there
With a pleasant suspense 'twixt a smile and a stare;
When lo, as poor Bob was collecting his wit,
The thing on his head, as if seized with a fit,
Began crackling, and splitting, and writhing about,
And so in a flash and a vapour went out.
I waive all attempt to describe how he coloured,
Winced, capered, and twirled, and cried "What's this?" and "Oh Lord!"
With all his dilemmas, made worse by their chuckles,
'Twixt easing his temples, and burning his knuckles:
The circle, half-dying, scarce knew what to do,
With all their good breeding, and handkerchiefs too,
And Apollo, who laughed till the tears in his eyes
Had quenched the dread sparkle that caused the surprise,
Said, "Nay, don't be frightened; — there, help him a seat;
His head's in no danger from that sort of heat."