1798
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Botany Bay Eclogue: Edward and Susan.

Monthly Magazine 27 (January 1798) 41-42.

Robert Southey


Susan attempts to comfort her lover, a transported gamester: "What are to me the idle's gay resorts, | The buz of cities and the pomp of courts? | Without one vain regret to call a tear, | To wake one wish, I feel contented here." Robert Southey signs the poem "W. T., Oxford" — for Wat Tyler? Do kangaroos howl? This poem was not republished in the poet's collected works.

Robert Southey: "The vices of the poor should not be kept out of sight when their miseries are exposed. I think an eclogue may be made upon an industrious woman afflicted with a drunken bad husband" "Subjects for Idylls," Common-Place Book (1849-51) 4:95.

British Critic: "There is every appearance that Mr. Southey writes at all times, and on all occasions, and publishes all he writes. He certainly is not without poetic talents; but till he shall have learned, that time for correction are as necessary, to the most brilliant genius, as leisure for writing, he will never atcheive the legitimate title of a poet" 10 (1797) 1797.



SUSAN.
Why, Edward, hangs thy head in silent grief,
Why will thy stern repentance shun relief?
Still heaves thy restless bosom with the sigh?
Still dwells on vacancy thy rigid eye?
Lov'd of my soul, from fruitless sorrow cease,
And let thy Susan soothe thy soul to peace.

EDWARD.
Oh fly me, fly me! leave to me my fate,
Reproach me with my crimes, and learn to hate!
Leave me such woe so well deserved to prove,
But do not, Susan, wound me with thy love.—
Why, heavenly justice! must this angel share
The anguish I alone deserve to bear?
Why, was she doom'd to tempt the dangerous sea,
Or why united to a fiend like me?
Ye blasting tempests, rush around my head!
Ye heaven-wing'd lightnings, strike this monster dead!
Spirits of hell! come end this life of woe,
Come drag your victim to the fires below!

SUSAN.
Nay, Edward, sink not thus in vain distress,
Torturing my heart with needless wretchedness;
Hadst thou been doom'd, an outcast wretch, to go
Where endless winter piles the plain with snow,
I would have lull'd thee even there to rest,
Pillowing thy sorrow on thy Susan's breast.
Or were we sent to sojourn on some shore,
Where the woods echo to the lion's roar,
Though danger scream'd in every passing wind,
Still I were blest if Edward were but kind.
Here we are safe, on this pacific shore
No tygers prowl, no mighty lions roar,
No howling wolf is heard, nor secret brake
Conceals the venom of the curling snake;
Indulgent heaven a milder brood bestows,
A milder clime to soothe the exiles woes.
Soft as in England, smile the summers here,
As gentle winters close the dying year;
Nor here is heard th' autumnal whirlwind's breath,
Nor vernal tempests breathe the blast of death.
Could I one smile on Edward's face but see,
This humble dwelling were the world to me.

EDWARD.
Ah, Susan! humble is indeed this cot,
And well it suits the outcast's wretched lot;
Well suits the horror of this barren scene,
A mind as drear as comfortless within.
'Tis just that I should tread the joyless shore,
List to the wintry tempest's sullen roar,
Plough up the stubborn and ungrateful soil,
Earn the scant pittance of a felon's toil,
And sleep scarce shelter'd from the nightly dew,
Where howls around the dismal Kangaroo.
This I have merited, but then to know
Susan partakes her barbarous husband's woe,
Uncharg'd by insult, cruelty, and hate,
Partakes an outcast's bed, a felon's fate,
To see her fondly strive to give relief;
Forget his crimes, and only share his grief—
And then on all my actions past to dwell,
My crimes, my cruelties — 'tis worse than hell.

SUSAN.
Oh spare me, spare me! cease to wound my breast,
Be thou content, and we shall both be blest.
What are to me the idle's gay resorts,
The buz of cities and the pomp of courts?
Without one vain regret to call a tear,
To wake one wish, I feel contented here;
And we shall yet be happy: yonder ray,
The mild effulgence of departing day,
As gayly gilds this humble dwelling o'er,
As the proud domes on England's distant shore;
As brightly beams in morning's op'ning light,
As faintly fading sinks in shadowy night.

EDWARD.
Sink, glorious sun! and never may I see
Thy blessed radiance rise again on me!
There was a time, when cheerfully thy light
Wak'd me at morn and peace was mine at night,
Till I had lavished all! till mad with play,
I turn'd a villain, from the villain's prey:
Till known and branded — Oh that heaven would hear
My heart's deep wish, my last and only prayer!
Soon would I change existence with delight,
For the long sleep of one eternal night.

SUSAN.
Ungrateful man! for ever wilt thou be
The cause of all thy Susan's misery?
For thee, yon waste of waves I travers'd o'er,
For thee forsook my friends, my native shore,
And I could here be happy—

EDWARD.
—Oh forgive
Th' impatient guilty wretch that lothes to live!
Forgive me, Susan, if my tortur'd mind
Will dwell on happier scenes long left behind:
The lenient hand of time perchance my heal
The guilty pangs, the deep remorse I fell.
And though thy husband in his happier state
Thy virtues knew, and would not imitate,
This humbl'd heart at length may learn of thee
To bow resign'd beneath calamity.
Oxford. W. T.

[pp. 41-42]