Robert Southey Poems

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Robert Southey
Robert Southey (August 12, 1774 March 21, 1843) was an English poet of the Romantic school, one of the so-called "Lake Poets", and Poet Laureate. Although his fame tends to be eclipsed by that of his contemporaries and friends William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Southey's verse enjoys enduring popularity. Moreover, he was a prolific letter writer, literary scholar, historian and biographer. His biographies include the life and works of John Bunyan, John Wesley, William Cowper, Oliver Cromwell and Horatio Nelson. The latter has rarely been out of print since its publication in 1813 and was adapted for the screen in the 1926 British film, Nelson. He was also a renowned Portuguese and Spanish scholar, translating a number of works of those two countries into English and writing both a History of Brazil (part of his planned History of Portugal which was never completed) and a History of the Peninsular War. Perhaps his most enduring contribution to literary history is the immortal children's classic, The Story of the Three Bears, the original Goldilocks story. He was born in Wine Street, Bristol, Gloucester, England to Thomas Southey and Margaret Hill and educated at Westminster School (from which he was expelled for writing a magazine article in The Flagellant condemning flogging) and Balliol College, Oxford (of his time at Oxford Southey was later to say "All I learnt was a little swimming ... and a little boating."). After experimenting with a writing partnership with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, he published his first collection of poems in 1794. The same year, he, Coleridge and a few others discussed setting up an idealistic community in America ("pantisocracy"). Their wants would be simple and natural; their toil need not be such as the slaves of luxury endure; where possessions were held in common, each would work for all; in their cottages the best books would have a place; literature and science, bathed anew in the invigorating stream of life and nature, could not but rise reanimated and purified. Each young man should take to himself a mild and lovely woman for his wife; it would be her part to prepare their innocent food, and tend their hardy and beautiful race. Later iterations of the plan moved the commune to Wales, but Southey was later the first of the group to reject the idea as unworkable. Southey's wife, Edith Fricker whom he married at St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, Gloucester, England on November 14, 1795, was the sister of Coleridge's wife Sarah Fricker. The Southeys set up home at Greta Hall, Keswick (pronounced Kesick), in the Lake District, living on a tiny income. From 1809, he contributed to the Quarterly Review, and had become so well-known by 1813 that he was appointed Poet Laureate after Sir Walter Scott refused the post. In 1819, through a mutual friend (John Rickman), Southey met leading civil engineer Thomas Telford and struck up a strong friendship. From mid-August to 1 October 1819, Southey accompanied Telford on an extensive tour of his engineering projects in the Scottish Highlands, keeping a diary of his observations. This was published posthumously in 1929 as Journal of a tour in Scotland in 1819. In 1838, Edith died and Southey married Caroline Anne Bowles, also a poet. Many of his poems are still read by British schoolchildren, the best-known being The Inchcape Rock, After Blenheim (possibly one of the earliest anti-war poems) and The Cataract of Lodore.

the cherry tree carol
 
 
When Joseph was an old man, an old man was he,
He married Virgin Mary, the queen of Galilee,... [read poem]
the battle of blenheim
 
 
It was a summer evening,
Old Kaspar's work was done,
And he before his cottage door... [read poem]
curly-locks
 
 
Curly-locks, Curly-locks, wilt thou be mine?
Thou shalt not wash dishes, nor yet feed the swine... [read poem]
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