Robert Southey

Metrical Letter, Written from London

Margaret! my Cousin!--nay, you must not smile;
I love the homely and familiar phrase;
And I will call thee Cousin Margaret,
However quaint amid the measured line
The good old term appears. Oh! it looks ill
When delicate tongues disclaim old terms of kin,
Sirring and Madaming as civilly
As if the road between the heart and lips
Were such a weary and Laplandish way
That the poor travellers came to the red gates
Half frozen. Trust me Cousin Margaret,
For many a day my Memory has played
The creditor with me on your account,
And made me shame to think that I should owe
So long the debt of kindness. But in truth,
Like Christian on his pilgrimage, I bear
So heavy a pack of business, that albeit
I toil on mainly, in our twelve hours race
Time leaves me distanced. Loath indeed were I
That for a moment you should lay to me
Unkind neglect; mine, Margaret, is a heart
That smokes not, yet methinks there should be some
Who know how warm it beats. I am not one
Who can play off my smiles and courtesies
To every Lady of her lap dog tired
Who wants a play-thing; I am no sworn friend
Of half-an-hour, as apt to leave as love;
Mine are no mushroom feelings that spring up
At once without a seed and take no root,
Wiseliest distrusted. In a narrow sphere
The little circle of domestic life
I would be known and loved; the world beyond
Is not for me. But Margaret, sure I think
That you should know me well, for you and I
Grew up together, and when we look back
Upon old times our recollections paint
The same familiar faces. Did I wield
The wand of Merlin's magic I would make
Brave witchcraft. We would have a faery ship,
Aye, a new Ark, as in that other flood
That cleansed the sons of Anak from the earth,
The Sylphs should waft us to some goodly isle
Like that where whilome old Apollidon
Built up his blameless spell; and I would bid
The Sea Nymphs pile around their coral bowers,
That we might stand upon the beach, and mark
The far-off breakers shower their silver spray,
And hear the eternal roar whose pleasant sound
Told us that never mariner should reach
Our quiet coast. In such a blessed isle
We might renew the days of infancy,
And Life like a long childhood pass away,
Without one care. It may be, Margaret,
That I shall yet be gathered to my friends,
For I am not of those who live estranged
Of choice, till at the last they join their race
In the family vault. If so, if I should lose,
Like my old friend the Pilgrim, this huge pack
So heavy on my shoulders, I and mine
Will end our pilgrimage most pleasantly.
If not, if I should never get beyond
This Vanity town, there is another world
Where friends will meet. And often, Margaret,
I gaze at night into the boundless sky,
And think that I shall there be born again,
The exalted native of some better star;
And like the rude American I hope
To find in Heaven the things I loved on earth. 

English Poetry - E-mail