"Mr Southey's New-Year's Ode" 1
Mr Southey's Ode has at length appeared -- not as was announced, under the title of "Carmen Annuum," but under that of "CARMEN TRIUMPHALE, for the Commencement of the Year 1814." We see no reason why the author might not have adopted the title of Horace's Ode entire, and have called it Carmen Seculare, which would have been the best account he could give of it. We fear Mr Southey will not form a splendid exception to the numberless instances which prove that there is something in the air of a court, not favourable to the genius of poetry. He has not deprived himself of the excuse made by one of his predecessors, of versatile memory, in extenuation of the degeneracy of his courtly lays, -- "That poets succeed best in fiction." The Ode is in the ballad style, peculiar to Mr Southey and his poetical friends. It has something of the rustic simplicity of a country virgin on her first introduction at Duke's Place, or of Pamela on the day of her marriage with Mr B. Or rather it resembles a fancy birth-day suit, a fashionable livery worn inside out, a prince's feather with a sprig of the tree of liberty added to it, -- the academy of compliments turned into quaint Pindarics, -- is a sort of methodistical rhapsody, chaunted by a gentleman-usher, and exhibits the irregular vigour of Jacobin enthusiasm suffering strange emasculation under the hands of a finical lord-chamberlain. It is romantic without interest, and tame without elegance. It is exactly such an ode as we expected Mr Southey to compose on this occasion. We say this from our respect for the talents and character of this eminent writer. He is the last man whom we should expect to see graceful in fetters, or from whom we should look for the soul of freedom within the liberties of a court! -- The commencement of the Ode is as follows, and it continues throughout much as it begins: --
We have turned over the Ode again, which extends to twenty pages, in the hope of finding some one vigorous or striking passage for selection, but in vain. The following is the most likely to please in a certain quarter: --
We do not intend to quarrel with our Laureat's poetical politics, but the conclusion is one which we did not anticipate from the author. We have always understood that the Muses were the daughters of memory!
Mr Southey announces a new volume of Inscriptions, which must furnish some curious parallelisms.
1 Hazlitt's "Mr Southey's New-Year's Ode" is to be found in Political Essays (1819). The article was apparently written on Jan. 8, 1814.