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Fightin’ Words: Robert Southey by Mark Hatmaker


Robert Southey was a poet of the English Romantic school. He is considered one of the renowned Lake Poets, the other two notable Lake Poets being William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Mr. Southey recorded his thoughts regarding prize-fighting in 1807.

When a match is made between two prize-fighters, the tidings are immediately communicated to the public in the newspapers; a paragraph occasionally appears saying the rivals are in training, what exercise they take, what diet—for some of them feed upon raw beef as a preparative, and the state of the bets appears also in the newspapers; not infrequently the whole is a concerted scheme, that a few rogues may cheat a great many fools.”

Aspects of the above remind us that there is nothing new under the sun.

For a view of Mr. Southey’s versifying I offer the following. It has nothing to do with combat, but I do love my hound dog.

On the Death of a Favourite Old Spaniel

And they have drown'd thee then at last! poor Phillis!

The burthen of old age was heavy on thee.



And yet thou should'st have lived! what tho' thine eye

Was dim, and watch'd no more with eager joy

The wonted call that on thy dull sense sunk

With fruitless repetition, the warm Sun

Would still have cheer'd thy slumber, thou didst love

To lick the hand that fed thee, and tho' past

Youth's active season, even Life itself

Was comfort.

 Poor old friend! most earnestly

Would I have pleaded for thee: thou hadst been

Still the companion of my childish sports,

And, as I roam'd o'er Avon's woody clifts,

From many a day-dream has thy short quick bark

Recall'd my wandering soul.

 I have beguil'd

Often the melancholy hours at school,

My Hound & the Missus
Sour'd by some little tyrant, with the thought

Of distant home, and I remember'd then

Thy faithful fondness: for not mean the joy,

Returning at the pleasant holydays,

I felt from thy dumb welcome.

 Pensively

Sometimes have I remark'd thy slow decay,

Feeling myself changed too, and musing much

On many a sad vicissitude of Life!

Ah poor companion! when thou followedst last

Thy master's parting footsteps to the gate

That clos'd for ever on him, thou didst lose

Thy truest friend, and none was left to plead

For the old age of brute fidelity!

But fare thee well! mine is no narrow creed,



And HE who gave thee being did not frame

The mystery of life to be the sport

Of merciless man! there is another world

For all that live and move--a better one!

Where the proud bipeds, who would fain confine

INFINITE GOODNESS to the little bounds

Of their own charity, may envy thee!
For more such observations see this blog, and for pragmatic applications of old school tactics historically accurate and viciously verified see our RAW Subscription Service.]

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