Robert Southey was an independently minded young man who was expelled from Westminster School for opposing flogging. He developed radical religious and political ideas and, at one stage, considered emigrating to America with his friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge to set up a utopian commune.

The idea was abandoned, and Southey began writing plays and poems and, in particular, developed the ballad form in poems such as‘After Blenheim’ and ‘The Inchcape Rock’. He was a prolific writer of verse and histories and an accomplished biographer, who wrote The Life of Nelson. If he was not as original and successful in his poetry as contemporaries such as Wordsworth, his prose is highly skilful. Byron called it ‘perfect’, although he felt that Southey had compromised his beliefs for money and fame.

Southey gradually lost his radical opinions and became much more of an establishment figure. He was appointed Poet Laureate in 1813.

Recording commissioned by the Poetry Archive, used here with kind permission of the reader.

Poems by Robert Southey

After Blenheim

Read by Daljit Nagra
After Blenheim - Robert Southey - Read by Daljit Nagra

Books by Robert Southey