The Village (Book 2)
There are found amid the Evils of a Laborious Life, some Views of Tranquillity and Happiness. - The Repose and Pleasure of a Summer Sabbath: interrupted by Intoxication and Dispute. - Village Detraction. - Complaints of the Squire. - The Evening Riots. - Justice. - Reasons for this unpleasant View of Rustic Life: the Effect it should have upon the Lower Classes; and the Higher. - These last have their peculiar Distresses: Exemplified in the Life and heroic Death of Lord Robert Manners. - Concluding Address to his Grace the Duke of Rutland.
NO longer truth, though shown in verse, disdain,
But own the village life a life of pain;
I too must yield, that oft amid these woes
Are gleams of transient mirth and hours of sweet repose.
Such as you find on yonder sportive Green,
The 'Squire's tall gate and churchway-walk between;
Where loitering stray a little tribe of friends,
On a fair Sunday when the sermon ends:
Then rural beaux their best attire put on,
To win their nymphs, as other nymphs are won;
While those long wed go plain, and by degrees,
Like other husbands, quit their care to please.
Some of the sermon talk, a sober crowd,
And loudly praise, if it were preach'd aloud;
Some on the labours of the week look round,
Feel their own worth, and think their toil renown'd;
While some, whose hopes to no renown extend,
Are only pleas'd to find their labours end.
Thus, as their hours glide on with pleasure fraught,
Their careful masters brood the painful thought;
Much in their mind they murmur and lament,
That one fair day should be so idly spent;
And think that Heaven deals hard, to tythe their store
And tax their time for preachers and the poor.
Yet still, ye humbler friends, enjoy your hour,
This is your portion, yet unclaim'd of power;
This is Heaven's gift to weary men opprest,
And seems the type of their expected rest:
But yours, alas! are joys that soon decay;
Frail joys, begun and ended with the day;
Or yet, while day permits those joys to reign,
The village vices drive them from the plain.
See the stout churl, in drunken fury great,
Strike the bare bosom of his teeming mate!
His naked vices, rude and unrefin'd,
Exert their open empire o'er the mind;
But can we less the senseless rage despise,
Because the savage acts without disguise?
Yet here Disguise, the city's vice, is seen,
And Slander steals along and taints the Green;
At her approach domestic peace is gone,
Domestic broils at her approach come on;
She to the wife the husband's crime conveys,
She tells the husband when his consort strays;
Her busy tongue, through all the little state,
Diffuses doubt, suspicion, and debate;
Peace, tim'rous goddess! quits her old domain,
In sentiment and song content to reign.
Nor are the nymphs that breathe the rural air
So fair as Cynthia's, nor so chaste as fair;
These to the town afford each fresher face,
And the Clown's trull receives the Peer's embrace;
From whom, should chance again convey her down,
The Peer's disease in turn attacks the Clown.
Hear too the 'Squire, or 'squire-like farmer, talk,
How round their regions nightly pilferers walk;
How from their ponds the fish are borne, and all
The rip'ning treasures from their lofty wall;
How meaner rivals in their sports delight,
Just rich enough to claim a doubtful right;
Who take a licence round their fields to stray,
A mongrel race! the Poachers of the day.
And hark! the riots of the Green begin,
That sprang at first from yonder noisy inn;
What time the weekly pay was vanish'd all,
And the slow hostess scor'd the threat'ning wall;
What time they ask'd, their friendly feast to close,
A final cup, and that will make them foes;
When blows ensue that break the arm of Toil,
And rustic battle ends the boobies' broil.
Save when to yonder hall they bend their way,
Where the grave Justice ends the grievous fray;
He who recites, to keep the poor in awe,
The law's vast volume - for he knows the law. -
To him with anger or with shame repair
The injur'd peasant and deluded fair.
Lo! at his throne the silent nymph appears,
Frail by her shape, but modest in her tears;
And while she stands abash'd, with conscious eye,
Some favourite female of her judge glides by;
Who views with scornful glance the strumpet's fate,
And thanks the stars that made her keeper great:
Near her the swain, about to bear for life
One certain evil, doubts 'twixt war and wife;
But, while the faultering damsel takes her oath,
Consents to wed, and so secures them both.
Yet why, you ask, these humble crimes relate,
Why make the poor as guilty as the great?
To show the great, those mightier sons of Pride,
How near in vice the lowest are allied;
Such are their natures, and their passions such,
But these disguise too little, those too much:
So shall the man of power and pleasure see
In his own slave as vile a wretch as he;
In his luxurious lord the servant find
His own low pleasures and degenerate mind;
And each in all the kindred vices trace
Of a poor, blind, bewilder'd, erring race;
Who, a short time in varied fortune past,
Die, and are equal in the dust at last.
And you, ye poor, who still lament your fate,
Forbear to envy those you call the great;
And know, amid those blessings they possess,
They are, like you, the victims of distress;
While Sloth with many a pang torments her slave,
Fear waits on guilt, and Danger shakes the brave.
Oh! if in life one noble chief appears,
Great in his name, while blooming in his years;
Born to enjoy whate'er delights mankind,
And yet to all you feel or fear resign'd;
Who gave up joys and hopes to you unknown,
For pains and dangers greater than your own;
If such there be, then let your murmurs cease,
Think, think of him, and take your lot in peace.
And such there was: - Oh! grief, that checks our pride,
Weeping we say there was, for Manner's died;
Belov'd of Heav'n! these humble lines forgive,
That sing of thee, and thus aspire to live.
As the tall oak, whose vigorous branches form
An ample shade and brave the wildest storm,
High o'er the subject wood is seen to grow,
The guard and glory of the trees below;
Till on its head the fiery bolt descends,
And o'er the plain the shatter'd trunk extends;
Yet then it lies, all wond'rous as before,
And still the glory, though the guard no more.
So Thou, when every virtue, every grace,
Rose in thy soul, or shone within thy face;
When, though the Son of Granby; thou wert known
Less by thy father's glory than thy own;
When Honour lov'd, and gave thee every charm,
Fire to thy eye and vigour to thy arm;
Then from our lofty hopes and longing eyes
Fate and thy virtues call'd thee to the skies;
Yet still we wonder at thy tow'ring fame,
And losing thee, still dwell upon thy name.
Oh! ever honour'd, ever valued! say
What verse can praise thee, or what work repay?
Yet Verse (in all we can) thy worth repays,
Nor trusts the tardy zeal of future days;
Honours for thee thy Country shall prepare,
Thee in their hearts, the Good, the Brave shall bear;
To deeds like thine shall noblest chiefs aspire,
The Muse shall mourn thee, and the world admire.
In future times, when smit with glory's charms,
The untry'd youth first quits a father's arms;
«Oh be like him,» the weeping sire shall say,
«Like Manners walk, who walk'd in honour's way;
In danger foremost, yet in death sedate,
Oh! be like him in all things, but his fate!»
If for that fate such public tears be shed,
That victory seems to die now Thou art dead;
How shall a friend his nearer hope resign,
That friend a brother, and whose soul was thine?
By what bold lines shall we his grief express,
Or by what soothing numbers make it less?
'Tis not, I know, the chiming of a song,
Nor all the powers that to the Muse belong;
Words aptly cull'd, and meanings well exprest,
Can calm the sorrows of a wounded breast:
But Virtue, soother of the fiercest pains,
Shall heal that bosom, Rutland, where she reigns.
Yet hard the task to heal the bleeding heart,
To bid the still-recurring thoughts depart;
Tame the fierce grief, and stem the rising sigh,
And curb rebellious passion with reply;
Calmly to dwell on all that pleas'd before,
And yet to know that all shall please no more,
Oh! glorious labour of the soul, to save
Her captive powers, and bravely mourn the brave!
To such, these thoughts will lasting comfort give:
Life is not measur'd by the time we live;
'Tis not an even course of threescore years,
A life of narrow views and paltry fears;
Grey hairs and wrinkles, and the cares they bring,
That take from death the terrors or the sting:
But 'tis the gen'rous spirit, mounting high
Above the world; that native of the sky;
The noble spirit, that, in dangers brave,
Calmly looks on, or looks beyond the grave.
Such Manners was, so he resign'd his breath!
If in a glorious, then a timely death.
Cease then that grief, and let those tears subside:
If Passion rule us, be that passion Pride;
If Reason, Reason bids us strive to raise
Our fallen hearts, and be like him we praise;
Or if Affection still the soul subdue,
Bring all his virtues, all his worth in view,
And let Affection find its comfort too;
For how can grief so deeply wound the heart,
Where admiration claims so large a part?
Grief is a foe, expel him then thy soul;
Let nobler thoughts the nearer views controul;
Oh! make the age to come thy better care,
See other Rutlands, other Granbys there;
And as thy thoughts through streaming ages glide,
See other heroes die as Manners died;
And from their fate thy race shall nobler grow,
As trees shoot upward that are prun'd below:
Or, as old Thames, borne down with decent pride,
Sees his young streams run warbling at his side;
Though some, by art cut off, no longer run,
And some are lost beneath the summer's sun;
Yet the pure stream moves on, and as it moves,
Its power increases, and its use improves;
While plenty round its spacious waves bestow,
Still it flows on, and shall for ever flow.
'SQUIRE THOMAS; OR THE PRECIPITATE CHOICE.
'Squire Thomas flatter'd long a wealthy Aunt,
Who left him all that she could give or grant;
Ten years he tried, with all his craft and skill,
To fix the sovereign lady's varying will;
Ten years enduring at her board to sit,
He meekly listen'd to her tales and wit:
He took the meanest office man can take,
And his aunt's vices for her money's sake:
By many a threat'ning hint she waked his fear,
And he was pain'd to see a rival near:
Yet all the taunts of her contemptuous pride
He bore, nor found his grov'ling spirit tried:
Nay, when she wish'd his parents to traduce,
Fawning he smiled, and justice call'd th' abuse:
'They taught you nothing: are you not at best,'
Said the proud Dame, 'a trifler, and a jest?
Confess you are a fool!'--he bow'd and he
This vex'd him much, but could not always last:
The dame is buried, and the trial past.
There was a female, who had courted long
Her cousin's gifts, and deeply felt the wrong;
By a vain boy forbidden to attend
The private councils of her wealthy friend,
She vow'd revenge, nor should that crafty boy
In triumph undisturb'd his spoils enjoy:
He heard, he smiled, and when the Will was read,
Kindly dismiss'd the Kindred of the dead;
'The dear deceased' he call'd her, and the crowd
Moved off with curses deep and threat'nings loud.
The youth retired, and, with a mind at ease,
Found he was rich, and fancied he must please:
He might have pleased, and to his comfort found
The wife he wish'd, if he had sought around,
For there were lasses of his own degree,
With no more hatred to the state than he;
But he had courted spleen and age so long,
His heart refused to woo the fair and young;
So long attended on caprice and whim,
He thought attention now was due to him;
And as his flattery pleased the wealthy Dame,
Heir to the wealth, he might the flattery claim:
But this the fair, with one accord, denied,
Nor waived for man's caprice the sex's pride.
There is a season when to them is due
Worship and awe, and they will claim it too:
'Fathers,' they cry, 'long hold us in their chain,
Nay, tyrant brothers claim a right to reign:
Uncles and guardians we in turn obey,
And husbands rule with ever-during sway;
Short is the time when lovers at the feet
Of beauty kneel, and own the slavery sweet;
And shall we thus our triumph, this the aim
And boast of female power, forbear to claim?
No! we demand that homage, that respect,
Or the proud rebel punish and reject.'
Our Hero, still too indolent, too nice,
To pay for beauty the accustom'd price,
No less forbore t'address the humbler maid,
Who might have yielded with the price unpaid;
But lived, himself to humour and to please,
To count his money, and enjoy his ease.
It pleased a neighbouring 'squire to recommend
A faithful youth as servant to his friend;
Nay, more than servant, whom he praised for parts
Ductile yet strong, and for the best of hearts:
One who might ease him in his small affairs,
With tenants, tradesmen, taxes, and repairs;
Answer his letters, look to all his dues,
And entertain him with discourse and news.
The 'Squire believed, and found the trusted
A very pattern for his care and truth;
Not for his virtues to be praised alone,
But for a modest mien and humble tone;
Assenting always, but as if he meant
Only to strength of reasons to assent:
For was he stubborn, and retain'd his doubt,
Till the more subtle 'Squire had forced it out;
Nay, still was right, but he perceived that strong
And powerful minds could make the right the wrong.
When the 'Squire's thoughts on some fair damsel
The faithful Friend his apprehensions felt;
It would rejoice his faithful heart to find
A lady suited to his master's mind;
But who deserved that master? who would prove
That hers was pure, uninterested love?
Although a servant, he would scorn to take
A countess, till she suffer'd for his sake;
Some tender spirit, humble, faithful, true,
Such, my dear master! must be sought for you.
Six months had pass'd, and not a lady seen,
With just this love, 'twixt fifty and fifteen;
All seem'd his doctrine or his pride to shun,
All would be woo'd before they would be won;
When the chance naming of a race and fair
Our 'Squire disposed to take his pleasure there,
The Friend profess'd, 'although he first began
To hint the thing, it seem'd a thoughtless plan;
The roads, he fear'd, were foul, the days were
The village far, and yet there might be sport.'
'What! you of roads and starless nights afraid?
You think to govern! you to be obey'd!'
Smiling he spoke: the humble Friend declared
His soul's obedience, and to go prepared.
The place was distant, but with great delight
They saw a race, and hail'd the glorious sight:
The 'Squire exulted, and declared the ride
Had amply paid, and he was satisfied.
They gazed, they feasted, and, in happy mood,
Homeward return'd, and hastening as they rode;
For short the day, and sudden was the change
From light to darkness, and the way was strange:
Our hero soon grew peevish, then distress'd;
He dreaded darkness, and he sigh'd for rest:
Going, they pass'd a village; but alas!
Returning saw no village to repass;
The 'Squire remember'd too a noble hall,
Large as a church, and whiter than its wall:
This he had noticed as they rode along,
And justly reason'd that their road was wrong,
George, full of awe, was modest in reply -
'The fault was his, 'twas folly to deny;
And of his master's safety were he sure,
There was no grievance he would not endure.'
This made his peace with the relenting 'Squire,
Whose thoughts yet dwelt on supper and a fire;
When, as they reach'd a long and pleasant green,
Dwellings of men, and next a man, were seen.
'My friend,' said George, 'to travellers astray
Point out an inn, and guide us on the way.'
The man look'd up; 'Surprising! can it be
My master's son? as I'm alive, 'tis he!'
'How! Robin?' George replied, 'and are we near
My father's house? how strangely things appear! -
Dear sir, though wanderers, we at last are right:
Let us proceed, and glad my father's sight:
We shall at least be fairly lodged and fed,
I can ensure a supper and a bed;
Let us this night as one of pleasure date,
And of surprise: it is an act of Fate.'
'Go on,' the 'Squire in happy temper cried;
'I like such blunder! I approve such guide.'
They ride, they halt, the farmer comes in haste,
Then tells his wife how much their house is graced;
They bless the chance, they praise the lucky son.
That caused the error--Nay! it was not one,
But their good fortune: cheerful grew the 'Squire,
Who found dependants, flattery, wine, and fire;
He heard the jack turn round; the busy dame
Produced her damask; and with supper came
The Daughter, dress'd with care, and full of maiden
Surprised, our hero saw the air and dress,
And strove his admiration to express;
Nay! felt it too--for Harriot was in truth
A tall fair beauty in the bloom of youth;
And from the pleasure and surprise, a grace
Adorn'd the blooming damsel's form and face;
Then, too, such high respect and duty paid
By all--such silent reverence in the maid;
Vent'ring with caution, yet with haste, a glance,
Loth to retire, yet trembling to advance,
Appear'd the nymph, and in her gentle guest
Stirr'd soft emotions till the hour of rest;
Sweet was his sleep, and in the morn again
He felt a mixture of delight and pain:
'How fair, how gentle,' said the 'Squire, 'how
And yet how sprightly, when disposed to speak!
Nature has bless'd her form, and heaven her mind,
But in her favours Fortune is unkind;
Poor is the maid--nay, poor she cannot prove
Who is enrich'd with beauty, worth, and love.'
The 'Squire arose, with no precise intent
To go or stay--uncertain what he meant:
He moved to part--they begg'd him first to dine;
And who could then escape from Love and Wine?
As came the night, more charming grew the Fair,
And seem'd to watch him with a twofold care:
On the third morn, resolving not to stay,
Though urged by Love, he bravely rode away.
Arrived at home, three pensive days he gave
To feelings fond and meditations grave;
Lovely she was, and, if he did not err,
As fond of him as his fond heart of her;
Still he delay'd, unable to decide,
Which was the master-passion, Love or Pride:
He sometimes wonder'd how his friend could make,
And then exulted in, the night's mistake;
Had she but fortune, 'Doubtless then,' he cried,
'Some happier man had won the wealthy bride.'
While thus he hung in balance, now inclined
To change his state, and then to change his mind,
That careless George dropp'd idly on the ground
A letter, which his crafty master found;
The stupid youth confess'd his fault, and pray'd
The generous 'Squire to spare a gentle maid,
Of whom her tender mother, full of fears,
Had written much--'she caught her oft in tears,
For ever thinking on a youth above
Her humble fortune--still she own'd not love;
Nor can define, dear girl! the cherish'd pain,
But would rejoice to see the cause again:
That neighbouring youth, whom she endured before,
She now rejects, and will behold no more;
Raised by her passion, she no longer stoops
To her own equals, but she pines and droops,
Like to a lily on whose sweets the sun
Has withering gazed--she saw and was undone;
His wealth allured her not--nor was she moved
By his superior state, himself she loved;
So mild, so good, so gracious, so genteel, -
But spare your sister, and her love conceal;
We must the fault forgive, since she the pain must
'Fault!' said the 'Squire, 'there's coarseness
in the mind
That thus conceives of feelings so refined;
Here end my doubts, nor blame yourself, my friend,
Fate made you careless--here my doubts have end.'
The way is plain before us--there is now
The Lover's visit first, and then the vow,
Mutual and fond, the marriage-rite, the Bride
Brought to her home with all a husband's pride:
The 'Squire receives the prize his merits won,
And the glad parents leave the patron-son.
But in short time he saw, with much surprise,
First gloom, then grief, and then resentment rise,
From proud, commanding frowns, and anger-darting
'Is there in Harriot's humble mind this fire,
This fierce impatience?' ask'd the puzzled 'Squire:
'Has marriage changed her? or the mask she wore
Has she thrown by, and is herself once more?'
Hour after hour, when clouds on clouds appear,
Dark and more dark, we know the tempest near;
And thus the frowning brow, the restless form,
And threat'ning glance, forerun domestic storm:
So read the Husband, and, with troubled mind,
Reveal'd his fears--'My Love, I hope you find
All here is pleasant--but I must confess
You seem offended, or in some distress:
Explain the grief you feel, and leave me to
'Leave it to you?' replied the Nymph--'indeed!
What to the cause from whence the ills proceed?
Good Heaven! to take me from a place where I
Had every comfort underneath the sky;
And then immure me in a gloomy place,
With the grim monsters of your ugly race,
That from their canvas staring, make me dread
Through the dark chambers, where they hang, to
No friend nor neighbour comes to give that joy
Which all things here must banish or destroy.
Where is the promised coach? the pleasant ride?
Oh! what a fortune has a Farmer's bride!
Your sordid pride has placed me just above
Your hired domestics--and what pays me? Love!
A selfish fondness I endure each hour,
And share unwitness'd pomp, unenvied power.
I hear your folly, smile at your parade,
And see your favourite dishes duly made;
Then am I richly dress'd for you t'admire,
Such is my duty and my Lord's desire:
Is this a life for youth, for health, for joy?
Are these my duties--this my base employ?
No! to my father's house will I repair,
And make your idle wealth support me there.
Was it your wish to have an humble bride,
For bondage thankful? Curse upon your pride!
Was it a slave you wanted? You shall see,
That, if not happy, I at least am free:
Well, sir! your answer.'--Silent stood the 'Squire,
As looks a miser at his house on fire;
Where all he deems is vanish'd in that flame,
Swept from the earth his substance and his name,
So, lost to every promised joy of life,
Our 'Squire stood gaping at his angry wife; -
His fate, his ruin, where he saw it vain
To hope for peace, pray, threaten, or complain;
And thus, betwixt his wonder at the ill
And his despair, there stood he gaping still.
'Your answer, sir!--Shall I depart a spot
I thus detest?'--'Oh, miserable lot!'
Exclaim'd the man. 'Go, serpent! nor remain
To sharpen woe by insult and disdain;
A nest of harpies was I doom'd to meet;
What plots, what combinations of deceit!
I see it now--all plann'd, design'd, contrived;
Served by that villain--by this fury wived -
What fate is mine! What wisdom, virtue truth,
Can stand if demons set their traps for youth?
He lose his way? vile dog! he cannot lose
The way a villain through his life pursues;
And thou, deceiver! thou afraid to move,
And hiding close the serpent in the dove!
I saw--but, fated to endure disgrace,
Unheeding saw--the fury in thy face,
And call'd it spirit. Oh: I might have found
Fraud and imposture all the kindred round!
A nest of vipers' -
'Sir, I'll not admit
These wild effusions of your angry wit:
Have you that value, that we all should use
Such mighty arts for such important views?
Are you such prize--and is my state so fair,
That they should sell their souls to get me there?
Think you that we alone our thoughts disguise?
When, in pursuit of some contended prize,
Mask we alone the heart, and soothe whom we
Speak you of craft and subtle schemes, who know
That all your wealth you to deception owe;
Who play'd for ten dull years a scoundrel part,
To worm yourself into a Widow's heart?
Now, when you guarded, with superior skill,
That lady's closet, and preserved her Will,
Blind in your craft, you saw not one of those
Opposed by you might you in turn oppose,
Or watch your motions, and by art obtain
Share of that wealth you gave your peace to gain.
Did conscience never' -
'Cease, tormentor, cease -
Or reach me poison;--let me rest in peace!'
'Agreed--but hear me--let the truth appear.'
'Then state your purpose--I'll be calm and hear.'
'Know then, this wealth, sole object of your care,
I had some right, without your hand, to share;
My mother's claim was just--but soon she saw
Your power, compell'd, insulted, to withdraw:
'Twas then my father, in his anger, swore
You should divide the fortune, or restore.
Long we debated--and you find me now
Heroic victim to a father's vow;
Like Jephtha's daughter, but in different state,
And both decreed to mourn our early fate:
Hence was my brother servant to your pride,
Vengeance made him your slave, and me your bride.
Now all is known--a dreadful price I pay
For our revenge--but still we have our day:
All that you love you must with others share,
Or all you dread from their resentment dare: -
Yet terms I offer--let contention cease;
Divide the spoil, and let us part in peace.'
Our hero trembling heard--he sat, he rose -
Nor could his motions nor his mind compose;
He paced the room--and, stalking to her side,
Gazed on the face of his undaunted bride,
And nothing there but scorn and calm aversion
He would have vengeance, yet he fear'd the law;
Her friends would threaten, and their power he saw;
'Then let her go:' but, oh! a mighty sum
Would that demand, since he had let her come;
Nor from his sorrows could he find redress,
Save that which led him to a like distress;
And all his ease was in his wife to see
A wretch as anxious and distress'd as he:
Her strongest wish, the fortune to divide,
And part in peace, his avarice denied;
And thus it happen'd, as in all deceit,
The cheater found the evil of the cheat;
The Husband griev'd--nor was the Wife at rest;
Him she could vex, and he could her molest;
She could his passion into frenzy raise,
But, when the fire was kindled, fear'd the blaze;
As much they studied, so in time they found
The easiest way to give the deepest wound;
But then, like fencers, they were equal still, -
Both lost in danger what they gain'd in skill;
Each heart a keener kind of rancour gain'd,
And, paining more, was more severely pain'd,
And thus by both was equal vengeance dealt,
And both the anguish they inflicted felt.
The Borough. Letter X: Clubs And Social Meetings
YOU say you envy in your calm retreat
Our social Meetings;--'tis with joy we meet.
In these our parties you are pleased to find
Good sense and wit, with intercourse of mind;
Composed of men who read, reflect, and write,
Who, when they meet, must yield and share delight.
To you our Book-club has peculiar charm,
For which you sicken in your quiet farm;
Here you suppose us at our leisure placed,
Enjoying freedom, and displaying taste:
With wisdom cheerful, temperately gay,
Pleased to enjoy, and willing to display.
If thus your envy gives your ease its gloom,
Give wings to fancy, and among us come.
We're now assembled; you may soon attend -
I'll introduce you--'Gentlemen, my friend.'
'Now are you happy? you have pass'd a night
In gay discourse, and rational delight.'
'Alas! not so: for how can mortals think,
Or thoughts exchange, if thus they eat and drink?
No! I confess when we had fairly dined,
That was no time for intercourse of mind;
There was each dish prepared with skill t'invite,
And to detain the struggling appetite;
On such occasions minds with one consent
Are to the comforts of the body lent;
There was no pause--the wine went quickly round,
Till struggling Fancy was by Bacchus bound;
Wine is to wit as water thrown on fire,
By duly sprinkling both are raised the higher;
Thus largely dealt, the vivid blaze they choke,
And all the genial flame goes off in smoke.'
'But when no more your boards these loads
When wine no more o'erwhelms the labouring brain,
But serves, a gentle stimulus; we know
How wit must sparkle, and how fancy flow.'
It might be so, but no such club-days come;
We always find these dampers in the room:
If to converse were all that brought us here,
A few odd members would in turn appear;
Who, dwelling nigh, would saunter in and out,
O'erlook the list, and toss the books about;
Or yawning read them, walking up and down,
Just as the loungers in the shops in town;
Till fancying nothing would their minds amuse,
They'd push them by, and go in search of news.
But our attractions are a stronger sort,
The earliest dainties and the oldest port;
All enter then with glee in every look,
And not a member thinks about a book.
Still, let me own, there are some vacant hours,
When minds might work, and men exert their powers:
Ere wine to folly spurs the giddy guest,
But gives to wit its vigour and its zest;
Then might we reason, might in turn display
Our several talents, and be wisely gay;
We might--but who a tame discourse regards,
When Whist is named, and we behold the Cards?
We from that time are neither grave nor gay;
Our thought, our care, our business is to play:
Fix'd on these spots and figures, each attends
Much to his partners, nothing to his friends.
Our public cares, the long, the warm debate,
That kept our patriots from their beds so late;
War, peace, invasion, all we hope or dread,
Vanish like dreams when men forsake their bed;
And groaning nations and contending kings
Are all forgotten for these painted things;
Paper and paste, vile figures and poor spots,
Level all minds, philosophers and sots;
And give an equal spirit, pause, and force,
Join'd with peculiar diction, to discourse:
'Who deals?--you led--we're three by cards--had you
Honour in hand?'--'Upon my honour, two.'
Hour after hour, men thus contending sit,
Grave without sense, and pointed without wit.
Thus it appears these envied Clubs possess
No certain means of social happiness;
Yet there's a good that flows from scenes like
Man meets with man at leisure and at ease;
We to our neighbours and our equals come,
And rub off pride that man. contracts at home;
For there, admitted master, he is prone
To claim attention and to talk alone:
But here he meets with neither son nor spouse;
No humble cousin to his bidding bows;
To his raised voice his neighbours' voices rise,
To his high look as lofty look replies;
When much he speaks, he finds that ears are closed,
And certain signs inform him when he's prosed;
Here all the value of a listener know,
And claim, in turn, the favour they bestow.
No pleasure gives the speech, when all would
And all in vain a civil hearer seek.
To chance alone we owe the free discourse,
In vain you purpose what you cannot force;
'Tis when the favourite themes unbidden spring,
That fancy soars with such unwearied wing;
Then may you call in aid the moderate glass,
But let it slowly and unprompted pass;
So shall there all things for the end unite,
And give that hour of rational delight.
Men to their Clubs repair, themselves to please,
To care for nothing, and to take their ease;
In fact, for play, for wine, for news they come:
Discourse is shared with friends or found at home.
But Cards with Books are incidental things;
We've nights devoted to these queens and kings:
Then if we choose the social game, we may;
Now 'tis a duty, and we're bound to play;
Nor ever meeting of the social kind
Was more engaging, yet had less of mind.
Our eager parties, when the lunar light
Throws its full radiance on the festive night,
Of either sex, with punctual hurry come,
And fill, with one accord, an ample room;
Pleased, the fresh packs on cloth of green they
And seizing, handle with preluding glee;
They draw, they sit, they shuffle, cut, and deal;
Like friends assembled, but like foes to feel:
But yet not all,--a happier few have joys
Of mere amusement, and their cards are toys;
No skill nor art, nor fretful hopes have they,
But while their friends are gaming, laugh and play.
Others there are, the veterans of the game,
Who owe their pleasure to their envied fame;
Through many a year with hard-contested strife,
Have they attain'd this glory of their life:
Such is that ancient burgess, whom in vain
Would gout and fever on his couch detain;
And that large lady, who resolves to come,
Though a first fit has warn'd her of her doom!
These are as oracles: in every cause
They settle doubts, and their decrees are laws;
But all are troubled, when, with dubious look,
Diana questions what Apollo spoke.
Here avarice first, the keen desire of gain,
Rules in each heart, and works in every brain:
Alike the veteran-dames and virgins feel,
Nor care what graybeards or what striplings deal;
Sex, age, and station, vanish from their view,
And gold, their sov'reign good, the mingled crowd
Hence they are jealous, and as rivals, keep
A watchful eye on the beloved heap;
Meantime discretion bids the tongue be still,
And mild good-humour strives with strong ill-will
Till prudence fails; when, all impatient grown,
They make their grief by their suspicions known,
'Sir, I protest, were Job himself at play,
He'd rave to see you throw your cards away;
Not that I care a button--not a pin
For what I lose; but we had cards to win:
A saint in heaven would grieve to see such hand
Cut up by one who will not understand.'
'Complain of me! and so you might indeed
If I had ventured on that foolish lead,
That fatal heart--but I forgot your play -
Some folk have ever thrown their hearts away.'
'Yes, and their diamonds; I have heard of one
Who made a beggar of an only son.'
'Better a beggar, than to see him tied
To art and spite, to insolence and pride.'
'Sir, were I you, I'd strive to be polite,
Against my nature, for a single night.'
'So did you strive, and, madam! with success;
I knew no being we could censure less!'
Is this too much? Alas! my peaceful Muse
Cannot with half their virulence abuse.
And hark! at other tables discord reigns,
With feign'd contempt for losses and for gains;
Passions awhile are bridled: then they rage,
In waspish youth, and in resentful age;
With scraps of insult--'Sir, when next you play,
Reflect whose money 'tis you throw away.
No one on earth can less such things regard,
But when one's partner doesn't know a card -
I scorn suspicion, ma'am, but while you stand
Behind that lady, pray keep down your hand.'
'Good heav'n, revoke: remember, if the set
Be lost, in honour you should pay the debt.'
'There, there's your money; but, while I have
I'll never more sit down with man and wife;
They snap and snarl indeed, but in the heat
Of all their spleen, their understandings meet;
They are Freemasons, and have many a sign,
That we, poor devils! never can divine:
May it be told, do ye divide th' amount,
Or goes it all to family account?'
Next is the Club, where to their friends in town
Our country neighbours once a month come down;
We term it Free-and-Easy, and yet we
Find it no easy matter to be free:
E'en in our small assembly, friends among,
Are minds perverse, there's something will be
Men are not equal; some will claim a right
To be the kings and heroes of the night;
Will their own favourite themes and notions start,
And you must hear, offend them, or depart.
There comes Sir Thomas from his village-seat,
Happy, he tells us, all his friends to meet;
He brings the ruin'd brother of his wife,
Whom he supports, and makes him sick of life;
A ready witness whom he can produce
Of all his deeds--a butt for his abuse;
Soon as he enters, has the guests espied,
Drawn to the fire, and to the glass applied -
'Well, what's the subject?--what are you about?
The news, I take it--come, I'll help you out:' -
And then, without one answer he bestows
Freely upon us all he hears and knows;
Gives us opinions, tells us how he votes,
Recites the speeches, adds to them his notes;
And gives old ill-told tales for new-born
Yet cares he nothing what we judge or think,
Our only duty's to attend and drink:
At length, admonish'd by his gout he ends
The various speech, and leaves at peace his
But now, alas! we've lost the pleasant hour,
And wisdom flies from wine's superior power.
Wine like the rising sun, possession gains,
And drives the mist of dulness from the brains;
The gloomy vapour from the spirit flies,
And views of gaiety and gladness rise:
Still it proceeds; till from the glowing heat,
The prudent calmly to their shades retreat: -
Then is the mind o'ercast--in wordy rage
And loud contention angry men engage;
Then spleen and pique, like fireworks thrown in
To mischief turn the pleasures of the night;
Anger abuses, Malice loudly rails,
Revenge awakes, and Anarchy prevails;
Till wine, that raised the tempest, makes its
And maudlin Love insists on instant peace;
He, noisy mirth and roaring song commands,
Gives idle toasts, and joins unfriendly bands:
Till fuddled Friendship vows esteem and weeps,
And jovial Folly drinks and sings and sleeps.
A Club there is of Smokers--Dare you come
To that close, clouded, hot, narcotic room?
When, midnight past, the very candles seem
Dying for air, and give a ghastly gleam;
When curling fumes in lazy wreaths arise,
And prosing topers rub their winking eyes;
When the long tale, renew'd when last they met,
Is spliced anew, and is unfinish'd yet;
When but a few are left the house to tire,
And they half sleeping by the sleepy fire;
E'en the poor ventilating vane that flew
Of late so fast, is now grown drowsy too;
When sweet, cold, clammy punch its aid bestows,
Then thus the midnight conversation flows: -
'Then, as I said, and--mind me--as I say,
At our last meeting--you remember'--'Ay?'
'Well, very well--then freely as I drink
I spoke my thought--you take me--what I think.
And, sir, said I, if I a Freeman be,
It is my bounden duty to be free.'
'Ay, there you posed him: I respect the Chair,
But man is man, although the man's a mayor;
If Muggins live--no, no!--if Muggins die,
He'll quit his office--neighbour, shall I try?'
'I'll speak my mind, for here are none but
They're all contending for their private ends;
No public spirit--once a vote would bring,
I say a vote--was then a pretty thing;
It made a man to serve his country and his king:
But for that place, that Muggins must resign,
You've my advice--'tis no affair of mine.'
The Poor Man has his Club: he comes and spends
His hoarded pittance with his chosen friends;
Nor this alone,--a monthly dole he pays,
To be assisted when his health decays;
Some part his prudence, from the day's supply,
For cares and troubles in his age, lays by;
The printed rules he guards with painted frame,
And shows his children where to read his name;
Those simple words his honest nature move,
That bond of union tied by laws of love;
This is his pride, it gives to his employ
New value, to his home another joy;
While a religious hope its balm applies
For all his fate inflicts, and all his state
Much would it please you, sometimes to explore
The peaceful dwellings of our Borough poor:
To view a sailor just return'd from sea,
His wife beside; a child on either knee,
And others crowding near, that none may lose
The smallest portions of the welcome news;
What dangers pass'd, 'When seas ran mountains high,
When tempest raved, and horrors veil'd the sky;
When prudence fail'd, when courage grew dismay'd,
When the strong fainted, and the wicked pray'd, -
Then in the yawning gulf far down we drove,
And gazed upon the billowy mount above;
Till up that mountain, swinging with the gale,
We view'd the horrors of the watery vale.'
The trembling children look with steadfast eyes,
And, panting, sob involuntary sighs:
Soft sleep awhile his torpid touch delays,
And all is joy and piety and praise.
Masons are ours, Freemasons--but, alas!
To their own bards I leave the mystic class;
In vain shall one, and not a gifted man,
Attempt to sing of this enlightened clan:
I know no Word, boast no directing Sign,
And not one Token of the race is mine;
Whether with Hiram, that wise widow's son,
They came from Tyre to royal Solomon,
Two pillars raising by their skill profound,
Boaz and Jachin through the east renown'd:
Whether the sacred Books their rise express,
Or books profane, 'tis vain for me guess:
It may be lost in date remote and high,
They know not what their own antiquity:
It may be, too, derived from cause so low,
They have no wish their origin to show:
If, as Crusaders, they combine to wrest
From heathen lords the land they long possess'd;
Or were at first some harmless club, who made
Their idle meetings solemn by parade;
Is but conjecture--for the task unfit,
Awe-struck and mute, the puzzling theme I quit:
Yet, if such blessings from their Order flow,
We should be glad their moral code to know;
Trowels of silver are but simple things,
And Aprons worthless as their apron-strings;
But if indeed you have the skill to teach
A social spirit, now beyond our reach;
If man's warm passions you can guide and bind,
And plant the virtues in the wayward mind;
If you can wake to Christian love the heart, -
In mercy, something of your powers impart.
But, as it seems, we Masons must become
To know the Secret, and must then be dumb;
And as we venture for uncertain gains,
Perhaps the profit is not worth the pains.
When Bruce, that dauntless traveller, thought he
On Nile's first rise, the fountain of the flood,
And drank exulting in the sacred spring,
The critics told him it was no such thing;
That springs unnumber'd round the country ran,
But none could show him where the first began:
So might we feel, should we our time bestow,
To gain these Secrets and these Signs to know;
Might question still if all the truth we found,
And firmly stood upon the certain ground;
We might our title to the Mystery dread,
And fear we drank not at the river-head.
G riggs and Gregorians here their meeting hold,
Convivial Sects, and Bucks alert and bold;
A kind of Masons, but without their sign;
The bonds of union--pleasure, song, and wine.
Man, a gregarious creature, loves to fly
Where he the trackings of the herd can spy;
Still to be one with many he desires,
Although it leads him through the thorns and
A few! but few there are, who in the mind
Perpetual source of consolation find:
The weaker many to the world will come,
For comforts seldom to be found from home.
When the faint hands no more a brimmer hold,
When flannel-wreaths the useless limbs infold,
The breath impeded, and the bosom cold;
When half the pillow'd man the palsy chains,
And the blood falters in the bloated veins, -
Then, as our friends no further aid supply
Than hope's cold phrase and courtesy's soft sigh,
We should that comfort for ourselves ensure,
Which friends could not, if we could friends
Early in life, when we can laugh aloud,
There's something pleasant in a social crowd,
Who laugh with us--but will such joy remain
When we lie struggling on the bed of pain?
When our physician tells us with a sigh,
No more on hope and science to rely,
Life's staff is useless then; with labouring breath
We pray for Hope divine--the staff of Death; -
This is a scene which few companions grace,
And where the heart's first favourites yield their
Here all the aid of man to man must end,
Here mounts the soul to her eternal Friend:
The tenderest love must here its tie resign,
And give th' aspiring heart to love divine.
Men feel their weakness, and to numbers run,
Themselves to strengthen, or themselves to shun;
But though to this our weakness may be prone,
Let's learn to live, for we must die, alone.
Ye idler things, that soothed my hours of care,
Where would ye wander, triflers, tell me where?
As maids neglected, do ye fondly dote,
On the tair type, or the embroider'd coat;
Detest my modest shelf, and long to fly
Where princely Popes and mighty Miltons lie?
Taught but to sing, and that in simple style,
Of Lycia's lip, and Musidora's smile; -
Go then! and taste a yet unfelt distress,
The fear that guards the captivating press;
Whose maddening region should ye once explore,
No refuge yields my tongueless mansion more.
But thus ye'll grieve, Ambition's plumage stript,
'Ah, would to Heaven, we'd died in manuscript!'
Your unsoil'd page each yawning wit shall flee,
- For few will read, and none admire like me. -
Its place, where spiders silent bards enrobe,
Squeezed betwixt Cibber's Odes and Blackmore's Job;
Where froth and mud, that varnish and deform,
Feed the lean critic and the fattening worm;
Then sent disgraced--the unpaid printer's bane -
To mad Moorfields, or sober Chancery Lane,
On dirty stalls I see your hopes expire,
Vex'd by the grin of your unheeded sire,
Who half reluctant has his care resign'd,
Like a teased parent, and is rashly kind.
Yet rush not all, but let some scout go forth,
View the strange land, and tell us of its worth;
And should he there barbarian usage meet,
The patriot scrap shall warn us to retreat.
And thou, the first of thy eccentric race,
A forward imp, go, search the dangerous place,
Where Fame's eternal blossoms tempt each bard,
Though dragon-wits there keep eternal guard;
Hope not unhurt the golden spoil to seize,
The Muses yield, as the Hesperides;
Who bribes the guardian, all his labour's done,
For every maid is willing to be won.
Before the lords of verse a suppliant stand,
And beg our passage through the fairy land:
Beg more--to search for sweets each blooming field,
And crop the blossoms woods and valleys yield,
To snatch the tints that beam on Fancy's bow;
And feel the fires on Genius' wings that glow;
Praise without meanness, without flattery stoop,
Soothe without fear, and without trembling, hope.
TO THE AUTHORS OF THE MONTHLY REVIEW.
The pious pilot, whom the gods provide,
Through the rough seas the shatter'd bark to guide,
Trusts not alone his knowledge of the deep,
Its rocks that threaten, and its sands that sleep;
But whilst with nicest skill he steers his way,
The guardian Tritons hear their favourite pray.
Hence borne his vows to Neptune's coral dome,
The god relents, and shuts each gulfy tomb.
Thus as on fatal floods to fame I steer,
I dread the storm that ever rattles here,
Nor think enough, that long my yielding soul
Has felt the Muse's soft but strong control,
Nor think enough, that manly strength and ease,
Such as have pleased a friend, will strangers
But, suppliant, to the critic's throne I bow,
Here burn my incense, and here pay my vow;
That censure hush'd, may every blast give o'er,
And the lash'd coxcomb hiss contempt no more.
And ye, whom authors dread or dare in vain,
Affecting modest hopes, or poor disdain,
Receive a bard, who neither mad nor mean,
Despises each extreme, and sails between;
Who fears; but has, amid his fears confess'd,
The conscious virtue of a Muse oppress'd;
A muse in changing times and stations nursed,
By nature honour'd, and by fortune cursed.
No servile strain of abject hope she brings,
Nor soars presumptuous, with unwearied wings,
But, pruned for flight--the future all her care -
Would know her strength, and, if not strong,
The supple slave to regal pomp bows down,
Prostrate to power, and cringing to a crown;
The bolder villain spurns a decent awe,
Tramples on rule, and breaks through every law;
But he whose soul on honest truth relies,
Nor meanly flatters power, nor madly flies.
Thus timid authors bear an abject mind,
And plead for mercy they but seldom find.
Some, as the desperate, to the halter run,
Boldly deride the fate they cannot shun;
But such there are, whose minds, not taught to
Yet hope for fame, and dare avow their hope,
Who neither brave the judges of their cause,
Nor beg in soothing strains a brief applause.
And such I'd be;--and ere my fate is past,
Ere clear'd with honour, or with culprits cast,
Humbly at Learning's bar I'll state my case,
And welcome then distinction or disgrace!
When in the man the flights of fancy reign,
Rule in the heart or revel in the brain,
As busy Thought her wild creation apes,
And hangs delighted o'er her varying shapes,
It asks a judgment, weighty and discreet,
To know where wisdom prompts, and where conceit.
Alike their draughts to every scribbler's mind
(Blind to their faults as to their danger blind); -
We write enraptured, and we write in haste,
Dream idle dreams, and call them things of taste,
Improvement trace in every paltry line,
And see, transported, every dull design;
Are seldom cautious, all advice detest,
And ever think our own opinions best;
Nor shows my Muse a muse-like spirit here,
Who bids me pause, before I persevere.
But she--who shrinks while meditating flight
In the wide way, whose bounds delude her sight,
Yet tired in her own mazes still to roam,
And cull poor banquets for the soul at home,
Would, ere she ventures, ponder on the way,
Lest dangers yet unthought of, flight betray;
Lest her Icarian wing, by wits unplumed,
Be robb'd of all the honours she assumed;
And Dulness swell,--a black and dismal sea,
Gaping her grave; while censures madden me.
Such was his fate, who flew too near the sun,
Shot far beyond his strength, and was undone;
Such is his fate, who creeping at the shore
The billow sweeps him, and he's found no more.
Oh! for some god, to bear my fortunes fair
Midway betwixt presumption and despair!
'Has then some friendly critic's former blow
Taught thee a prudence authors seldom know?'
Not so! their anger and their love untried,
A woe-taught prudence deigns to tend my side:
Life's hopes ill-sped, the Muse's hopes grow poor,
And though they flatter, yet they charm no more;
Experience points where lurking dangers lay,
And as I run, throws caution in my way.
There was a night, when wintry winds did rage,
Hard by a ruin'd pile, I meet a sage;
Resembling him the time-struck place appear'd,
Hollow its voice, and moss its spreading beard;
Whose fate-lopp'd brow, the bat's and beetle's
Shook, as the hunted owl flew hooting home.
His breast was bronzed by many an eastern blast,
And fourscore winters seem'd he to have past;
His thread-bare coat the supple osier bound,
And with slow feet he press'd the sodden ground,
Where, as he heard the wild-wing'd Eurus blow,
He shook, from locks as white, December's snow;
Inured to storm, his soul ne'er bid it cease,
But lock'd within him meditated peace.
Father, I said--for silver hairs inspire,
And oft I call the bending peasant Sire -
Tell me, as here beneath this ivy bower,
That works fantastic round its trembling tower,
We hear Heaven's guilt-alarming thunders roar,
Tell me the pains and pleasures of the poor;
For Hope, just spent, requires a sad adieu,
And Fear acquaints me I shall live with you.
There was a time when, by Delusion led,
A scene of sacred bliss around me spread,
On Hope's, as Pisgah's lofty top, I stood,
And saw my Canaan there, my promised good;
A thousand scenes of joy the clime bestow'd,
And wine and oil through vision's valleys flow'd;
As Moses his, I call'd my prospect bless'd,
And gazed upon the good I ne'er possess'd:
On this side Jordan doom'd by fate to stand,
Whilst happier Joshuas win the promised land.
'Son,' said the Sage--'be this thy care suppress'd;
The state the gods shall chose thee is the best:
Rich if thou art, they ask thy praises more,
And would thy patience when they make thee poor;
But other thoughts within thy bosom reign,
And other subjects vex thy busy brain,
Poetic wreaths thy vainer dreams excite,
And thy sad stars have destined thee to write.
Then since that task the ruthless fates decree,
Take a few precepts from the gods and me!
'Be not too eager in the arduous chase;
Who pants for triumph seldom wins the race:
Venture not all, but wisely hoard thy worth,
And let thy labours one by one go forth:
Some happier scrap capricious wits may find
On a fair day, and be profusely kind;
Which, buried in the rubbish of a throng,
Had pleased as little as a new-year's song,
Or lover's verse, that cloy'd with nauseous sweet,
Or birth-day ode, that ran on ill-pair'd feet.
Merit not always--Fortune feeds the bard,
And as the whim inclines bestows reward:
None without wit, nor with it numbers gain;
To please is hard, but none shall please in vain:
As a coy mistress is the humour'd town,
Loth every lover with success to crown;
He who would win must every effort try,
Sail in the mode, and to the fashion fly;
Must gay or grave to every humour dress,
And watch the lucky Moment of Success;
That caught, no more his eager hopes are crost;
But vain are Wit and Love, when that is lost.'
Thus said the god; for now a god he grew
His white locks changing to a golden hue,
And from his shoulders hung a mantle azure-blue.
His softening eyes the winning charm disclosed
Of dove-like Delia when her doubts reposed;
Mira's alone a softer lustre bear,
When woe beguiles them of an angel's tear;
Beauteous and young the smiling phantom stood,
Then sought on airy wing his blest abode.
Ah! truth, distasteful in poetic theme,
Why is the Muse compell'd to own her dream?
Whilst forward wits had sworn to every line,
I only wish to make its moral mine.
Say then, O ye who tell how authors speed,
May Hope indulge her flight, and I succeed?
Say, shall my name, to future song prefixed,
Be with the meanest of the tuneful mix'd?
Shall my soft strains the modest maid engage,
My graver numbers move the silver 'd sage,
My tender themes delight the lover's heart,
And comfort to the poor my solemn songs impart?
For Oh! thou Hope's, thou Thought's eternal
Who gav'st them power to charm, and me to sing -
Chief to thy praise my willing numbers soar,
And in my happier transports I adore;
Mercy! thy softest attribute proclaim,
Thyself in abstract, thy more lovely name;
That flings o'er all my grief a cheering ray,
As the full moon-beam gilds the watery way.
And then too, Love, my soul's resistless lord,
Shall many a gentle, generous strain afford,
To all the soil of sooty passion blind,
Pure as embracing angels and as kind;
Our Mira's name in future times shall shine,
And--though the harshest--Shepherds envy mine.
Then let me (pleasing task!) however hard,
Join, as of old, the prophet and the bard;
If not, ah! shield me from the dire disgrace,
That haunts our wild and visionary race;
Let me not draw my lengthen'd lines along,
And tire in untamed infamy of song,
Lest, in some dismal Dunciad's future page,
I stand the CIBBER of this tuneless age;
Lest, in another POPE th' indulgent skies
Should give inspired by all their deities,
My luckless name, in his immortal strain,
Should, blasted, brand me as a second Cain;
Doom'd in that song to live against my will,
Whom all must scorn, and yet whom none could kill.
The youth, resisted by the maiden's art,
Persists, and time subdues her kindling heart;
To strong entreaty yields the widow's vow,
As mighty walls to bold beseigers bow;
Repeated prayers draw bounty from the sky,
And heaven is won by importunity;
Ours, a projecting tribe, pursue in vain,
In tedious trials, an uncertain gain;
Madly plunge on through every hope's defeat,
And with our ruin only find the cheat.
'And why then seek that luckless doom to share?'
Who, I?--To shun it is my only care.
I grant it true, that others better tell
Of mighty WOLFE, who conquer'd as he fell;
Of heroes born, their threaten'd realms to save,
Whom Fame anoints, and Envy tends whose grave;
Of crimson'd fields, where Fate, in dire array,
Gives to the breathless the short-breathing clay;
Ours, a young train, by humbler fountains dream,
Nor taste presumptuous the Pierian stream;
When Rodney's triumph comes on eagle-wing,
We hail the victor whom we fear to sing;
Nor tell we how each hostile chief goes on,
The luckless Lee, or wary Washington;
How Spanish bombast blusters--they were beat,
And French politeness dulcifies--defeat.
My modest Muse forbears to speak of kings,
Lest fainting stanzas blast the name she sings;
For who--the tenant of the beechen shade,
Dares the big thought in regal breasts pervade?
Or search his soul, whom each too-favouring god
Gives to delight in plunder, pomp, and blood?
No; let me free from Cupid's frolic round,
Rejoice, or more rejoice by Cupid bound;
Of laughing girls in smiling couplets tell,
And paint the dark-brow'd grove, where wood-nymphs
Who bid invading youths their vengeance feel,
And pierce the votive hearts they mean to heal.
Such were the themes I knew in school-day ease,
When first the moral magic learn'd to please,
Ere Judgment told how transports warm'd the breast,
Transported Fancy there her stores imprest;
The soul in varied raptures learn'd to fly,
Felt all their force, and never question'd why;
No idle doubts could then her peace molest,
She found delight, and left to heaven the rest;
Soft joys in Evening's placid shades were born;
And where sweet fragrance wing'd the balmy morn,
When the wild thought roved vision's circuit o'er,
And caught the raptures, caught, alas! no more:
No care did then a dull attention ask,
For study pleased, and that was every task;
No guilty dreams stalk'd that heaven-favour'd
Heaven-guarded, too, no Envy entrance found;
Nor numerous wants, that vex advancing age,
Nor Flattery's silver tale, nor Sorrow's sage;
Frugal Affliction kept each growing dart,
To o'erwhelm in future days the bleeding heart.
No sceptic art veil'd Pride in Truth's disguise,
But prayer unsoil'd of doubt besieged the skies;
Ambition, avarice, care, to man retired,
Nor came desires more quick than joys desired.
A summer morn there was, and passing fair,
Still was the breeze, and health perfumed the air;
The glowing east in crimson'd splendour shone,
What time the eye just marks the pallid moon,
Vi'let-wing'd Zephyr fann'd each opening flower,
And brush'd from fragrant cups the limpid shower;
A distant huntsman fill'd his cheerful horn,
The vivid dew hung trembling on the thorn,
And mists, like creeping rocks, arose to meet the
Huge giant shadows spread along the plain,
Or shot from towering rocks o'er half the main,
There to the slumbering bark the gentle tide
Stole soft, and faintly beat against its side;
Such is that sound, which fond designs convey,
When, true to love, the damsel speeds away;
The sails unshaken, hung aloft unfurl'd,
And simpering nigh, the languid current curl'd;
A crumbling ruin, once a city's pride,
The well-pleased eye through withering oaks
Where Sadness, gazing on time's ravage, hung,
And Silence to Destruction's trophy clung -
Save that as morning songsters swell'd their lays,
Awaken'd Echo humm'd repeated praise:
The lark on quavering pinion woo'd the day,
Less towering linnets fill'd the vocal spray,
And song-invited pilgrims rose to pray.
Here at a pine-press'd hill's embroider'd base
I stood, and hail'd the Genius of the place.
Then was it doom'd by fate, my idle heart,
Soften'd by Nature, gave access to Art;
The Muse approach'd, her syren-song I heard,
Her magic felt, and all her charms revered:
E'er since she rules in absolute control,
And Mira only dearer to my soul.
Ah! tell me not these empty joys to fly,
If they deceive, I would deluded die;
To the fond themes my heart so early wed,
So soon in life to blooming visions led,
So prone to run the vague uncertain course,
'Tis more than death to think of a divorce.
What wills the poet of the favouring gods,
Led to their shrine, and blest in their abodes?
What when he fills the glass, and to each youth
Names his loved maid, and glories in his truth?
Not India's spoils, the splended nabob's pride,
Not the full trade of Hermes' own Cheapside,
Nor gold itself, nor all the Ganges laves,
Or shrouds, well shrouded in his sacred waves;
Nor gorgeous vessels deck'd in trim array,
Which the more noble Thames bears far away;
Let those whose nod makes sooty subjects flee?
Hack with blunt steel the savory callipee;
Let those whose ill-used wealth their country fly,
Virtue-scorn'd wines from hostile France to buy;
Favour'd by Fate, let such in joy appear,
Their smuggled cargoes landed thrice a year;
Disdaining these, for simpler food I'll look,
And crop my beverage at the mantled brook.
O Virtue! brighter than the noon-tide ray,
My humble prayers with sacred joys repay!
Health to my limbs may the kind gods impart,
And thy fair form delight my yielding heart!
Grant me to shun each vile inglorious road,
To see thy way, and trace each moral good:
If more--let Wisdom's sons my page peruse,
And decent credit deck my modest Muse.
Nor deem it pride that prophesies my song
Shall please the sons of taste, and please them
Say ye! to whom my Muse submissive brings
Her first-fruit offering, and on trembling wings,
May she not hope in future days to soar,
Where fancy's sons have led the way before?
Where genius strives in each ambrosial bower
To snatch with agile hand the opening flower?
To cull what sweets adorn the mountain's brow,
What humbler blossoms crown the vales below?
To blend with these the stores by art refined,
And give the moral Flora to the mind?
Far other scenes my timid hour admits,
Relentless critics and avenging wits;
E'en coxcombs take a licence from their pen,
And to each 'Let him perish,' cry Amen!
And thus, with wits or fools my heart shall cry,
For if they please not, let the trifles die:
Die, and be lost in dark oblivion's shore,
And never rise to vex their author more.
I would not dream o'er some soft liquid line,
Amid a thousand blunders form'd to shine;
Yet rather this, than that dull scribbler be,
From every fault and every beauty free,
Curst with tame thoughts and mediocrity.
Some have I found so thick beset with spots,
'Twas hard to trace their beauties through their
And these, as tapers round a sick man's room
Or passing chimes, but warn'd me of the tomb!
O! if you blast, at once consume my bays,
And damn me not with mutilated praise.
With candour judge; and, a young bard in view,
Allow for that, and judge with kindness too;
Faults he must own, though hard for him to find,
Not to some happier merits quite so blind;
These if mistaken Fancy only sees,
Or Hope, that takes Deformity for these:
If Dunce, the crowd-befitting title falls
His lot, and Dulness her new subject calls,
To the poor bard alone your censures give -
Let his fame die, but let his honour live;
Laugh if you must--be candid as you can,
And when you lash the Poet, spare the Man.
The Borough. Letter Iv: Sects And Professions In Religion
'SECTS in Religion?'--Yes of every race
We nurse some portion in our favour'd place;
Not one warm preacher of one growing sect
Can say our Borough treats him with neglect:
Frequent as fashions they with us appear,
And you might ask, 'how think we for the year?'
They come to us as riders in a trade,
And with much art exhibit and persuade.
Minds are for Sects of various kinds decreed,
As diff'rent soils are formed for diff'rent seed;
Some when converted sigh in sore amaze,
And some are wrapt in joy's ecstatic blaze;
Others again will change to each extreme,
They know not why--as hurried in a dream;
Unstable, they, like water, take all forms,
Are quick and stagnant; have their calms and storms;
High on the hills, they in the sunbeams glow,
Then muddily they move debased and slow;
Or cold and frozen rest, and neither rise nor flow.
Yet none the cool and prudent Teacher prize.
On him ther dote who wakes their ectasies;
With passions ready primed such guide they meet,
And warm and kindle with th' imparted heat;
'Tis he who wakes the nameless strong desire,
The melting rapture and the glowing fire;
'Tis he who pierces deep the tortured breast,
And stirs the terrors never more to rest.
Opposed to these we have a prouder kind,
Rash without heat, and without raptures blind;
These our Glad Tidings unconcern'd peruse,
Search without awe, and without fear refuse;
The truths, the blessings found in Sacred Writ,
Call forth their spleen, and exercise their wit;
Respect from these nor saints nor martyrs gain,
The zeal they scorn, and they deride the pain:
And take their transient, cool, contemptuous view,
Of that which must be tried, and doubtless may be true.
Friends of our Faith we have, whom doubts like these,
And keen remarks, and bold objections please;
They grant such doubts have weaker minds oppress'd,
Till sound conviction gave the troubled rest.
'But still,' they cry, 'let none their censures spare.
They but confirm the glorious hopes we share;
From doubt, disdain, derision, scorn, and lies,
With five-fold triumph sacred Truth shall rise.'
Yes! I allow, so Truth shall stand at last,
And gain fresh glory by the conflict past: -
As Solway-Moss (a barren mass and cold,
Death to the seed, and poison to the fold),
The smiling plain and fertile vale o'erlaid,
Choked the green sod, and kill'd the springing blade;
That, changed by culture, may in time be seen
Enrich'd by golden grain and pasture green;
And these fair acres rented and enjoy'd
May those excel by Solway-Moss destroy'd.
Still must have mourn'd the tenant of the day,
For hopes destroy'd, and harvests swept away;
To him the gain of future years unknown,
The instant grief and suffering were his own:
So must I grieve for many a wounded heart,
Chill'd by those doubts which bolder minds impart:
Truth in the end shall shine divinely clear,
But sad the darkness till those times appear;
Contests for truth, as wars for freedom, yield
Glory and joy to those who gain the field:
But still the Christian must in pity sigh
For all who suffer, and uncertain die.
Here are, who all the Church maintains approve,
But yet the Church herself they will not love;
In angry speech, they blame the carnal tie
Which pure Religion lost her spirit by;
What time from prisons, flames, and tortures led,
She slumber'd careless in a royal bed;
To make, they add, the Church's glory shine,
Should Diocletian reign, not Constantine.
'In pomp,' they cry, 'is 'England's Church array'd,
Her cool Reformers wrought like men afraid;
We would have pull'd her gorgeous temples down,
And spurn'd her mitre, and defiled her gown:
We would have trodden low both bench and stall,
Nor left a tithe remaining, great or small.'
Let us be serious--Should such trials come.
Are they themselves prepared for martyrdom?
It seems to us that our reformers knew
Th' important work they undertook to do;
An equal priesthood they were loth to try,
Lest zeal and care should with ambition die;
To them it seem'd that, take the tenth away,
Yet priests must eat, and you must feed or pay:
Would they indeed, who hold such pay in scorn,
Put on the muzzle when they tread the corn?
Would they all, gratis, watch and tend the fold,
Nor take one fleece to keep them from the cold?
Men are not equal, and 'tis meet and right
That robes and titles our respect excite;
Order requires it; 'tis by vulgar pride
That such regard is censured and denied;
Or by that false enthusiastic zeal,
That thinks the Spirit will the priest reveal,
And show to all men, by their powerful speech,
Who are appointed and inspired to teach:
Alas! could we the dangerous rule believe,
Whom for their teacher should the crowd receive?
Since all the varying kinds demand respect,
All press you on to join their chosen sect,
Although but in this single point agreed,
'Desert your churches and adopt our creed.'
We know full well how much our forms offend
The burthen'd Papist and the simple Friend:
Him, who new robes for every service takes,
And who in drab and beaver sighs and shakes;
He on the priest, whom hood and band adorn,
Looks with the sleepy eye of silent scorn;
But him I would not for my friend and guide,
Who views such things with spleen, or wears with pride.
See next our several Sects,--but first behold
The Church of Rome, who here is poor and old:
Use not triumphant raillery, or, at least,
Let not thy mother be a whore and beast;
Great was her pride indeed in ancient times,
Yet shall we think of nothing but her crimes?
Exalted high above all earthly things,
She placed her foot upon the neck of kings;
But some have deeply since avenged the crown,
And thrown her glory and her honours down;
Nor neck nor ear can she of kings command,
Nor place a foot upon her own fair land.
Among her sons, with us a quiet few,
Obscure themselves, her ancient state review,
And fond and melancholy glances cast
On power insulted, and on triumph past:
They look, they can but look, with many a sigh,
On sacred buildings doom'd in dust to lie;
'On seats,' they tell, 'where priests mid tapers dim
Breathed the warm prayer, or tuned the midnight hymn;
Where trembling penitents their guilt confessed,
Where want had succour, and contrition rest;
There weary men from trouble found relief,
There men in sorrow found repose from grief.
To scenes like these the fainting soul retired;
Revenge and anger in these cells expired;
By Pity soothed, Remorse lost half her fears,
And soften'd Pride dropp'd penitential tears.
'Then convent walls and nunnery spires arose,
In pleasant spots which monk or abbot chose;
When counts and barons saints devoted fed,
And making cheap exchange, had pray'r for bread.
'Now all is lost, the earth where abbeys stood
Is layman's land, the glebe, the stream, the wood:
His oxen low where monks retired to eat,
His cows repose upon the prior's seat:
And wanton doves within the cloisters bill,
Where the chaste votary warr'd with wanton will.'
Such is the change they mourn, but they restrain
The rage of grief, and passively complain.
We've Baptists old and new; forbear to ask
What the distinction--I decline the task;
This I perceive, that when a sect grows old,
Converts are few, and the converted cold:
First comes the hotbed heat, and while it glows
The plants spring up, and each with vigour grows:
Then comes the cooler day, and though awhile
The verdure prospers and the blossoms smile,
Yet poor the fruit, and form'd by long delay,
Nor will the profits for the culture pay;
The skilful gard'ner then no longer stops,
But turns to other beds for bearing crops.
Some Swedenborgians in our streets are found,
Those wandering walkers on enchanted ground,
Who in our world can other worlds survey,
And speak with spirits though confin'd in clay:
Of Bible-mysteries they the keys possess,
Assured themselves, where wiser men but guess:
'Tis theirs to see around, about, above, -
How spirits mingle thoughts, and angels move;
Those whom our grosser views from us exclude,
To them appear--a heavenly multitude;
While the dark sayings, seal'd to men like us,
Their priests interpret, and their flocks discuss.
But while these gifted men, a favour'd fold,
New powers exhibit and new worlds behold;
Is there not danger lest their minds confound
The pure above them with the gross around?
May not these Phaetons, who thus contrive
'Twixt heaven above and earth beneath to drive,
When from their flaming chariots they descend,
The worlds they visit in their fancies blend?
Alas! too sure on both they bring disgrace,
Their earth is crazy, and their heaven is base.
We have, it seems, who treat, and doubtless well,
Of a chastising not awarding Hell;
Who are assured that an offended God
Will cease to use the thunder and the rod;
A soul on earth, by crime and folly stain'd,
When here corrected has improvement gain'd;
In other state still more improved to grow,
And nobler powers in happier world to know;
New strength to use in each divine employ,
And more enjoying, looking to more joy.
A pleasing vision! could we thus be sure
Polluted souls would be at length so pure;
The view is happy, we may think it just,
It may be true-- but who shall add, it must?
To the plain words and sense of Sacred Writ,
With all my heart I reverently submit;
But where it leaves me doubtful, I'm afraid
To call conjecture to my reason's aid;
Thy thoughts, thy ways, great God! are not as mine,
And to thy mercy I my soul resign.
Jews are with us, but far unlike to those,
Who, led by David, warr'd with Israels foes;
Unlike to those whom his imperial son
Taught truths divine--the Preacher Solomon;
Nor war nor wisdom yield our Jews delight;
They will not study, and they dare not fight.
These are, with us, a slavish, knavish crew,
Shame and dishonour to the name of Jew;
The poorest masters of the meanest arts,
With cunning heads, and cold and cautious hearts;
They grope their dirty way to petty gains,
While poorly paid for their nefarious pains.
Amazing race! deprived of land and laws,
A general language and a public cause;
With a religion none can now obey,
With a reproach that none can take away:
A people still, whose common ties are gone;
Who, mix'd with every race, are lost in none.
What said their Prophet?--'Shouldst thou disobey,
The Lord shall take thee from thy land away;
Thou shalt a by-word and a proverb be,
And all shall wonder at thy woes and thee;
Daughter and son, shalt thou, while captive, have,
And see them made the bond-maid and the slave;
He, whom thou leav'st, the Lord thy God, shall bring
War to thy country on an eagle-wing.
A people strong and dreadful to behold,
Stern to the young, remorseless to the old;
Masters whose speech thou canst not understand
By cruel signs shall give the harsh command:
Doubtful of life shalt thou by night, by day,
For grief, and dread, and trouble pine away;
Thy evening wish,--Would God I saw the sun
Thy morning sigh,--Would God the day were done!
Thus shalt thou suffer, and to distant times
Regret thy misery, and lament thy crimes.'
A part there are, whom doubtless man might trust,
Worthy as wealthy, pure, religious, just;
They who with patience, yet with rapture, look
On the strong promise of the Sacred Book:
As unfulfill'd th' endearing words they view,
And blind to truth, yet own their prophets true;
Well pleased they look for Sion's coming state,
Nor think of Julian's boast and Julian's fate.
More might I add: I might describe the flocks
Made by Seceders from the ancient stocks;
Those who will not to any guide submit,
Nor find one creed to their conceptions fit -
Each sect, they judge, in something goes astray,
And every church has lost the certain way!
Then for themselves they carve out creed and laws,
And weigh their atoms, and divide their straws.
A Sect remains, which, though divided long
In hostile parties, both are fierce and strong,
And into each enlists a warm and zealous throng.
Soon as they rose in fame, the strife arose,
The Calvinistic these, th' Arminian those;
With Wesley some remain'd, the remnant Whitfield chose.
Now various leaders both the parties take,
And the divided hosts their new divisions make.
See yonder Preacher! to his people pass,
Borne up and swell'd by tabernacle-gas:
Much he discourses, and of various points,
All unconnected, void of limbs and joints;
He rails, persuades, explains, and moves the will
By fierce bold words, and strong mechanic skill.
'That Gospel, Paul with zeal and love maintain'd,
To others lost, to you is now explain'd;
No worldly learning can these points discuss,
Books teach them not as they are taught to us.
Illiterate call us!--let their wisest man
Draw forth his thousands as your Teacher can:
They give their moral precepts: so, they say,
Did Epictetus once, and Seneca;
One was a slave, and slaves we all must be,
Until the Spirit comes and sets us free.
Yet hear you nothing from such man but works;
They make the Christian service like the Turks.
'Hark to the Churchman: day by day he cries,
'Children of Men, be virtuous and be wise:
Seek patience, justice, temp'rance, meekness, truth;
In age be courteous, be sedate in youth.' -
So they advise, and when such things be read,
How can we wonder that their flocks are dead?
The Heathens wrote of Virtue: they could dwell
On such light points: in them it might be well;
They might for virtue strive; but I maintain,
Our strife for virtue would be proud and vain.
When Samson carried Gaza's gates so far,
Lack'd he a helping hand to bear the bar?
Thus the most virtuous must in bondage groan:
Samson is grace, and carries all alone.
'Hear you not priests their feeble spirits spend,
In bidding Sinners turn to God, and mend;
To check their passions and to walk aright,
To run the Race, and fight the glorious Fight?
Nay more--to pray, to study, to improve,
To grow in goodness, to advance in love?
'Oh! Babes and Sucklings, dull of heart and slow,
Can Grace be gradual? Can Conversion grow?
The work is done by instantaneous call;
Converts at once are made, or not at all;
Nothing is left to grow, reform, amend,
The first emotion is the Movement's end:
If once forgiven, Debt can be no more;
If once adopted, will the heir be poor?
The man who gains the twenty-thousand prize,
Does he by little and by little rise?
There can no fortune for the Soul be made,
By peddling cares and savings in her trade.
'Why are our sins forgiven?--Priests reply,
- Because by Faith on Mercy we rely;
'Because, believing, we repent and pray.'
Is this their doctrine?--then they go astray;
We're pardon'd neither for belief nor deed,
For faith nor practice, principle nor creed;
Nor for our sorrow for our former sin,
Nor for our fears when better thoughts begin;
Nor prayers nor penance in the cause avail,
All strong remorse, all soft contrition fail:
It is the Call! till that proclaims us free,
In darkness, doubt, and bondage we must be;
Till that assures us, we've in vain endured,
And all is over when we're once assured.
'This is Conversion: --First there comes a cry
Which utters, 'Sinner, thou'rt condemned to die;'
Then the struck soul to every aid repairs,
To church and altar, ministers and prayers;
In vain she strives,--involved, ingulf'd in sin,
She looks for hell, and seems already in:
When in this travail, the New Birth comes on,
And in an instant every pang is gone;
The mighty work is done without our pains, -
Claim but a part, and not a part remains.
'All this experience tells the Soul, and yet
These moral men their pence and farthings set
Against the terrors of the countless Debt;
But such compounders, when they come to jail,
Will find that Virtues never serve as bail.
'So much to duties: now to Learning look,
And see their priesthood piling book on book;
Yea, books of infidels, we're told, and plays,
Put out by heathens in the wink'd-on days;
The very letters are of crooked kind,
And show the strange perverseness of their mind.
Have I this Learning? When the Lord would speak;
Think ye he needs the Latin or the Greek?
And lo! with all their learning, when they rise
To preach, in view the ready sermon lies;
Some low-prized stuff they purchased at the stalls,
And more like Seneca's than mine or Paul's:
Children of Bondage, how should they explain
The Spirit's freedom, while they wear a chain?
They study words, for meanings grow perplex d,
And slowly hunt for truth from text to text,
Through Greek and Hebrew: --we the meaning seek
Of that within, who every tongue can speak:
This all can witness; yet the more I know,
The more a meek and humble mind I show.
'No; let the Pope, the high and mighty priest,
Lord to the poor, and servant to the Beast;
Let bishops, deans, and prebendaries swell
With pride and fatness till their hearts rebel:
I'm meek and modest: --if I could be proud,
This crowded meeting, lo! th' amazing crowd!
Your mute attention, and your meek respect,
My spirit's fervour, and my words' effect,
Might stir th' unguarded soul; and oft to me
The Tempter speaks, whom I compel to flee;
He goes in fear, for he my force has tried, -
Such is my power! but can you call it pride?
'No, Fellow-Pilgrims! of the things I've shown
I might be proud, were they indeed my own!
But they are lent: and well you know the source
Of all that's mine, and must confide of course:
Mine! no, I err; 'tis but consigned to me,
And I am nought but steward and trustee.'
FAR other Doctrines yon Arminian speaks;
'Seek Grace,' he cries, 'for he shall find who seeks.'
This is the ancient stock by Wesley led;
They the pure body, he the reverend head:
All innovation they with dread decline,
Their John the elder was the John divine.
Hence, still their moving prayer, the melting hymn,
The varied accent, and the active limb:
Hence that implicit faith in Satan's might,
And their own matchless prowess in the fight.
In every act they see that lurking foe,
Let loose awhile, about the world to go;
A dragon flying round the earth, to kill
The heavenly hope, and prompt the carnal will;
Whom sainted knights attack in sinners' cause,
And force the wounded victim from his paws;
Who but for them would man's whole race subdue,
For not a hireling will the foe pursue.
'Show me one Churchman who will rise and pray
Through half the night, though lab'ring all the day,
Always abounding--show me him, I say:' -
Thus cries the Preacher, and he adds, 'Their sheep
Satan devours at leisure as they sleep.
Not so with us; we drive him from the fold,
For ever barking and for ever bold:
While they securely slumber, all his schemes
Take full effect,--the Devil never dreams:
Watchful and changeful through the world he goes,
And few can trace this deadliest of their foes;
But I detect, and at his work surprise
The subtle Serpent under all disguise.
'Thus to Man's soul the Foe of Souls will speak,
- 'A Saint elect, you can have nought to seek;
Why all this labour in so plain a case,
Such care to run, when certain of the race?'
All this he urges to the carnal will,
He knows you're slothful, and would have you still:
Be this your answer,--'Satan, I will keep
Still on the watch till you are laid asleep.'
Thus too the Christian's progress he'll retard: -
'The gates of mercy are for ever barr'd;
And that with bolts so driven and so stout,
Ten thousand workmen cannot wrench them out.'
To this deceit you have but one reply, -
Give to the Father of all Lies the lie.
'A Sister's weakness he'll by fits surprise,
His her wild laughter, his her piteous cries;
And should a pastor at her side attend,
He'll use her organs to abuse her friend:
These are possessions--unbelieving wits
Impute them all to Nature: 'They're her fits,
Caused by commotions in tne nerves and brains;' -
Vain talk! but they'll be fitted for their pains.
'These are in part the ills the Foe has wrought,
And these the Churchman thinks not worth his thought;
They bid the troubled try for peace and rest,
Compose their minds, and be no more distress'd;
As well might they command the passive shore
To keep secure, and be o'erflow'd no more;
To the wrong subject is their skill applied, -
To act like workmen, they should stem the tide.
'These are the Church-Physicians: they are paid
With noble fees for their advice and aid;
Yet know they not the inward pulse to feel,
To ease the anguish, or the wound to heal.
With the sick Sinner, thus their work begins:
'Do you repent you of your former sins?
Will you amend if you revive and live?
And, pardon seeking, will you pardon give?
Have you belief in what your Lord has done,
And are you thankful?--all is well my son.'
'A way far different ours--we thus surprise
A soul with questions, and demand replies:
'How dropp'd you first,' I ask, 'the legal Yoke?
What the first word the living Witness spoke?
Perceived you thunders roar and lightnings shine,
And tempests gathering ere the Birth divine?
Did fire, and storm, and earthquake all appear
Before that still small voice, What dost thou here?
Hast thou by day and night, and soon and late,
Waited and watch'd before Admission-gate;
And so a pilgrim and a soldier pass'd
To Sion's hill through battle and through blast?
Then in thy way didst thou thy foe attack,
And mad'st thou proud Apollyon turn his back?'
'Heart-searching things are these, and shake the mind,
Yea, like the rustling of a mighty wind.
'Thus would I ask: 'Nay, let me question now,
How sink my sayings in your bosoms? how?
Feel you a quickening? drops the subject deep?
Stupid and stony, no! you're all asleep;
Listless and lazy, waiting for a close,
As if at church;--do I allow repose?
Am I a legal minister? do I
With form or rubric, rule or rite comply?
Then whence this quiet, tell me, I beseech?
One might believe you heard your Rector preach,
Or his assistant dreamer: --Oh! return,
Ye times of burning, when the heart would burn;
Now hearts are ice, and you, my freezing fold,
Have spirits sunk and sad, and bosoms stony-cold.
'Oh! now again for those prevailing powers,
Which, once began this mighty work of ours;
When the wide field, God's Temple, was the place,
And birds flew by to catch a breath of grace;
When 'mid his timid friends and threat'ning foes,
Our zealous chief as Paul at Athens rose:
When with infernal spite and knotty clubs
The Ill-One arm'd his scoundrels and his scrubs;
And there were flying all around the spot
Brands at the Preacher, but they touch'd him not:
Stakes brought to smite him, threaten'd in his cause,
And tongues, attuned to curses, roar'd applause;
Louder and louder grew his awful tones,
Sobbing and sighs were heard, and rueful groans;
Soft women fainted, prouder man express'd
Wonder and woe, and butchers smote the breast;
Eyes wept, ears tingled; stiff'ning on each head,
The hair drew back, and Satan howl'd and fled.
'In that soft season when the gentle breeze
Rises all round, and swells by slow degrees;
Till tempests gather, when through all the sky
The thunders rattle, and the lightnings fly;
When rain in torrents wood and vale deform,
And all is horror, hurricane, and storm:
'So, when the Preacher in that glorious time,
Than clouds more melting, more than storm sublime,
Dropp'd the new Word, there came a charm around;
Tremors and terrors rose upon the sound;
The stubborn spirits by his force he broke,
As the fork'd lightning rives the knotted oak:
Fear, hope, dismay, all signs of shame or grace,
Chain'd every foot, or featured every face;
Then took his sacred trump a louder swell,
And now they groan'd, they sicken'd, and they fell;
Again he sounded, and we heard the cry
Of the Word-wounded, as about to die;
Further and further spread the conquering word,
As loud he cried--'The Battle of the Lord.'
E'en those apart who were the sound denied,
Fell down instinctive, and in spirit died.
Nor stay'd he yet--his eye, his frown, his speech,
His very gesture, had a power to teach:
With outstretch'd arms, strong voice, and piercing call,
He won the field, and made the Dagons fall;
And thus in triumph took his glorious way,
Through scenes of horror, terror, and dismay.'
The Parish Register - Part Iii: Burials
THERE was, 'tis said, and I believe, a time
When humble Christians died with views sublime;
When all were ready for their faith to bleed,
But few to write or wrangle for their creed;
When lively Faith upheld the sinking heart,
And friends, assured to meet, prepared to part;
When Love felt hope, when Sorrow grew serene,
And all was comfort in the death-bed scene.
Alas! when now the gloomy king they wait,
'Tis weakness yielding to resistless fate;
Like wretched men upon the ocean cast,
They labour hard and struggle to the last;
'Hope against hope,' and wildly gaze around
In search of help that never shall be found:
Nor, till the last strong billow stops the breath,
Will they believe them in the jaws of Death!
When these my Records I reflecting read,
And find what ills these numerous births succeed;
What powerful griefs these nuptial ties attend;
With what regret these painful journeys end;
When from the cradle to the grave I look,
Mine I conceive a melancholy book.
Where now is perfect resignation seen?
Alas! it is not on the village-green: -
I've seldom known, though I have often read,
Of happy peasants on their dying-bed;
Whose looks proclaimed that sunshine of the breast,
That more than hope, that Heaven itself express'd.
What I behold are feverish fits of strife,
'Twixt fears of dying and desire of life:
Those earthly hopes, that to the last endure;
Those fears, that hopes superior fail to cure;
At best a sad submission to the doom,
Which, turning from the danger, lets it come.
Sick lies the man, bewilder'd, lost, afraid,
His spirits vanquish'd, and his strength decay'd;
No hope the friend, the nurse, the doctor lend -
'Call then a priest, and fit him for his end.'
A priest is call'd; 'tis now, alas! too late,
Death enters with him at the cottage-gate;
Or time allow'd--he goes, assured to find
The self-commending, all-confiding mind;
And sighs to hear, what we may justly call
Death's common-place, the train of thought in all.
'True I'm a sinner,' feebly he begins,
'But trust in Mercy to forgive my sins:'
(Such cool confession no past crimes excite!
Such claim on Mercy seems the sinner's right!)
'I know mankind are frail, that God is just,
And pardons those who in his Mercy trust;
We're sorely tempted in a world like this -
All men have done, and I like all, amiss;
But now, if spared, it is my full intent
On all the past to ponder and repent:
Wrongs against me I pardon great and small,
And if I die, I die in peace with all.'
His merits thus and not his sins confess'd,
He speaks his hopes, and leaves to Heaven the rest.
Alas! are these the prospects, dull and cold,
That dying Christians to their priests unfold?
Or mends the prospect when th' enthusiast cries,
'I die assured!' and in a rapture dies?
Ah, where that humble, self-abasing mind,
With that confiding spirit, shall we find;
The mind that, feeling what repentance brings,
Dejection's terrors and Contrition's stings,
Feels then the hope that mounts all care above,
And the pure joy that flows from pardoning love?
Such have I seen in Death, and much deplore,
So many dying--that I see no more:
Lo! now my Records, where I grieve to trace
How Death has triumph'd in so short a space;
Who are the dead, how died they, I relate,
And snatch some portion of their acts from fate.
With Andrew Collett we the year begin,
The blind, fat landlord of the Old Crown Inn, -
Big as his butt, and, for the selfsame use,
To take in stores of strong fermenting juice.
On his huge chair beside the fire he sate,
In revel chief, and umpire in debate;
Each night his string of vulgar tales he told,
When ale was cheap and bachelors were bold:
His heroes all were famous in their days,
Cheats were his boast, and drunkards had his
'One, in three draughts, three mugs of ale took
As mugs were then--the champion of the Crown;
For thrice three days another lived on ale,
And knew no change but that of mild and stale;
Two thirsty soakers watch'd a vessel's side,
When he the tap, with dext'rous hand, applied;
Nor from their seats departed, till they found
That butt was out and heard the mournful sound.'
He praised a poacher, precious child of fun!
Who shot the keeper with his own spring gun;
Nor less the smuggler who th' exciseman tied,
And left him hanging at the birch-wood side,
There to expire;--but one who saw him hang
Cut the good cord--a traitor of the gang.
His own exploits with boastful glee he told,
What ponds he emptied and what pikes he sold;
And how, when blest with sight alert and gay,
The night's amusements kept him through the day.
He sang the praises of those times, when all
'For cards and dice, as for their drink, might
When justice wink'd on every jovial crew,
And ten-pins tumbled in the parson's view.'
He told, when angry wives, provoked to rail,
Or drive a third-day drunkard from his ale,
What were his triumphs, and how great the skill
That won the vex'd virago to his will;
Who raving came;--then talked in milder strain, -
Then wept, then drank, and pledged her spouse
Such were his themes : how knaves o'er laws
Or, when made captives, how they fly from jail;
The young how brave, how subtle were the old:
And oaths attested all that Folly told.
On death like his what name shall we bestow,
So very sudden! yet so very slow?
'Twas slow: --Disease, augmenting year by year,
Show'd the grim king by gradual steps brought near:
'Twas not less sudden; in the night he died,
He drank, he swore, he jested, and he lied;
Thus aiding folly with departing breath: -
'Beware, Lorenzo, the slow-sudden death.'
Next died the Widow Goe, an active dame,
Famed ten miles round, and worthy all her fame;
She lost her husband when their loves were young,
But kept her farm, her credit, and her tongue:
Full thirty years she ruled, with matchless skill,
With guiding judgment and resistless will;
Advice she scorn'd, rebellions she suppress'd,
And sons and servants bow'd at her behest.
Like that great man's, who to his Saviour came,
Were the strong words of this commanding dame; -
'Come,' if she said, they came; if 'Go,' were gone;
And if 'Do this,'--that instant it was done:
Her maidens told she was all eye and ear,
In darkness saw and could at distance hear;
No parish-business in the place could stir,
Without direction or assent from her;
In turn she took each office as it fell,
Knew all their duties and discharged them well;
The lazy vagrants in her presence shook,
And pregnant damsels fear'd her stern rebuke;
She look'd on want with judgment clear and cool,
And felt with reason and bestow'd by rule;
She match'd both sons and daughters to her mind,
And lent them eyes, for Love, she heard, was blind;
Yet ceaseless still she throve, alert, alive,
The working bee, in full or empty hive;
Busy and careful, like that working bee,
No time for love nor tender cares had she;
But when our farmers made their amorous vows,
She talk'd of market-steeds and patent-ploughs.
Not unemploy'd her evenings pass'd away,
Amusement closed, as business waked the day;
When to her toilet's brief concern she ran,
And conversation with her friends began,
Who all were welcome, what they saw, to share;
And joyous neighbours praised her Christmas fare,
That none around might, in their scorn, complain
Of Gossip Goe as greedy in her gain.
Thus long she reign'd, admired, if not approved;
Praised, if not honour'd; fear'd, if not beloved; -
When, as the busy days of Spring drew near,
That call'd for all the forecast of the year;
When lively hope the rising crops surveyed,
And April promised what September paid;
When stray'd her lambs where gorse and greenwood
When rose her grass in richer vales below;
When pleased she look'd on all the smiling land,
And view'd the hinds, who wrought at her command;
(Poultry in groups still follow'd where she went
Then dread o'ercame her,--that her days were spent.
'Bless me! I die, and not a warning giv'n, -
With MUCH to do on Earth, and ALL for Heav'n? -
No reparation for my soul's affairs,
No leave petition'd for the barn's repairs;
Accounts perplex'd, my interest yet unpaid,
My mind unsettled, and my will unmade; -
A lawyer haste, and in your way, a priest;
And let me die in one good work at least.'
She spake, and, trembling, dropp'd upon her knees,
Heaven in her eye and in her hand her keys;
And still the more she found her life decay,
With greater force she grasp'd those signs of sway:
Then fell and died!--In haste her sons drew near,
And dropp'd, in haste, the tributary tear;
Then from th' adhering clasp the keys unbound,
And consolation for their sorrows found.
Death has his infant-train; his bony arm
Strikes from the baby-cheek the rosy charm;
The brightest eye his glazing film makes dim,
And his cold touch sets fast the lithest limb:
He seized the sick'ning boy to Gerard lent,
When three days' life, in feeble cries, were spent;
In pain brought forth, those painful hours to stay,
To breathe in pain and sigh its soul away!
'But why thus lent, if thus recall'd again,
To cause and feel, to live and die in pain?'
Or rather say, Why grevious these appear,
If all it pays for Heaven's eternal year;
If these sad sobs and piteous sighs secure
Delights that live, when worlds no more endure?
The sister-spirit long may lodge below,
And pains from nature, pains from reason, know:
Through all the common ills of life may run,
By hope perverted and by love undone;
A wife's distress, a mother's pangs, may dread,
And widow-tears, in bitter anguish, shed;
May at old age arrive through numerous harms,
With children's children in those feeble arms:
Nor till by years of want and grief oppress'd
Shall the sad spirit flee and be at rest!
Yet happier therefore shall we deem the boy,
Secured from anxious care and dangerous joy?
Not so! for then would Love Divine in vain
Send all the burthens weary men sustain;
All that now curb the passions when they rage,
The checks of youth and the regrets of age;
All that now bid us hope, believe, endure,
Our sorrow's comfort and our vice's cure;
All that for Heaven's high joys the spirits train,
And charity, the crown of all, were vain.
Say, will you call the breathless infant blest,
Because no cares the silent grave molest?
So would you deem the nursling from the wing
Untimely thrust and never train'd to sing;
But far more blest the bird whose grateful voice
Sings its own joy and makes the woods rejoice,
Though, while untaught, ere yet he charm'd the ear,
Hard were his trials and his pains severe!
Next died the LADY who yon Hall possess'd,
And here they brought her noble bones to rest.
In Town she dwelt;--forsaken stood the Hall:
Worms ate the floors, the tap'stry fled the wall:
No fire the kitchen's cheerless grate display'd;
No cheerful light the long-closed sash convey'd:
The crawling worm, that turns a summer fly,
Here spun his shroud and laid him up to die
The winter-death:- upon the bed of state,
The bat shrill shrieking woo'd his flickering mate;
To empty rooms the curious came no more;
From empty cellars turn'd the angry poor,
And surly beggars cursed the ever-bolted door.
To one small room the steward found his way
Where tenants follow'd to complain and pay;
Yet no complaint before the Lady came,
The feeling servant spared the feeble dame;
Who saw her farms with his observing eyes,
And answer'd all requests with his replies; -
She came not down, her falling groves to view;
Why should she know, what one so faithful knew?
Why come, from many clamorous tongues to hear,
What one so just might whisper in her ear?
Her oaks or acres, why with care explore;
Why learn the wants, the sufferings of the poor;
When one so knowing all their worth could trace,
And one so piteous govern'd in her place?
Lo! now, what dismal Sons of Darkness come,
To bear this Daughter of Indulgence home;
Tragedians all, and well-arranged in black!
Who nature, feeling, force, expression lack;
Who cause no tear, but gloomily pass by,
And shake their sables in the wearied eye,
That turns disgusted from the pompous scene,
Proud without grandeur, with profusion, mean
The tear for kindness past affection owes;
For worth deceased the sigh from reason flows
E'en well feign'd passion for our sorrows call,
And real tears for mimic miseries fall:
But this poor farce has neither truth nor art,
To please the fancy or to touch the heart;
Unlike the darkness of the sky, that pours
On the dry ground its fertilizing showers;
Unlike to that which strikes the soul with dread,
When thunders roar and forky fires are shed;
Dark but not awful, dismal but yet mean,
With anxious bustle moves the cumbrous scene;
Presents no objects tender or profound,
But spreads its cold unmeaning gloom around.
When woes are feign'd, how ill such forms
And oh! how needless, when the woe's sincere.
Slow to the vault they come, with heavy tread,
Bending beneath the Lady and her lead;
A case of elm surrounds that ponderous chest,
Close on that case the crimson velvet's press'd;
Ungenerous this, that to the worm denies,
With niggard-caution, his appointed prize;
For now, ere yet he works his tedious way,
Through cloth and wood and metal to his prey,
That prey dissolving shall a mass remain,
That fancy loathes and worms themselves disdain.
But see! the master-mourner makes his way,
To end his office for the coffin'd clay;
Pleased that our rustic men and maids behold
His plate like silver, and his studs like gold,
As they approach to spell the age, the name,
And all the titles of the illustrious dame.-
This as (my duty done) some scholar read,
A Village-father look'd disdain and said:
'Away, my friends! why take such pains to know
What some brave marble soon in church shall show?
Where not alone her gracious name shall stand,
But how she lived--the blessing of the land;
How much we all deplored the noble dead,
What groans we utter'd and what tears we shed;
Tears, true as those which in the sleepy eyes
Of weeping cherubs on the stone shall rise;
Tears, true as those which, ere she found her
The noble Lady to our sorrows gave.'
Down by the church-way walk, and where the brook
Winds round the chancel like a shepherd's crook;
In that small house, with those green pales before,
Where jasmine trails on either side the door;
Where those dark shrubs, that now grow wild at
Were clipped in form and tantalised with skill;
Where cockles blanch'd and pebbles neatly spread,
Form'd shining borders for the larkspurs' bed;
There lived a Lady, wise, austere, and nice,
Who show'd her virtue by her scorn of vice;
In the dear fashions of her youth she dress'd,
A pea-green Joseph was her favourite vest;
Erect she stood, she walk'd with stately mien,
Tight was her length of stays, and she was tall and
There long she lived in maiden-state immured,
From looks of love and treacherous man secured;
Though evil fame--(but that was long before)
Had blown her dubious blast at Catherine's door:
A Captain thither, rich from India came,
And though a cousin call'd, it touch'd her fame:
Her annual stipend rose from his behest,
And all the long-prized treasures she possess'd:-
If aught like joy awhile appear'd to stay
In that stern face, and chase those frowns away,
'Twas when her treasures she disposed for view
And heard the praises to their splendour due;
Silks beyond price, so rich, they'd stand alone,
And diamonds blazing on the buckled zone;
Rows of rare pearls by curious workmen set,
And bracelets fair in box of glossy jet;
Bright polish'd amber precious from its size,
Or forms the fairest fancy could devise:
Her drawers of cedar, shut with secret springs,
Conceal'd the watch of gold and rubied rings;
Letters, long proofs of love, and verses fine
Round the pink'd rims of crisped Valentine.
Her china-closet, cause of daily care,
For woman's wonder held her pencill'd ware;
That pictured wealth of China and Japan,
Like its cold mistress, shunn'd the eye of man.
Her neat small room, adorn'd with maiden-taste,
A clipp'd French puppy, first of favourites,
A parrot next, but dead and stuff'd with art;
(For Poll, when living, lost the Lady's heart,
And then his life; for he was heard to speak
Such frightful words as tinged his Lady's cheek
Unhappy bird! who had no power to prove,
Save by such speech, his gratitude and love.
A gray old cat his whiskers lick'd beside;
A type of sadness in the house of pride.
The polish'd surface of an India chest,
A glassy globe, in frame of ivory, press'd;
Where swam two finny creatures; one of gold,
Of silver one; both beauteous to behold:-
All these were form'd the guiding taste to suit;
The beast well-manner'd and the fishes mute.
A widow'd Aunt was there, compell'd by need
The nymph to flatter and her tribe to feed;
Who veiling well her scorn, endured the clog,
Mute as the fish and fawning as the dog.
As years increased, these treasures, her
Arose in value in their owner's sight:
A miser knows that, view it as he will,
A guinea kept is but a guinea still;
And so he puts it to its proper use,
That something more this guinea may produce;
But silks and rings, in the possessor's eyes,
The oft'ner seen, the more in value rise,
And thus are wisely hoarded to bestow
The kind of pleasure that with years will grow.
But what avail'd their worth--if worth had they
In the sad summer of her slow decay?
Then we beheld her turn an anxious look
From trunks and chests, and fix it on her book, -
A rich-bound Book of Prayer the Captain gave,
(Some Princess had it, or was said to have
And then once more on all her stores look round,
And draw a sigh so piteous and profound,
That told, 'Alas! how hard from these to part,
And for new hopes and habits form the heart!
What shall I do (she cried,) my peace of mind
To gain in dying, and to die resign'd?'
'Hear,' we return'd;--'these baubles cast aside,
Nor give thy God a rival in thy pride;
Thy closets shut, and ope thy kitchen's door;
There own thy failings, here invite the poor;
A friend of Mammon let thy bounty make;
For widows' prayers, thy vanities forsake;
And let the hungry of thy pride partake:
Then shall thy inward eye with joy survey
The angel Mercy tempering Death's delay!'
Alas! 'twas hard; the treasures still had
Hope still its flattery, sickness its alarms;
Still was the same unsettled, clouded view,
And the same plaintive cry, 'What shall I do?'
Nor change appear'd; for when her race was run,
Doubtful we all exclaim'd, 'What has been done?'
Apart she lived, and still she lies alone;
Yon earthy heap awaits the flattering stone
On which invention shall be long employ'd,
To show the various worth of Catherine Lloyd.
Next to these ladies, but in nought allied,
A noble Peasant, Isaac Ashford, died.
Noble he was, contemning all things mean,
His truth unquestion'd and his soul serene:
Of no man's presence Isaac felt afraid;
At no man's question Isaac looked dismay'd:
Shame knew him not, he dreaded no disgrace;
Truth, simple truth, was written in his face:
Yet while the serious thought his soul approved,
Cheerful he seem'd, and gentleness he loved;
To bliss domestic he his heart resign'd,
And with the firmest had the fondest mind;
Were others joyful, he look'd smiling on,
And gave allowance where he needed none;
Good he refused with future ill to buy,
Nor knew a joy that caused reflection's sigh;
A friend to virtue, his unclouded breast
No envy stung, no jealousy distress'd;
(Bane of the poor! it wounds their weaker mind,
To miss one favour, which their neighbours find
Yet far was he from stoic pride removed;
He felt humanely, and he warmly loved:
I mark'd his action, when his infant died,
And his old neighbour for offence was tried;
The still tears, stealing down that furrow'd cheek,
Spoke pity, plainer than the tongue can speak.
If pride were his, 'twas not their vulgar pride,
Who, in their base contempt, the great deride;
Nor pride in learning,--though my Clerk agreed,
If fate should call him, Ashford might succeed;
Nor pride in rustic skill, although we knew
None his superior, and his equals few:-
But if that spirit in his soul had place,
It was the jealous pride that shuns disgrace;
A pride in honest fame, by virtue gain'd,
In sturdy boys to virtuous labours train'd;
Pride in the power that guards his country's coast,
And all that Englishmen enjoy and boast;
Pride in a life that slander's tongue defied, -
In fact a noble passion, misnamed Pride.
He had no party's rage, no sect'ry's whim;
Christian and countrymen was all with him:
True to his church he came; no Sunday-shower
Kept him at home in that important hour;
Nor his firm feet could one persuading sect,
By the strong glare of their new light direct:-
'On hope, in mine own sober light, I gaze,
But should be blind, and lose it, in your blaze.'
In times severe, when many a sturdy swain
Felt it his pride, his comfort to complain;
Isaac their wants would soothe, his own would hide,
And feel in that his comfort and his pride.
At length he found when seventy years were run,
His strength departed, and his labour done;
When he, save honest fame, retain'd no more,
But lost his wife, and saw his children poor:
'Twas then a spark of--say not discontent -
Struck on his mind, and thus he gave it vent:-
'Kind are your laws ('tis not to be denied,)
That in yon House for ruin'd age provide,
And they are just;--when young we give you all,
And for assistance in our weakness call.-
Why then this proud reluctance to be fed,
To join your poor, and eat the parish bread?
But yet I linger, loth with him to feed,
Who gains his plenty by the sons of need;
He who, by contract, all your paupers took,
And gauges stomachs with an anxious look:
On some old master I could well depend;
See him with joy and thank him as a friend;
But ill on him who doles the day's supply,
And counts our chances who at night may die:
Yet help me, Heav'n! and let me not complain
Of what I suffer, but my fate sustain.'
Such were his thoughts, and so resign'd he grew;
Daily he placed the Workhouse in his view!
But came not there, for sudden was his fate,
He dropp'd, expiring, at his cottage gate.
I feel his absence in the hours of prayer,
And view his seat, and sigh for Isaac there:
I see no more these white locks thinly spread
Round the bald polish of that honour'd head;
No more that awful glance on playful wight,
Compell'd to kneel and tremble at the sight,
To fold his fingers, all in dread the while,
Till Mister Ashford soften'd to a smile;
No more that meek and suppliant look in prayer,
Nor the pure faith (to give it force), are there:
But he is blest, and I lament no more
A wise good man contented to be poor.
Then died a Rambler: not the one who sails,
And trucks, for female favours, beads and nails;
Not one who posts from place to place--of men
And manners treating with a flying pen;
Not he who climbs, for prospects, Snowdon's height,
And chides the clouds that intercept the sight;
No curious shell, rare plant, or brilliant spar,
Enticed our traveller from his house so far;
But all the reason by himself assign'd
For so much rambling, was a restless mind;
As on, from place to place, without intent,
Without reflection, Robin Dingley went.
Not thus by nature:- never man was found
Less prone to wander from his parish bound:
Claudian's Old Man, to whom all scenes were new,
Save those where he and where his apples grew,
Resembled Robin, who around would look,
And his horizon for the earth's mistook.
To this poor swain a keen Attorney came; -
'I give thee joy, good fellow! on thy name;
The rich old Dingley's dead;--no child has he,
Nor wife, nor will; his ALL is left for thee:
To be his fortune's heir thy claim is good;
Thou hast the name, and we will prove the blood.'
The claim was made; 'twas tried,--it would not
They proved the blood but were refused the land.
Assured of wealth, this man of simple heart
To every friend had predisposed a part;
His wife had hopes indulged of various kind;
The three Miss Dingleys had their school assign'd,
Masters were sought for what they each required,
And books were bought and harpsichords were hired;
So high was hope:- the failure touched his brain,
And Robin never was himself again;
Yet he no wrath, no angry wish express'd,
But tried, in vain, to labour or to rest;
Then cast his bundle on his back, and went
He knew not whither, nor for what intent.
Years fled;--of Robin all remembrance past,
When home he wandered in his rags at last:
A sailor's jacket on his limbs was thrown,
A sailor's story he had made his own;
Had suffer'd battles, prisons, tempests, storms,
Encountering death in all its ugliest forms:
His cheeks were haggard, hollow was his eye,
Where madness lurk'd, conceal'd in misery;
Want, and th' ungentle world, had taught a part,
And prompted cunning to that simple heart:
'He now bethought him, he would roam no more
But live at home and labour as before.'
Here clothed and fed, no sooner he began
To round and redden, than away he ran;
His wife was dead, their children past his aid,
So, unmolested, from his home he stray'd:
Six years elapsed, when, worn with want and pain.
Came Robin, wrapt in all his rags again:
We chide, we pity;--placed among our poor,
He fed again, and was a man once more.
As when a gaunt and hungry fox is found,
Entrapp'd alive in some rich hunter's ground;
Fed for the field, although each day's a feast,
FATTEN you may, but never TAME the beast;
A house protects him, savoury viands sustain:-
But loose his neck and off he goes again:
So stole our Vagrant from his warm retreat,
To rove a prowler and be deemed a cheat.
Hard was his fare; for him at length we saw
In cart convey'd and laid supine on straw.
His feeble voice now spoke a sinking heart;
His groans now told the motions of the cart:
And when it stopp'd, he tried in vain to stand;
Closed was his eye, and clench'd his clammy hand:
Life ebb'd apace, and our best aid no more
Could his weak sense or dying heart restore:
But now he fell, a victim to the snare
That vile attorneys for the weak prepare;
They who when profit or resentment call,
Heed not the groaning victim they enthrall.
Then died lamented in the strength of life,
A valued MOTHER and a faithful WIFE;
Call'd not away when time had loosed each hold
On the fond heart, and each desire grew cold;
But when, to all that knit us to our kind,
She felt fast-bound, as charity can bind; -
Not when the ills of age, its pain, its care,
The drooping spirit for its fate prepare;
And, each affection failing, leaves the heart
Loosed from life's charm, and willing to depart;
But all her ties the strong invader broke,
In all their strength, by one tremendous stroke!
Sudden and swift the eager pest came on,
And terror grew, till every hope was gone;
Still those around appear'd for hope to seek!
But view'd the sick and were afraid to speak.
Slowly they bore, with solemn step, the dead;
When grief grew loud and bitter tears were shed,
My part began; a crowd drew near the place,
Awe in each eye, alarm in every face:
So swift the ill, and of so fierce a kind,
That fear with pity mingled in each mind;
Friends with the husband came their griefs to
For good-man Frankford was to all a friend.
The last-born boy they held above the bier,
He knew not grief, but cries express'd his fear;
Each different age and sex reveal'd its pain,
In now a louder, now a lower strain;
While the meek father listening to their tones,
Swell'd the full cadence of the grief by groans.
The elder sister strove her pangs to hide,
And soothing words to younger minds applied'.
'Be still, be patient;' oft she strove to stay;
But fail'd as oft, and weeping turn'd away.
Curious and sad, upon the fresh-dug hill
The village lads stood melancholy still;
And idle children, wandering to and fro.
As Nature guided, took the tone of woe.
Arrived at home, how then they gazed around
On every place--where she no more was found; -
The seat at table she was wont to fill;
The fire-side chair, still set, but vacant still;
The garden-walks, a labour all her own;
The latticed bower, with trailing shrubs o'ergrown,
The Sunday-pew she fill'd with all her race, -
Each place of hers, was now a sacred place
That, while it call'd up sorrows in the eyes,
Pierced the full heart and forced them still to
Oh sacred sorrow! by whom souls are tried,
Sent not to punish mortals, but to guide;
If thou art mine (and who shall proudly dare
To tell his Maker, he has had a share!)
Still let me feel for what thy pangs are sent,
And be my guide, and not my punishment!
Of Leah Cousins next the name appears,
With honours crown'd and blest with length of
Save that she lived to feel, in life's decay,
The pleasure die, the honours drop away;
A matron she, whom every village-wife
View'd as the help and guardian of her life,
Fathers and sons, indebted to her aid,
Respect to her and her profession paid;
Who in the house of plenty largely fed,
Yet took her station at the pauper's bed;
Nor from that duty could be bribed again,
While fear or danger urged her to remain:
In her experience all her friends relied.
Heaven was her help and nature was her guide.
Thus Leah lived; long trusted, much caress'd,
Till a Town-Dame a youthful farmer bless'd;
A gay vain bride, who would example give
To that poor village where she deign'd to live;
Some few months past, she sent, in hour of need,
For Doctor Glibb, who came with wond'rous speed,
Two days he waited, all his art applied,
To save the mother when her infant died: -
''Twas well I came,' at last he deign'd to say;
''Twas wondrous well;'--and proudly rode away.
The news ran round;--'How vast the Doctor's
He saved the Lady in the trying hour;
Saved her from death, when she was dead to hope,
And her fond husband had resign'd her up:
So all, like her, may evil fate defy,
If Doctor Glibb, with saving hand, be nigh.
Fame (now his friend), fear, novelty, and whim,
And fashion, sent the varying sex to him:
From this, contention in the village rose;
And these the Dame espoused; the Doctor those,
The wealthier part to him and science went;
With luck and her the poor remain'd content.
The Matron sigh'd; for she was vex'd at heart,
With so much profit, so much fame, to part:
'So long successful in my art,' she cried,
'And this proud man, so young and so untried!'
'Nay,' said the Doctor, 'dare you trust your wives,
The joy, the pride, the solace of your lives,
To one who acts and knows no reason why,
But trusts, poor hag! to luck for an ally? -
Who, on experience, can her claims advance,
And own the powers of accident and chance?
A whining dame, who prays in danger's view,
(A proof she knows not what beside to do
What's her experience? In the time that's gone,
Blundering she wrought, and still she blunders on:-
And what is Nature? One who acts in aid
Of gossips half asleep and half afraid:
With such allies I scorn my fame to blend,
Skill is my luck and courage is my friend:
No slave to Nature, 'tis my chief delight
To win my way and act in her despite:-
Trust then my art, that, in itself complete,
Needs no assistance and fears no defeat.'
Warm'd by her well-spiced ale and aiding pipe,
The angry Matron grew for contest ripe.
'Can you,' she said, 'ungrateful and unjust,
Before experience, ostentation trust!
What is your hazard, foolish daughters, tell?
If safe, you're certain; if secure, you're well:
That I have luck must friend and foe confess,
And what's good judgment but a lucky guess?
He boasts, but what he can do: --will you run
From me, your friend! who, all lie boasts, have
By proud and learned words his powers are known;
By healthy boys and handsome girls my own:
Wives! fathers! children! by my help you live;
Has this pale Doctor more than life to give?
No stunted cripple hops the village round;
Your hands are active and your heads are sound;
My lads are all your fields and flocks require;
My lasses all those sturdy lads admire.
Can this proud leech, with all his boasted skill,
Amend the soul or body, wit or will?
Does he for courts the sons of farmers frame,
Or make the daughter differ from the dame?
Or, whom he brings into this world of woe,
Prepares he them their part to undergo?
If not, this stranger from your doors repel,
And be content to BE and to be WELL.'
She spake; but, ah! with words too strong and
Her warmth offended, and her truth was vain:
The many left her, and the friendly few,
If never colder, yet they older grew;
Till, unemploy'd, she felt her spirits droop,
And took, insidious aid! th' inspiring cup;
Grew poor and peevish as her powers decay'd,
And propp'd the tottering frame with stronger aid,
Then died! I saw our careful swains convey,
From this our changeful world, the Matron's clay,
Who to this world, at least, with equal care,
Brought them its changes, good and ill, to share.
Now to his grave was Roger Cuff conveyed,
And strong resentment's lingering spirit laid.
Shipwreck'd in youth, he home return'd, and found
His brethren three--and thrice they wish'd him
'Is this a landsman's love? Be certain then,
'We part for ever!'--and they cried, 'Amen!'
His words were truth's:- Some forty summers
His brethren died; his kin supposed him dead:
Three nephews these, one sprightly niece, and one,
Less near in blood--they call'd him surly John;
He work'd in woods apart from all his kind,
Fierce were his looks and moody was his mind.
For home the sailor now began to sigh:-
'The dogs are dead, and I'll return and die;
When all I have, my gains, in years of care,
The younger Cuffs with kinder souls shall share -
Yet hold! I'm rich;--with one consent they'll say,
'You're welcome, Uncle, as the flowers in May.'
No; I'll disguise me, be in tatters dress'd,
And best befriend the lads who treat me best.'
Now all his kindred,--neither rich nor poor, -
Kept the wolf want some distance from the door.
In piteous plight he knock'd at George's gate,
And begg'd for aid, as he described his state:-
But stern was George;--'Let them who had thee
Help thee to drag thy weaken'd frame along;
To us a stranger, while your limbs would move,
From us depart, and try a stranger's love:-
'Ha! dost thou murmur?'--for, in Roger's throat,
Was 'Rascal!' rising with disdainful note.
To pious James he then his prayer address'd; -
'Good-lack,' quoth James, 'thy sorrows pierce my
And, had I wealth, as have my brethren twain,
One board should feed us and one roof contain:
But plead I will thy cause, and I will pray:
And so farewell! Heaven help thee on thy way!'
'Scoundrel!' said Roger (but apart);--and told
His case to Peter;--Peter too was cold;
'The rates are high; we have a-many poor;
But I will think,'--he said, and shut the door.
Then the gay niece the seeming pauper press'd; -
'Turn, Nancy, turn, and view this form distress'd:
Akin to thine is this declining frame,
And this poor beggar claims an Uncle's name.'
'Avaunt! begone!' the courteous maiden said,
'Thou vile impostor! Uncle Roger's dead:
I hate thee, beast; thy look my spirit shocks;
Oh! that I saw thee starving in the stocks!'
'My gentle niece!' he said--and sought the wood,
'I hunger, fellow; prithee, give me food!'
'Give! am I rich? This hatchet take, and try
Thy proper strength, nor give those limbs the lie;
Work, feed thyself, to thine own powers appeal,
Nor whine out woes thine own right-hand can heal;
And while that hand is thine, and thine a leg,
Scorn of the proud or of the base to beg.'
'Come, surly John, thy wealthy kinsman view,'
Old Roger said;--'thy words are brave and true;
Come, live with me: we'll vex those scoundrel-
And that prim shrew shall, envying, hear our joys.
Tobacco's glorious fume all day we'll share,
With beef and brandy kill all kinds of care;
We'll beer and biscuit on our table heap,
And rail at rascals, till we fall asleep.'
Such was their life; but when the woodman died,
His grieving kin for Roger's smiles applied -
In vain; he shut, with stern rebuke, the door,
And dying, built a refuge for the poor,
With this restriction, That no Cuff should share
One meal, or shelter for one moment there.
My Record ends:- But hark! e'en now I hear
The bell of death, and know not whose to fear:
Our farmers all, and all our hinds were well;
In no man's cottage danger seem'd to dwell: -
Yet death of man proclaim these heavy chimes,
For thrice they sound, with pausing space, three
'Go; of my Sexton seek, Whose days are sped? -
What! he, himself!- and is old Dibble dead?'
His eightieth year he reach'd, still undecay d,
And rectors five to one close vault convey'd:-
But he is gone; his care and skill I lose,
And gain a mournful subject for my Muse:
His masters lost, he'd oft in turn deplore,
And kindly add,--'Heaven grant, I lose no more!'
Yet, while he spake, a sly and pleasant glance
Appear'd at variance with his complaisance:
For, as he told their fate and varying worth,
He archly look'd,--'I yet may bear thee forth.'
'When first'--(he so began)--'my trade I plied,
Good master Addle was the parish-guide;
His clerk and sexton, I beheld with fear,
His stride majestic, and his frown severe;
A noble pillar of the church he stood,
Adorn'd with college-gown and parish hood:
Then as he paced the hallow'd aisles about,
He fill'd the seven-fold surplice fairly out!
But in his pulpit wearied down with prayer,
He sat and seem'd as in his study's chair;
For while the anthem swell'd, and when it ceased,
Th'expecting people view'd their slumbering priest;
Who, dozing, died.--Our Parson Peele was next;
'I will not spare you,' was his favourite text;
Nor did he spare, but raised them many a pound;
E'en me he mulct for my poor rood of ground;
Yet cared he nought, but with a gibing speech,
'What should I do,' quoth he, 'but what I preach?'
His piercing jokes (and he'd a plenteous store)
Were daily offer'd both to rich and poor;
His scorn, his love, in playful words he spoke;
His pity, praise, and promise, were a joke:
But though so young and blest with spirits high,
He died as grave as any judge could die:
The strong attack subdued his lively powers, -
His was the grave, and Doctor Grandspear ours.
'Then were there golden times the village round;
In his abundance all appear'd t'abound;
Liberal and rich, a plenteous board he spread,
E'en cool Dissenters at his table fed;
Who wish'd and hoped,--and thought a man so kind
A way to Heaven, though not their own, might find.
To them, to all, he was polite and free,
Kind to the poor, and, ah! most kind to me!
'Ralph,' would he say, 'Ralph Dibble, thou art old;
That doublet fit, 'twill keep thee from the cold:
How does my sexton?- What! the times are hard;
Drive that stout pig, and pen him in thy yard.'
But most, his rev'rence loved a mirthful jest:-
'Thy coat is thin; why, man, thou'rt BARELY dress'd
It's worn to th' thread: but I have nappy beer;
Clap that within, and see how they will wear!'
'Gay days were these; but they were quickly
When first he came, we found he couldn't last:
A whoreson cough (and at the fall of leaf)
Upset him quite;--but what's the gain of grief?
'Then came the Author-Rector: his delight
Was all in books; to read them or to write:
Women and men he strove alike to shun,
And hurried homeward when his tasks were done;
Courteous enough, but careless what he said,
For points of learning he reserved his head;
And when addressing either poor or rich,
He knew no better than his cassock which:
He, like an osier, was of pliant kind,
Erect by nature, but to bend inclined;
Not like a creeper falling to the ground,
Or meanly catching on the neighbours round:
Careless was he of surplice, hood, and band, -
And kindly took them as they came to hand,
Nor, like the doctor, wore a world of hat,
As if he sought for dignity in that:
He talk'd, he gave, but not with cautious rules;
Nor turn'd from gipsies, vagabonds, or fools;
It was his nature, but they thought it whim,
And so our beaux and beauties turn'd from him.
Of questions, much he wrote, profound and dark, -
How spake the serpent, and where stopp'd the ark;
From what far land the queen of Sheba came;
Who Salem's Priest, and what his father's name;
He made the Song of Songs its mysteries yield,
And Revelations to the world reveal'd.
He sleeps i' the aisle,--but not a stone records
His name or fame, his actions or his words:
And truth, your reverence, when I look around,
And mark the tombs in our sepulchral ground
(Though dare I not of one man's hope to doubt),
I'd join the party who repose without.
'Next came a Youth from Cambridge, and in truth
He was a sober and a comely youth;
He blush'd in meekness as a modest man,
And gain'd attention ere his task began;
When preaching, seldom ventured on reproof,
But touch'd his neighbours tenderly enough.
Him, in his youth, a clamorous sect assail'd,
Advised and censured, flatter'd,--and prevail'd.-
Then did he much his sober hearers vex,
Confound the simple, and the sad perplex;
To a new style his reverence rashly took;
Loud grew his voice, to threat'ning swell'd his
Above, below, on either side, he gazed,
Amazing all, and most himself amazed:
No more he read his preachments pure and plain,
But launch'd outright, and rose and sank again:
At times he smiled in scorn, at times he wept,
And such sad coil with words of vengeance kept,
That our blest sleepers started as they slept.
'Conviction comes like light'ning,' he would
'In vain you seek it, and in vain you fly;
'Tis like the rushing of the mighty wind,
Unseen its progress, but its power you find;
It strikes the child ere yet its reason wakes;
His reason fled, the ancient sire it shakes;
The proud, learn'd man, and him who loves to know
How and from whence those gusts of grace will blow,
It shuns,--but sinners in their way impedes,
And sots and harlots visits in their deeds:
Of faith and penance it supplies the place;
Assures the vilest that they live by grace,
And, without running, makes them win the race.'
'Such was the doctrine our young prophet taught;
And here conviction, there confusion wrought;
When his thin cheek assumed a deadly hue,
And all the rose to one small spot withdrew,
They call'd it hectic; 'twas a fiery flush,
More fix'd and deeper than the maiden blush;
His paler lips the pearly teeth disclosed,
And lab'ring lungs the length'ning speech opposed.
No more his span-girth shanks and quiv'ring thighs
Upheld a body of the smaller size;
But down he sank upon his dying bed,
And gloomy crotchets fill'd his wandering head.
'Spite of my faith, all-saving faith,' he cried,
'I fear of worldly works the wicked pride;
Poor as I am, degraded, abject, blind,
The good I've wrought still rankles in my mind;
My alms-deeds all, and every deed I've done;
My moral-rags defile me every one;
It should not be:- what say'st thou! tell me,
Quoth I, 'Your reverence, I believe, you're safe;
Your faith's your prop, nor have you pass'd such
In life's good-works as swell them to a crime.
If I of pardon for my sins were sure,
About my goodness I would rest secure.'
'Such was his end; and mine approaches fast;
I've seen my best of preachers,--and my last,' -
He bow'd, and archly smiled at what he said,
Civil but sly:- 'And is old Dibble dead?'
Yes; he is gone: and WE are going all;
Like flowers we wither, and like leaves we fall; -
Here, with an infant, joyful sponsors come,
Then bear the new-made Christian to its home:
A few short years and we behold him stand
To ask a blessing, with his bride in hand:
A few, still seeming shorter, and we hear
His widow weeping at her husband's bier:-
Thus, as the months succeed, shall infants take
Their names; thus parents shall the child forsake;
Thus brides again and bridegrooms blithe shall
By love or law compell'd their vows to seal,
Ere I again, or one like me, explore
These simple Annals of the VILLAGE POOR.