George Crabbe.

The poetical works of George Crabbe online

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Not there alone the wise their entrance find,

Imparting useful light to mortals blind ;

But, blind themselves, these erring guides hold out

Alluring lights to lead us far about ;

Screen'd by such means, here Scandal whets her quill,

Here Slander shoots unseen, whene'er she will ;

Here Fraud and Falsehood labour to deceive.

And F0II3' aids them both, impatient to believe.

Such, sons of Britain ! are the guides ye trust ;
So wise their counsel, their reports so just ! —
Yet, though we cannot call their morals pure.
Their judgment nice, or their decisions sure.
Merit they have to mightier works unknown,
A style, a manner, and a fate their own.

Wo, who for longer fame vrith labour strive.
Are pain'd to keep our sickly works alive ;
Studious we toil, with patient care refine,
Nor let our love protect one languid line.
Severe ourselves, at last our works appear,
When, ah ! we find our readers more severe ;
For, after all our care and pains, how few
Acquire applause, or keep it if they do ! — ■
Not so these sheets, ordain'd to happier fate,
Praised through their day, and but that day their date
Their careless authors only strive to join
As many words as make an even line ;
As many lines as fill a row complete ;
As many rows as furnish up a sheet :
From side to side, with ready types they run.
The measure 's ended and the work is done.
Oh, born with ease, how envied and how blest !
Your fate to-day, and your to-morrow's rest.
To you all readers turn, and they can look
Pleased on a paper, who abhor a book ;
Those who ne'er deign'd their Bible to peruse,
Would think it hard to be denied their News ;
Sinners and saints, the wisest with the weak.
Hear mingle tastes, and one amusement seek ;
This, like the public inn, provides a treat.
Where each promiscuous guest sits down to eat ;
And such this mental food, as we may call
Something to all men, and to some men all.

Next in what rare production shall we trace
Such various subjects in so small a space ?
As the first ship upon the waters bore
Incongruous kinds who never met before ;
Or as some curious virtuoso joins
In one small room, moths, minerals, and coins,
Birds, beasts, and fishes ; nor refuses place
To serpents, toads, and all the reptile race ;
So here compress'd within a single sheet,
Great things and small, the mean and mighty meet.
'Tis this which makes all Europe's V)usine8s known.
Yet here a private man may place his own :

crabbe's poems.

And, where ho reads of Lords and Commons, he
May toll their honours that he sells rappee.

Add next th' amusement which the motley pago
Affords to either sox and every age :
Lo ! where it comes before the cheerful fire, —
Damps from the press in smoky curls aspire
(As from the earth the sun exhales the dew).
Ere we can read the wonders that ensue :
Then eager every eye surveys the part
That brings its favourite subject to the heart ;
Grave politicians look for facts alone,
And gi-avely add conjectures of their own :
The sprightly nymph, who never broke her rest
For tottering crowns or mighty lands oppress'd,
Finds broils and battles, but neglects them all
For songs and suits, a birth-day, or a ball :
The keen warm man o'oriooks each idle tale
For "Moneys wanted," and "Estates on Sale ;"
While some with equal minds to all attend.
Pleased with each part, and grieved to find an end.

So charm the news ; but we who, far from town,
Wait till the postman brings the packet down,
Once in the week, a vacant day behold,
And stay for tidings, till they're three days old :
That day arrives ; no welcome post appears,
But the dull morn a sullen aspect wears :
We meet, but ah ! without our wonted smile.
To talk of headaches, and complain of bile ;
Sullen we ponder o'er a dull repast.
Nor feast the body while the mind must fast.

A master passion is the love of news,
Not music so commands, nor so the Muse :
Give poets claret, they grow idle soon ;
Feed the musician and he's out of tune ;
But the sick mind, of this disease possess'd,
Flies from all cure, and sickens when at rest.

Now sing, my Muse, what various parts comjwse
These rival sheets of politics and prose.

First, from each brother's hoard a part they draw,
A mutual thoft that never fear'd a law ;
Whate'or they gain, to each man's portion fall.
And read it once, you read it through them all :
For this their runners ramble day and night.
To drag each lurking deed to open light ;
For daily broad the dirty trade they "ply.
Coin their fre^h bdes, and live upon the lie :
Like bees for honey, forth for news they spring, —
Industrious creatures ! over on the wing ;
Homo to their several cells they bear the store,
Cull'd of all kinds, then roam abroad for more.

No anxious virgin flies to " fair Tweed-side ;"
No injured husband mourns his faithless bride ;
No duel dooms the fiery youth to bleed ;
But through the town transpires each vent'rous deed.


Should some fair frail one drive her prancing pair
Where rival peers contend to please the fair ;
When, with new force, she aids her conquering eyes,
And beauty decks with all that beauty buys ;
Quickly we learn whose heart her influence feels.
Whose acres melt before her glowing wheels.

To these a thousand idle themes succeed,
Deeds of all kinds, and comments to each deed.
Here stocks, the state barometers, we view.
That rise or fall by causes known to few ;
Promotion's ladder who goes up or down ;
Who wed, or who seduced, atnuse the town ;
What nevif-born heir has made his father blest ;
What heir exults, his father now at rest ;
That ample list the Tyburn-herald gives,
And each known knave, who still for Tybiu-n lives.

So grows the work, and now the printer tries
His powers no more, but leans on his allies.

When lo I the advertising tribe succeed.
Pay to be read, yet find but few will read ;

And chief th' illustrious race, whose drops and pills

Have patent powers to vanquish human ills :_

These, with their cures, a constant aid remain.

To bless the pale composer's fertile brain ;

Fertile it is, but still the noblest soil

Requires some pause, some intervals from toil ;

And they at least a certain ease obtain

From Katterfelto's skill, and Graham's glowing strain.
I too must aid, and pay to see my name

Hung in these dirty avenues to fame ;

Nor pay in vain, if aught the Muse has seen.

And sung, could make these avenues more clean ;

Could stop one slander ere it found its way.

And give to public scorn its helpless prey.

By the same aid, the Stage invites her friends.

Add kindly tells the banquet she intends ;

Thither from real Ufe the many run,

With Siddons weep, or laugh with Abingdon ;

Pleased in fictitious joy or grief, to see

The mimic passion with their own agree ;

To steal a few enchanted hours away

From care, and drop the curtain on the day.

But who can steal from self that wretched wight

Whose darling work is tried some fatal night?

Most wretched man ! when, bane to every bhss.

Ho hears the serpent-critic's rising hiss ;

Then groans succeetl ; nor traitors on the wheel

Can feel like him, or have such pangs to foci.

Nor end they hero : next day ho reads Ills fall

In every paper ; critics are they all :

Ho sees his branded name with wild a.fTright,

And hears again the cat-calls of the night.

Such help the stagk allords ; a larger spaco
Is fiU'd by PUFFS and all the pulling race.

80 craebe's poems.

Physic had once alone tlje lofty style,

The well-known boast, that ceased to raise a smilo :

Now all the province of that tribe invade,

And we abound in quacks of every trade.

The simple barber, once an honest name,
Cervantes founded, Fielding raised his tame :
Barber no more — a gay perfumer comes,
On whose soft cheek his own cosmetic blooms ;
Here he appears, each simple mind to move.
And advertises beauty, grace, and love.
" Come, faded belles, who would your youth renew,
And learn the wonders of Olympian dew ;
Restore the roses that begin to faint.
Nor think celestial washes vulgar paint ;
Your former features, airs, and arts assume,
Circassian virtues, with Circassian bloom.
Come, batter'd beaux, whose locks are turned to grey,
And crop Discretion's lying badge away ;
Read where they vend these smart engaging things.
These flaxen frontlets with elastic springs ;
No female eye the fair deception sees,
Not Nature's self so natural as these."

Such are their arts, but not confined to them,
The Muse impartial must her sons condemn :
For they, degenerate ! join the venal throng,
And puS' a lazy Pegasus along :
More guilty these, by Nature less design'd
For little arts that suit the vulgar kind.
That barbers' boys, who woulil to trade advance.
Wish us to call tliem smart friseurs from France ;
That he who builds a chop-house, on his door
Paints " The true old original Blue Boar ! " —

These are the arts by which a thousand live.
Where Truth may smile, and Justice may forgive : —
But when, amid this rabble rout, we find
A pufBng poet to his honour blind ;
Who slily drops quotations all about.
Packet or post, and points their merit out ;
Who advertises what reviewers say.
With sham editions every second day ;
Who dares not trust his ])raiscs out of sight.
But hurries into fame with all his might ;
Although the verso some transient praise obtains,
Contempt is all the anxious poet gains.

Now Puffs exhausted. Advertisements past,
Their Correspondents stand exposed at last ;
Tliose are a numerous tribe, to fame unknown.
Who for the public good forego their own ;
Who volunteers in paper-war engage.
With doulilo portion of their party's rage ;
Such are the Bruti, Decii, who appear
Wooing the printer for admission here ;
Whose generous souls can condescend to pray
For leave to throw their precious time away.


Oh, cruel Woodfall ! when a patriot draws
His grey-goose quill in his dear country's cause,
To vex and maul a ministerial race,
Can thy stern soul refuse the champion place ?
Alas ! thou know'st not with what anxious heart
He longs his best-loved labours to impart ;
How he has sent them to thy brethren round.
And still the same unkind reception found :
At length indignant will he damn the state,
Turn to his trade, and leave us to our fate.

These Roman souls, like Rome's great sons, are known
To live in cells on labours of their own.
Thus Milo, could we see the noble chief.
Feeds, for his covmtry's good, on legs of beef :
Camillus copies deeds for sordid pay,
Yet fights the public battles twice a day.
E'en now the godlike Bratus views his score
ScroU'd on the bar-board swinging with the door :
Where, tippling punch, grave Cato's self you'll see,
And A mor Patrice vending smuggled tea.

Last in these ranks, and least, then* art's disgrace.
Neglected stand the Muses' meanest race ;
Scribblers who court contempt, whose verse the eye
Disdainful views, and glances swdftly by :
This Poet's Comer is the place they choose,
A fatal nursery for an infant muse ;
Unlike that Corner where true Poets lie.
These cannot live, and they shall never die ;
Hapless the lad whose mind such dreams invade,
And win to verse the talents due to trade.

Curb then, youth ! these raptures as they rise.
Keep down the evil spirit and be wise ;
Follow yovu- calhng, think the Muses foes,
Nor lean upon the pestle and compose.

I know your day-dreams, and I know the snare
Hid in your flow'ry path, and cry " Beware !"
Thouglitlcss of ill, and to the future blind,
A sudden couplet rushes on your mind ;
Here you may nameless print your idle rhymes,
And road your first-boni work a thousand times ;
Th' infection spreads, your couplet grows apace,
Stanzas to Delia's dog or Celia's face :
You take a name ; Philander's odes are seen,
Printed, and praised in every magazine :
Diarian sages gi-eet their brother sage,
And your dark pages please th' enlighten'd age. —
Alas ! what years you thus consume in vain.
Ruled by this wretched bias of the brain !

Go ! to your desks and counters all return ;
Your sonnets scatter, your acrostics burn ;
Trade, and be rich ; or, slunild your careful sires
Bequeath you wealth, indulge the nobler lires ;
Should love of fame your youthful heart betray,
Pursue fair tame, but in a glorious way,



Nor in the idle scenes of Fancy's painting stray.

Of all the good that mortal men pursue.
The Muse has least to give, and gives to few ;
Like some coquettish fair, she leads us on,
With smiles and hopes, till youth and peace are gone ,
Then, wed for life, the restless wrangling pair
Forget how constant one, and one how fair :
Meanwhile Ambition, like a blooming bride.
Brings power and wealth to grace her lover's side ;
And though she smiles not with such flattering charms.
The brave will sooner win her to their arms.

Then wed to her, if Virtue tie the bands,
Go spread your country's fame in hostile lands ;
Her court, her senate, or her arms adorn.
And let her foes lament that you were bom :
Or weigh bar laws, their ancient rights defend.
Though hosts oppose, be theirs and Reason's friend ;
Arm'd with strong powers, in their defence engage,
And rise the Thuelow of the future age. -


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\Vh eth e r, if I hart not been encouraged by some proofs of public favour,
I should have written the Poem now before the reader, is a question vvhicli
1 cannot positively determine ; but I will venture to assert that I should
not, ill that case, have committed the work to the press; I should not
have allowed my own opinion of it to have led me into fiu'ther disappoint-
ment, against the voice of judges impartial and iiidifferei\t, from whose
sentence it had been fruitless to appeal : the success of a late publication,
therefore, may be fairly assigned as the principal cause for the appearance
of this.

When the ensuing Letters were so far written that I could form an
opinion of them, and when I began to conceive tliat they might not be
unacceptable to the public, I felt myself prompted by duty, as well as
interest, to put them to the press ; I considered myself bound, by gratitude
lor the favourable treatment I had already received, to show that I was
not unmiridful of it; and, however this might be mixed with other mo-
tives, it operated witli considerable force upon my mind, acting as a
stimulus to exertions naturally tardy, and to expectations easily checked.

It must nevertheless be acknowledged that, although such favourable
opinion had been formed, 1 was not able, with the requisite impartiality,
to determine the comparative value of an unpublished manuscript aud a
work sent into the world. Books, like children, when established, have
doubtless our parental affection and good wishes ; we rejoice to hear tliat
they are donig well, and are received and respected in good company ;
but it is to manuscripts in the study, as to children in the nursery, that our
care, our anxiety, and our tenderness are jirincipally directed : tlicy are
fondled as our enilearing companions ; their faults are corrected with the
lenity ot partial love, and their good parts are exaggerated by the strength
of parental imagination ; nor is it easy even for the more cool and rcas(;n-
able among iiarents, thus circumstanced, to decide upon tiie comparative
merits of their oflfspring, whether they be children of the bed or issue of
the brain.

But however favourable my own opinion may have been, or may still
be, I could not venture to commit so long a Poem to the press without
some endeavour to obtain the more valuable opinion of less partial judges.
at the same time, I am wdling to confess that I have lost some portion of
the timidity once so painful, and that I am encouraged to take upiui my-
self the decision of various points whicli heretofcire 1 entreated my friends
to decide. Tliose fritnds were then my council whose opinion I was
implicitly to follow ; they are now advisers whose ideas 1 am at liberty to
reject. This will not, I hope, seem like arrogance : it would be more safe,
it would be more pleasant, still to have that reliance on the judgment of
others ; but it cannot always be obtained : nor are they, however friendly
disposed, ever ready to lend a helping hand to him whom they consider as
one who ought by this time to have cast away the timidity of inexperience,
and to have acquired the courage that would enable him to decide for
Wnien it is confessed that I have less assistance from my friends, and

O 2

84 crabbe's poems.

that the appearance of this work is, in a great measure, occasioned by the
success ot a former ; some readers will, I fear, entertain the opinion that
the book before them was written in haste, and published without due
examination and revival : should this opinion be formed, there will doubt-
less occur many faults which may appear as originating in neglect. Now,
readers are, I believe, disposed to treat with more than common severity
those writers who have been led into presumption by the approbation
bestowed on their diffidence, and into idleness and unconcern by the
praises given to their attention. I am therefore even anxious it should be
generally known that sufficient time and application were bestowed upon
this work, and by this I mean that no material alteration would be effected
by delay. It is true that this conlession removes one i)lea for the errors
of the book — want of time ; but, in my opinion, thei'e is not much conso-
lation to be drawn by reasonable minds from this resource : if a work fails,
it appears to be poor sarisfaction when it is observed, that, if the author
bad taken more care, the event had been less disgraceful.

When the reader enters into the Poem, he will find the author retired
from view, and an imaginary personage brought forward to describe his
Borough for him ; to him it seemed convenient to speak in the first
person : but the inhabitant of a village, in the centre of the kingdom,
could not appear in the characterof a residing burgess in a large sea-port.
And when, with this pc int, was considered what relations were to be
given, what maimers delineated, and what situations described, no method
appeared to be so convenient as that of borrowing the assistance of an
ideal friend. By this means the reader is in some degree kept from view of
any particular place, nor will he perhaps be so likely to determine where
those persons reside, and vvhat their comiections, who are so intimately
known to this man of straw.

From the title of this Poem, some persons will, I fear, expect a political
satire,— an attack upon corrupt principles in a general view, or upon the
customs and manners of some particular place ; of these they will find
nothing satirized, nothing related. It may be that graver readers would
have preferred a more historical account of so considerable a Borough —
its charter, privileges, trade, public structures, and subjects of this kind;
but I have an apology for the omission of these things, in the difficulty of
describing them, and in the utter repugnancy which subsists between the
studies and objects of topography and poetry. What I thought I could
best describe, that I attempted — the sea, and the country in the imine-
dialc vicinity; the dwellings, and the inhabitants; some incidents and
characters, with an exhibition of morals and manners, olfensive perhaps
to those of extremely delicate feelings, but sometimes, I hope, neither
unamiable nor unatlecting. An Election indeed forms a part of one Letter,
but the evil tlicre described is one not grt-atly nor generally deplored, and
there are probably many places of this kind where it is not felt.

From the variety of relations, characters, and descriptions which a
BoRoi'OH affords, several were rejected which a reader might reasonably
expect to have mi t with : in this case lie is entreated to believe that these,
if they occurred to the author, were considered by him as beyond his
ability, as subjects which he could not treat in a manner satisfactory to
himself. Possibly the admission of some will be thought to reipiirc more
apology than the rejection of others : in such variety, it is to be appre-
hended, that almost evei7 reader will find something not according with
his ideas of propriety, or something repulsive to the tone of his feelings;
nor could this he avoided hut by the sacrifice of every event, opinion, and
even expression, which could be thought liable to produce such effect;
and this casting away so largely of our cargo, through fears of danger,
though it might help us to clear it, would render our vessel of little worth
when she <-anic into port. I may likewise entertain a hope, that this very
variety, which gives scope to objection and censure, will also afford a
better chance for approval and satistaclion.

Of these objectionable jiarts many must he to me unknown ; of others
some opinion may be formed, and lor their admission some plea may be


In the first Letter is nothing: which particnlarly calls for remark, except
possibly the last line— griving: a promise to the reader that he should both
smile and sigh in the perusal of the following^ Letters. This may appear
vain, and more than an author oug;ht to promise ; but let it be considered
that the character assumed is that of a friend, who gives an account ot
objects, persons, and events to his correspondent, and who was therefore
at liberty, without any imputation of this kind, to suppose in what manner
he would be attected by such descriptions.

Nothing, I trust, in the second Letter, which relates to the imitation of
what are called weather-stains on buildings, will seem to any invidious or
offen.sive. I wished to make a comparison between those mitmte and
curious bodies which cover the surface of some edifices, and those kinds
of stam which are formed ot boles and ochres, and laid on with a brush.
Now, as the work of time cannot be anticipated in such cases, it may be
very judicious to have recourse to such expedients as will give to a receut
struct'ore the venerable appearance of antiquity ; and in this case, though
I might still observe the vast difference between the living varieties of
nature, and the distant imitation of the artist, yet I would not forbear to
make use of his dexterity, because he could not clotiie my freestone with
niucnr, lichen, and dyssim.

The wants and mortifications of a poor clergyman are the subjects of
one portion of the third Letter ; and he being represented as a stranger in
the IJorough, it may be necessary to make some apology for his appearance
in the poem. Previous to a late meeting ot a literary society whose bene-
volent purpose is well known to the public, 1 was induced by a friend to
compose a few verses, in which, with the general commendation of the
design, should he introduced a hint that the bounty might be farther
extended ; these verses a gentleman did me the honour to recite at the
meeting, and they were printed as an extract from the poem, to which, in
fact, they may be called an appendage,

1 am now arrived at that part of my work which I may expect will bring
upon me some animadversion. Religion is a subject deeply interesting to
the minds of many, and when these minds are weak, they are often led by
a warmth of feeling into the violence ot causeless reseritineut : I am there-
fore anxious that my purpose should be understood ; and I wish to point
out what things they are which an author may hold up to ridicule and be
blameless. In referring to the two principal divisions of enthusiastical
teachers, I have denominated them, as I conceive they are generally
called, Calmttistic and Anniniiin Methodists. The Arminiuiis, though
divided, and perhaps subdivided, are still, when particular accuracy is not
intended, considered as one body, having had, for many years, one head,
who is yet held in high respect by the varying members of the present
day : but the Calvinistic societies are to lie looked upon rather as se|iarate
ajid independent congregations i and it is to one of these (unconnected,
as is supposed, with any other; I more particularly allude. But while I am
making use of this division, 1 must entreat that f may not be considered
as one who takes upon him to censure the religious opinions of any society
or individual : the reader will find that the sjiirit of the enthusiast and
not his opinions, his manners and not his creed, have engaged my atten-
tion. I have nothing to observe of the Calvinist and Arininian, con-
sidered as such ; but my remarks are pointed at the enthusiast and the

Online LibraryGeorge CrabbeThe poetical works of George Crabbe → online text (page 10 of 49)