George Crabbe.

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not of voluntary inattention; to which I must add the difficulty (I have
already mentioned) of avoiding the error : this kind of plagiarism will
therefore, 1 conceive, be treated with lenity : and e)f the more criminal
kind, borrowing from others, I plead, with much confidence, " not guilty."
But while I claim exemption from guilt, I do not affirm that much of
sentiment and much of expression may not be detected in the vast
collection of English poetry : it is sutficient for an author, that he uses
not the words or ideas of another without acknowledgment, and this, and
no more than this, I mean, by disclaiming debts of the kind ; yet
resemblances are sometimes so very striking, that it requires faith in a
reader to admit they were undesigned. A line in the second letter,

"And monuments themselves memorials need,"

was written long before the author, in an accidental recourse to Juvenal,
read —

" Quaiidoqtiidcm data sunt ijjsis quoiiue fata Bepulchris." Sat. x. 146.

and for this I believe the reader will readily give me credit. But there is
another apiiarent imitation in the life of Dtnni-y (Letter xiv ), a simile of
so particular a kind, that its occurrence to two writers at the same time
must appear as an extraordinary event; for this reason I once determined
to exclude it from the relation ; but, as it was truly unborrowed, and
suited the place in which it stood, this seemed, on after cmsidcration, to
be an act of cowardice, and the luies are therefore printed as they were
written about two monthsbcforethevcrysame thought; prosaically dressed)
appeared in a periodical work of the last summer. It is highly probable,
in tliose cases, that both may derive the idea from a forgotten but
common source; and in this way I must entreat the reader to do mo
justice, by accounting for other such resemblances, should any be
detected.



THE BOROUGH.



LETTER I,

These did the ruler of the deep ordain,

To build proud uavies and to riUe the main.

Popk's Jlomer's Iliad, b. vi., line 45.

Such scenes has Deptford, navy-building town,
Woolwich and Wapping, snielliug strong ol pitch ;

Sucii Lambeth, envy of each liand and gown.
And Twickenham such, which fairer scenes enrich.

Pap£'a Imitation o/ Spenser,

GENERAL DESCRIPTION.

The difficulty of describing Town Scenery — A Comparison with certain Views in (he
Countiy— The River and Quay— The Shipping and Business— Ship-lmilding— Sea-Boys
and Port-Views— Viihige and Town Scenery again compared— Wallts from Town— t'ottage
:ind adjoiTiing Heatli, &c. — House of Sunday Entert,iinment — The Sea : a Summ-r and
Winter View — A Shiim^reclc at Night, and its EUect-^ on Hliore— Evening Amusement^ in
the Borough— An Apology for the imperfect View which can be given ol these Sul^ecU.

"Describe the Borough"— though bur idle tribe

May love description, can we so describe,

That you shall iairly streets and buildings trace,

And all that gives distinction to a place ?

This cannot be ; yet moved by your request

A part I paint — let Fancy form the rest.

Cities and towns, the various haunts of men,

Require the pencil ; they defy the pen ;

Could he who sang so well the Grecian fleet,

So well have sung of alley, lane, or street ;

Can measured lines these various buildings .show.

The Town-Hall Tiu-ning or the Prospect Row {

Can I the seats of wealth and want explore,

And lengthen out mj' lays from door to door ?
Then let thy Fancy aid me — I repair

From this tall mansion of our last year's mayor.

Till we the outskirts of the Borough reach,

And these hulf-buried buiiding-s next the beach,
I Where hang at ojicn doors the net and cork,
I While squalid sea-dames iner.d the meshy wofk ;
' Till comes the hour when fishing through the tide,

The weary husband throws his freight aside ;

A living mass which now demands Ihe wife,

Th' alternate labours of their humble lite.



THE BOROUGH — GENERAL DESCRIPTION. 93

Can scenes like these withdraw thee from thy wood,
Thy upland forest, or thy valley's flood ?
Seek then thy garden's shrubby bound, and look,
As it steals by, upon the bordering brook ;
That winding streamlet, limpid, lingering, slow.
Where the reeds whisper when the zephyrs blow ;
Where in the midst, upon her throne of green,
Sits the large lily* as the water's queen ;
And makes the current, forced awhile to stay.
Murmur and bubble as it shoots away ;
Draw tlicn the strongest contrast to that stream,
And our broad river will before thee seem.

With ceaseless motion comes and goes the tide,
Flowing, it tills the channel vast and wide ;
Then back to sea, with strong majestic sweep
It rolls, in ebb yet terrible and deep ;
Here samphire-banksf and saltwort + bound the flood,
There stakes and sea-weeds withering on the mud ;
And higher up, a ridge of all things base.
Which some strong tide has roU'd upon the place.

Thy gentle river boasts its pigmy boat.
Urged on by pains, half groimded, half afloat :
While at her stern an angler takes his stand.
And marks the fish he purposes to land
From that clear space, where, in the cheerful ray
Of the warm sun, the scaly people play.
Far other craft our prouder river shows,
- Hoys, pinks, and sloops, brigs, brigantines, and snows :
Nor angler we on our wide stream descry.
But one poor dredger where his oysters lie :
He, cold and wet, and driving with the tide,
Beats his weak arms against his tarry side,
Then drains the remnant of dili\ted gin,
To aid the warmth that languishes within ;
Ivenewing oft his poor attempts to beat
His tingling fingers into gathering heat.

He shall again bo seen when evening comes,
And social parties crowd their favourite rooms :
Where on the table pipes and papers lie,
The steaming bowl or foaming tankard by ;
'Tis tlien, with all these comforts spread around,
They hear the painful dredger's welcome sound ;
And few themselves tlie savoury boon deny,
The food that feeds, the hving hixury.

Yon is our (juay ! those smaller hoys from town,
It^ various wares, for country use, bring down ;
Those laden waggons, in return, impart
The country jjrofhice to the city mart ;
Hark to the clamour in that miry road
Bounded and narrow'd by yon vessel's load !
The lumbering wealth she empties round the place,

• The white water-lily, Njimpluta nlba.

f The iniuttd gliaawort. ikUtcvrnln la here meant, not the tnie iiniiniliin>, the CrUhmtim
fntyitirnum. I The Hattota oi hoUiuiaU^



94 crabbe's poems.

Package, and parcel, hog-shead, chest, and case :
While the loud seaman and the angry hiud.
Mingling in business, bellow to the wind.

Near these a crew amphibious, in the docks.
Rear, for the sea, those castles on the stocks :
See, the long keel, which soon the waves must hide '.
See, the strong ribs which form the roomy side !
Bolts yielding slowly to the sturdiest stroke.
And planks* which curve and crackle in the smoke.
Around the whole rise cloudy wreaths, and far
Bear the warm pungonce of o'er-boiling tar.

Dabbling on shore half-naked sea-boys crowd.
Swim round a ship, or swing upon the shroud ;
Or in a boat purloin'd, with paddles play,
And grow familiar with the water}' way :
Young though they be, they feel whose sons thcj' are,
They know what British seamen do and dare ;
Proud of that fame, they raise and they enjoy
The rustic wonder of the village-boy.

Before you bid these busy scenes adieu.
Behold the wealth that lies in public view,
Those far-extended heaps of coal and coke,
Where freshfiU'd lime-kilns breathe their stifling smoke.
This shall pass off, and you behold, instead.
The night-fire glean)ing on its chalky bed ;
When from the lighthouse brighter beams will rise.
To show the shipman where the shallow lies.

Thy walks are ever pleasant ; every scene
Is rich in beauty, lively, or serene —
Rich — is that varied view with woods around,
Seen from the seat within the shrubb'ry bound.
Where shines the distant lake, and where appear.
From ruins bolting, unmolested deer ;
Lively — the village-green, the inn, the place
Where the good widow schools her infant-race.
Shops, whence are heard the hammer and the saw,
And village pleasures unreproved by law :
Then how serene, when in j'our favoui-ite room,
C4ales from your jasmines soothe the evening gloom ;
When fi-om j'our upland paddock you look down.
And just perceive the smoke which hides the town ;
When weary peasants at the close of day
Walk to their cots, and jiart upon the way ;
When cattle slowly cross the shallow brook,
And shepherds pen their folds, and rest upon their crook.

We jirune our hedges, prime our slender trees.
And nothing looks untutor'd .and at ease.
On tlio wide heath or in the ilowery vale,
We scent the vapours of the sea-born gale ;
Broad-beaten paths lead on from stile to stile.
And sewers from streets tho road-side banks <lefile ;

• The cilTTatnre of planks for tho sides of a ship. Ac, is. T am infnmied, now (fonerally
mnde by the power of stuam. f^iru is lioVtii'theiujiti still used lor boatji lUid vessels of tie
BULuller kind.




Wlirii (iidli' -li'«l> cross tlic slmlliiw lno.ik, ' 1' HI.



THE BOROUGH— GENERAL DESCRIPTION. ^0

Our gviarded fields a sense of danger show,
Where garden-crops with com and clover grow ;
Fences are form'd of wreck, and placed aroiind,
(With tenters tipp'd) a strong repulsive bcmnd ;
Wide and deep ditches by the gardens run.
And there in ambush lie the trap and gun ;
Or yon broad board, which guards each tempting prize,
"Like a tall bully, lifts its head and lies."

There stands a cottage with an open door,
Its garden undefended blooms before :
Her wheel is still, and overturn'd her stool.
While the lone widow seeks the neighb'ring pool :
This gives us hope, all views of town to shun —
No ! here are tokens of the sailor-son ;
That old blue jacket, and that shirt of check.
And silken kerchief for the seaman's neck ;
Sea-spoils and shells from many a distant shore,
And furry robe from frozen Labrador.

Our busy streets and sylvan walks between.
Fen, marshes, bog, and heath all intervene ;
Here pits of crag, with spongy, plashy base ;
To some enrich th' uncultivated space :
For there are blossoms rare, and curious rush.
The gale's rich balm, and sun-dew's crimson blush.
Whose velvet leaf with radiant beauty dress' d,
Forms a gay pillow for the plover's breast.

Not distant far, a house commodious made
(Lonely yet public stands) for Sunday trade ;
Thither, for this day free, gay parties go,
Their tea-house walk, their tip[>ling rendezvous ;
There humble couples sit in comer bowers.
Or gaily ramble for th' allotted hours ;
Sailors and lasses from the town attend,

The servant lover, the apprentice friend ;
With all the idle social tribes who seek

And find their humble pleasures once a week.
Tum to the watery W( >rld ! — but who to theo

(A wonder yet unvicw'd) shall paint — the sea ?

Various and vast, sublime in all its forms,

When lull'd by zephyrs, or when roused by storms,

Its colours changing, when from clouds and sun

Shades after shades upon the surface run ;

Embrown'd and horrid now, and now serene.

In limpid blue, and evanescent green ;

And oft the foggy banks on ocean lie ;

Lift the fair sail, and cheat th' experienced eye.*
Be it the summer noon : a sandy space

The ebbing tide has loft upon its place ;

Then just the hot and stony bcacli above,

Light twinkling streams in bright confusion move

(For heated thus, th© wanner air ascends,

• Of the effect of these mlstf, known by the name of foK-lmnlts, -womlerful ivnd Indeeil
incn-ilihle reliitii.lia are ijiviii ; Imt tlieir pmiifrty at iipiH-Hiiiig to doviito »hiiw ut uiu, uliU
to bring theui iu view. Is, I believe, ((uucriilly iiekuowledijed.



96 CRABBE'S POEMS.

And with the cooler in its fall contends) ;
Then the broad bosom of the ocean keeps
An equal motion ; swelling as it sleeps,
Then slowly sinking ; curling to the strand,
Faint, lazy waves o'ercreep the ridgy sand.
Or tap the tarry boat with gentle blow,
And back return in silence, smooth and slow.
Ships in the calm sea anchor'd ; for they glide
On the still sea, urged solelj' by the tide :
Art thou not present, this calm scene before,
Where all beside is pebbly length of shore.
And far as e3'e can reach, it can discern no more ?

Yet sometimes comes a ruffling cloud to make
The quiet surface of the ocean shake ;
As an awaken'd giant with a frown
Might show his wrath, and then to sleep sink down.

View now the winter-storm ! above, one cloud,
Black and unbroken, all the skies o'ershroud :
Th' unwieldly porpoise through the day before
Had roll'd in view of boding men on shore ;
And sometimes hid and sometimes show'd his form,
Dark as the cloud, and furious as the storm.

All where the eye delights, yet dreads to roam,
The breaking billows cast the flying foam
Upon the billows rising — all the deep
Is restless change ; the waves so swell'd and steep,
Breaking and sinking, and the sunken swells.
Nor one, one moment, in its station dwells :
But nearer land you may the billows trace,
As if contending in their watery chase ;
May watch the mightiest till the shoal they reach.
Then break and hurry to their utmost stretch ;
Curl'd as they come, the}' strike with furious force,
And then re-flowing, take their grating course,
Raking the rounded flints, which ages past
Roll'd by their rage, and shall to ages last.

Far off, the petrol in the troubled way
Swims with her brood, or flutters in the spray ;
She rises often, often drops again,
And sports at ease on the tempestuous main.

High o'er the restless deep, above the reach
Of gunner's hope, vast flights of wild-ducks stretch ;
Far as the eye can glance on either side,
In a broad space and level line they glide ;
All in their wedgo-like figures from the north,
Day after daj', flight after flight, go fortli.
In shore their passage tribes of sca-giills urge.
And drop for prey within the sweeping surge ;
Oft in the rough opposing blast they fly
Far back, then turn, and all their force apply,
While to the storm they give tlieir weak complaining cry ;
Or clap the sleek white pinion on the breast,
And in the restless ocean dip for rest.

Darkness begins to reign ; the louder wind



THE BOROUGH— GENERAL DESCRirTIOX. 97

Appals the weak and awes the firmer mind ;
But fi ights not him whom evening and the spray-
In part conceal — yon prowler on his wa}' :
Lo ! he has something seen ; he runs apace.
As if he fear'd companion in the chase ;
He sees his prize, and now he turns again.
Slowly and sorrowing — " Was your search in vain ?"
GruflBy he answers, '"Tis a son-y sight !
A seaman's body ; there'll be more to-night !"

Hark to those sounds ! they're from distress at sea :
How quick they come I What terrors may there be ;
Yes, 'tis a driven vessel : I discern
Lights, signs of terror, gleaming from the stern.
Others behold them too, and fi-om the town
In various parties seamen hurry down ;
Their wives pui-sue, and damsels urged by dread,
Lest men so dear be into danger led ;
Their head the gown has hooded, and their call
In this sad night is piercing hke the squall ;
They feel their kinds of power, and when they meet,
Chide, fondle, weej), dare, threaten, or entreat.

See one poor girl, all terror and alarm.
Has fondly seized upon her lover's arm ;
"Thou shalt not venture ;" and he answers "No !
I will not :"— still she cries, "Thou shalt not go."

No need of this ; not here the stoutest boat
Can through such breakers, o'er such billows float,
Yet may they view these lights upon the beach.
Which yield them hope whom help can never reach.

From parted clouds the moon her radiance throws
On the wild waves, and all the danger shows ;
But shows them beaming in her shining vest.
Terrific splendour ! gloom in glory dress'd !
This for a moment, and then clouds again
Hide every beam, and fear and darkness reign.

But hear we now those sounds ? Do lights appear ?

I see them not ! the storm alone I hear :

And lo ! the sailors homeward take their way ;
Man must endure — let us submit and pray.
^ Such are our Winter- views : but night comes on —
Now business sleeps, and daily cares are gone ;
Now parties form, and some their friends assist
To waste the idle hours at sober whist ;
The tavern's pleasure or the concert's cliarm
Unnumber'd moments of their sting disarm :
I'lay-bills and open doors a crowd invito,
To pass off one dread portion of the night ;
And show, and song, and luxury combined,
Lift off from man this burthen of mankind.

Others advent'rous walk abroad and meet
Returning parties pacing through the street.
When vanoiis voices, in the dying day,

I I um in our walks, and greet us in our way ;
Vy'hen tavern-lights flit on from room to room,

II



98 ckabbe's poems.

And guide the tippling sailor staggering home :
There as we pass, the jingling bells betray-
How business rises with the closing day ;
Now walking silent, by the river's side,
The ear perceives the rippling of the tide ;
Or measured cadence of the lads who tow
Some enter'd hoy, to fix her in her row ;
Or hollow sound, which from the parish bell
To some departed spirit bids farewell !

Thus shall you something of our BoROUGH know.
Far as a verse, with Fancy's aid, can show.
Of Sea or River, of a Quay or Street,
The best descriistion must be incomplete ;
But when a happier theme succeeds, and when
Men are our subjects and the deeds of men.
Then may we find the Muse in happier style,
And we may sometimes s'igh and sometimes smile.



LETTER II.

And wTien at l;ist thy love shall die.

Wilt thou receive his parting breath ?
■Wilt th'ju repress each sti-uggliug sigh.

And cheer with smiles the bed of death t

Pkkct.

THE CHUECH.

So .cral Meanings of the Word Clairch— The Building so called, hero intended— Its An-
tiquity and Grandeur— Columns and Aisles- The Tower ; tlie Stains made by Time
compared with the mock anti.iuity of the Artist— Progress of Vegetation on such Build-
ings— Bells— Tombs : one in decay— Mural Monuments, and the Nature of their Inscrip-
tions—An Instiince in a depai-ted Burgcs^i— Churchyard Graves— Jloumcrs for the l)ea<l—
A Story of a betrothed Pair in humble Life, and Effects of Grief iu the Survivor.

" What is a Church ?" — Let Truth and Reason speal:,

They would reply, " The faithful pure and meek ;

From Christian folds, the one selected race,

Of all professions, and in every place."

" What is a Church ?" — "A flock," our Vicar cries,

" Whom bishops govern, and whom priests advise ; I

Wherein are various states and due degrees.

The Bench for honour, and the Stall for ease ;

That case bo mine, which, after all his cares.

The pious, peaceful ]iicbondary shares."

"What is a Church !" — Our honest Sexton tells,
" 'Tis a tall building, with a tower and bells ;
Where priest and clerk with joint exertion strive
To keep the ardour of their llock alive ;
That, by his periods elofpient and grave ;
This, Viy responses, and a well-set stave :
These for the living ; but when life be fled,
I toll myself the requiem for the dead."

'Tis to this Church I call thee, atid that place
Where slept our fathers when they'd run their race :



THE BOROUGH — THE CHURCH. 99

We too shall rest, and then our children keep
Their road in life, and then, forg-otteii, sleep ;
Meanwhile the buildiny slowly lidls away,
And, like the builders, will in time decay.

The old Foundation — but it is not clear
When it was laid, — you care not for the year ;
On this, as parts decay'd by time and storms.
Arose these various disproportion'd forms ;
Yet Gothic all — the learn'd who visit us
(And our small wonders) have decided thus —
" Yon noble Gothic arch," "That Gothic door ;" '
So have they said — of proof you'll need no more.

Here large plain columns rise in solemn style.
You'd love the gloom they make in cither aisle ;
When the sun's rays, enleebled as they pass
(And shorn of splendour) through the storied glass.
Faintly display the figures on the floor,
Which pleased distinctly in their place before.

But ere you enter, yon boM tower survey, ■
Tall and entire, and venerably grey,
For time has soften'd what was harsh when new.
And now the stains are all of sober hue ;
Tiie living stains which Nature's hand alone.
Profuse of life, pours forth upon the stone ;
For ever growing ; where the common ej'e
{■an but the bare and rocky bed descry ;
There Science loves to trace her tribes minute.
The juiceless foliage, and the tasteless fruit ;
There she perceives them round the surface creep,
And while they meet, their due distinction keep ;
Mix'd but not blended ; each its name retains,
And these are Nature's ever-during stains.
^ And wouldst thou, Artist ! with thy tints and brush,
"t orm shades like these ? Pretender, where thy blubb 'i
In three short hours shall thy presuming hand
Th' effect of three slow ccntm-ies command ?*
Thou mayst thy various greens and greys contrive ;
They are not lichens, nor like aught alive ; —
But yet proceed, and when thy tints are lost,
Fled in the shower, or crumbled by the frost ;
When all thy work is done awaj' as clean
As if thou never spread'st thy grey and green ;
Then mayst thou see how Nature's work is done,
How slowFy true she lays her colours on ;
When her least speck ui)on the hardest flint
Has mark and form, and is a living tint ;
And so embodied with the rock, that few-
Can the small germ upon the substance vicw.1"

• If it should lie ohjecled, that centuries are not slower thnn liourR, Itcfnunc the Bpci'd nl
Inie must i»e unit'onn ; I would answor, that 1 uiidiTstand so uiuch, ;iud uteaa that tlicy
«■ Blitwer ill 110 either nenjie, tliaii Iici-ause tliey arc not tluiwluiU so noon.

t TliU kind of vcRetjition, an it Itegins ujion siliccoTiM Mtoiu-s, Is vei-y tliin, and freiiufiitly
lot t<i Iw distinguished irom the Buriai'c ol tlie Hint. Tliu ////«««» Jnlithwt iil' Iiiiiii.'iMiH
Leprtiria Jolithut o\ the present system), an adliesive cannliiu enist on rocloi and old
>uilJiug>, was, even by scientific persons, talteii for tlie hubstMice on wliich it spiu^ul. A

u 2



100 craebe's ro£M?.

Seeds, to our eyes invisible, will find
On the rude rock, the bed that fits their kind ;
Thei-e, in the rugged soil, they safely dwell,
Till showers and snows the subtile atoms swell,
And spread th' enduring foliage ; then we trace
The freckled flower upon the flint}' base ;
These all increase, till in unnoticed years
The stony tower as grey with age appears ;
With coats of vegetation thinly spread.
Coat above coat, the living on the dead ;
These then dissolve to dust and make a way
For bolder ioliage, nursed by their decay ;
The long-enduring ferns in time will all
Die and depose their dust upon the wall ;
Where the wing'd seed may rest, till many a flower
Show Flora's triumph o'er the falling tower.

But ours yet stands, and has its bells renown'd
For size magnificent and solemn sound ;
Each has its motto : some contrived to tell,
In monkish rhj'me, the uses of a bell ;*
Such wondrous good as few conceive could spring
From ten loud coppers when their cbqipcrs swing.

Enter'd the church — wo to a tomb proceed,
Whose names and titles few attempt to read ;
Old English letters and those hah'piek'd out.
Leave us, unskilful readers, much in doubt ;
Our sons shall see its more degraded state ;
The tomb of grandeur hastens to its fate ;
That marble arch, oirr sexton's favourite show,
With all those ruff'd and painted pairs below ;
Tlie noble lady and the lord who rest
Supine, as courtly dame and warrior dress'd ;
All are departed from their state srrblinie.
Mangled and wounded in their war with Time -f

Collcagucd with mischief ; here a leg is fled ;
And lo ! the Baron with but half a head :
Midway is cleft the arch ; the very lase
Is batter'd round and shifted h-i m its place.

Wonder not, mortal, at thy quick decay —
Sec ! men of marble piecemeal melt away ;
When whose the imago we no longer read.
But monuments themselves memorials need.
With few such stately proofs of grief or pride.
By wealth erected, is our Church supplied ;
But we have mural tablets every size.
That woo could wish, or vanity devise.

Death levels man — the wicked and the just.
The wise, the weak, lie blended in the dust ;

greftt vnriety of tlicse minute vegetjibh s nro t(» bo fnuiul in some parts of the coa't, wh'^ro
tlie bonch, lormed (if stuiios of viiriniis kinds, i» nndisturltvtl, anti oxpofed to every oliantje
ol woatluT : in tbiK Kitiijition, tbe ilitlortnt Hi'ecies of lirhm, in their ditterent stjiges of



Online LibraryGeorge CrabbeThe poetical works of George Crabbe → online text (page 12 of 49)