George Crabbe.

The poetical works of George Crabbe online

. (page 18 of 49)
Online LibraryGeorge CrabbeThe poetical works of George Crabbe → online text (page 18 of 49)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


The party's patron, sorely sighing, cried,
"Why would you urge me ? I at first denied."
Fiercely theyanswer'd, " Why will you complain.
Who saw no danger, or was warn'd in vain ?"
A few essay'd the troubled soul to calm.
But dread prevail'd, ami anguish and alarm.

Now rose the water throu^-h the lessening sand,
And they seem'd sinking while they yet could stand.
The sun went down ; they look'd from side to side,
Nor aught except the gathering sea descried ;
Dark, and more dark, more wet, more cold it grew.
And the most lively bade to hope adieu !
Children by love then lifted from the seas,
Felt not the waters at the parent's knees.
But wept aloud ; the wind increased the sound,
And the cold billows as they broke around.

" Once more, yet once again, with all our strength,
Cry to the land— we may be heard at length."
Vain hope, it yet unseen ! but hark ! an oar,
Tliat sound ot bliss ! comes dashing to their shore ;
Still, still the water rises ; " Haste ! " they cry,
"Oh ! hurry, seamen ; in delay we die :"
(Seamen were these, who in their ship perceived
The drifted boat, and thus her crew relieved).
And now the keel just cuts the cover'd sand.
Now to the gunwale stretches every hand :
With trembling pleasure all confused embark,
And kiss the tackling of their welcome ark ;
While the most giddy, as they reach the shore,
Thmk ol' their danger, and their God adore.



LETTER X.

CLUBS AND SOCIAL MEETINGS.

Desire of Country Gentlemen for Town Associationa-Book-clubs-Too much of Ilteiarv
_O..^H ,L';''''fv, 1*^ ^'"" """"-Litc-mry Conversation prevented ; Ijy Keasting, l,y Card'
7^ti H WK*"*."!"!'?'*' '■""lt»-t;'trd-clnl. with Ea-iernes, re.orte.l to-Player'-Uui
Ptfes at the Whiat-table-l'utulaiiees of Tenip.-r there diseovereil-Free-aud-liacy Club •
Mtlo,w!rHi;p"^"'' "•'',';-l7';«J'"".,''n>' interrupteU-Tho superior Mcm'oer-Tcn.l-
tti T.I E™","'""V""'""*"""' Snioking Clul«_The Midnight Convc-raati.ui of

inc atla> mg Meinhers-boeiety of the poorer Inhabitants; Uk Ua»' ; filvcs Pride and
T^t^^Z^^"T}" "i" ''"'"''''' CJharacter-PUasaiit, Habitations of the frugal Poor-Sjiilor
returning to Ills Family-Ereema-ona' Chib-The Mystery- What its Origin-Its pro-
IJi.. ■^"'■■:";!-'?e8-Ur)ggs and Oregoriaus-A kind of Masons-llufloctloiui on tUtso
vdrious Societies.

You Bay yon envy in j^our calm retreat
Our social meetings ; — 'tis with joy wo moot :
In those onr parties you aro pleased to find
Good sense and wit, with intercourso of mind ;



150 crabbe's poems.

Composed of men who read, reflect, and write,
Who, when they meet, must yield and share delight.
To yon o\ir Book-club has peculiar charm.
For which you sicken in your quiet larm ;
Here j'ou supjiose 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 'f 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 bomid ;
Wine is to wit as water thrown on lire.
By duly sprinkling both are raised the higher ;
Thus largely dealt, the vivid blaze they choke.
And all the genial flame goes ofl in smoke."

" But when no more your boards these loads contain.
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 ;
Yv'ho, dwelling nigh, would saunter in and out,
O'crlook the list, and toss the books about ;
Or j'awning read them, walking up and down,
Just as the loungers in the sliops 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 tamo discourse regards,
When whist is named, and we behold the cards ?



THE BOROUGH — CLUBS, ETC. 151

We from that time are neither gi-ave nor gay ;
Our thought, our care, our business is to play :
Fix'd on tliese spots and figures, each attends
Much to liis 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 pecviliar diction, to discourse :
" Who deals ? — you led — we're three by cards— had you
Honour in hand?" — " Upon my honoui-, two."
Hour after hour, men thus contending sit.
Grave without sense, and pointed without wit.

Thus it apjjcars these envied clubs possess
No certain means of social happiness ;
Yet there's a good that flows from scenes like these—
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 speak.
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 tor 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, wo may
Now 'tis a duty, and we're bound to play ;
Nor ever mooting of the social kind
Was more engaging, yet had less of mind.



152 chabbe's roEMs.

Our eager parties, when the lunar light
Throws its full radiance on the festive night,
01 either sex, with punctual hurrj' come,
And fill, with one accord, an ample room ;
Pleased, the fresh packs on cloth of green they sec,
And seizing, handle with preludifig glee ;
They draw, they sit, they shufHe, 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 the}',
But while their friends are gaming, laugh and play.

Others there are, the veterans of the game,
Who owe their pleasure to their envied fome ;
Through many a year with hard-contested strife,
Have they attain'd this glory of their liib :
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 lit has warn'd her of her doom !
These are as oracles ; in everj' cause
They settle doubts, and their decrees are laws ;
But all are troubled, when, with dubious look,
Diana questions what Apollo sjTOke.

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 greybeards or what striplings deal ;
Sex, age, and station, vanish from their view,
And gold, their sov'reign good, the mingled crowd pursue.

Hence they are jealous, and as rivals, keep
A watchftil eye on the V)elovfed 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 jiin
For what I lose ; but we had cards to win :
A saint in heaven would grieve to see such hand
Cut up b}' one who will not understand."

"Complain of me ! and so you might indeed.
If I had ventin-ed on that foolish lead,
That fatal heart — but 1 forgot your play —
Some folk have ever thrown tLeir 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 know no being we could censure loss ! "



THE BOROUGH — CLUBS, ETC. 153

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 bi-idled : then they rage,
In waspish youth, and in resentful age ;
With scraps of insult — " Sir, when next you play,
lieflect 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 sconi Ruspticion, ma'am, but while j'ou stand
Behind that lady, pray keep down your hand."

"Good heav'n, revoke : remember, if the set
Bo lost, in honour you should pay the debt."

"There, there's your money ; but, while I have life,
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-Easii, and yet we
Find it no easy matter to be free :
E'en in our small assomblv, friends among,
Are minds perverse, there's something will be wrong ;
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-scat,
Happy, he tells us, all his friends to meet ;
Ho 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 ajiplicd —
" Well, what's the siibject? — what are you about ?
The new.s, I take it — come, I'll help you out :" —
And then, without one answer, ho bestows
Freolj' upon us all ho hears and knows ;
Gives us opinions, tells us how ho votes,
Recites the speeches, adds to thorn his notes ;
And gives old ill-told talcs for new-born anecdotes ;
Yet cares ho nothing what we judge or think,
Our only duty 's to attend and drink ;
At length, a(lmonish'd by his gout, he ends
The various speech, and leaves at peace liis friends ;
But now, alas ! we've lost the jilcasaut hour,
And wisdom flics from wine's sui)crior power.



154 crabbe's poems.

Wine, like the rising sun, possession gains.
And drives tlie mist of diilness from the brains
The gloomy vapour from the spirit Hies,
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 spite,
To mischief turn the pleasures of the night ;
Anger abuses, Malice loiidly rails,
Revenge awakes, and Anarchy prevails ;
Till wine, that raised the tempest, makes it cense,
And maudlin Love insists on instant peace ;
He, noisy mirth and roaring song commands,
Gives idle toasts, and joins unfriendly hands ;
Till fuddled Friendship vows esteem and weeps.
And jovial Folly drinks, and sings, and sleej)s.



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, roncw'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 iiro ;
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 1 a freeman be,
It is my bounden duty to be free.' "

" Ay, there j'ou 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 friends :
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 cuntry and his king :
But for that jilace, 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 ho pays,



THE BOROUGH — CLUBS, ETC. 155

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 denies.

Much would it please you sometimes to explore
The peaceful dwellings of our Borough poor ;
To view a sailor just retum'd from sea.
His wife beside ; a child on either knee,
And others crowding near, that none may lose
The smallest portion of the welcome news ;
What dangers pass'd, "when seas ran mountains higli,
When tempests 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 movmtain, 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 enlightcn'd clan :
I know no word, boast no directing sign,
And not one token of the race is mine ;
Whether with Jlirani, that wise widow's son.
They came from Tyre to royal Solomon,
Two pillars raising by their skill {)rofound,
Boaz and Jachin through the East renown'd ;
Whether the sacred books their rise express,
Or books profane, 'tis vain for mo to guess :
It may bo lost in date remote and high, —
Tliey 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 combined to wrest
From heathen lords tho land they long possess'd ;
Or were at first some harmless club, who made
Their idle meetings solemn l)y parade ;
Is but conjecture — for tho task vudit.
Awe-struck and mute, tho puzzling theme I quit :
Yet, if such blessings from their order How,
We should be glad their moral code to know ;



156 ceabbe's poems.

Trowels of silver are but simple things.
And aprons worthless as their npron -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 bmd,
And plant the virtues in the wayward mind ;
If you can wake to Christian love tlie 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 stood
On Nile's first rise, the fountain of tlie 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 feci, 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.

' Griggs and Gregorians here their meetings hold.

Convivial sects, and Bucks alert and bold ;
A kind of Masons, but without their sign ; _
The bonds of imion— pleasure, song, and wine.
Man, a gregarious creature, lo\'Cs to fly
Where he the trackings of the herd can spy ;
Still to be one witli many he desires.
Although it leads him through the thorns and briers.

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 homo.

When the faint hands no more a brimmer hold,
When flannel-wreaths the \iscless limbs infold.
The breath impeded, and the bosom cold ;_
When half the ]iillow'd man the jx^lsy chains.
And the blood falters in the bloated veins,—
Then, as our friends no further aid supply
Than hope's cold phrase and coiutesy's soft sigh,
Wo should that comfort for ourselves insure.
Which friends could not, if we could friends procure.

Early in lite, when wo can laugh aloud,
There's something pleasant in a social crowd,
Who laugh with us— but will such joy remain,
When we he struggling on the bed of pain ?
When our physician tells us with a sigh,
No more on hope and science to rely.
Life's stall is useless then ; with labouring breath
Wo pray for Hope divine— the staff of Death ;—



THE BOROUGH— INNS. 157

This is a scene which few companions grace.

And where the heart's first favourites yields their place.

Here all the aid of man to man must end.
Here mounts the soul to her eternal Friend :
The tenderest love must liore its tie resign.
And give th' aspirinpr 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 Uve, for wo must die, alone.



LETTER XI.

All the comforts of life in a tavern are known,

'TJ8 his home who possesses not one of his own ;

And to him, who has riithnr too much of that one»

'Tis the house of a friend where he's welcome to run ;

The instant you enter my door you're my Lord,

"With whose taste and whose pleasure I'm proud to accord ;

And the louder you call, and tlie longer you stay.

The more I am happy tu seiTc and obey.

To the house of a friend if you're pleased to retire.

You must all things admit, you must all things admire ;

You mufet pay with ob.servance the price of your treat,

You must eat what is praised, and must praise what you eat :

But here you may come, and no tax we require,

You may loudly condemn what you greatly atlmire ;

You may growl at our wishes and pains to excel.

And may snarl at the rascals who please you so well.

At your wish we attend, and confess that your speech
On the nation's aflairs uiight the minister teach ;
His views you may hiaine, and his measures oppose.
There's no tavern-treason— you're under the Hose ;
Should rijbellions arise in your own little state,
"With me you may safely their consefiuence wait ;
To recruit your lost spirits 'tis prudent to come.
And to fly to a friend when the devil 's at home.

That I've faults is confessed ; but it won't he denied,

Tis my intere.-t the faults of my neighbours tr> hide :

If I've sometimes lent Scandal occasion to prate,

I've <){iA - n conceal'd what she loved to relate ;

If to Justice's bar some have wandcr'd from mine,

*Twas because the dull rogues wouldn't stay by their wine ;

And for bniwls at my house, well the poet explains.

That men drink shallow draughts, and so madden their brains.

INNS.

A difflcnlt Subject for Toetry— Invocation of the Rluse— Description of the principal Inn
and those of the first Class— The large deserted Tavem— Tho>c of a second Ortlcr -Their
Company— One of particular Description — A lower kind of rul»lic-houBeH ; yet dis-
tinguished among thtmselves— House.'* on the Quays for Sailors — The Qreou Man ; ita
Landlord, and the Adventure of his Marriage, &c.

Mucn do I need, and therefore will I ask,
A Muse to aid mo in my present task ;
For then with special cause wo boff for aid,
When of our subject we are most afraid :
Inns are this subject — 'tis an ill-drawn lot,
So, thou who gravely trillest, fail mo not ;
Fail not, but haste, and to my memory bring
Scenes yet unsung, which few would choose to sing ;



158 crabbe's poems.

Thou mad'st a Shilling splendid ; thou hast thrown
On humble themes the graces all thine own ;
By thee the Mistress of a Village-school
Became a queen enthroned upon her stool ;
And far beyond the rest thou gav'st to shine
Belinda's Lock — that deathless work was thine.

Come, lend thy cheerful light, and give to please.
These seats of revelrj', these scenes of ease :
Who sings of inns much danger has to dread,
And neeils assistance from the fountain-head.

High in the street, o'erlooking all the place,
The rampant Lion shows his kingly face ;
His ample jaws extend fi'om side to side,
His eyes are glaring, and his nostrils wide ;
In silver shag the sovereign form is dress'd,
A mane horrific sweeps his ample chest ;
Elate with pride, he seems t' assert his reign.
And stands the glory of his wide domain.

Yet nothing dreadful to his friends the sight,
But sign and pledge of welcome and delight.
To him the noblest guest the town detains
Flies for repast, and in his court remains ;
Him too the crowd with longing looks admire,
Sigh for his joys, and modestly retire ;
Here not a comfort shall to them be lost
Who never ask or never feel the cost.

The ample yards on either side contain
Buildings where order and distinction reign ; —
The splendid carriage of the wealthier guest,
The ready chaise and driver smartly dress'd ;
Whiskeys and gigs and ciuricles are there.
And high-fed prancers many a raw-boned pair.
On all without a lordly host sustains
The care of empire, and observant reigns ;
The parting guest beholds him at his side.
With pomp obsequious, bending in his pride ;
Round all the place his eyes all objects meet,
Attentive, silent, civil, and discreet.
O'er all within the lady-hostess rules,
Her bar she governs, and her kitchen schools ;
To every guest th' appropriate speech is made,
And every duty with distinction paid ;
Respectful, easy, pleasant, or polite —
" Your honour's servant " — " Mister Smith, good night."



Online LibraryGeorge CrabbeThe poetical works of George Crabbe → online text (page 18 of 49)