George Crabbe.

The poetical works of George Crabbe online

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sectarian, and he always found it difficult to trim among country
parties ; he appears never to have been very popular with his
congregations. From this place he removed to Glenham Hall,
belonging to his friend, Dudley North, where he employed himself
in his clerical duties, iu preparing his two sons for the University,
and in composing poetry ; he likewise taught himself to read both
French and Italian without knowing the pronunciation of a single
word of either language. In 1799 his stock of poetry on hand was
so considerable that he wished to publish, but was persuaded by a
judicious critical friend to relinquish the idea : he seems, during his
life, to have written an immense deal that would not have main-
tained his reputation.

In 1803, he was, much against his will, compelled to reside on his
incumbency, and returned to Muston. In 1807 he published the
"Parish Register," with other poems, which met with all the success
he could desire. He received many letters of commendation from
men of rank, one from Sir Walter Scott, being admirable in itself
and of the most friendly character. " The Borough," after under-
going the critical notice of his friend Turner, was published in 1810,
and went through six editions in six years. At Muston, being in
easy circumstances, ho went much more into society, his reputation
and his position procuring him the best in his ncighlxun-hood ; but
his pleasures were considerably damped by the constant indis-
position of his beloved wife, who was a sufferer foi- many years.
Unlike Wordsworth, he was an admirer of contemporary genius ; he
hailed the appearance of Scott, and, after a time, discovered that
there was poetical beauty concealed beneath the simplicity of the
Lake school. In 1812 he published his " Tales in Verso," dedicated
to the Duchess Dowager of Rutland, which were more popular than
"The Borough," the subjects being, naturally, more poetical. At



Xvi LIFE OF CRABBE.

this period, in an interesting correspondence with Sir Walter Scott,
ho states his income to be about £600 per annum. In 1813, he and
his family visited London, and saw all that was worth seeing. He
frequented the theatres, but showed very little taste for theatrical
excellence, Liston being his prime favourite. Considering that that
actor, however clever, was never the successful representative of
anything but fatuity, and that the stage was then crowded with
" well-graced actors" of the highest class, this is one of the pecu-
liarities of his idiosyncrasy. At an after-period, may likewise be
classed in the same way his liking for the society of Beau Brummel.
But if we cannot agree with his theatrical taste, we must venerate
his charity, which led him to seek objects of distress in the King's
Bench, for the purpose of relieving them. To his inexpressible
gi-ief his wife died in October, 1813, and he himself, providentially,
had a severe illness, which, in a degree, he being a mortal man,
though an affectionate husband, averted his sorrow till time had
somewhat alleviated it.

Soon after his recovery, the young Duke of Rutland presented him
with the living of Trowbridge in Wiltshire, and Graxton near Belvoir.
He removed without regret, never having been on good terms with
the inhabitants of Muston, who absolutely rang the beUs for his
successor, before his departure. At the christening of the heir of
Rutland, he was presented to the Prince of Wales and the Duke of
York. On the 3rd of June, 1814, he was inducted to Trowbridge.
Here he recovered health and spirits, and became generally courted
for his good company. His predecessor had been popular, and an
election took place in which he was oppo.sed to the lower classes,
mostly dissenters ; so that he had again disagreeables to encounter ;
but by independence and simple stiaightforward conduct, he esta-
blished himself better here than at iMuston. In October, 1816, he
was introduced to Lady Byron, whom he very much admired. At
this period, he said that he felt an obstruction had been removed
from his constitution by his illness ; that he was satisfied he should
live many years ; that he was unwilling to pass that time without a
companion, and proposed to marry again. Being convinced that
hearts and minds like Crabbe's do not grow old with the clay which
envelops them, I can (]uite understand this feeling and this want.
It is one of the strongest proofs of the immortality of the .soul that
the divine parts of us are not subject to decay. But, however
talked of, this was never carried out. He liked female -society,
though he did not shine in it ; one witty lady observing, " he was
trop doucereux ; the cake is no doubt good, but there is too much
sugar to cut through, in getting at it." Ho this year commenced
his Uiterosting correspondence with Mrs, Lcadbeater, a Quaker



LIFE OF CRABBE. XVU

lady, whom he had met at Biirke's house thirty-two years before.
His sons now marrying and settling as clergymen, one of them
residing with him, much of the loneliness he had complained
of was removed. On his visit to London, although a bad conver-
sational reasoner, he went into the best society, in which he com-
manded respect by his gentlemanly deportment. Lords Lansdowne
and Holland, Rogers, Moore, Campbell, Sir Walter Scott, Kemble,
Erskine, Ossory, Sir George Beaumont,— all became the personal
friends of the man who had been the intimate of Burke, Johnson,
Reynolds, and their glorious set. He played a dignified and cheer-
ful part among thase distinguished personages, and his diary of
theperiod is very interesting. One remark I cannot resist insert-
ing. He says, "Brougham reminds him of Burke,— ready and
willing at all subjects." There was a talk of establishing a poets'
club, but the idea was never carried out. He was present at the
great dinner given to Kemble on his retirement, when perhaps
more men distingviished by genius, knowledge, and excellence in
the arts, were assembled than upon any other occasion.

Not at all intoxicated with these scenes, he returned cheerfully
to his duties, his charities, his poetry, and his fossils He now
proceeded with the " Tales of the Hall," preferring autumn for
composition, but finding nothing so congenial with the Muse as a
snow-storm ! He worked principally at night, with a little negus
or weak spirits and water, and a great deal, of snuff . In July, 1819,
the '•' Tales of the Hall" were published by Mr. Murray, who for
them and the remaining cop3-right of all his poems, gave him
£3.U00 ! His behavuur on receiving the money was most curious !
He would not deposit it, he would not trust it to any one, he would
take the very notes to show his son John, at Trowbridge, as, with-
out ocular proof, he was sure nobody would believe the amount.

In 1 822 he paid a visit to Sir Walter Scott, but unfortunately,
George IV. did Scotland the same honour at the same time, and
the Scottish bard could not give the English poet the attention he
could have wished. He, however, was introduced to all the Edin-
burgh celebrities, of whatever political creed, and was honourably
received by all. This same year was rendered painful to his friends
by seeing him suffer under a severe attack of tic-douloureux, which
occasionally returned during the remainder of his life. Loved by his
family, esteemed by all who knew him, honoured by the public,
decline came on calmly and happily. He maintained an intercourse
with a great number of persons of literary distinction, old age
seeming to increase the warmth of his afl'ectionato disposition.

Every line relating to such a man must bo interesting, but the
details of tho last scone, though legitimate in fiction, arc I think



Xviii LIFE OF CRABBE.

out of place and indelicate in biography ; the feelings of an affec-
tionate son, who owed so much to his father, can be supposed
and appreciated, without being repeated. Crabbe performed his
duties to the last, in spite of his painful complaint, which some-
times attacked him in the pulpit. He, however, departed calmly
and happily, at last, on the 3rd of February, 1832, in his seventy-
eighth year, surrounded by love, accompanied by sorrow.

The life of Crabbe is a highly instructive one. Humbly born and
imperfectly educated, he seems always to have been conscious of
the genius that " burned within him," and to have bravely battled
with difficulties to gain it a place in the eyes of the world. On
account of this genius he claimed no exemption from performing
the moral duties of a man ; there was nothing morbid in the talent
he was intrusted with, he was a worthy member of society though
possessed of great genius, and with this high praise I safely leave
his memory.

W. K.



CONTENTS.



The Village ; —

Book I Page 1

Book II 8

The Parish Kegister :-~

Part I. — Baptisms 13

Part II. — Marriages 29

Part III.— Burials 40

The Library 59

The Newspaper 73

The Borough : —

Preface 83

Letter 1. General Description 92

Letter 2. The Church 98

Letter 3. The Vicar— the Curate 104

Letter 4. Sects and Professions in Religion Ill

Letter 5. The Election 121

Letter 6. Professions — Law 126

Letter 7. Profassions^Physic 133

Letter 8. Trades 1S9

Letter 9. Amusements 143

lietter 10. Clubs and Social Meetings 149

Letter 11. Inns l/>7

Letter 12. Players 164

Letter 13. The Almshouse and Trustees 171

Letter 14. Inhabitants of the Almshouse : Life of Blaney . . 178

Letter 15. Inhabitants of the Almsliouse : Clolia 182

Letter 16. Inhabitants of the Alm.shouso : Bcnbow IS7

Letter 17. The Hospital and Governors 191

Letter 18. The Poor and their Dwellings 197

Letter 19. The Poor of the Borough : The Parish Cleric ., 205

Letter 20. The Poor of the Borough : Ellen Orford 211



XX



CONTENTS.



Letter 21. The Poor of the Borough : Abel Keene Page 218

Letter 22. The Poor of the Borough : Peter Grimes 225

Letter 23. Prisons 232

Letter 24. Schools 239

Tales :—

Preface 249

Tale 1. The Dumb Orators ; or, the Benefit of Society .. 254

Tale 2. The Parting Hour 263

Tale 3. The Gentleman Farmer 272

Tale 4. Procrastination 282

Tale 5. The Patron 289

Tale 6. The Frank Courtship 303

Tale 7. The Widow's Tale 313

Tale 8. The Mother 321

Tale 9. Arabella 328

Tale 10. The Lover's Journey 335

Tale 11. Edward Shore 342

Tale 12. Squire Thomas ; or, the Precipitate Choice 351

Tale 13. Jessie and Colin 358

Tale 14. The Struggles of Conscience 368

Tale 15. Advice ; or, the Squire and the Priest 378

Tale 16. The Confidant 386

Tale 17. Resentment 397

Tale 18. The Wager 407

Tale 19. The Convert 413

Tale 20. The Brothers 422

Tale 21. The Learned Boy 430

Miscellaneous : —

The Birth of Flattery 441

Reflections upon the Subject, Quid juvat errores, &c 448

Sir Eustace Grey 450

The Hall of Justice : Part 1 459

The H.-ill of Justice : Part II 462

Woman 465



THE TILLAGE.

^ |ocm, in ^iaa ^oob.
BOOK I.

The Subject proposed— Eenuirks upon Pastoral Poetry — A Tract of Country neai the Coast
described — An impoverished Borough — Smugglers and their Assistants — Rude Manners
of the Inhabitants— Ruinous EH'ects of a high Tide— The Tillage Life more generally
considered : Evils of it — The youthful Labourer — The old Man ; his Soliloquy — The
Parish Workhouse : its Inhabitonts — The sick Poor : their Apothecary — The dying
Pauper— The ViUage Priest.

The Village Life, and every care that reigns
O'er youthtiil peasants and declining swains ;
What labour yields, and what, that labour i^ast.
Age, in its hour of languor, finds at last ;
What form the real picture of the poor.
Demand a song — the Muse can give no more.

Fled are those times, when in harmonious strains,
The nistic poet praised his native plains :
No shepherds now, in smooth alternate vei-se.
Their countrj-'s beauty, or their nymphs' rehearse ;
Yet still for these we frame the tender strain.
Still in our lays fond Gorydous complain.
And shepherds' boys their amorous pains reveal.
The only pains, alas ! they never feci.

On Mincio's banks, in Caesar's bounteous reign.
If Tityrus found the Golden Age again.
Must sleepy hards the flattering dream prolong,
Mechanic echoes of the Mantuan song ?
From Tnith and Nature shall we widely straj'',
Where Virgil, not where fancy, loads the way ?

Yes, thus the Muses sing of happy swams.
Because the Muses never know their pains :
They boast their peasants' pipes ; but peasants now
Resign their pipes and plod behind the plough ;
And few, amid the rural tribe, have timo
To number syllables and play with rhyme ;
Save honest DucK, what son of vei-so could share
The poet's rapture and the peasant's care ?

i;



cbabbe's poems.

Or the great labours of the field degrade
With the new peril of a poorer trade ?

From this chief cause these idle praises spring,
That themes so easy few forbear to sing ;
For no deep thought the trifling subjects ask ;
To sing of shepherds is an easy task :
The happy youth assumes the common strain,
A nymph his mistress, and himself a swain ;
With no sad scenes he clouds his tunetul prayer.
But all, to look like her, is painted fair.

I grant, indeed, that fields and flocks have channs
For him that grazes or for him that farms ;
But when amid such pleasing scenes I trace
The poor laborious natives of the place.
And see the mid-day sun, with fervid ray.
On their bare heads and dewy temples play ;
While some, with feebler heads and fainter hearts.
Deplore their fortune, yet sustain their parts : —
Then shall I dare these real ills to hide.
In tinsel trappings of poetic pride ?

No ; cast by Fortune on a frowning coast.
Which neither groves nor happy valleys boast ;
Where other cares than those the Muse relates.
And other shepherds dwell with other mates ;
By such examples taught, I paint the cot,
As Truth will paint it and as bards will not :
Nor you, yo poor, of letter'd scorn complain.
To you the smoothest song is smooth in vain ;
O'ercome by labour, and bow'd down by time.
Feel you the barren flattery of a rhyme ?
Can poets soothe you, when you i^iue for bread.
By winding myrtles round your ruiu'd shed ?
Can their light tales your weighty griefs o'erpower,
Or glad with airy mirth the toilsome hour ?

Lo ! where the heath, with withering brake grown o'er.
Lends the light turf that warms the neighb'ring poor ;
From thence a length of burning sand appears,
Where the thin harvest waves its wither'd ears ;
Rank weeds, that every art and care defy,
Reign o'er the land and rob the blighted rye :
P* There thistles stretch their prickly arms afar,
I And to the ragged infant threaten war ;
j There popjiies nodding, mock the hope of toil ;
There the blue bugloss paints the sterile soil ;
Hardy and high, above the slender sheaf.
The slimy mallow waves her silky leaf ;
O'er the young shoot the charlock throws a shade,
. And clasping tares cling round the sickly blade ;
With mingled tints the rocky coasts abound.
And a sad splendour vainly shines around ;
So looks the nymph whom wretched arts adorn,
Betray'd by man, then left for man to scorn ;
Whose cheek in vain assumes the mimic rose,
While her sad eyes the troubled breast disclose ;



THE VILLAGE — COOK I.

Whose outward splendour is but folly's dress.
Exposing most when most it gilds distress.

Here joyless roam a wild amphibious race,
With sullen woe display'd in every face ;
Who, far from civil arts and social fly.
And scowl at strangers with suspicious eye.

Here, too, the lawless merchant of the main
Draws from his plough tli' intoxicated swain ;
Want only claim'd the labour of the day,
But vice now steals his nightly rest away.

Where are the swains, who, daily labour done.
With rural games plaj''d down the setting sun :
Who struck with matchless force the bounding ball.
Or made the pond'rous quoit obliquely fall ;
While some huge Ajax, terrible and strong,
Engaged some artful stripling of the throng.
And fell beneath him, foil'd, while far around,
Hoarse triumph rose, and rocks return'd the sound ?
Where now are these ? Beneath yon cliff they stand,
To show the freighted pinnace where to land ;
To load the ready steed with guUty haste.
To fly in terror o'er the pathless waste,
Or, when detected in their straggling course.
To foil their foes by cunning or by force ;
Or, yielding part (which equal knaves demand),
To gain a lawless passport through the land.

Here, wand'ring long, amid these frowning fields,
I sought the simple life that Nature yields ;
Rapine, and Wrong, and Fear usurp'd her place.
And a bold, artful, surly, savage race ;
Who, only skill'd to take the linny tribe.
The yearly dinner, or septennial bribe,
Wait on the shore, and, as the waves run high.
On the toss'd vessel bend their eager eye ;
Which to their coast directs its vent'rous way.
Theirs, or the ocean's miserable prey.

As on their neighbouring beach yon swallows stand.
And wait for favouring winds to leave the land ;
While still for flight the ready wing is spread :
So waited I the favouring hour, and fled ;
Fled from these shores where guilt and famine reign,
And cried, Ah ! hapless they who still remain ;
Who still remain to hoar the ocean roar,
Whose greedy waves devour the lessening shore ;
Till some fierce tide, with more imperious sway.
Sweeps the low hut and all it holds away ;
When the sad tenant weeps from door to door.
And begs a poor protection from the poor !

But these are scenes where Nature's niggard hand
(lave a spare portion to tho famish'd land ;
Hers is the fault, if here mankind complain
Ot fruitless toil and labour spent in vain ;
But yet in other scenes more fair in view,
Where Plenty smiles — alas ! she smiles for few —

B 2 »



CEABBE S POEMS.

And those who taste not, yet behold her store,

Are as the slaves that dig the golden ore, —

The wealth around them makes them doubly poor.

Or will you deem them amply paid in health.
Labour's fair child that languishes with wealth ?
Go then ! and see them rising with the sun,
Through a long course of daily toil to run ;
See them beneath the dog-star's raging heat.
When the knees tremble and the temples beat ;
Behold them, leaning on their scythes, look o'er
The labour past, and toils to come explore ;
See them alternate suns and showers engage.
And hoard up aches and anguish for their age ;
Through fens and marshy moors their steps pm'sue,
"When their warm pores imbibe the evening dew ;
Then own that labour may as fatal be
To these thy slaves as thine excess to thee.

Amid this ti-ibe too oft a manly pride
Strives in strong toil the fainting heart to hide ;
There may you see the youth of slender frame
Contend with weakness, weariness, and shame ;
Yet, urged along, and proudly loth to yield.
He strives to join his fellows of the field :
Till long contending Nature droops at last,
Declining health rejects his poor repast.
His cheerless spouse the coming danger sees,
And mutual murmurs urge the slow disease.

Yet giant them health, 'tis not for us to tell,
Though the head droops not, that the heart is well ;
Or will you praise that homely, healthy fare.
Plenteous and plain, that happy peasants share !
Oh ! trifle not with wants you cannot feel,
Nor mock the misorj' of a stinted meal ;
Homely not wholesome, plain not plenteous, such
As you who praise would never deign to touch.
Ye gentle souls who dream of rural ease,
Whom the smooth stream and smoother sonnet please ;
Go ! if the peaceful cot your praises share,
Go look within, and ask if peace be there ;
If peace be his — that drooping weaiy sire ;
Or theirs, that offspring round their feeble fire ;
Or hers, that matron pale, whose trembling hand
Turns on the wretched hearth th' expiring brand !

Nor yet can Time itself obtain for these
Life's latest comforts, — due respect and ease ;
For yonder see that hoary swain, whose age
Can with no cares except his own engage ;
Who, propp'd on that rude staff, looks up to see
The hare arms broken from the withering tree,
On which, a boy, he climb'd the loftiest bough,
Then his first joy, but his sad emblem now.

He once was chief in all the rustic trade ;
His steady hand the straightcst furrow made ;
Full many a prize he won and still is proud



THE VILLAGE — BOOK I.

To find the triumphs of his youth allow'd ;

A transient pleasure sparkles in his eyes,

He hears and smiles, then thinks again and sighs :

For now he journeys to his grave in pain ;

The rich disdain him ; nay, the poor disdain :

Alternate masters now their slave command,

Urge the weak efiorts ol his feeble hand,

And, when his age attempts its task in vain.

With ruthless taunts, ol lazy poor complain.

Oft may you see him when he tends the sheep,
His winter charge, beneath the hillock weep :
Oft hear him mui-mur to the winds that blow
O'er his white locks and bury them in snow,
When, roused by rage, and muttering in the mornj
He mends the broken hedge with icy thorn : —

"Why do I live, when I desire to be
At once from life and life's long labour free ?
Like leaves in spring, the young are blown away,
Without the sorrows of a slow decay ;
I, like yon wither'd leaf, remain behind,
Nipp'd by the frost and shivering in the wind ;
There it abides till younger buds come on,
As I, now all my fellow-swains are gone ;
Then, from the rising generation thrust,
It falls, like me, unnoticed to the dust.

" These fruitful fields, these numerous flocks I see,
Are others' gain, but killing cares to me ;
To me the children of my youth are lords.
Cool in their looks, but hasty in their words :
Wants of their own demand their care ; and who
Feels his own want and succours others too ?
A lonely, wretched man, in pain I go.
None need my help, and none relieve my woe ;
Then let my bones lieneath the turf be laid,
And men forget the wretch they would not aid."

Thus groan the okl, till by disease oppress' d,
They taste a final woe, and then they rest.

Theirs is yon house that holds the parish poor.
Whoso walls of mud scarce bear the broken door ;
There, where the putrid vapours, flagging, play.
And the dull wheel hums doleful thrcjugh the (lay ; —
There cliildren dwell who know no parents' care ;
Parents, who know no children's love, dwell there !
Heart-broken matrons on their joyless bed,
Forsaken wives, and mothers never wed ;
Dejected widows with unheeded tears,
And crippled ago with more than childhood fears ;
The lame, the blind, and — far the happiest thoy —
The moping idiot and the madman gay !
Here, too, the sick their final doom receive.
Here brought, amid the scenes of grief to grieve,
Where the loud groans Irom some sad chamber flow,
Mix'd with the clamours of the crowd lielow ;
Here sorrowing, they each kindred sorrow scan,



crabbe's poems.

And the cold charities of man to man :

Whose laws indeed for min'd age provide,

And strong compulsion plucks the scrap from pride ;

But still that scrap is bought with many a sigh.

And pride embitters what it can't denj'.

Say ye, oppress' d by some fantastic woes,
Some jarring nerve that baffles your repose ;
Who press the downy couch, while slaves advance
Witli timid eye to read the distant glance ;
Who ^\'ith sacl prayers the weary doctor tease
To name the nameless ever new disease ;
Who with mock patience dire complaints endure,
Which real pain, and that alone, can cure ;
How would ye hear in real pain to lie.
Despised, neglected, left alone to die ?
How would ye bear to draw your latest breath
Where all that's wretched paves the way for death?

Such is that room which one rude beam divides,
And naked rafters form the sloping sides ;
Where the vile bands that bind the thatch are seen.
And lath and mud are all that lie between ; _
Save one dull pane, that coarsely patch'd, gives way
To the rude tempest, yet excludes the day :
Here on a matted flock, with dust o'erspread,
The drooping wretch reclines his languid head ;
For him no hand the cordial cup applies.
Or wipes the tear that stagnates in his eyes ;
No friends with soft discourse his pain beguile,
Or promise hope till sickness wears a smile.
But soon a loud and hasty summons calls,
Shakes the thin roof, and echoes round the walls ;
Anon, a figure enters, quaintly neat,
All pride and business, bustle and conceit ;
With looks unalter'd by these scenes of woe,
With speed that, enteiing, speaks his haste to go,
He bids the gazing throng around him fly.
And carries fate and physic in his eye :
A potent quack, long -sersed in human ills,
Who first insults the victim whom he kills ;
Whose murd'rous hand a drowsy bench protect,
And whose most tender mercy is neglect.



Online LibraryGeorge CrabbeThe poetical works of George Crabbe → online text (page 2 of 49)