George Crabbe.

The poetical works of George Crabbe online

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Yet, thus assisted, ten long winters pass'd
In wasting guineas ere he saw his hi.st ;
Then he beg;ui to reason, and to feel
He could not dig, nor had ho learn'd to steal ;



THE BOROUGH— THE ALMSHOUSE, ETC. 179

And should he beg as long as he might live.

He justly fear'd that nobody would give :

But he could charge a pistol, and at will,

All that was mortal by a bullet kill ;

And he was taught, by those whom he would call

Man's surest guides, that he was mortal all.

While thus he thought, still waiting for the day

When he should dare to blow his brains away,

A place for him a kinil relation found.

Where England's monarch ruled, but far from English ground :

He gave employ that might for bread suffice,

Correct his habits and restrain his vice.

Hero Blaney tried (what such man's miseries teach)

To find what pleasures were within his reach ;

These he enjoy'd, though not in just the style

He once possessed them in his native isle ;

Congenial souls he found in every place,

Vice in all soils, and charms in every i-ace :

His lady took the same amusing way.

And laugh'd at Time till he had turn'd them groy ;

At length for England once again they steer'd,

By ancient views and new designs endear'd ;

His kindred died, and Blaney now became

An heir to one who never heard his name.

What could he now ? — The man had tried before
The joys of youth, and they were joys no more ;
To vicious pleasure he was still inclined,
But vice must now be season'd and refined ;
Then as a swine he would on pleasure seize,
Now common pleasures had no power to please :
Beauty alone has for the vulgar charms.
He wanted beaiity trembling with alarms :
His was no more a youthful dream of joy.
The wretch desired to ruin and destroy ';
He bought indulgence with a boimdless price,
Most pleased when decency bow'd down to vice,
When a fair dame her husband's honour sold.
And a frail countess play'd for Blaney's gold.

" But (lid not Conscience in her .anger rise ? "
Yes ! and he learn'd her terrors to despise ;
When stung by thought, to soothing books he fieri.
And grew composed and harden 'd as he read ;
Tales of Voltaire, and essays gay and slight,
Pleased him, and shone with thoir phosphoric lighi
Which, though it rose from objects vile and base,
Where'er it came threw splendour on the place,
And was that light which the deluded youth.
And this grey sinner, dcom'd the light "of truth.
He difloront works for dilTorcnt cause admired.
Some fix'd his judgment, some his passions fired ;
To cheer the mind and r.aiso a dormant flame,
He had the books, decreed to lasting shame,
Which those who road are careful not to name ;
Those won to vicious act the yielding heart,

N 2



380 crabbe's poems.

And then the cooler reasoners soothed the smart.

He heard ol Blount, and Mandeville, and Chubb,
How they the doctors of their day would drub ;
How Hume had dwelt on Miracles so well.
That none would now believe a miracle ;
And though he cared not works so grave to read.
He caught their taith, and sign'd the sinner's creed.

Thus was he pleased to join the laughing side,
Nor ceased the laughter when his lady died ;
Yet was he kind and careful of her fame.
And on her tomb inscribed a virtuous name ;
"A tender wife, respected, and so forth,"
The marble still bears witness to the worth.

He has some children, but he knows not where ;
Something they cost, but neither love nor care ;
A father's feelings he has never known,
His joys, his sorrows, have been all his own.

He now would build, and lofty seat he built,
And sought, in various ways, reliel from guilt.
Restless, for ever anxious to obtain
Ease for the heart by ramblings of the brain,
He would have pictures, and of course a Taste,
And found a thousand means his wealth to waste.
Newmarket steeds he bought at mighty cost ;
They sometimes won, but JBlaney always lost.

Quick came his ruin, came when he had still
For life a relish, and in pleasure skill :
By his own idle reckoning he supposed
His wealth would last him till his life was closed ;
But no ! he found this final hoard was spent.
While he had years to sutler and repent.
Yet, at the last, his noble mind to show.
And in his misery how he bore the blow.
Ho view'd his only guinea, then suppress'd.
For a short time, the tunnilts in his breast.
And moved by pride, bj' habit, and despair.
Gave it an opervbird to hum an air.

Come ye ! who live for pleasure, come, behold
A man of pleasure when he's poor and old ;
When he looks b.'vck through life, and cannot find
A single action tf relieve his mind ;
When ho looks forward, striving still to keep
A steady prospect ot eternal sleep ;
When not one friend is left, of .all the train
Whom 'twas his {iridc and bo.ast to entertain, —
Friends now employ 'd from house to house to lam.
And say, " Alas ! poor Blaney is imdone ! " —
Tho.'se whom he shook with ardour by the hand.
By whom he stood as long ius ho could stand.
Who soem'd to him from all deception clear,
And who, m(irc strange ! might tliink themselves sincere.

Lo I now the hero shuflling through the town,
To hunt a dinner and to beg a crown ;
To toll an idle tale, that boys may smile ;



THK BOROUGH — THE ALMSHOUSE, ETC. 181

To bear a strumpet's billet-doux a mile ;

To cull a wanton for a youth of wealth

(With reverend view to both his taste and health) ;

To be a useful, needy thinu: between

Fear and desire — the pander and the screen ;

To flatter pictures, houses, horses, dress,

The wildest fashion, or the worst excess ;

To be the grey seducer, and entice

Unbearded folly into acts of vice ;

And then, to level every tence which law

And virtvie fix to keep the mind in awe.

He first inveigles youth to walk astray,

Next prompts and soothes them in their fatal way,

Then vindicates the deed, and makes the mind his prey.
Unhappy man ! what pains he takes to state

(Proof of his fear !) that all below is fate ;

That all proceed in one appointed track,

Where none can stop, or take their journey back :

Then what is vice or virtue ?— Yet he'll rail

At priests till memory anrl quotation tail ;

He reads, to learn the various ills they've done,

And calls them vipers, every mother's son.

He is the harlot's aid, who wheedling- tries
To move her friend for vanity's supplies ;
To weak indulgence he allures the mind.
Loth to be duped, but willing to be kind ;
And if successful — what the labour pays ?
He gets the friend's contempt and Chloe's praise,
Who, in her triumph, condescends to say,
" What a good creature Blaney was to-day ! "

Hear the poor demon when the young attend,
And willing ear to vile experience lend ;
When he relates (with laughing, leering eye)
The tale licentious, mix'd with blasphemy :
No genuine gladness his narrations cause,
The frailest heart denies sincere applause ;
And many a youth has turn'd him half aside,
And laugh'd aloud, the sign of shame to hide.

Blaney, no aid in his vile cause to lose,
Buys jjictures, prints, and a licentious muso J
He borrows every help from ever}- art,
To stir the passions and mislead the heart :
But from the subject let us soon escape,
Nor give this feature all its ugly shape ;
Some to their crimes escape from satire owe :
Who shall dc-scribe what Blaney dares to show ?
While thus the man, to vice and passion slave,
Was, with his follies, moving to the grave,
The ancient ruler of tlHs mansion died,
And Blanoy boldly for the seat applied :
Sir Denys Brand, then gxiai-dian, join'd his suit :
'"Tistrue," said he, "the fellow's ([uito a brute—
A very beast ; but yet, with all his sin,
He has a manner— let the devil in."



Ig2 ceabbe's poems.

They half complied, they gave the wish'd retreat,
But raised a worthier to the vacant seat.

Thus forced on ways unlike each former way.
Thus led to prayer without a heart to pray,
He quits the gay and rich, the young and free,
Among the badge-men with a badge to be :
He sees an humble tradesman raised to rule
The grej'-beard pupils of this moral school ;
Where he himself, an old licentious boy,
Will nothing learn, and nothing can enjoy ;
In temp'rate measures he must eat and drink,
And, pain of pains ! must live alone and think.

In vain, by fortune's smiles, thrice affluent made,
Still has he debts of ancient date unpiiivl ;
Thrice into penury by error thrown,
Not one right maxim has he made his own ;
The old men shun him, — some his vices hate.
And all abhor his principles and prate ;
Nor love nor care for him will mortal show,
Save a frail sister in the female row.



LETTER XV.

INHABITANTS OF THE ALMSHOUSE.

She early found herself niistrepa of herself. All she did wna right; all she said wa*
admired. Early, very early, did she dismiss blushes from her cheek : she could not blubh
because she could not doubt ; and silence, whatever was the subject, was afi much a
stranger to her as diffidence.— Kichakdson.

CLELIA.

Her lively and pleasant Manners— Her Reading and Decision— Her Intercourse with
diflertiit Classes of Society— Her kind of Char.a. tor— The favoured Lover— Her Manage-
ment of him ; his of her — After one reriiul, ('Itli.-i with an Attorney — Her Manner luid
Situation there — Another such Period, when her Fortune still declines — Mistress of an
Inn — A Widow— Another such Interval : she becomes poor and infirm, but still \ain
and frivolous — The fallen Vanity— Admitted into the House ; meets Blaney.

We had a sprightly nymph — in every town

Are some such sprights, who wander up and down ;

Sho had her usclul arts, and could contrive,

In Time's desijito, to stay at twenty-five : —

" Here will I rest ; move on, thou lying year.

This is mine ago, and I will rest me hero."

Arch was her look, and she had pleasant ways
Your good opinion of her heart to raise ;
Her speech was lively, and with ease e.xprcss'd,
And well sho judged the tempers sho address'd :
If some soft stripling had her keenness felt,
• She know the way to make his anger melt ;
Wit was allow'd her, though but few could bring
Direct example of a witty thing ;
'Twas that gay, pleasant, smart, engaging speech,
Her beaux admired, and just within their reach ;



THE BOROUGH — THE ALMSHOUSE, ETC, 183

Not indiscreet, perhaps, but yet more free
Than prudish nymphs allow their wit to be.

Novels and plays, with poems old and new.
Were all the books our nymph attended to ;
Yet from the press no ti-eatise issued forth,
But she would speak precisely of its worth.

She with the London stai^e familiar grew,
And every actor's name and merit knew ;
She told how this or that their part mistook.
And of the rival Romeos g-ave the look ;
Of either house 'twas hers the strength to see,
Then judge with candour — " Drury Lane for me."

What made this knowledge, what this skill complete ?
A fortnight's visit in Whitechapel Street.

Her place in life was rich and poor between,
With those a favourite, and with these a queen ;
She could her parts assume, and condescend
To friends more humble, while an humble friend ;
And thus a welcome, lively guest could pass,
Threading her pleasant way from class to class.

" Her reputation ^ " — That was like her wit.
And seem'd her manner and her state to fit ;
Something there was — what, none presumed to say ;
Clouds lightly passing on a smiling day, —
Whispers and hints which went from ear to ear,
And mix'd reports no judge on earth could clear.

But of each sex a friendly number press'd
To joyous banquets this alluring guest ;
There, if indulging mirth, and freed from awe.
If, pleasing all, and pleased with all she saw,
Her s|'(eech were free, and such as freely dwelt
On the same feelings all around her felt ;
Or if some fond presuming favourite tried
To come so near as once to be denied ;
Yet not with brow so stern or speech so nice,
But that he ventured on denial twice : —
If these have been, and so luxs Scandal taught,
Yet Malice never found the proof she sought.

But then came one, the Lovelace of his day.
Rich, proud, and crafty, handsome, brave, and gay ;
Yet loved lie not those labour'd plans and arts.
But left the business to the ladies' hearts ;
And when he found them in a proi)er train.
He thought all else superfluous and vain ;
But in that training he was deeply taught.
And rarely iail'd of gaining all ho sought ;
lie knew how far directly on to go.
How to recede and dally to and fro ;
How to make all the passions his allies.
And when ho saw them in contention rise,
To watch the wrought-up heart, and conqiicr by surprise.

Our heroine foar'd him not ; it wa-s her part
To make sure coiKpiest of such gentle heart —
Of one so mild and humble ; for she saw



181 crabbe's poems.

In Henry's eye a love chastised by awe.

Her tlioughts of virtue were not all sublime,

Nor virtuous all her thoughts ; 'twas now her time

To bait each hook, in every way to please.

And the rich prize with dcxt'rous hand to seize.

She had no virgin terrors ; she could stray

In all love's maze, nor fear to lose her way ;

Nay, could go near the precipice, nor dread

A failing caution or a giddy head ;

She'd fix her eyes upon the roaring flood.

And dance upon the brink where danger stood.

'Twas nature all, she judged, in one so young,
To drop the eye and falter in the tongue ;
To be about to take, and then command
His daring wish, and only view the hand :
Yes ! all was nature ; it became a maid
Of gentle soul t' encoiirage love afraid ;—
He, so unlike the confident and bold.
Would fly in mute despair to find her cold :
The young and tender germ requires the sun
To make it spread : it must be smiled upon.
Thus the kind virgin gentle means devised
To gain a heart so fond, a hand so prized ;
More gentle still she grew, tn change her way
Would cause confusion, danger, and delay :
Thus (an increase of gentleness her mode)
She took a plain, unvaried, certain road,
And every hour believed success was near.
Till there was nothing left to hope or fear.
It must be own'd that, in this strife of hearts,
Man has advantage — has superior arts :
The lover's aim is to the nymph unknown,
Nor is she always certain of her own :
Or has her fears, nor these can so disguise.
But he who searches reads them in her eyes.
In the avenging frown, in the regretting sighs :
These are his signals, and he learns to steer
The straighter course whenever they appear.

" Pass we ten j'ears, and what was Cleliu's fate ? "
At an attorney's board alert she sate.
Not legal mistress ; he with other men
Once sought her hand, but other views were then ;
And when he knew he might the bliss command.
Ho other blessing sought without the hand ;
For still he felt alive the lambent flame,
And offcr'd her a home, — and home she came.

There, though her higher friendships lived no more.
She loved to sj>eak of what she shared before —
"Of the dear Lucy, heiress of the hall, —
Of good Sir Peter, — of their annual ball,
And the fair Countess ! — Oh ! she loved them all ! "
The humbler clients of her friend would stare,
Tlie knowing smile, — but neither caused her cnro ,



THE BOROUGH— THE ALMSHOUSE, ETC. 185

She brought her spirits to her humble state,
And soothed with idle dreams her frowning fate.



" Ten summers pass'd, and how was Clelia then ? "
Alas ! she suffer'd in this trying ten ;
The pair had parted : who to him attend,
Must judge the nymph unfaithful to her friend ;
But who on her would equal faith bestow,
Would think him rash, — and surely she must know.

Then as a matron Clelia taught a school.
But Nature gave not talents fit ior rule :
Yet now, though marks of wasting years were seen,
Some touch of sorrow, some attack oi spleen ;
Still there was life, a spirit quick and gay.
And lively speech and elegant ai-ray.

The Griffin's landlord these allured so far.
He made her mistress of his heart and bar ;
He had no idle retrospective whim,
Till she was his, her deeds concern'd not him :
So far was well, — but Clelia thought not fit
(In all the Griffin needed) to submit ;
Gaily to dress and in the bar preside.
Soothed the poor spirit of degraded pride ;
But cooking, waiting, welcoming a crew
Of noisy guests, were arts she never knew :
Hence daily wars, with temporary truce,
Hls vulgar insult, and her keen abuse ;
And as their spirits wasted in the strife.
Both took the Griffin's ready aid of life ;
But she with greater prudence — Harry tried
More powerful aid, and in the trial died ;
Yet drew down vengeance : in no distant time,
Th' insolvent Griffin struck his wings sublime ; —
Forth from her palace walk'd th' ejected queen.
And siiow'd to frowing Fate a look serene ;
Gay, spite of time, though poor, yet well attired,
Kind without love, and vain if not admired.



Another term is past ; ten other years
In various trials, troubles, views, and fears :
Of these some pass'd in small attempts at trade ;
Hou.ses she kei)t for widowers lately made ;
For now she said, "They'll miss th' endearing friend.
And I'll be there the softeu'd heart to bend ; "
And true, a part was done as Clelia plann'd —
The heart was soften'd, but she niLss'd the hand ;
She wrote a novel, and Sir Denys said
The dedication was the best he re.ad :
But Edgcworths, Smiths, and Uadcliftes so engross'd
The public car, that all her pains were lost.
To keep a toy-shop was att(nn])t the last ;
There too she fail'd, and schemes and hopes were past.

Now friendless, sick, and old, and wanting bread.
The first-born tears of fallen pride were shod —



186 CK abbe's poems.

True, bitter tears ; and yet tliat wounded pride,

Among the poor, for poor distinctions sigh'd.

Though now her tales were to her audience fit ;

Though loud her tones, and vulgar grown her wit,

Though now her dress — (but let me not explain

The piteous patchwork of the needy-vain,

The fiirtish form to coarse materials lent.

And one poor robe through fifty fashions sent) ;

Though all within was sad, without was mean, —

Still 'twas her wish, her comfort to be seen :

She would to plays on lowest terms resort.

Where once her box was to the beaux a court ;

And, strange delight ! to that same house where she

Join'd in the dance, all gaiety and glee,

Now with the menials crowding to the wall

She'd see, not share, the pleasures of the ball ;

And with degraded vanity unfold

How she too triumph'd in the years of old.

To her poor friends 'tis now her pride to tell

On what a height she stood before she fell ;

At church she points to one tall seat, and " There

We sat," she cries, "when my papa was mayor."

Not quite correct in what she now relates,

She alters persons and she forges dates ;

And finding memory's weaker help decay' d.

She boldly calls invention to her aid.

Touch'd by the pity he had felt before.
For her Sir Denys oped the Almshouse door :
" With all her faults," he said, " the woman knew
How to distinguish — had a manner too !
And, as they say she is allied to some
In decent station — let the creature come."

Here she and Blaney meet, and take their view
Of all the pleasures they would still pursue :
Hour after hour they sit, and nothing hide
Of vices past ; their follies are their pride ;
What to the sober and the cool are crimes.
They boast — exulting in those happy times :
The darkest deeds no indignation raise,
The pixrest virtue never wins their praise ;
But still they on their ancient joys dilate.
Still with regret departed glories state.
And mourn their grievous fall, and curse their rigorous (ate.



THE BOROUGH — THE ALMSHOUSE, ETC. 187



LETTER XVI.

INHABITANTS OF THE ALMSHOUSE,

Thou art the Knight of the Burning Liinip : if thou wast any way given to virtue, I
would swear by thy face ; my oatli should be by this fire. Oh ] thou'rt a perpetual
triumph, thou hast saved me a thousand m;u"kB iu links and torches, walking in a night
betwixt tavern and tavern.— Shakspeake.

BENBOW,

Benbow an improper Companion for the Badgemen of the Almshouse— He resembles Bar-
dolph— Left iu Tride by his Father— Contracts useless Friendships- His Friends drink
with him, and employ others— Called worthy and honest I Why— Effect of Wine on the
Mind of Man— Benbow's common Subject— '1 he Praise of departed Friends and Patrons —
Squire Asgill, at the Grange : his Manners, Servants, Friends— True to his Church :
ought therefore to be spared— His Sou's ditt'erent Conduct— Vexation of the Father's
spirit if admitted to see the Alteration — Cajjtain Dowling, a boon Companion, ready to
drink at all Times, and with any Company : fainotis in his Club-room— His eiisy De-
parture—Dolly Murray, a Maiden advanced in Years : abides by Ratafia and Cards— Her
free Manners— Her Skill in, the Game— Her Preparation and Death— Benbow, how
interrupted : his Submission.

See ! yonder baflgeman with that glowing face,
A meteor shining in this sober place !
Vast sums were paid, and many years were past.
Ere gems so rich around their radiance cast !
Such was the fiery front that Bardolph wore,
Guiding his master to the tavern door ;
There first that meteor rose, and th-ere alone,
In its due place, the rich effulgence shone :
But this strange fire the seat of peace invades
And shines portentous in these solemn shades,

Uenbow, a boon companion, long approved
By jovial sets, and (as he thought) beloved.
Was judged as one to joy and friendship prone.
And deem'd injurious to himself alone :
Gen'rous and free, he paid but small regard
To trade, and fail'd ; and some declared "'twas hard :"
These were his friends — his foes conceived the case
Of common kind : ho sought and found disgrace :
The reasoning few, who neither scorn'd nor loved.
His feelings jatied and his faults reproved,

Benbow, the father, left possessions fair,
A worthy name and business to his heir ;
Benbow, the son, those fair possessions sold.
And lost his credit, while he spent the gold :
He was a jovial trader ; men enjoy'd
The night with him ; las day was unemploy'd ;
So when his credit and his cash were spent,
Here, by mistaken pity, ho was sent ;
Of late ho came, with passions unsubdued,
And shared and curseil the hated solitude,
Where gloomy thoughts arise, whore grievous cares intrude.

Known but in drink, ho found an easy friend.
Well plea-sed his worth and honoiu' to commend :
And thus inform'd, the guardian of the trust



188 crabbe's poems.

Heard the applause, and said the claim was just,

A worthy soul ! unfitted for the strife,
Care, and contention of a busy life ; —
Worthy, and why ? — that o'er the midnight bowl
He made his friend the partner of his soul,
And any man his friend : then thus in glee,
"I speak my mind, I love the truth," quoth he ;
Till 'twas his fate that useful truth to find,
'Tis sometimes prudent not to speak the mind.

With wine inflated, man is all upblown,
And feels a power which he believes his own ;
With fancy soaring to the skies, he thinks
His all the virtues all the while he drinks ;
But when the gas from the balloon is gone,
When sober thoughts and serious cares come on,
Where then the worth that in himself he found ?
Vanish'd — and he sank grov'lling on the ground.

Still some conceit will Benbow's mind inflate.
Poor as he is, 'tis pleasant to relate
The joys he once possess'd — it soothes his present state.

Seated with some grey beadsman, he regrets
His former feasting, though it svvell'd his debts ;
Topers once famed, his friends in earlier daj's,
Well he describes, and thinks description praise :
Each hero's worth with much delight ho paints ;
Martyrs thoy were, and he would make them saints.
" Alas ! alas ! " Old England now may say,
' ' My glory withers ; it has had its day :
We're fallen on evil times ; men read and think ;
Our bold forefathers loved to fight and drink.

" Then lived the good Squire Asgill — what a change
Has death and fashion shown us at the Grange !
He bravely thought it best became his rank
That all his tenants and his tradesmen drank :
He was delighted from his favoin-ite room
To see them 'cross the park go daily home
Praising aloud the liquor and the host,
And striving who should venerate him most.

"No pride had he, and there was difference small
Between the master's and the servants' hall ;
And here or there the gnosis were welcome all.
Of Heaven's free gills he took no special care,
He never (juarrcU'd for a simple hare ;
But sought, by giving sport, a sjiorlsman's name.
Himself a poacher, though at other game :
He never planted nor inclosed — his trees
Grew, like himself, untroubled and at ease :



Online LibraryGeorge CrabbeThe poetical works of George Crabbe → online text (page 21 of 49)