George Crabbe.

The poetical works of George Crabbe online

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He'll one by one the gallant souls display.
And as the story verges to an end.
He'll wind from deed to deed, from friend to friend ;
He'll speak of those long lost, the brave of old,
As princes gen'rous, and as heroes bold ;
Then will his feelings rise, till you may trace
Gloom, like a cloud, frown o'er his manly face, —
And then a tear or two, which sting his pride ;
These he will dash indignantly aside.
And splice his tale ; — now take him from his cot,
And for some cleaner berth exchange his lot,
How will ho all that cruel aid dcjilore ?
His heart will break, and he will fight no more.



THE BOROUGH — THE POOR, ETC. 199

Here is the poor old merchant : he declined,
And, as they say, is not in perfect mind ;
In his poor house, with one poor maiden friend,
Quietly he paces to his journey's end.
Rich in his youth, he traded and he fail'd ;
Again he tried, again his fate prevail'd ;
His spirits low, and his exertions small,
He fell perforce, — he seem'd decreed to fall :
Like the gay knight, unapt to rise was he,
But downward sank with sad alacrity.
A borough place we gain'd him— in disgrace.
For gross neglect, he quickly lost the place ;
But still he kept a kind of sullen pride.
Striving his wants to hinder or to hide ;
At length, oompell'd by very need, in grief
He wrote a proud petition for relief.

" He did suppose a fall, like his, would prove
Of force to wake their sympathy and love ;
Would make them feel the changes all may know.
And stir them up a due regard to show."

His suit was granted ; — to an ancient maid.
Relieved hersell^ relief for him was paid :
Here they together (meet companions) dwell,
And dismal tales of man's misfortunes tell :
" Twas not a world for them,— God help them, they
Could not deceive, nor flatter, nor betray ;
But there's a happy change, a scene to come.
And they, God help them ! shall be soon at home."

If these no plejusures nor enjoyments gain.
Still none their spirits nor their speech restrain ;
They sigh at ease, 'mid comforts they complain.
The poor will grieve, the poor will weep and sigh.
Both when they know, ami when they know not why ;
But we our bounty with such care bestow.
That cause for grieving they shall seldom know.

Your plan I love not ; with a number you
Have placed your poor, your pitiable few :
There, in one house, throughout their Hves to be.
The pauper-palace which they hate to see :
That giant building, that high bounding wall,
Those bare-worn walks, that lofty thund'ring hall,
That large loud clock, which tolls each dreaded hour.
Those gates and locks, and all those signs of power;
It is a prison, with a milder name.
Which few inhabit without dread or shame.

Bo it agreed— the poor who hither come
Partake of plenty, seldom found at home ;
That airy rooms and decent beds are meant
To give the poor by day, by night, content ;
That none are frighton'd, once admitted here.
By the stern looks of lordly overseer :

Grant that the guardians of the place attend, ,

And ready ear to each petition lend ; [

That they desire the grieving poor to show



200 crabbe's roEMS.

What ills they feci, what partial acts the3' know,

Not without promise, nay desire to heal

Each wrong they suffer, and each woe they feel.

Alas ! their sorrows in their bosoms dwell ;
They've much to suffer, but have nought to tell ;
They have no evil in the place to state,
And dare not say it is the house they hate :
They own there's granted all such place can give,
But live repining, for 'tis there they live.

Grandsires are there, who now no more must sec,
No more must nurse upon the trembling knee,
The lost loved daughter's infant progeny :
Like death's dread mansion, this allows not place
For joyful meetings of a kindred race.

Is not the matron there, to whom the son
Was wont at each declining day to run ?
He (when his toil was over) gave delight.
By lifting up the latch, and one " Good night."
Yes, she is here ; but nightly to her door
The son, still lab'ring, can return no more.
Widows are here, who in their huts were left.
Of husbands, children, plenty, ease bereft ;
Yet all that grief within the humble shed
Was soften'd, soften'd in the humble bed ;
But here, in all its force, remains the grief,
And not one softening object for relief.

Who can, when here, the social neighbour meet ?
Who learn the story current in the street ?
Who to the long-known intimate impart
Facts they have Icarn'd or feelings of the heart ?
They talk indeed, but who can choose a friend.
Or seek companions at their journey's end ?

Here are not those whom they when infants knew ;
Who, with like fortune, up to manhood grew :
Who, with like troubles, at old age arrived ;
Who, like themselves, the joy of life survived ;
Whom time and custom so familiar made.
That looks the meaning in the mind convey'd :
But here to strangers, words nor look's impart
The various movements of the stiffering heart ;
Nor will that heart with those alliance own.
To whom its views and hopes arc all unknown.

What, if no grievous fears their lives annoy,
Is it not worse no prospects to enjoy ?
'TLs cheerless living in such bounded view.
With nothing dreadful, but with nothing new ;
Nothing to bring them joy, to make them wee2>, —
The day itself is, like the night, asleep ;
Or on the sameness if a break be made,
'Tis by some paTi])cr to his grave convey'd ;
By smuggled news from neighb'ring village told,
News never true, or truth a twelvemonth old ;
By some new inmate doom'<l with them to dwell,
Or justice come to see that all goes well ;



THE BOROUGH— THE POOR, ETC. 201

Or change of room, or hour of leave to crawl
On the black footway winJing with the wall,
Till the stern bell forbids, or master's sterner call.

Here too the niotlier sees her children train'd.
Her voice excluded and her feelings pain'd :
Who govern here, by general rules must move,
Where ruthless custom rends the bond of love.
Nations we know have nature's law tran.sgress'd,
And snatch'd the infant from the parent's breast ;
But still for public good the boy was train'd.
The mother suflcr'd, but the matron gain'd :
Here nature's outrage serves no cause to aid ;
The ill is felt, but not the Spartan made.

Then too I own, it grieves mo to behold
Those ever virtuous, helpless now and old,
By all for care and industry approved,
For truth respected, and for temper loved ;
And who, by sickness and misfortune tried,
Gave want its worth and poverty its pride :
I own it grieves me to behold them scjit
From their old home ; 'tis pain, 'tis punishment.
To leave each scene familiar, every face.
For a new jteoijle and a stranger race ;
For those who, sunk in sloth and dead to shame.
From scenes of guilt with daring spirits came ;
Men, just and guileless, at such manners start,
And bless their God that time has fenced their heart,
Confirm'd their virtue, and expell'd the fear
Of vice in minds so simple and sincere.

Here the good paujjcr, losing all the praise
By worthy deeds acquired in better days.
Breathes a few months, then, to his chamber led.
Expires, while strangers prattle round his bed.

The grateliil hunter, when his horse is old.
Wills not the useless favourite to be sold ;
Ho knows his former worth, and gives him place
In some fair pasture, till he runs his race :
But has the labourer, has the seaman done
Less worthy service, though not dealt to one ?
Shall we not then contribute to their ease.
In their old haunts, where ancient objects please ?
That, till their sight shall fiiil them, they may trace
The well-known prospect and the long-loved lace.

The noble oak, in distant ages seen,
With far-strctch'd boughs and foliage fresh and green,
Though now its bare and forky branches show
How much it lacks the vital warmth below,
The stately ruin yet our wonder gains.
Nay, moves our pity, without thought of pains :
Much more shall real wants and cares ot ago
Our gentler passions in their cause engage : —
Drooping and l)urtlien'd with a weight ol years,
What venerable ruin man appears I
How worthy i)ity, love, respect, and grid —



202 cbabbe's poems.

Ho claims protection- — he compels relief; —
And shall we send him from our view, to bravo
The storms abroad, whom we at home might save,
And let a stranger dig our ancient brother's grave ?
No ! we will shield him from the storm he fears,
And when he falls, embalm him with our tears.



Farewell to these : but all our poor to know,
Let's seek the winding Lane, the narrow Row,
Suburban prospects, where the ti-aveller stops
To see the sloping tenement on props.

With building-yards immix'd, and humble sheds and shops ;
Where the Cross-keys and Plumbers' Arms invite
Laborious men to taste their coarse delight ;
Where the low porches, stretching from the door.
Gave some distinction in the days of yore.
Yet now neglected, more oflfend the eye.
By gloom and ruin, than the cottage by :
Places like these the noblest town endures.
The gayest palace has its sinks and sewers.

Here is no pavement, no inviting shop,
To give us shelter when compell'd to stop ;
But plashy puddles stand along the way,
Fill'd by the rain of one tempestuous day ;
And these so closely to the buildings run,
That you must ford them, for you cannot shun ;
Though here and there convenient bricks are laid,
And door-side heaps afford their dubious aid.

Lo ! yonder shed ; observe its garden-ground.
With the low paling, form'd of wreck, around :
There dwells a fisher ; if you view his boat.
With bed and barrel — 'tis his house afloat ;
Look at his house, where roj^cs, nets, blocks, abound.
Tar, pitch, and oakum — 'tis his boat aground :
That space inclosed, but little lie regards.
Spread o'er with relics of masts, sails, and yards :
Fish by the wall, on spit of elder, rest.
Of all his food, the cheapest and the best.
By his own labour caught, for liis own hunger dress'd.

Here our reformers come not ; none object
To paths polluted, or upbraid neglect ;
None care that ashy hea])s at doors are cast.
That coal-dust flies along the blinding blast :
None heed the stagnant pools on either side,
Where new-launch'd ships of infant sailois ride:
Rodneys in rags lierc British valour boast.
And lisping Nelsons fright the tiallic coast.
They fix the rudder, set the swelling sail.
They point the bowsprit, and they blow the galo :
True to her port, the frigate scuds away.
And o'er that frowning ocean finds her bay :
Her owner rigg'd her, and he knows her worth.
And sees her, fearless, gunwale-deep go foi-th ;
Droadless he views his sea, by breezes ciu-l'd,



>




" Where now-lauiielieil sliipn oj mlant s.-iilors riile."— 1'. 202



THE BOROUGH — THE POOR, ETC. 203

When inch-high billows vex the watery world.

There, fed by food they love, to rankest size,
I Around the dwellings docks and wormwood rise ;
t Here the strong mallow strikes her slimy root.

Here the dull nightshade hangs her deadly fruit :
' On hills of dust the henbane's faded green,
; And pcncill'd flower of sickly scent is seen ;
. At the wall's base the fiery nettle springs,
' With fruit globose and fierce with poison'd stings ;
Above (the growth of many a year) is spread
The yellow level of the stone-crop's bed :
In every chink delights the fern to grow.
With gloss}^ leaf and tawny bloom below ;*
These, with our sea-weeds, rolling up and down.
Form the contracted Flora+ of the town.

Say, wilt thou more of scenes so sordid know?
Then will I lead thee down the dusty Row ;
By the warm alley and the long close lane, —
There mark the fractured door and paper'd pane.
Where flags the noon-tide air, and, as we pass.
We fear to breathe the puti-efying mass :
But fearless yonder matron ; she disdains
To sigh for zephyrs from ambrosial plains ;
But mends her meshes torn, and pours her lay
All in the stifling fervour of the day.

Her naked children round the alley run,
And roll'd in dust, are bronzed beneath the sun.
Or gambol round the dame, who, loosel3' dress'd,
Woos the coy breeze to fan the open breast :
She, once a handmaid, strove by decent art
To chami her sailor's eye and touch his heart ;
Her bosom then was veil'd in kerchief clean.
And fancy left to form the charms unseen.

But when a wife, she lost her former cai-e,
Nor thought on charms, nor time for dress could spare ;
Careless she found her friends who dwelt beside.
No rival beauty kept alive her pride :
Still in her bo.som Virtue keeps her place.
But decency is gone, the virtues' guard and gra/ie.

See that long boarded l)uilding ! — By these stairs
Each humble tenant to that home repairs —
By one large window lighted — it was made
For some bold project, some design in trade :
This fail'd, — and one, a humourist in his way
(111 was the humour), bought it in decay;
Nor will ho .sell, repair, or take it down ;
'Tis his, — what cares he lor the talk of town ?
" No ! ho will let it to the poor ; — a home

■ Thi« fwenery is, I must acknowlodtfe, in a certain defjree lilte tli.it heretofora dMcrifacd
In " Thp Villiigo ;" l,ut tliat u].-<i was ji iiiiLritinie country : — If tlic i»bjects be ilmUar* the
picturcH luuRt (in their i>rinci]<ni fruiinis) liu alil(e, or tx; liatl picturea. 1 have varied
them BM inucli as I coutd, confiisUiitly witli my wiali to b(! a«:eunit«.

t The reader unacquainted with tlie laiiguiit^e of lM>tany it* Inlonnud, that tlie Flora of a
place means the vegetable si>eciea it contains, and U the title of a book which den-'ribes
them.



204 crabbe's roEMS.

Where he delights to see the creatures come."

" They may be thieves ;" — "Well so are richer men ;"

"■ Or idlers, cheats, or ]irostitutcs ; "— " What then ?"

"Outcasts pursued by justice, vile and base ;" —

" They need the more his pity and the place :"

Convert to system his vain mind has built,

He gives asylum to deceit and guilt.

In this vast room, each place by habit fix'd,
Are sexes, families, and ages mix'd —
To union forced by crime, by fear, by need,
And all in morals and in modes agreed :
Some ruin'd men who from mankind remove ;
Some ruin'd iemales who yet talk of love ;
And some gi-own old in idleness — the prey
To vicious spleen, still railing through the day;
And need and misery, vice and danger bind,
In sad alliance each degraded mind.

That window view !— oil'd paper and old glass
Stain the strong rays, which, thf)ugh impeded, pass,
And give a dusty warmth to that huge I'oom,
The conquer'd sunshine's melancholy gloom ;
When all those western rays, without so bright,
Within become a ghastly glimmering light.
As pale and faint upon the door they lall^
Or feebly gleam on the opposing wall ;
That floor, once oak, now pieced with fir un].laned.
Or, where not ])ieced, in places bored and staiu'd ;
That wall once whiten'd, now an odious sight,
Stain'd with all hues, except its ancient white ;
The only door is fasten'd by a pin,
Or stubborn bar, that none may hurrj' in :
For this poor room, like rooms of greater pride,
At times contains what prudent men would hide.

Where'er the floor allows an even space.
Chalking and marks of variovis games have place ;
Boys, without foresight, pleased in halters swing;
On a fix'd hook men cast a flying ring ;
While gin and snuff their female neighbours share,
And the black beverage in the fractured ware.

On swinging shelf are things incongruous stored, —
Scraps of their food, — the cards and cribbage-board, —
With pipes and pouches ; while on peg below.
Hang a lost member's fiddle and its bow ;
That still reminds them how he'd dance and play,
Ere sent untimely to the Convicts' Bay.

Hero by a curtain, by a blanket there,
Are various beds conceal'd, but none with care ;
Where some by day and some by night, as best
Suit their employments, seek uncertain rest ;
The drowsy children at their pleasure creep
To the known crib, and there securely sleep.

Each end contains a grate, and these beside
Are hung utensils for their boil'd and fried —
All used at any hoin*, by night, by day.



THE BOROUGH — THE PARISH CLERK. 205

As suit the purse, the person, or the prey.

Above the fire, the mantel-shelf contains
Ol'chinaware some poor unmatch'd remains ;
There many a teacup's gaudy fragment stands.
All placod by Vanity's unwearied hands ;
For here she lives, e'en here she looks about.
To find some small consoling objects out :
Nor heed these Spartan dames their house, nor sit
'Mid cares domestic, — they nor sew nor knit ;
But of theii' fate discourse, their ways, their wars
With arm'd authorities, their 'scapes and scars :
These lead to present evils, and a cup.
If fortune grant it, winds descri[ition up.

High hung at cither end, and next the wall,
Two ancient mirrors show the forms of all.
In all their force ; — these aid them in their dress.
But with the good, the evils too express.
Doubling each look of care, each token of distress.



LETTER XIX.

THE rOOK OF THE BOROUGH.



THE PARISH CLERK.

The Parish Clerk bpgaii his Bulies with the late Vicar, a grave and austere Man ; one fully
ortliodux ; a Dctect^jr and Opposer of the Wiles of Satan — His Opinion of his own
Fortituiie— The more frail offended by these Professions— His good Advice jjives f\ii'ther
Provoeation—'l hey invent stratagems to overcome his Virtue — His Triumph— He is yet
not invulnerable ; is assaulted by fear of Want, and Avarice — He gradually yields to
llie Seduction — He reasons with himaclf, and is persua^led— He offends, but with Terror ;
repeats his Olfence ; grows familiar v^ith Crime : is detected — His Sullerings and Ifetth.

With our late Vicar, and his age the same.

His clerk, hight Jackin, to his office came ;

The like slow speech was his, the like tall slender frame :

But Jachin was the gravest man on ground,

And heard his master's jokes with look j)rofound ;

For worldly wealth this man of letters sigh'd,

And had a sprinkling of the spirit's i)ride :

But he was sober, cha.ste, devout, and just.

One whom his neighbours could believe and trust :

Of none susi>ccted ; neither man nor maid

By him were wrong' d, or were of him afraid.

There was indeed a frown, a trick of state,
In Jachin ; — formal was his air and gait :
But if he scem'd more solemn and less kind.
Than some light men to light affairs confined,
Still 'twa-s allow'd that he should so behave
As in liigh seat, and bo severely grave.

This book-taught man, to man's first foe profcss'd
iJufiaiice stern, and liate that knew not rest ;
lie held that Satan, since the world began,



206 crabbe's poems.

In every act, had strife with every man ;

That never evil deed on earth was done,

But of the acting parties he was one ;

The flattering guide to make ill prospects clear ;

To smooth rough ways the constant pioneer ;

The ever-tempting, soothing, softening power,

Keady to cheat, seduce, deceive, devour.

" Me has the sly Seducer oft withstood,"
Said pious Jachin, "but he gets no good ;
I pass the house where swings the tempting sign,
And pointing, tell him, ' Satan, that is thine :'
I pass the damsels pacing down the street,
And look more grave and solemn when we meet ;
Nor doth it irk me to rebuke their smiles,
Their wanton ambling, and their watchful wiles :
Nay, like the good John Bunyan, when I view
Those forms, I'm angry at the ills they do ;
That I could pinch and spoil, in sin's despite,
Beauties, which frail and evil thoughts excite.*

" At feasts and banquets seldom am I found,
And save at church abhor a tuneful sound ;
To plays and shows I run not to and fro,
And where my master goes, forbear to go."

No wonder Satan took the thing amiss,
To be opposed by such a man as this —
A man so grave, important, cautious, vrise,
Who dared not trust his feeling or his eyes ;
No wonder he should lurk and lie in wait.
Should fit his hooks and ponder on his bait !
Should on his movements keep a watchful eye ;
For he pursued a fish who led the fry.

With his own peace our clerk was not content ;
He tried, good man ! to make his friends repent.

" Nay, nay, my friends, from inns and taverns fly ;
You may suppress your thirst, but not supply :
A foolish proverb says ' the devil 's at homo ;'
But he is there, and tempts in every room :
Men feel, they know not why, such places please ;
His are the spells — they're idleness and ease ;
Magic of fatal kind he throws aroimd,
Where care is banish' d, but the heart is bound.

" Think not of beauty ; when a maid you meet.
Turn from her view and step across the street ;
Dread all the sex : their looks create a charm,
A smile should fright j'ou and a word alarm :
E'en I myself, vrith all my watchful care,
Have for an instant felt the insidious snare,
And caught my sinful eyes at the endang'ring stare ;
Till I was forced to smite my boimding breast
With forceful blow, and bid the bold one rest.

" Go not with crowds when they to pleasure run,

• John Bunyan. in one of tho many productions of hia zeal, bus ventured to make
public this extraordinary aentuuent, which the frigid piety of our clerk bo readily
adopted.



THE BOROUGH — THE PARISH CLERK. 207

But public joy in private safety shun.
When bells, diverted from their true intent,
Ring loud for some deluded mortal sent
To hear or make long speech in parliament ;
What time the many, that unruly beast.
Roars its rough joy and shares the final feast ;
Then heed my counsel, shut thine ears and eyes ;
A few will hear me- -for the few are wise."

Not Satan's friends, nor Satan's self could bear,
The cautious man who took of souls such care ;
An interloper, — one who, out of place,
Had volunteer'd upon the side of grace :
There was his master ready once a week
To give advice ; what further need he seek ?
"Amen, so be it ;" what had he to do
With more than this ? — 'twas insolent and new ;
And some determined on a way to see
How frail he was, that so it miglit not be.

First they essay'd to tempt our saint to sin,
By points of doctrine argued at an inn ;
Where he might warmly reason, deeply drink,
Then lose all power to argue and to think.

In vain they tried ; he took the question up,
Clear'd every doubt, and barely touch'd the cup :
By many a text he proved his doctrine sound,
And look'd in triumph on the tempters round.

Next 'twas their care an artful lass to find.
Who might consult him as perplex'd in mind ;
She they conceived might put her case vnth fears,
With tender tremblings and seducing tears ;
She might such charms of various kind display.
That he would feel their force and melt away :
For why of nymphs such caution and such dread,
Unless he felt, and fear'd to be misled !

She came, she s[)ake : he calmly heard her case.
And plainly told her 'twas a want of grace ;
Bade her " such fancies and affections check,
And wear a thicker muslin on her neck."
Abased, his human foes the combat fled.
And the stern clerk yet higher held his head.
They were indeed a weak, impatient set,
But their shrewd prompter had his engines yet ;
Had various means to make a mortal trip.
Who shunn'd a flowing bowl and rosy lip ;
And knew a thousand ways his heart to move,
Who flies from banquets and who laughs at lovo.

Thus far the playful Muse has lent her aid,
But now departs, of graver theme afraid ;
Her may we seek in more appropriate time, —
There is no jesting with distress an<l crime.

Our worthy clerk had now arrived at fame,
Such as but few in his degree might claim ;
But he was poor, and wanted not the sense
That lowly rates the praise without the pence ;



208 ceabbe's poems.

He saw the common herd witli reverence treat
The weakest burgess whom they chanced to meet ;
While few respected his exalted views,
And all beheld his doublet and his shoes :
None, when they meet, would to his parts allow
(Save his poor boys) a hearing- or a bow :
To this false judgment of the vulgar mind,
He was not full.v, as a saint, resign'd ;
He found it much his jealous soul affect.
To fear derision and to find neglect.

The year was bad, the christening fees were small,
The weddings few, the parties paupers all :
Desire of gain with fear of want combined.
Raised sad commotion in his wounded mind ;
Wealth was in all his thoughts, his views, his dreams,
And prompted base desires and baseless schemes.

Alas ! how often erring mortals keep
The strongest watch against the foes who sleep ;
While the more wakeful, bold, and artful foe
Is sufifer'd guardless and unmark'd to go.

Once in a month the sacramental bread
Our clerk with wine upon the table spread :
The custom this, that as the vicar reads.



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