George Crabbe.

The poetical works of George Crabbe online

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He for our off 'rings round the church proceeds :
Tall spacious seats the wealthier people hid,
And none had view of what his neighbour did :
Laid on the box and mingled when they fell.
Who should the worth of each oblation tell?
Now as poor Jachin took the usual round.
And saw the alms and heard the metal sound,
Ho had a thought — at first it was no more
Than — " These have cash, and give it to the poor."
A second thought from this to work began —
"And can they give it to a poorer man 1"
Proceeding thus, "My merit could they know,
And knew my need, how freely they'd bestow ;
But though they know not, these remain the same,
And are a strong, although a secret claim :
To me, alas ! the want and worth are known ;
Why, then, in fact, 'tis but to take my own."

Thought after thought pour'd in, a tempting train ;-
" Suppose it done, — who is it co\ild complain ?
How could the poor ? for they such trifles share,
As add no comlbrt, a,s suppress no care ;
But many a pittance makes a worthy heap, —
What says the law ? that silence puts to sleep :
Nought then forbids, the danger coidd we shun,
And sure the business may bo safely done.

" But am I earnest ? — eainest ? No — I say,
If such my mind, that I could jilan a way ;
Let me refiect ; I've not allow'd me time
To purse the pieces, and it dropp'd they'd chime."
Fertile is evil in the soul of man ;—
He paused : said Jachin, " They may drop on biun.



THE BOROUGH— THE PARISH CLERK. 209

Why then 'tis safe and (all consider'd) just

The poor receive it,— 'tis no breach of trust •

The old and widows may their trifles miss

There must be evil in a good like this - '

But I'll he kind— the sick I'll visit tvnc&,

U hen now but once, and freely give adAace

y et let me think again." Again he tried

Tor stronger reasons on his passion's side

And quickly these were found, yet slowl/he complied

the mornmg came : the common service done
bhut every door,— the solemn rite begun, '

And, as the priest the sacred sayino-s read
The clerk went forward, trembling as he tread :

er the tall pew he held the bos, and heard

the ofler d piece, rejoicing as he fear'd :
Just by the pillar, as he cautious tripp'd
And turn'd the aisle, he then a portion s'lipn'd
From the full store, and to the pocket sent,
Jjut held a moment— and then down it went

I he pnest read on, on walk'd the man afraid,

1 111 a gold oflfenng m the plate was laid •
ircmbhng he took it, for a moment stopp'd

I hen down it fell, and sounded as it dropp'd •

Amazed he started, for th' aflrighted man '

Lost and bewilder'd, thought not of the bran

^ut all were silent, all on things intent.

Of high concern, none ear to money lent

bo on he walk'd, more cautious than before

And pm d the purposed sum and one piece more

I mctice makes perfect : " wlien the month came round
He droi.p d the cash, nor listcn'd for a sound • '

But yet, when last of all th' assembled flock
He ate and drank, -it gave th' oloctric shock •
Utt was he forced his reasons to repeat
Ere he could kneel in quiet at his seat •
i!ut custom soothed him— ere a sinole year
All this was done without rosti-aint"or fear •
Cool and collected, easy and composed
He was correct till all the service closed •
Ihcn to his homo, without a groan or sigh.
Gravely ho went, and lai.l his treasure by.
7''^"'^^" '^"■"r'lmn : some widows had express'd
A doubt if they were favour'd like the rest ■
I he rest described with like rogrot their dole.
An I thus from parts they roason'd to the whole :
When all agreed some evil must bo done
Or rich men s hearts grew harder than a stone

Our easy vicar cut tlie matter short ;
He would not listen to such vile roiiort

A tilT? T\*^"f • ^^''''^ ffovern'd in that year
A stern stout churl, an angry overseer ;

HimTo wn ".f P^T""' ^''r' '*^^^''' "^"'i most severe
Him the mild vicar, him the graver clerk.

Advised, reproved, but notliing would he mark



210 CRABBE'S FOEMS,

Save the disgrace ; " and that, my friends," said lie,
" Will I avenge, whenever time may be."
And now, alas! 'twas time : — from man to man
Doubt and alarm and shrewd suspicions ran.

With angry spii'it and with sly intent,
This parish ruler to the altar went :
A private mark he fix'd on shillings three.
And but one mark could in the money see :
Besides, in peering round, he chanced to note
A sprinkhng slight on Jachin's Sunday coat :
All doubt was over : — when the flock were bless'd,
In wrath he rose, and thus his mind express'd ; —

" Foul deeds are here I " and saying this, he took
The clerk, whose conscience, in her cold-fit, shook :
His pocket then was emptied on the j^lace ;
All saw his guilt ; all witness'd his disgrace :
He fell, he fainted ; not a groan, a look.
Escaped the culprit ; 'twas a final stroke —
A death-wound never to be heal'd — a fall
That all had witness'd, and amazed were all.

As he recover'd, to his mind it came,
"I owe to Satan this disgrace and shame ; "
All the seduction now appear'd in view ;
" Let me withdraw," he said, and he withdrew :
No one withheld him, all in union cried,
E'en the avenger, — " We are satisfied :"
For what has death in any form to give.
Equal to that man's terrors, if ho live ?

He lived in fi-eedom, but he hourly saw
How much more fatal justice is than law ;
He saw another in his office reign.
And his mild master treat him with disdain :
He saw that all men shunn'd him, some reviled.
The harsh pass'd frowning, and the simple smiled ;
The town maintain'd him, but with some reproof,
" And clerks and scholars proudly kept aloof."

In each lone i)lace, dejected and dismay'd.
Shrinking fiom view, his wasting form he laid ;
Or to the restless sea and roaring wind
Gave the strong yearnings of a ruin'd mind :
On the broad beach, the silent summer-day,
Stretch'd on some wreck, he wore his life away ;
Or where the river mingles with the sea,
Or on the mud-bauk by the elder-tree,
Or by the bounding marsh-diko, there was he ;
And when unable to forsake the town,
In the blind courts he sat desp<inding down —
Always alone : then feebly would lie crawl
The church-way walk, and lean upon the wall :
Too ill for this, ho lay beside the door,
Compcll'd to hear the reasoning of the poor :
He look'd so pale, so weak, the pitjnng crowd
Their firm belief of his repentance vow'd ;
They saw him then so ghastly and so thm,



THE BOROUGH— ELLEN ORFORD. 211

That tliejy- exclaim'd, " Is this the work of sin ? "

" Yes, ' in his better moments, he replied

" Of sinful avarice and the spirit's pride ; '

While j'et mitempted, I was safe and well ;
Temptation came ; I reason'd, and I fell ; '
To be man's guide and glory I design'd,
A rare example for our sinful kind ;
But now my weakness and my guilt I see,
And am a warning— man, be wani'd by me ! "

He said, and saw no more the human face :
To a lone loft he went, his dying place
And as the vicar of his state inquired, '
Turn'd to the wall and silently expired !



LETTER XX.

THE POOR OF THE BOROUGH.

Patience and sorrow strove
« ho sboiUd express her guodliest.

SHAKSrEAKE.— JJ-JHjr leaf

^ No charms she now can boast,"— 'tis true.

But otlicr cluinuers wither too :

" And she is old,"— the fact I know.

And old will other heroines grow ;

But not like them hsis she been laid,

In ruin'd castle aore disma.y'd ;

Where naughty man and ghostly spright

Fiird lier pure mind with awe and dread.
Stalk'd round the ro.im, put out the lifht
And shook the curtains round her bed.
Ho cruel uncle kept her land,
Ko tjTant father forced her hand j

She had no vlxeu virgin aunt,
Without whose aid she could not cat,
And yet who poisou'd all her meat.

With gibe and sneer and taunt,
yet of the heroine she'd a share,—
Phe siii'cd a lover from despair,
And (franted all his wish in spite
Of what she knew and felt was right :

But, heroine then no more,
She own'd the fault, and wept and pray'd
And humbly took the parlsli aid, '

And dwelt amou(,' the poor,

ELLEN ORFORD,
'■-^tl?i;i,?:i:«S^f:{S,'cr!ilerZ7.&TvVs'*'r^^ or Adventures of Hernlno.

iyn:L';;bie'MSfo";-An^\\\'or;;';;;" . " '■\"i'r^■'-f '7

8ucce.»-Th9 Man's Do»pond«.-yanViU&cr B,..lne»., wUhoui

partlndarly uiifortumite-KaK ?b« n„,, w nn S '''''"■"" ' ''"* disposed of-Oue
becomes Bl\na ; TjieXr ScwilHer Swlo-nf "" ^'^^' " *=''<'°' "^^ *» "appy-

Observe yon tenement, apart and small.
Where the wot pebbles shine upon the wall ;
Where the low bonehos loan beside tho door
And the red paling bounds tho space before •
P 2



212 crabbe's poems.

Where thrift and lavender, and lad's-lore* bloom, —
That humble dwelling is the widow's home ;
There Uve a pair, for various fortunes known,
But tlie bUnd Ellen will relate her own ; —
Yet ere we hear the storj' she can tell.
On prouder sorrows let us briefly dwell.

I've often marvell'd, when, by night, by day,
I've mark'd the manners moving in my way,
And heard the language and beheld the lives
Of lass and lover, goddesses and wives,
That books, which promise much of life to give,
Should show so little how we truly live.

To me, it seems, their females and their men
Are but the creatures of the author's pen ;
Nay, creatures borrow'd and again convey'd
From book to book — the shadows of a shade ;
Life, if they'd search, would show them many a change j
The ruin sudden, and the misery strange !
With more of grievous, base, and dreadful things.
Than novelists relate or poet sings :
But they, who ought to look the world aroimd,
Spy ont a single spot in fairy ground ;
Where all, in turn, ideal forms behold.
And plots are laid and histories are told.

Time have I lent — I would their debt were less —
To flow'ry pages of sublime distress ;
And to the heroine's soul-distracting fears
I early gave my sixpences and tears :
Oft have I travell'd in these tender tales,
To Darnley Cottages and Maple Vales,
And watch'd the fair one from the first-born sigh.
When Henry jiass'd and gazed in passing by ;
Till I beheld them pacing in the park
Close by a coppice where 'twas cold and dark ;
When such affection with such fate appear'd.
Want and a father to be shunn'd and fear'd.
Without employment, prospect, cot, or cash ;
That I have judged th' heroic souls were rash.

Now shifts the scone, — the fair in tower confined.
In all things suffers but in change of mind ;
Now woo'd by greatness to a bed of state,
Now deeply threaten'd with a dungeon's grate ;
Till, suffering much, and being tried enough.
She shines, triinnphant maid ! — temptation-proof.

Then was I led to vengeful monks, who mix
With nymphs and swains, and play unpriestly tricks ;
Then view'd banditti who in forest wide,
And cavern vast, indignant virgins hide ;
Who, hemm'd with bands of sturdiest rogues about.
Find some strange succour, and come virgins out.

I've watch'd a wintrj' niglit on castlo-walls,
I've stalk'd by moonlight through deserted halls,

• The I.id's or boy's love, of some counties, is Uie plant southernwood, the Art-mlala
Aiirofanum of botanists.



THE BOROUGH— ELLEN ORFORD. 213

And when the weary world was sunk to rest
I v-e had such sio-hts as— mav not be express'd

Lo ! that chateau, the western tower decay'd
ihe peasants shun it,—they are all afraid • '

For there was done a deed I— could walls reveal
Or timbers toll it, how the heart would feel i
Most horrid was it :— for, behold, the floor
Has stain of blood, and will be clean no more •
Hark to the winds ! which through the wide saloon
And the long passage send a dismal tune —
Music that ghosts delight in ; and now heed
1 on beauteous nymph, who must unmask the deed •
bee! with majestic sweep she swims alone
Through rooms, all dreary, guided by a groan :
Ihough windows rattle, and though tap'stries shako.
And the leet falter every step they take.
Mid moans and gibing sprights she silent goes,
rr? ■ '^ so^'^thing, which will soon expose
The villanies and wiles ot her determined foes :
And, having thus a.lventured, thus endured,
\?®' '^°°-'^^'^' ^^'=1 lover, are for life secured.
Much have I fear'd, but am no more afraid,
\\ hen some chaste beauty, by some wretch betrav'd
Is drawn away with such distracted speed
That she anticipates a dreadful deed :
Not so do I— Let solid walls impound
The caiJtive fair, and dig a moat around ;
Let there be brazen locks and bars of steel,
And keepers cruel, such as never feel ;
With not a single note the purse supply,
And when she begs, let men and maids deny •
Be windows those from which she dares not I'all
And help so distant, 'tis in vain to call ; '

Still means of frei'dom will some power devise
And fi-om the baffled ruffian snatch his prize. '

To Northern Wales, in some sequester'd spot,
I ve follow 'd fair Louisa to her cot :
Where, then a wretched and deserted bride.
The injured fair one wish'd from man to hide:
Till by her fond repenting Belvillo found.
By some kind chance— the sti-aying of a hound,
He at her feet craved mercy, nor in vain.
For the relenting dove Hew back again.

There's something rapturous in distress, or, oh •
Could Clementina bear her lot of woo ?
Or what she underwent could maiilcn undergo ?
The day was fix'd ; for so the lover sigh'd,
So knelt and craved, he couldn't be denied ;
When, tale most dreadful ! every hope adieu,—
ior the fond lover is the brother too :
All other griefs abate ; this monstrous grief
Has no remission, comfort, or relief ;
Four ample volumes, through each page disclose,—
Uood Heaven protect us ! only woes on woes ;



214 ckabbe's poems.

Till some strange means afford a siulclen view
Of some vile plot, and every woe adieu ! *

Now, should we grant these beauties all endure
Severest pangs, they've still the speediest cure ;
Betore one charm be wither'd from the fiice,
Except the bloom, which shall again have place,
In wedlock ends each wish, in triumph all disgrace ;
And life to come, we fairly may suppose.
One light, bright contrast to these wild dark woes.

These let us leave, and at her sorrows look,
Too often seen, but seldom in a book ;
Let her who felt, relate them ;— on her chair
The heroine sits — in i'ormer years, the fair,
Now ao-ed and poor ; but Ellen Orford knows
That we should humbly take what Heaven bestows.
• " My father died— again my mother wed,
And found the comforts of her life were fled ;
Her angry husband, vex'd through half his years
By loss and troubles, fill'd her soul with fears :
Their children many, and 'twas my poor place
To nurse and wait on all the infant race ;
Labour and hunger were indeed my part,
And should have strengthen'd an erroneous heart.

" Sore was the grief to see him angry come.
And teased with business, make distress at home ;
The father's fury and the children's cries
I soon could bear, but not my mother's sighs ;
For she look'd back on comforts, and would say,
' I wrong'd thee, Ellen,' and then turn away :
Thus, for mv age's good, my youth was tried,
And this my fortune till my mother died.

' ' So, aniicl sorrow much and little cheer—
A common case— I pass'd my twentieth year ;
For these are frequent evils ; thousands share
An equal grief— the like domestic care.

" Then in my days of bloom, of health, and youtli,
One, much above me, vow'd his love and truth :
We often met, he dreading to be seen, _
And much I question'd what such dread might mean ;
Yet I believed him true ; my simple heart
And undirected reason took his part. _

" Can he who loves me, whom I love, deceive f
Can I such wrong of one so kind believe, , ^ . ,
Who lives but in my smile, who trembles when I grieve «

" Ho dared not marry, but we met to prove
What sad encroachments and deceits has love :
Weak that I was, when he, rebuked, wthdrcw,

. AB thi« incident poinla out tho ..ork ""»;'«•<•*-. I -■^;;/\tlr,,r'™t^'.n;gu.t*'if
gloomy tenor. U,e nuen.lo«» moln,u.l,ny.ylu.^^^^^^^
the writer iB o ten an, „at.d, and 1^,11 U^t.c^ ^^^ ^^^^^ ^^.^__^,^^ ^j,^

;^Se7^i;:^^Si!:;a;,;r;!^.^nj ;!Uaj.e.j^

tlium in their diBtresses.



THE BOROUGH — ELLEN ORFORD. 215

I let him see that I was wretched too ;
When less my caution, I had still the pain
01 his or mine own weakness to complain.
" Happy the lovers elass'd alike in life.
Or happier yet the rich endowing wife ;
But most aggneved the tond believing maid.
Of her rich lover tenderlj' atraid :
You judge th' event ; for grievous was my fate^
Painful to feel, and shameful to relate :
Ah ! sad it was my burthen to sustain,
When the least misery was the dread of pain ;
When I have grieving told him my disgrace.
And plainly mark'd indiflei-ence in hisfoce.

" Hard ! with these fears and terrors to behold
The cause of all, the faithless lover, cold ;
Impatient grown at every wish denied.
And barely civil, soothed and gratified ;
Peevish when urged to think of vows so strong,
And angry when I spake of crime and wrong.
All this I felt, and still the soitow grew,
Because I felt that I deserved it too.
And begg'd my infant stranger to forgive
The mother's shame, which in hei-self must live.
When known that shame, I, soon expell'd from homo.
With a frail sister shared a hovel's gloom ;
There barely fed — (what could I more request?)
My infant slumberer sleeping at my breast,
I from my window saw his blooming bride,
And my seducer smiling at her side ;
Hope lived till then ; I sank upon the floor.
And gi-icf and thoiight and feeling were no more :
Although revived, 1 judged that life would close,
Ami went to rest, to wonder that I rose ;
My dreams were dismal, — wheresoe'er I stray'd,
I seem' d ashamed, alarm'd, despised, betray'd;
Always in grief, in f^-uilt, disgraced, forlorn.
Mourning that one so weak, so vile, was born ;
The earth a desert, tumult in the sea.
The birds affrighten'd fled from tree to tree,
Obscured the sotting sun, and everything like me.
But Heaven had mercy, and my need at length
Urged mo to labour, and renew'd my strength.
I strove for jjatience as a sinner must,
Yet felt th' opinion of the world unjust :
There was my lover, in his joy cstoem'd,
And J, in my distress, as guilty doem'd ;
Yet sure, not all the guilt and shame belong
To her who feels and suffers for the wrong :
The cheat at play may use the wealth he's won,
But is not honour'd for the mischief <lone ;
The cheat in love may use each villain art,
And boast the deed that breaks the victim's heart.

" Four years wore past ; I might again have found
Some erring wish, but for another wound :



216 CE abbe's poems.

Lovely my daughter grew, her face was fair
But no expression ever brighten'd there ;
I doubted long, and vainly strove to make
Some certain meaning of the words she spake ;
But meaning there was none, and I survey'd
With dread the beauties of my idiot maid.
Still I submitted ; — oh ! 'tis meet and fit
In all we feel to make the heart submit ;
Gloomy and calm my days, but I had then,
It seem'd, attractions for the eyes of men ;
The sober master of a decent trade
O'erlook'd my errors, and his offer made ;
Reason assented : — true, my heart denied,
' But thou,' I said, ' shalt be no more my guide.'

" When wed, our toil and trouble, pains and care,
Of means to live procured us humble share ;
Five were our sons, — and we, though careful, found
Our hopes declining as the year came round :
For I perceived, j'et would not soon jjerceive,
My husband stealing from my view to gi'ieve :
Silent he grew, and when he spoke, he sigh'd,
And surly look'd, and peevishly replied :
Pensive by nature, he had gone of late
To those who preach' d of destiny and fate.
Of things foredoom 'd, and of election-grace,
And how in vain we strive to run om- race ;
That all by works and moi-al worth we gain
Is to perceive our care and labour vain ;
That still the more we pay, our debts the more remain :
That he who feels not the mysterious call,
Lies bound in sin, still grov'ling from the fall.
My husband felt not : — our persuasion, prayer.
And our best reason, darken'd his despair ;
His vei-y nature changed ; he now re\'iled
My former conduct, — he reproach'd my child :
He talk'd of bastard slips, and cursed his bed,
And from our kindness to concealment Ilcd ;
For ever to some evil change inclined,
To every gloomy thought he lent his mind.
Nor rest would give to us, nor rest himsuU' could find;
His son suspended saw him, long bereft
Of life, nor prospect of revival left.

" With him died all our prospects, and once more
I shared th' allotments of the pai-ish poor ;
They took my cluldrcn too, and this I know
Was just and lawful, but I felt the blow :
My idiot maid and one unhealthy boy
Were loft, a mother's misery and her joj'.

" Three sons I follow'd to the grave, and one —
Oh ! can I speak of that unhappy son ?
Would all the memory of that time were fled.
And all those horrors, with my cliild, were dead !
Before the world seduced him, what a grace
And smile of gladness shone upon his face !



THE BOROUGH — ELLEN OHFOIfD. 217

Then, he had knowledge ; finely would he write ;

Study to him was pleasure and delight ;

Great was his courage, and but few could stand

Against the sleight and vigour of his hand ;

The maidens loved him ; — when he came to die.

No, not the coldest could suppress a sigh : —

Here I must cease — how can I say, my child

Was by the bad of either sex beguiled ?

Worst of the bad — they taught him that the laws

Made wrong and i-ight ; there was no other cause ;

That all religion was the trade of priests,

And men, when dead, must perish hke the beasts : —

And he, bo lively and so gay before —

Ah ! spare a mother — I can tell no more.

"Int'rest was made that they should not destroy
The comely form of my deluded boy —
But pardon came not ; tlamiD the place and deep
Where he was kept, as they'd a tiger keep ;
For he, imhappy ! had before them all
Vow'd he'd escape, whatever might befall.
He'd means of dress, and dress'd beyond his means,
And so to see him in such dismal scenes,
I cannot speak it — cannot bear to tell
Of that sad hour — I heard the passing bell !

" Slowly they went ; he smiled, and look'd so smart,
Yet sure he shudder'd when he saw the cart.
And gave a look — until my dying day,
That look will never from my mind away :
Oft as I sit, and ever in my di-eams,
I see that look, and they have heard my screams.

"Now let me speak no more — yet all declared
That one so young, in pitj^, shouW be spared.
And one so manly ; — on his graceful neck,
That chains of jewels may be proud to deck.
To a small mole a mother's lijis have press'd —
And there the cord — my breath is sore oj^press'd,

" I now can speak again : — my elder boy
Was that j-ear drown'd, — a seaman in a hoy ;
He left a numerous race ; of these would some
In their young troubles to my cottage come, ■

And these I taught — an humble teacher I —
Upon their heavenly Parent to rely.

" Alas ! T needed such reliance more :
My idiot girl, so simply gay before,
Now wept in pain : some wretch had found a time,
Depraved and wicked, for that coward crime ;
I had indeed my doubt, but I supi3ress'<l
The thought that day and night distui-b'd my rest ;
She and that sick jtalo brother — but why strive
To keep the terrors of that time alive ?

" The hour arrived, the new, th' undreailed pain,
That came with violence, and yet came in vain.
I saw her die : her brother too is dead ;
Nor own'd such crime — what is it that I dread ?



218 ceabbe's poems.

" The parish aid withdrawn, I look'd around,
And in my school a bless'd subsistence found —
My winter-calm of life : to be of use
Would pleasant thoughts and heavenly hopes produce :
I loved them all ; it soothed me to presage
The various trials of theh- riper age.
Then dwell on mine, and bless the Power who gave
Pains to correct us, and remorse to save.

" Yes ! these were days of peace, but they are past,-
A trial came, I will believe, a last ;
I lost my sight, and my employment gone,
Useless I live, but to the day live on ;
Those eyes which long the light of heaven erijoy'd,
Were not by pain, by agony destroy'd ;
My senses fail not all ; I speak, I pray ;
By night mj' rest, ni}' food I take by day ;
And, as may mind looks cheerful to my end,
I love mankind, and call my God my friend."



LETTER XXI.

THE POOR OF THE BOROUGH.

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that, in the latter times, scrme shall depart from the

faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.— Z'pwHe to Timothy.



Online LibraryGeorge CrabbeThe poetical works of George Crabbe → online text (page 24 of 49)