George Crabbe.

The poetical works of George Crabbe online

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Abel, a poor man. Teacher of a School of the lower Order ; is placed in the Office of a
Merchant ; is alarmed by Dieoourses of tlie Clerks ; unable to rejily ; becomes a Convert ;
dre.'-ses, drinks, and ridicules his former conduct— Tlie Remonstrance of his Sister, a
devout Maiden — Its Eftect— The Jlerchant tlies — Abel returns to Poverty uupitied ; hut
relieved — His abject Condition— His Melancholy — He wandei? about ; is found — His
own Account of himself and the Revolutions in his Mind.

A QUIET, simple man was Alel Keene,

He meant no harm, nor did he often mean ;

He kept a school of loud rebellious hoys,

And growing old, grew nervous with the noiso ;

When a kind mercliant hired his useful pen,

And made him happiest of accompting men ;

With glee he rose to everj' easy daj'.

When half the labour brought him twice the pay.

There were young clerks, and there the merchant's son,
Choice spirits all, who wisli'd him to be one ;
It must, no question, give them lively joy,
Hopes long indulged to combat and destroy ;
At these thoy Icvell'd all their skill and strength, —
He fell not quick!}', but he fell at length :
They quoted books, to him both bold and new,
And scorn'd as fables all ho held as true ;
"Such monkish stories, and such nursery lies,"
That ho was struck with torroi- and surprise.

" What ! all his life had he the laws oboy'd,


Which they broke through and were not once afraid ?
Had he so long his evil passions check' d,
And yet at last had nothing to expect ?
While they their lives in joy and pleasure led.
And then had nothing at the end to dread ?
Was all his priest with so much zeal convey'd
A part ! a speech ! for which the man was paid !
And were his pious books, his solemn prayers,
Not worth one tale of the admired Voltaire's ?
Then was it time, while yet some years remain'd,
To drink untroubled and to think unchain'd.
And on all pleasures, which his purse could give.
Freely to seize, and while he lived, to live."

Much time he pass'd in this important strife.
The bliss or bane of his remaining life ;
For converts all are made with care and grief.
And pangs attend the birth of unbelief ;
Nor pass they soon ; — with awe and fear he took
The flowery way, and cast back many a look.

The youths applauded much his wise design,
With weighty reasoning o'er their evening wine ;
And much in private 'twould their mirth improve,
To hear how Abel spake of life and love ;
To hear him own what grievous pains it cost,
Ere the old saint was in the sinner lost.
Ere his poor mind, with every deed alarm 'd,
By wit was settled, and by vice was charm'd.

For Abel enter' cl in his bold career, •
Like boys on ice, with jileasure and with fear ;
Lingering, yet longing for the joy, he went,
Repenting now, now dreading to repent :
With awkward pace, and with himself at war,
Far gone, yet frighten' d that he went so far ;
Oft fur his efforts he'd solicit praise.
And then proceed with blunders and delays ;
The young more aptly passions' call pursue,
But ago and weakness start at scenes so new,
And tremble, when they've done, for all they dared to do.

At length example Abel's dread removed,
With small concern he sought the joys he loved ;
Not resting here, he claim'd liis share of fame,
And first their votary, then their wit became ;
His jest was bitter and Ins satire bold,
Wlien he his talcs of formal brethren told ;
What time with })ious neighbours he (liscuss'd
Their boasted treasure and their bounrlless trust :
" Such were o\n- droams." tlie jovial elder cried ; —
" Awake and live," his youthful friends replied.

Now the gay clerk a modest drab despised,
And clad him smartly, as his friends advised ;
So fine a coat upon his back ho threw,
That not an alley-boy old Abel knew ;
Broad polish'd buttons lila/.cd that uuat njmn,
And just beneath the watch's trinkets shono, —


A splendid watch, that pointed out the time,
To fly from bxisiness and make free with crime :
The crimson waistcoat and the silken hose
Eank'd the lean man among the Borough beaux ;
His raven hair he cropp'd with fierce disdain.
And light elastic locks encased his brain :
More pliant pupil who could hope to find.
So deck'd in person and so changed in mind ?

When Abel walk'd the streets, with pleasant mien.
He met his friends, delighted to be seen ;
And when he rode along the public way.
No beau so gaudy, and no youth so ga}'.

His pious sister, now an ancient maid.
For Abel fearing, first in secret pray'd :
Tiien thus in love and scorn her notions she convey'd : —

" Alas ! my brother ! can I see thee pace
Hoodwink'd to hell, and not lament thy case,
Nor stretch my feeble hand to stoj:) thy headlong race ?
Lo ! thou art bound, a slave in Satan's chain ;
The righteous Abel turn'd the wretched Cain ;
His brother's blood against the murderer cried,
Against thee thine, unhappy suicide !
Are all our pious nights and peaceful days.
Our evening readings and our morning praise,
Our spirits' comfort in the trials sent.
Our hearts' rejoicings in the blessings lent.
All that o'er grief a cheering influence shed,
Are these for ever and for ever fled ?

" When in the years gone by, the trying years,
When faith and hope had strife with wants and fears.
Thy nerves have trembled till thou couldst not eat
(Dress'd by this hand) thy mess of simple meat :
When grieved by fastings, gall'd by fates severe,
Slow pass'd the daj's of the successless year ;
Still in these gloomy hours, my brother then
Had glorious views, unseen by prosperous men :
And when thy hcai-t has felt its wish denied,
What gracious texts hast thou to grief applied ;
Till thou hast enter'd in thine humble bed.
By lofty hopes and heavenly musings fed ;
Then I have seen thy lively looks express
The spirit's comforts in the man's distress.

"Then didst thou cry, exulting, ' Yes, 'tis fit,
'Tis meet and right, my heart ! that we subniit : '
And wilt though, Abel, thy new pleasures weigh
Against such triunijihs ?— Oh I reiicnt and pray.

" What are thy pleasures ? — with the gay to sit,
And thy poor brain torment for awkward wit ;
All thy good thoughts (thou hat'st them) to restrain,
And give a wicked pleasure to the vain ;
Thy long, lean frame by fashion to attire.
That lads ma:y laugh and wantons may admire ;
To raise the mirth of boys, and not to see,
Unhappy maniac ! that they laugh at thoo.


"These boyish follies, which alone the boy
Can idly act, or gracefully enjoy,
Add new reproaches to thy fallen state.
And make men scorn what thej' would only hate.

" What pains, my brother, dost thou take to prove
A taste for follies which thou canst not love !
Why do thy stiffening limbs the steed bestride —
That lads may laugh to see thou canst not ride ?
And why (I feel the crimson tinge mj' cheek)
Dost thou by night in Diamond-Alley sneak ?

" Farewell ! the parish will thy sister keep,
Where she in peace shall pray and sing and sleep,
Save when for thee she mourns, thou wicked, wandering sheep !
When youth iij fallen, there's hope the young may rise,
But fallen ago for ever hopeless lies ;
Tom ujj by storms, and placed in earth once more.
The younger tree may sun and soil restore ;
But when the old and sapless trunk lies low.
No care or soil can former life bestow ;
Reserved for burning is the worthless tree —
And what, Abel ! is reserved for thee ? "

These angry words our hero deeply felt.
Though hard his heart, and indisjioscd to melt !
To gain relief he took a glass the more.
And then went on as careless as before ;
Tlienceforth, uncheck'd, amusements he partook.
And (save his ledger) saw no decent book ;
Him found the merchant punctual at his task.
And that perform'd, he'd nothing more to ask ;
He cared not how old Abel play'd the fool.
No master he beyond the hours of school :
Tluis they proceeding, had their wine and joke.
Till merchant Dixon felt a warning stroke.
And, after struggling half a gloomy week.
Left his poor clerk another friend to seek.

Alas ! the son who led the saint astray.
Forgot the man whose follies made him gay ;
He cared no more for Abel in his need,
Than Abel cared about his hackney steed :
He now, alas ! had all his earnings spent.
And thus was left to languish and repent ;
No school nor clerkship found he in the place.
Now lost to fortune, as before to grace.

For town relief the grieving man applied.
And begg'd with tears what some with scorn denied ;
Others look'd down upon the glowing vest.
And frowning, ask'd liini at what j)ricc ho (b-ess'd '
Happy for him his country's laws arc mild.
They must support him, though they still reviled ;
Grieved, abject, scorn 'd, insulted, and bctray'd,
Of God unmindful, and of man afraid, —
No more he talk'd ; 'twas pain, 'twas shame to speak.
His heart was sinking, and his frame wiis weak.
His sister died with such serene delight,

222 crabbe's poems.

He once again began to think her right ;

Poor like himself, the happy spinster lay,

And sweet assurance bless'd her dying day :

Poor like the spinster, he, when death was nigh.

Assured of nothing, felt afraid to die.

The cheerful clerks who sometimes pass'd the door.

Just mention'd "Abel !" and then thought no more.

So Abel, pondering on his state forlorn,

Look'd round for comfort, and was chased by scorn.

And now we saw him on the beach reclined,

Or causeless walking in the wintry wind ;

And when it raised a loud and angry sea,

He stood and gazed, in wretched reverie :

He heeded not the frost, the rain, the snow,

Close by the sea he walk'd, alone and slow :

Sometimes his fi-ame through many an hour he spread

Upon a tombstone, moveless as the dead ;

And was there found a sad and silent place.

There would he creej) with slow and measured pace ;

Then would he wander by the river's side,

And fix his eyes upon the falling tide ;

The dee}:) dry ditch, the rushes in the fen.

And mossy crag-pits were his lorlgings then :

There, to his discontented thoughts a prey.

The melancholy mortal jsinod away.

The neighb'ring poor at length began to speak
Of Abel's ramblings — he'd been gone a week ;
They knew not where, and little care they took
For one so friendless and so poor to look.
At last a stranger, in a pedlar's shed.
Beheld him hanging — ho had long been dead.
He left a paper, penn'd at sundry times.
Entitled tlius — " My Groanings and my Crimes !"

" I was a Christian man, and none could lay
Aught to my chai'go ; I walk'd the narrow way :
All then was simple faith, serene and pure,
My hope was steadfast and my prospects sure ;
Then was I tried by want and sickness sore.
But those I clapp'd my shield of faith before.
And cai'es, and wants, and man's rebukes I bore ;
Alas ! new foes assail'd me ; I was vain,
They stung my pride and they confused my brain :
Oh ! these doluders ! with what gleo they saw
Their simple dupe transgress the righteous law ;
'Twas joy to them to view that dreadful strife,
When faith and Irailty warr'd for more than life ;
So with their pleasures thoy beguiled the heart,
Then with their logic they allay'd the smart ;
They proved (so thought I then) with reasons strong,
That no man's feelings over load liim wrong :
And thus I wont, as on the varnish'd ice,
The smooth career of unbelief and vice.
Oft would tlic youths, with sprightly speech and bold,
Their witty tales of naughty priests unfold ;

' Anil wlicn it rniBcd n loud nnd anpry xoa,
llf ^tood and gnzcd, in wie(clicd roveilo. "— 1'. 2l'i


' 'Twas all a craft/ they said, ' a cunning; trade ;
Not she the priests, but priests Religion made.'
So I believed :" — No, Abel ! to thy grief:
So thou relinquiah'dst all that was belief: —
" I grew as very flint, and when the rest
Laugh'd at devotion, I enjoy'd the jest;
But this all vanish'd like the morning dew,
When unemploy'd, and poor again I grew ;
Yea I I was doubly poor, for I was wicked too.

"The mouse that trespass'd and the treasure stole,
Found his lean body fitted to the hole ;
Till, having fatted, he was forced to stay,
And, fasting, starve his stolen bulk away :
Ah I worse for me — grown poor, I 3'et remain
In sinful bonds, and praj' and fast in vain.

" At length I thought, although these friends of sin
Have spread their net, and caught their prej'' therein ;
Though my hard heart could not for mercy call.
Because, though great my grief, my faith was small ;
Yet, as the sick on skilful men rely.
The soul diseased may to a doctor fly.

" A famou.s one there was, whose skill had wrought
Cures past belief, and him the sinners sought ;
Numbers there were defiled by mire and filth,
Whom he recover'd by his goodly tilth :
'Come then,' I said, • let me the man behold.
And tell my case : — I saw him and I told.

" With ti-embling voice, ' Oh ! reverend sir,' I said,
' I once believed, and I was them misled ;
And now such doubts my sinful soul beset,
I dare not say that I'm a Christian yet ;
Canst thou, good sir, by thy superior skill.
Inform my judgment and direct my will?
Ah ! give thy cordial ; let my soul have rest,
And be the outward man alone distress'd ;
For at m)- state I tremble.' — ' Tremble more,'
Said the good man, ' ami then rejoice therefore !
'Tis good to tremble ; prospects then are fair.
When the lost soul is phuiged in deep despair :
Once thou wert simply honest, just, and pure,
Whole, as thou thought'st, and never wisli'd a cure :
Now thou hast plunged in folly, shame, disgrace,
Now tlum'rt an object meet for healing grace ;
No merit thine, no virtue, hope, belief.
Nothing hast thou, but misery, sin, and grief;
The best, the only titles to relief.'

" 'What must "I do,' I said, 'my soul to free ?'—
'Do nothini^, man ; it will be done for thee.'
' But must I not, my ro\crcnd guide, believe V
'If thou art call'd, thou wilt the faith receive.'
'But I repent not.' Angry ho rei>lied,
' If thou art call'd, thou noodost nought beside :
Attend on us, and if 'tis lioavcn's decree,
The call will come, — if not, ah ! woo for thco ! '

224 crabbe's poems.

" There then I waited, ever on the watch,
A spark of hope, a ray of light to catch ;
His words fell softly like the flakes of snow,
But I could never find my heart o'erflow :
He cried aloud, till in the flock began
The sigh, the tear, as caught from man to man j
They wept and they rejoiced, and there was I
Hard as a flint, and as the desert dry ;
To me no tokens of the call would come,
I felt my sentence, and received my doom ;
But I complain' d — ' Let thy repinings cease.
Oh ! man ot sin, for they thy guilt increase :
It bloweth where it listeth ; — die in peace.'
— ' In peace, and perish ?' I replied ; ' impart
Some better comfort to a burthen'd heart.'
' Alas ! ' the priest return'd, ' can I direct
The heavenly call ? — Do I proclaim th' elect ?
Kaise not thy voice against th' Eternal will.
But take thy part with sinners, and be still.'

"Alas, for me ! no more the times of peace
Are mine on earth — in death m_y pains may cease.

' ' Foes to my soul ! ye young seducers, know
"What serious ills from your amusements flow ;
Opinions you with so much ease profess,
O'erwhelm the simple and their minds oppress :
Let such be happy, nor with reasons strong,
That make them wretched, prove their notions wrong ;
Let them proceed in that they deem the way,
Fast when they will, and at their pleasm-e pray :
Yes, I have pity for my brethren's lot.
And so had Dives, but it help'd him not :
And is it thus ? — I'm full of doubts : — Adieu !
Perhaps his reverence is mistaken too."




Was a sordid soul,
Such as does murder for a meed :
"Wlio but for fear knows no control,
ijt^cause his conscience, sea.r"d and foul.

Feels not the impoi't of the ueed ;
One whose brute feeliug ne'er aspires
Beyond his own more brute desires.

Scon*. — Marmion

Methought the souls of all that I had murder*d

Came to my tent, and every one did threat

SHAKSi'KAitE,— y^icftani ///

The time hath been.
That, when the brains were out, the ui.m would die.
Anil there an end : but now they rise again.
With twenty mortal murders on their crowns.
And puBh ua from our stoolB.

Shaksfkake.— ,Vac6i;</(.


The Father of Peter a Fisherman— Peter's early Conduct— His Grief for the old Man— He
takes En Apprentice— The Boy's Sufferins and Pate— A second Boy : how he died— Peter
»ciuittod— A third Apprentice— A Voyage by Sea; the B >y does not return— Evil
Report on Peter : he ia tried and threatened — Lives alone — His Melancholy and inci-
pient Ifladness— Is observed and visited— He escapes and is tJiken ; is lodged in a Parish
House : Women attend and watch him— lie speaks in a Deliiium : grows more collected
— Hia Account of his Feelings and visionary Terrors previous to his Death.

Old Petei- Grimes mado fishing his employ,

His wife he cabin'd with him and his boy.

And scom'd that life laborious to enjoy :

To town came quiet Peter with his tish,

And had of all a civil word and wish.

He left his trade upon the Sabbath-day,

And took young Peter in his hand to pray :

But soon the stubborn boy from care broke loose,

At first refused, then added hia abuse :

His father's love he scorn' d, his power defied.

But being drunk, wept sorely when he died.

Yes ! then ho wept, and to his mind there camo
Much of his conduct, and ho felt the shame, —
How ho had oft the good old man reviled.
And never paid the duty of a child ;
How, when the father in his Bible road,
Ho in contempt and anger loft the shed :
" It is the word of lite," the parent cried ;
— " This is the life itself," the boy replied.
And while old Peter in amazement stood.
Gave the hot spirit to his boiling blood : —
How ho, with oath and furious speech, began
To prove his freedom and assert the man ;
And when the parent chock'd his impious rage,
How he had cursed the tyranny of age, —

226 ckabbe's roEMS.

Nay, once had dealt the sacrilegious blow

On his bare head, and laid his parent low ;

The father groan'd— " If thou art old," said he,

"And hast a son, thou wilt remember me ;

Thy mother loft me in a happy time.

Thou kill'dst not her ; Heav'n spares the double crime."
On an inn settle, in his maudlin grief.

This he revolved, and drank for his relief.

Now lived the youth in freedom, but debarr'd

From constant pleasure, and he thought it hard ;

Hard that ho could not every wish obey,

But must awhile relinquish ale and play ;

Hard ! that he could not to his cards attend.

But must acquire the money he would spend.
With greedy eye he look'd on all he saw.

He knew not justice, and he laugh'd at law ;

On all he mark'd, he stretch'd his ready hand ;

He fish'd by water and he filch'd by land.

Oft in the night has Peter dropp'd his oar.

Fled from his boat, and sought for prey on shore ;

Oft up the hedge-row glided, on his back

Bearing the orchard's produce in a sack.

Or farm-yard load, tugg'd fiercely from the stack ;

And as these wrongs to greater numbers rose,

The more he look'd on all men as his foes.

He built a mud-wall'd hovel, where he kept
His various wealth, and there he ofttimes slept ;
But no success could please his cruel soul.
He wish'd for one to trouble and control ;
He wanted some obedient boy to stand
And bear the blow of his outrageous hand ;
And hoped to find in some propitious hour
A feeling creature subject to his power.

Peter had heard there were in London, then, —
Still have they being !— workhouse-clearing men.
Who, undisturb'd by feelings just or kind,
Would yiarish boys to needy trade.'^mcn bind ;
They in their want a trifling sum would take,
And toiling slaves of piteous orphans make.

Such Peter sought, and when a lad was found,
The sum was dealt him, and the slave was bound.
Some few in town observed in Peter's trap
A boy, with jacket blue and woollen cap ;
But none intjuired how Peter used the rope.
Or what the bruise that made the stripling stoop ;
None could the ridges on his back behold.
None sought him shiv'ring in the winter's cold ;
None put the question, " Peter, dost thou give
The boy his food ?— What, man ! the lad must live
Consider, Peter, let the child have bread.
He'll serve thee better if he's stroked and fed."
None reason'd thus, and some, on hearing cries,
Said calmlv, " Grimes is at his exercise."

Piuu'd, beaten, cold, pinch'd, threaten' d, and abused,


Ilis efforts punish'd and his food refused ;

Awake, tormented, soon aroused irom sleep.

Struck it he wept, and yet compell'd to weep.

The trembling boy dropp'd down and strove to pray.

Received a blow, and trembling turn'd away,

Or sobb'd and hid his piteous face ; while he,

The savage master, grinn'd in horrid glee :

He'd now the power he ever loved to show,

A feeling being subject to his blow.

Thus lived the lad, in hunger, peril, pain,
His tears despised, his supplications vain :
Compell'd by tear to lie, by need to steal,
His bed uneasy, and unbless'd his meal.
For three sad years the boy his tortures bore.
And then his pains and trials were no moi-e.
"How died he, Peter T' when the people said,
Ho growl'd, "I found him lifeless in his bed."
Then tried for setter tone, and sigh'd, "Poor Sam is dead."
Yet murmurs were there, and some questions ask'd —
How he was fed, how punish'd, and how task'd ?
Much they suspected, but they little proved.
And Peter pass'd untroubled and unmoved.

Another boy with equal ease was found.
The money granted, and the victim bound :
And what his fate ? One night it chanced he fell
From the boat's mast and perish'd in her well.
Where fish were living kept, and where the boy
(So reason'd men) could not himself destroy : —

" Yes, so it was," said Peter, " in his play
(For he was idle both by night and day).
He climb'd the mainmast and then fell below ;"
Then show'd his corpse and pointed to the blow.
" What said the jury ?" — they were long in doubt.
But sturdy Peter faced the matter out :
So they dismiss'd him, saying at the time,
" Keep fast your hatchway, when you've boys who climb."
This hit the conscience, and ho colour'd more
Than for the closest questions put before.

Thus all his tears the veriiict set aside,
And at the slave-shop Peter still applied.

Then came a boy, of manners soit and mild, —
Our seamen's wives with grief beheld the child ;
All thought (the poor themselves) that he was ono
Of gentle blood, some noble sinner's son.
Who had, belike, deceived some hinnble maid.
Whom he had first serluced, and then betray d :
However this, he soem'd a gracious lad.
In grief submissive, and with patience sad.

Passive he labour'd, till his slender frame
Bent with his load.s, and he at length was lame :
Strange that a ti-arao so weak could bear so long
The grossest insult and the foulest wrong ;
But tliere were causes — in the town they gave
Fire, food, and comfort, to the gentle .slave ;

228 crabbe's poems.

And though storu Peter, with a cruel hand,
And knotted rope enfoiced the rude command,
Yet he considcr'd wliat he'd lately felt,
And his vile blows with selfish pity dealt.

One day such draughts the cruel fisher made.
He could not vend them in his borough trade,
But .sail'd for London mart : the boy was ill.
But ever humbled to his master's will ;
And on the river, where they smoothly sail'd,
He strove with terror, and awhile prevail'd ;
But new to danger on the angry sea.
He clung affrighten'd to his master's knee :
The boat grew leaky and the wind was strong,
Eough was the passage and the time was long ;
His liquor fail'd, and Peter's wratli arose, —
No more is known— the rest we must suppose,
Or learn of Peter : Peter says he " spied
The stripling's dangei-, and for harbour tried :
Meantime the fish, and then th' apprentice died."

The pityhig women raised a clamour round.
And weeping said, " Thou hast thy 'prentice drown'd."

Now the stern man was summon'd to the Hall,
To tell his tale before the burghers all :
Ho gave th' account ; profess'd the lad he loved.
And kept his brazen features all unmoved. _

The mayor himself with tone severe replied,
" Henceforth with thee shall never boy abide ;
Hire thee a freeman, whom thou durst not beat.
But who, in thy despite, will sleep and eat :
Free thou art now !— again shouldst thou appear,
Thou'lt find thy sentence, like thy soul, severe."

Online LibraryGeorge CrabbeThe poetical works of George Crabbe → online text (page 25 of 49)