George Crabbe.

The poetical works of George Crabbe online

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In a light drab he uniformly dress'd,
And look serene th' unruffled mind express d ;
A hat with ample verge his brows o'erspread.
And his brown locks curl'd graceful on his head ;
Yet might observers in his speaking eye
Some observation, some acuteucss spy ; ,, . ,

The friendly thought it keen, the treacherous deem d it sly
Yet not a crime could foe or friend detect.
His actions all were, like his speech, correct ;
And they who jested on a mind so sound,
Upon his virtues must their laughter found ;
Chaste, sober, solemn, and devout, they named
Him who was thus, and not of this ashamed.
Such were the virtues Jonas found in one
In whom he warmly wish'd to fiiul a son _:
Three years had pass'd since he had Sybil seen ;
But she was doubtless what she once had been.
Lovely and mild, obedient and discreet ;
The pair must love whenever they should meet ;
Then ere the widow or her son should choose
Some happier maid, ho would explain his views ;
Now she, like him, was pohtic and shrewd.
With strong desire of lawftil gain embucd ;
To all he said, she bow'd with much respect,
Pleased to comply, yet seeming to reject ;
Cool and yet eager, each admired the strength
Of the opponent, and agreed at length :
As a drawn battle shows to each a torce,
Powerful as his, he honours it of course ;
So in those neighbours, each the power discern d.
And gave the praise that was to each return'd.
Jonas now ask'd his daughter— and the aunt,



TALE VI.— THE FRANK COURTSHir. 307

Though loth to lose her, was obliged to grant : —

But would not Sybil to the matron cling,

And fear to leave the shelter of her wing ?

No ! in the young there lives a love of change,

And to the easy they prefer the strange !

Then, too, the joys she once pursued with zeal.

From whist and visits sprung, she ceased to feel :

When with the matrons Sybil first sat down.

To cut for partners, and to stake her crown.

This to the youthful maid preferment seem'd.

Who thought what woman she was then esteem'd ;

But in few years, when she perceived, indeed,

The real woman to the girl succeed,

No longer tricks and honom's fill'd her mind.

But other feelings, not so well defined ;

She then reluctant grew, and thought it hard

To sit and ponder o'er an ugly card ;

Eather the nut-tree shade the nymph prefen-'d,

Pleased with the pensive gloom and evening bird ;

Thither, from companj- retired, she took

The silent walk, or read the fav'rite book.

The father's letter, sudden, short, and kind,
Av/aked her wonder, and disturb'd her mind :
She found new dreams upon her fancy seize.
Wild roving thoughts and endless reveries ;
The parting came ; and when the aunt perceived
The tears of Sybil, and how much she grieved —
To love for her that tender gi-ief she laid,
That various, soft, contending passions made.

When Sybil rested in her father's arms.
His pride exulted in a daughter's charms ;
A maid accomplish'd he was pleased to find,
Nor seem'd the form more lovely than the mind :
But when the fit of pride and fondness fled,
He saw his judgment by his hopes misled ;
High were the lady's spirits, far more free
Her mode of speaking than a maid's should be ;
Too much, as Jonas thought, she seem'd to know.
And all her knowledge was ilisposed to show ;
' ' Too gay her dress, like theirs who idly dote
On a young coxcomb, or a co.xcomb's coat ;
In foolish spirits when our friends appear.
And vainly grave when not a man is near."
Tims Joiuis, adding to his sorrow blame.
And terras disdainful to his sister's name :
"The sinful wretch has by her arts defiled
The ductile spirit of my darling child."

" The mai(l is virtuous," said the dame — Quoth ha,
" Let her give i)roof, by acting virtuously ;
Is it in gaping when the elders pray ?
In reading nonsense half a summe-'s day ?
In those mock forms that she delights to trace,
Or her loud laughs in HozcUiah's face I
She, Susannah, to the world belongs ;
X 2



308 ckabbe's poems.

She loves the follies of its idle throngs,

And reads soft tales of love, and sings love's soft'uing songs :

But, as our Iriend is yet delay'd in town.

We must jjrepare her till the youth comes down :

You shall advise the maiden ; I will threat ;

Her fears and hopes may yield us comfort yet."

Now the grave father took the lass aside,
Demanding sternly, " Wilt thou be a bride ? "
She answer'd, calling up an air sedate,
"I have not vow'd against the holy state."

" No folly, Sybil," said the parent ; " know
What to their parents virtuous maidens owe :
A v?orthy, wealthy youth, whom I approve,
Must thou prepare to honour and to love.
Formal to thee his air and dress may seem,
But the good youth is worthy of esteem :
Shouldst thou with rudeness treat him ; of disdain
Should he with justice, or of slight complain,
Or of one taunting speech give certain proof.
Girl ! I reiect thee from my sober roof."

" My aunt," said Sybil, ' ' will with pride protect
One whom a father can for this reject ;
Nor shall a formal, rigid, soulless boy
My manners alter, or my views destroy ! "

Jonas then lifted up his hands on high.
And utt'ring something 'twixt a groan and sigh,
Left the determined maid, her doubtful mother by.

" Hear me," she said ; " inchne thy heart, my child,
And fix thy fancy on a man so mild :
Thy father, Sybil, never could be moved
By one who loved him, or by one he loved.
Union like ours is but a bargain made
By slave and tyrant — he will be obey'd ;
Then calls the quiet, comfort— but thy youth
Is mild bv nature, and as frank as truth."

" But vvill he love ? " said Sybil ; " I am told
That these mild creatures are by nature cold."

" Alas ! " the matron answer'd, "much I dread
That dangerous love by which the young are led !
That love is earthy ; you the creature prize,
And trnst your feelings and believe your eyes :
Can eyes and feelings inward worth descry ?
No, my fair daughter— on our choice relj'.
Your love, like that display'd upon the stage,
Indulged is folly, and opposed is rage ;
More prudent love our sober couples show.
All that to mortal beings, mortals owe ;
All flesh is grass — before you give a heart.
Remember, Sybil, tl>at in death you part ;
And should your husband die before your love.
What needless anguish must a widow prove.
No ! my fair child, let all such visions cease ;
Yieid but esteem, and only try for peace."

" I must bo loved," said Sybil ; " I must see



TALE VI. — THE FRANK COURTSHIP. 309

The man in terrors who aspires to me ;

At my forbidding frown his heart must ache,

His tongue must falter, and his frame must shake :

And if 1 grant him at my feet to kneel.

What trembling, fearful pleasure must he feel ;

Nay, such the raptures that my smiles inspire,

That reason's self must for a time retire."
"Alas! for good /osmA," said the dame,

" These wicked thoughts would fill his soul with shame ;

He kneel and tremble at a thing of dust !

He cannot, child : "—the child replied, " He must."
They ceased : the matron left her with a frown ;

So .Jonas met her when the youth came down :

"Behold," said he, " thy future spouse attends ;

Receive him, daughter, as the best of friends ;

Observe, respect him— humble be each word.

That welcomes home thy husband and thy lord."
Forewam'd, thought Sybil, with a bitter smile,

" I shall prepare my manner and my style."
Ere yet Josiah enter'd on his task,

The father met him—" Deign to wear a mask

A few dull days, Josiah — but a few —

It is our duty, and the sex's due ;

I wore it once, and every gratelul wife

Repays it with obedience through her hfe :

Have no regard to Sybil's dress, have none

To her pert language, to her flippant tone :

Henceforward thou shalt rule unquestion'd and alone ;

And she thy jileasure in thy looks shall seek —

How she shall dress, and whether she may speak."
A sober smile return'd the youth, and said,

" Can I cause fear, who am myself afraid ? "
Sybil, meantime, sat thoughtful in her room.

And often wonder' d—" Will the creature come ?

Nothing shall tempt, shall force me to bestow

My hand upon him, — yet I wish to know."
The door unclosed, and she beheld her sire

Lead in the youth, then hasten to retire ;
" Daughter, my friend— my daughter, friend," he cried,
And gave a meaning look, and stepp'd aside :
That look contain'd a mingled threat and prayer,
" Do take him, child, — offend him if you dare."
The couple gazed — were silent, and the maid
Look'd in his face, to make the man afraid ;
The man, unmoved, upon the maiden cast
A steady view — so salutation ])ass'd:
But in this instant Sybil's eye had seen
The tall fair per.son, and the still staid mien ;
The glow ihat temp'ranco o'er tlio cheek had spread,
Whore the soft down halt veil'd the ])urest red ;
And the serene deportment that proclaim'd
A lieart unspotted, and a lite unblanicd :
But then with these she saw attire too plain,
The palo brown coat, though worn without a stain ;



310 crabbe's foems.

The formal air, and something of the prido
That indicates the wealth it seems to hide,
And looks that were not, she conceived, exempt
From a proud pity, or a sly contempt.

Josiah's eyes had their employment too,
Engaged and soften'd by so bright a view ;
A fair and nieaning face, an eye of fire.
That check'd ^he bold, and made the free retire :
But then with these he mark'd the studied dress
And lofty air, that scorn or pride express ;
With that insidious look, that seem'd to hide
In an affected smile the scorn and pride ;
And if his mind the virgin's meaning caught,
He saw a foe with treacherous purjaose fraught —
Captive the heart to take, and to reject it, caught.
Silent they sat ; — thought Sybil, "That he seeks
Something, no doubt ; I wonder if he speaks:"
Scarcely she wonder'd, when these accents fell
Slow in her ear, ' ' Fair maiden, art thou well ? "
" Art thou physician ? " she replied ; " my hand.
My pulse, at least, shall be at thy command."
She said, — and saw, surprised, Josiah kneel,
And gave his lips the offer'd pulse to feel ;
The rosy colour rising in her cheek,
Seem'd that surprise unmix'd with wrath to speak ;
Then sternness she assumed, and — "Doctor, tell ;
Thy words cannot alarm me — am I well ?"

" Thou art," said he ; " and yet thy dress so light,
I do conceive, some danger must excite : "
" In whom ?" said Sybil, with a look demure :
" In more," said he, "than I expect to cure ; —
I, in thy light luxuriant robe behold
Want and excess, abounding and yet cold ;
Here needed, there display' d, in many a wanton fold :
Both health and beauty, learned authoi-s show,
From a just medium in our clothing flow."

" Proceed, good doctor ; if so great my need,
What is thy fee ? Good doctor ! pray proceed."

"Large is my fee, fair lady, but I take
None till some progress in my cure I make :
Thou hast disease, fair maiden ; thou ait vain ;
Within that face sit insult and disdain ;
Thou art enamour'd of thyself; my art
Can see the naughty malice of thy heart :
With a strong pleasure would thy bosom move.
Were I to own thy power, and ask thy love ;
And such thy beauty, damsel, that I might.
But for thy pride, feel danger in thy sight, _
And lose my present peace in dreams of vain delight,"

"And can thy patients," said the nymph, "enduro
Physic like this— and will it work a cure '. "

"Such is ray hope, fair damsel ; thou, I fin 1,
Hast the true tokens of a noble mind ;
But tho world wins thee, Sybil, and thy joys



TALE VI. — THE FRANK COURTSHIP. 311

Are placed in trifles, fasliions, follies, toys ;
Thou hast sought pleasure in the world around,
That in thine own pure bosom should bo found :
Did all that world admire thee, praise and love,
Could it tlie least of nature's pains remove ?
Could it for errors, follies, sins atone,
Or give thee comfort, thoughtful and alone ?
It has, believe me, maid, no power to charm
Thy soul from sorrow, or thy flesh from harm :
Turn then, fair creature, from a world of sin,
And seek the jewel happiness within."

"Speak'st thouat meeting?" said the njTnph ; "thyspeech
Is that of mortal very prone to teach ;
But wouldst thou, doctor, from the patient learn
Thine own disease ? — the cure is thy concern."

"Yea, with good will." — "Then know 'tis thy complaint,
That, for a sinner, thou'rt too much a saint ;
Hast too much show of the sedate and pure.
And, without cause, art foi-mal and demure :
This makes a man unsocial, unpolite ;
Odious when wrong, and insolent if right.
Thou mayst bo good, Vjut why should goodness bo
Wrapt in a garb of such formality ?
Thy pei-son well might please a damsel's eye,
In decent habit with a scarlet dye ;
But, jest apart — what virtue canst thou trace
In that broad brim that hides thy sober face ?
Does that long-skirted drab, that over nice
And formal clothing, prove a scorn of vice ?
Then for thine accent — what in sound can be
So void of grace as dull monotony ?
Love has a thou-sand varied notes to move
The human heart : thou mayst not speak of lovo
Till thou hast cast thy formal ways aside.
And those becoming youth and nature tried :
Not till exterior freedom, spirit, ease.
Prove it thy study and delight to please ;
Not till these follies meet thy just disdain,
While yet thy virtues and thy worth remain."

"This is severe ! Oh ! maiden, wilt not thou
Something for habits, manners, modes, allow ? " — •
" Yes ! but allowing much, I much require.
In my behalf, for manncr.s, modes, attire !"

" True, lovely Sybil ; and, this point agreed,
Let me to those of greater weight proceed :
Thy father ! " — " Nay," she quickly interposed,
" Good doctor, here our conference is closed ! "
Then left the youtli, who, lost in his retreat,
Pass'd the good matron on her garden-seat ;
His looks were troubled, and his air once mild
And calm, was hurried : — "My audacious child ! "
Exclaim'd the dame, " I read what she has done
In thy dis|)leasure — ah ! the thoughtless one :
But yet, Josiah, to my stern good man



312 CRABBE'S POEMS.

Speak of the maid as mildly as you can :
Can you not seem to woo a little -while
The daughter's will, the father to beguile ?
So that his wrath in time may wear away ;
Will you preserve our peace, Josiah? — say."

"Yes ! my good neighbour," said the gentle youth,
"Rely securely on my care and truth ;
And should thy comfort with my efforts cease,
And only then, — perpetual is thy peace."

The dame had doubts : she well his virtues knew,
His deeds were fi-iendly, and his words were true :
" But to address this vixen is a task
He is ashamed to take, and I to ask. "
Soon as the father from Josiah learn'd
What pass'd with Sybil, he the truth discem'd.
" He loves," the man exclaim'd, " he loves, 'tis plain.
The thoughtless girl, and shall he love in vain?
She may be stubborn, but she shall be tried.
Born as she is of wilfulness and pride."

With anger fraught, but willing to persuade,
The wrathful father met the smiling maid :
" Sybil," said he, "I long, and yet I dread
To know thy conduct — hath Josiah fled ?
And, grieved and fretted by thy scornful air,
For his lost peace, betaken him to prayer ?
Couldst thou his pure and modest mind distress
By vile remarks upon his speech, address.
Attire, and voice ? " — " All this I must confess."
" Unhappy child ! what labour will it cost
To win him back ! " — "I do not think him lost."
" Courts he then, trifler ! insult and disdain > " —
" No ; but from these he courts me to refrain."
'• Then hear me, Sybil : should Josiah leave
Thy father's house ? " — " My father's child would grieve."
" That is of grace, and if he come again
To speak of lovo ? " — " 1 might from grief refrain."
" Then wilt thou, daughter, our design embrace ? " —
" Can I resist it, if it be of grace ?"
" Dear child in three plain words thy mind express :
Wilt thou have this good youth ? "— " Dear father— yes ! "



TALE VII.— THE WIDOW'S TALE. 813



TALE VII.

THE widow's tale.

Ah me I for aaght th.it ever I coiUd read,

Or ever hear by tale or history,

Tlie coui-se of true love never did nm smooth ;

But, either it was different in blood.

Or else misgraffed in respect of years.

Or else it stood upon the choice of friends.

Or, il there were a sympathy in choice.

War, death, or sickness did lay siege to it.

Midsummer Niyht's Bream.

Oh, thou didst then ne'er love so heartily,
It thou rememberest not the slightest folly
That ever love did make thee run into.

As You Like It.

Cry the man mercy ; love him, take his oflfer.

As You Like It.

To Farmer Mo.<!S, in Langar Vale, came down
His only daughter, from her school in town ;
A tender, timid maid, who knew not how
To pass a pig-sty, or to face a cow :
Smiling she came, with petty talents graced,
A fair complexion, and a slender waist.

Used to spare meals, dispo.sed in manner pm-e.
Her father's kitchen she could ill endure :
Where by the steaming beef he hungry sat,
And laid at once a pound upon his plate ;
Hot from the field, her eager brother seized
An equal part, and hunger's rage appeased ;
The air surcharged with moisture, Hagg'd around,
And the offended damsel sigh'd and frown'd ;
The swelling fat in lumps conglomerate laid,
And fancy's sickness seized the loathing maid :
But when the men beside their station took.
The maidens with them, and with these the cook ;
When one huge wooden bowl before them stood,
Fill'd with huge balls of farinaceous food ;
With bacon, mass saline, where never lean
Beneath the brown and bristly rind was seen ;
When from a single horn the party drew
Their copious draughts of heavy ale and now ;
When the coarse cloth she saw, with many a stain
Soil'd by rude hinds who cut and came again —
She could not breathe ; but with a licavy sigh,
Rcin'd the fair neck, and shut th' offended eye ;
She minced the sanguine flesh in frustums fine.
And wondcr'd much to see the creatures dine ;
Wlien she resolved her father's heart to move,
If hearts of farmers were alive to love.
She now entreated by herself to sit
In the small parlour, if papa thought fit,
And there to dine, to read, to work alone :—



3M CRABBE'S POEMS.

" No ! " said tlie farmer, in an angry tone ;

" These are your school-taught airs ; your mother's prido

Would send you there, but I am now your guide.

Arise betimes, our early meal prepare,

And, this despatch'd, let business be your care ;

Look to the lasses, let there not be one

Who lacks attention till her tasks be done ;

In every household work your portion take.

And what j^ou make not, see that others make :

At leisure times attend the wheel, and see

The whit'ning web besprinkled on the lea ;

When thus emploj^'d, should our young neighbour view,

A useful lass — you may have more to do."

Dreadful were these commands ; but worse than these
The parting hint — a farmer could not please.
'Tis true she had without abhorrence seen
Young Harry Carr, when he was smart and clean :
But, to be married — be a farmer's wife —
A slave ! a drudge ! — she could not for her life.

With swimming eyes the fretful nymph withdrew,
And, deeply sighing, to her chamber Hew ;
There on her knees, to Heaven she grieving pray'd
For change of prospect to a tortured maid.

Harry, a youth whose late departeil sire
Had left him all industrious men require.
Saw the pale beauty, — and her shape and air
Engaged him much, and yet he must forbear :
" For my small farm, what can the damsel do ? "
He said, — then stopp'd to take another view :
" Pity so sweet a lass will nothing learn
Of household cares, — for what can beauty earn
By those small arts which they at school attain,
That keep them useless, and yet make them vain?"

This luckless damsel look'd the village round,
To find a friend, and one was quickly found ;
•A pensive widow, whose mild air and dress
Pleased the sad nymph, who wish'd her soul's distress
To one so seeming kind, confiding, to confess.

" What lady that ? " the anxious lass in<|uired,
Who then beheld the one she most admired.
" Here," said the brother, " are no ladies seen —
That is a widow, dwelling on the green ;
A dainty dame, who can but barely live
On her poor pittance, yet contrives to give ;
She happier days has known, but seems at ease.
And you may call her lady if you plcaso :
But if you wish, good sister, to improve.
You shall see twenty better worth your love."

These Nancy met ; but, spite of all they taught,
This useless widow was the one she sought :
The father growl'd, but said he knew no hai'm
In such connection that could give alarm ;
" And if we thwart the tritler in her course,
'Tis odds against us she will take a worse."



TALE VII.— THE WIDOW'S TALE. S15

Then met the friends ; the widow heard the sigh
That ask'd at once compassion and reply.
"Would you, mv child, converse with one so poor,
Yours were the kindness— yonder is my door :
And, save the time that we in public pray,^^
From that poor cottage I but rarely stray." _

There went the nymph, and made her strong complaints,
Paintino- her woe as uiiured feeling paints.

" Oh^ dearest friend ! do think how one must feeJ,
Shock'd all day long, and sicken'd every meal ;
Could you behold our kitchen (and to you
A scene so shocking must indeed be new),
A mind like yours, with true refinement graced,
Would let no vulgar scenes pollute your taste ;
And yet, in truth, from such a polish'd mmd
All base ideas must resistance find,
And sordid pictures from the fancy pass.
As the breath startles from the polish'd glass.

" Here you enjoy a sweet romantic scene,
Without so pleasant, and within so clean ;
These twining jess'mines, what delicious gloom
And soothing fragrance yield they to the room !
What lovely garden ! there you oft reth-e,
And tales o'f woe and tenderness admire.
In that neat case your books, in order placed.

Soothe tlie full soul, and charm the cultured taste ;

And thus, while all about you wears a charm, ^^

How must you scorn the farmer and the tarm !

The widow smiled, and "Know you not," said she,

"How much these farmers scorn or pity me ;

Who see what you admire, and laugh at all they see '

True, their opinion alters not my fate.

By falsely judging of an humble state :

This garden you with such delight behold,

Tempts not a feeble dame who dreads the cold ;

These plants which please so well your livelier sense,

To mine but little of their sweets dispense ;

Books soon are painful to my failing sight,

And oftener read from duty than delight ;

(Yet let me own that I can sometimes find

Both joy and duty in the act combined ;)

But view me rightly, you will see no more

Than a poor female, wilhng to be poor ;

Happy indeed, but not in books nor flowers,

Not in lair dreams, indulged in earlier hours,

Of never- tasted joys ; such visions shun, _^

My youthlul friend, nor sconi the farmer's son.
" Nay," said the damsel, nothing pleased to soa

A friend's advice could like a father's be,

" Blcss'd in your cott,'u;e, you must surely smilo

At those who live in our detested style :

To my Lucinda's sympathizing heart
Could I my prospects and my griefs impart,
She would console me ; but i daro not show



316 CRABBE'S POEMS.

Ills that would wound her tender soul to know ;

And I confess, it shocks my pride to tell

The secrets of the prison where I dwell ;

For that dear maiden would be shock'd to feel

The secrets I should shudder to reveal ;

When told her friend was by a parent ask'd,

' Fed you the swine ?' Good heaven, how I am task'd !

What ! can you smile ? Ah ! smile not at the grief

That woos j^our pity and demands relief."

" Trifles, my love : you take a false alarm ;
Think, I beseech j'ou, better of the farm :
Duties in every state demand your care.
And light are those that will require it there.
Fix on the youth a favouring eye, and these,
To him pertaining, or as his, will please."

"What words," the lass replied, " offend my ear !
Try you my patience ? Can you be sincere ?
And am I told a willing hand to give
To a rude farmer, and with rustics live ?
Far other flite was j'ours ; some gentle youth
Admired your beauty, and avow'd his truth ;
The power of love prevail'd, and freely both
Gave the fond heart, and pledged the binding oath ;
And then the rival's plot, the parent's power,
And jealous fears, drew on the happy hour :
Ah ! let not memory lose the blissful view.
But fairly show what love has done for you."

"Agreed, my daughter ; what my heart has known
Of love's strange power, shall be with frankness shown :
But let me warn you, that experience finds



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