George Crabbe.

The poetical works of George Crabbe online

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Few of the scenes that lively hope designs."

"Mysterious all," said Nancy ; " you, I know,
Have suffer' d much ; now deign the grief to show ;
I am your friend, and so prepare my heart
In all your sorrows to receive a part."

The widow answer'd : " I had once, like you.
Such thoughts of love ; no dream is more untrue :
You judge it fated, and decreed to dwell
In youthfiil hearts, which nothing can expel,
A passion doom'd to reign, and irresistible.
The struggling mind, when once subdued, in vain
Rejects the fury or defies the pain :
The strongest reason fails the flame t' allay,
And resolution droops and faints away :
Hence, when the destined lovers meet, they prove
At once the force of this all-powerful love ;
Each from that period feels the mutual smart.
Nor seeks to cure it — heart is changed for heart ;
Nor is there peace till they delighted stand,
And, at the altar, hand is join'd to hand.

"Alas ! my child, there are who, dreaming so,
Waste their fresh youth, and waking feel the woe.
There is no sjiirit sent the heart to move
With such prevailing and alarming love ;



TALE Vn. — THE WIDOW'S TALE. 317

Passion to reason will submit — or why

Should wealthy maids the poorest swains deny ?

Or how could classes and degrees create

The slightest bar to such resistless fate ?

Yet high and low, you see, forbear to mix ;

No beggars' eyes the heart of kings transfix ;

And who but am'rous peers or nobles sigh,

When titled beauties pass triumphant by ?

For reason wakes, proud wishes to reprove ;

You cannot hope, and therefore dare not love ;

All would be safe, did we at first inquire —

' Docs reason sanction what our hearts desire ? '

But quitting precept, let example show

What joys from love uneheck'd by prudence flow.

" A youth my father in his office placed.
Of humble fortune, but with sense and taste ;
But he was thin and pale, had downcast looks :
He studied much, and pored upon his books :
Confused he was when seen, and when he saw
Me or my sisters, would in haste withdraw ;
And had this youth departed with the year.
His loss had cost us neither sigh nor tear.

" But with my father still the youth remain'd,
And more reward and kinder notice gain'd :
He often, reading, to the garden stray'd.
Where I by books or musing wasclelay'd ;
This to discourse in summer evenings led.
Of these same evenings, or of what we read :
On such occasions we were much alone ;
But, save the look, the manner, and the tone
(These might have meaning), all that we discuss'd
We could with pleasure to a parent trust.

"At length 'twas friendship — and my friend and I
Said we were happy, and began to sigh ;
My sisters first, and then my father, found
That we were wandering o'er enchanted ground :
But he had troubles in his own aftairs.
And would not bear addition to his cares :
With pity moved, yet angry, ' Child,' saiil he,
' Will you embrace contempt and beggary ?
Can you endure to see each other cursed
By want, of every human woo the worst ?
Warring for ever with distress, in dread
Either of begging or of wanting bread ;
While poverty, with unrelenting force.
Will your own oflspring from your love divorce ;
They, through your folly, must bo doom'd to pine,
And you deplore your passion, or resign ;
For if it die, what good will then remain ?
And if it live, it doubles every pain.'"

" But you were true," cxclairn'd the lass, "and fled
The tyrant's power who fill'd your soul with dread ?"
" But," said the smiling friend, "he fill'd my mouth with broad:
And in what other place that bread to gain



S18 crabbe's poems.

We long consider' d, and we sought in vain :

This was my twentieth year, — at thirty-five

Our hojie was fainter, yet our love alive ;

So manj'^ years in anxious doubt had pass'd."

" Then," said the damsel, " you were bless'd at last ?"

A smile again adorn'd the widow's face,

But soon a starting tear usurp'd its place.

" Slow pass'd the heavy years, and each had more
Pains and vexations than the years before.
My father fail'd ; his family was rent,
And to new states his grieving daughters sent :
Each to more thriving kindred found a way.
Guests without welcome, — servants witliout pay ;
Our parting hoiu' was grievous ; still I feel
The sad, sweet converse at our final meal ;
Our father then reveal'd his former fears,
Cause of his sternness, and then join'd our tears :
Kind!}' he strove our feelings to repress.
But died, and left us heirs to liis distress.
The rich, as humble friends, my sisters chose ;
I with a wealthy widow sovight repose ;
Who with a chilling frown her friend i-eceived,
Bade me rejoice, and wonder'd that I grieved :
In vain my anxious lover tried his skill
To rise in life, he was dependent still :
We met in grief, nor can I paint the fears
Of these unhappy, troubled, trying years :
Our dying hopes and stronger fears between.
We felt no season peaceful or serene ;
Our fleeting joys, like meteors in the night,
Shone on our gloom with inauspicious light ;
And then domestic sorrows, till the mind.
Worn with distresses, to despair inclined ;
Add too the ill that from the passion flows.
When its contemptuous fi-own tlie world bestows.
The peevish spirit caused by long dclaj^.
When, being gloomy, we contemn the gay,
When, being wretched, we incline to hate
And censure others in a hai)j)ier state ;
Yet loving still, and still compcll'd to move
In the sad labyrinth of lingering love :
While you, exempt from want, despair, alarm,
May wed — oh ! take the farmer and the farm."

"Nay," said the nymph, "joy smiled on you at last?"
" Smiled for a moment," she replied, " and pass'd :
My lover still the same dull means pursued.
Assistant call'il, but kept in servitude ;
His spirits wearied in the prime of life,
By fears and wishes in eternal strife ;
At length he urged impatient — 'Now consent ;
With thee united, fortune may relent.'
I paused, consenting ; but a friend arose,
Pleased a fair view, though distant, to disclose ;
From the rough ocean we beheld a gleam



TALE VII. — THE WIDOW'S TALE. 319

Of joy, as transient as the joys we dream ;

By lying hopes deceived, my friend retired,

And sail'd — was wounded — reach'd us — and expu'ed !

You shall behold his grave ; and when I die.

There— but 'tis folly— I request to lie."

" Thus." said the lass, " to joy you bade adieu !
But how a widow ? —that cannot be true :
Or was it force, in some unhappy hour.
That placed you, grieving, in a tyrant's power?"

" Force, my young friend, when forty years are fled,
Is what a woman seldom has to dread ;
She needs no brazen locks nor guarding walls.
And seldom comes a lover, though she calls :
Yet, moved by fanc.y, one approved my face.
Though time and tears had wrought it much disgrace.

" The man I married was sedate and meek.
And spoke of love as men in earnest speak :
Poor as I was, he ceaseless sought for years,
A heart in sorrow and a face in tears :
That heart I gave not ; and 'twas long before
I gave attention, and then nothing more :
But in my breast some gi-ateful feeling rose,
For one whose love so sad a subject chose ;
Till long delaying, fearing to repent.
But grateful still, I gave a cold assent.

" Thus we were wed ; no fault had I to find.
And he but one : my heart could not be kind :
Alas ! of every early hope bereft.
There was no fondness in my bosom left ;
So had I told him, but had told in vain.
He lived but to indulge me and complain ;

His was this cottage ; he inclosed this gound.
And planted all these blooming shrubs around ;

He to my room these curious trifles brought.

And with assiduous love my plciusure sought ;

He lived to plciiso mo, and I ofttimes strove.

Smiling, to thank his unrequited love :

'Teach me,' he cried, ' that pensive mind to ease ;

For all my pleasure is the hope to please.'

" Seren'e tliough heavy, were the days we spent,

Yet kind each word, and gen'rous each intent ;

But his dejection Icssen'd every day.

And to a placid kindness died away :

In tranquil case we pass'd our latter years.

By griefs unti-ouliled, unassail'd by loars.
" Let not romantic views your bosom sway ;

Yield to your duties, and their call ol)ey :

Fly not a youth, frank, honest, and sincere ;

Obsen'e his merits, and his passion hoar !

'Tis true, no hero, but a farmer, sues —

Slow iti his spcecli, but worthy in his views ;

Withliim you cannot that affliction i)rove,

That rcnils tlie bosom of tho poor in lovo :

Health, comfort, competouco, and cheerlul days.



320 cbabbe's poems.

Your friends' approval, and your father's praise.
Will crown the deed, and you escape their fate
Who plan so wildly, and are wise too late."

The damsel heard ; at first th' advice was strange,
Yet wrought a happy, nay, a speedy change :
"I have no care," she said, when next they met,
" But one may wonder, he is silent yet ;
He looks around him with his usual stare.
And utters nothing — not that I shall care."

This pettisli humour pleased th' experienced friend -
None need despair, whose silence can oSend ;
"Should I," resumed the thoughtful lass, "consent
To hear the man, the man may now repent :
Think you my sighs shall call him from the plough,
Or give one hint, that ' You may woo me now?' "

" Persist, my love," replied the friend, "and gain
A parent's praise, that cannot be in vain."

The father saw the change, but not the cause,
And gave the alter'd maid his fond applause :
The coarser manners she in part removed,
In part endured, improving and improved ;
She spoke of liousehold works, she rose betimes,
And said neglect and indolence were crimes ;
The various duties of their life she weigh'd,
And strict attention to her dairy paid ;
The names of servants now familiar grew.
And fair Lucinda's from her mind withdrew ;
As prudent travellers for their ease assume
Their modes and language to whose lands they come ;
So to the farmer this fair lass inclined,
Gave to the business of the farm her mind ;
To useful arts she turn'd her hand and eye ;
And by her manners told him — ' ' You may try."

Th' observing lover more attention paid,
With growing pleasure, to the alter'd maid ;
Ho fear'd to lose her, and began to see
That a slim beauty might a helpmate be :
'Twixt hope and fear ho now the lass address'd.
And in his Sunday robe his love exprcss'd :
Slie felt no chilling dread, no thrilling joy,
Nor was too quickly kind, too slowly coy ;
But still she lent an unreluctant ear
To all the rural business of the year ;
Till love's strong hopes endured no more delay.
And Harry ask'd, and Nancy named the day.

" A happy change, my boy ! " the father cried :
" How lost your sister all her school-day pride T'
The youth replied, " It is the widow's deed ;
The cure is perfect and was wrought with speed."
" And comes there, boy, this benefit of books,
Of that smart dress, and of those dainty looks ?
We must bo kin<l — some oflerings from the farm
To the wliito cot will speak om- (colings warm ;
Will show that people, when they know the foot.



TALE VIII. — THE MOTHER. 321

Wtere they have judged severely, can retract.

Oft have I smiled, when I beheld her pass

With cautious step, as if she hurt the grass ;

Where, if a snail's retreat she chanced to storm.

She look'd as begging pardon of the worm ;

' And what,' said I, still laughing at the view,

• Have these weak creatures in the world to do V

But some are made for action, some to speak ;

And, while slie looks so pitiful and meek.

Her words are weighty, though her nerves are weak."

Soon told the village bells the rite was done,
That join'd the school-bred miss and farmer's son ;
Her former habits some slight scandal raised,
But her real worth was soon perceived and praised ;
She, her neat taste imparted to the tarm.
And he, th' improving skill and vigorous arm.



TALE VIII.

THE MOTHER.

What though you have heauty,
llu8t you be therelore proud and pitiless V

As You Like It.

I w.-juH not mwry her, though she were endowed with all that Adam had left him
>efore he traiist'ressetl. — As Ton Like It.

Wilt thou love such a woman ? What I to make thee an instrument, and play f.Use
itrainu upon thee 1— Not to be endured.— ^i a Fou Like It.

Your son.
As mad in folly, lack*d the sense to know
Her estimation home.— jKJ's Wvll ttial Ends Well,

Be this sweet Helen's knell ;
He lost a wife, \(tose words all ears took captive ;
Wliose dear perfection hearts that scoru'd to serve
Humbly call'd mistress. — All's Well that Ends Well.

There was a worthy, but a simple pair, _
Who nursed a daughter, fairest of the fail" :
Sons they had lost, and she alone remain'd.
Heir to the kindness they had all obtain'd,
Heir to the fortune they dosign'd for all.
Nor had th' allotted portion then been small ;
But now, by fate enrich'd with beauty rare,
They watch'd their treasure with peculiar care ;
The fairest features they could early trace.
And, blind with love, saw merit in her face —
Saw virtue, wisdom, dignity, and grace ;
And Dorothea, from her iniant years,
Gain'd all her wishes from their pride or fears ;
She wrote a billet, and a novel read,
And with her fame her vanity was fed ;
Each word, each look, each action was a cause
For flattering wonder and for lond ajiplause ;
She rode or danced, and ever glanced around,

Y



322 crabbe's poems.

Seeking for praise, and smiling when she found.

The yielding pair to her petitions gave

An humble friend to be a civil slave,

WLo for a poor support herself resign'd

To the base toil of a dependent mind :

By nature cold, our heiress stoop'd to art,

To gain the credit of a tender heart.

Hence at her door must supphant paupers stand.

To bless the bounty of her beauteous hand :

And now, her education all complete,

She talk'd of virtuous love and union sweet ;

She was indeed by no soft passion moved.

But wish'd with all her soul to be beloved.

Here, on the favour'd beauty fortune smiled ;

Her chosen husband was a man so mild,

So humbly temper' d, so intent to please.

It quite distress'd her to remain at ease,

Without a cause to sigh, without pretence to tease :

She tried his patience in a thousand modes,

And tired it not upon the roughest roads.

Pleasure she sought, and disappointed, sigh'd

For joys, she said, "to her alone denied ;"

And she was sure " her parents, if alive.

Would many comforts for their child contrive."

The gentle husband bade her name him one ;

<i No— that," she answer'd, "should for her be done ;

How could she say what pleasures were around ?

But she was certain many might be found."

"Would she some seaport, Weymouth, Scarborough, grace ?"-

" He knew she hated every watering-place."

" The town ?" — " What ! now 'twas empty, joyless, dull ?"

" In winter ?" — " No ; she liked it worse when full."
She talk'd of building— " Would she plan a room ?"—

" No ! she could live, as he desired,'^! gloom."

" Call then our friends and neighbours."—" He might call,

And they might come and fill his ugly hall ;

A noisy vulgar set, he knew she scorn'd them all."

" Then might their two dear girls the time employ.

And their improvement yield a solid joy." —

" Solid indeed ! and heavy — oh! the bliss

Of teaching letters to a lisping miss ! "

" My dear, my gentle Dorothea, say.

Can I oblige you?"—" You may go away." _
Twelve heavy years this patient soul sustain'd

This wasp's attacks, and then her praise obtain'd, _

Graved on a marble tomb, where he at peace reniain'd.
Two daughters wept their loss ; the one a child

With a plain face, strong sense, and temper mild,

Who keenly felt the mother's angry taunt,

" Thou art the image of thy piuus aunt : "

Long time had Lucy wept "her slighted face,

And then began to smile at her disgrace.

Her father's sister, who the world had seen

Near sixty yeiu-s when Lucy saw sixteen,



TALE Vlir.— THE MOTHER. 323

Begg'd the plain girl : the gracious mother smiled,

And freel^"- gave her grieved but passive child ;

And with her elder-bom, the beauty blcss'd,

ThLs parent rested, ii such minds can rest :

No miss her waxen babe could so admire,

Nurse with such care, or with such pride attire ;

They were companions meet, ■with equal mind,

Bless'd with one love, and to one point inclined ;

Beauty to keep, adorn, increase, and guard.

Was their sole care, and had its full reward :

In rising splendour with the one it reign'd,

And in the other was by care sustain'd ;

The daughter's charms increased, the parent's yet remain'd.

Leave we these ladies to their daily care,
To see how meekness and discretion fare : —
A village maid, unvex'd by want or love,
Could not with more delight than Lucy move ;
The ■s'illage lark, high mounted in the spring.
Could not with purer joy than Lucy sing ;
Her cares all light, her pleasures all sincei'e.
Her duty jo}', and her companion dear ;
In tender friendship and in time respect
Lived aunt and niece, no flattery, no neglect —
They read, walk'd, visited — together pray'd,
Together slept, the matron and the maid :
There was such goodness, such pure nature seen
In Lucy's looks, a manner so serene ;
Such harmony in motion, speech, and air,
That without fairness she was more than fair.
Had more than beauty in each speaking grace,
That lent their cloudless glory to the face ;
Where mild good sense in placid looks was shown,
And felt in every bosom but her own.
The one presiding feature in her mind
Was the pure meekness of a will resign'd ;
A tender spirit, freed ft-om all pretence
Of wit, and pleased in mild benevolence ;
Bless'd in protecting fondness she reposed.
With every wish indulged, though undisclosed ;
But love, like zephyr on the limpid lake.
Was now the bosom of the maid to sh.ake.
And in that gentle mind a gentle strife to make.

Among their chosen friends, a favour'd few.
The aunt and niece a youthful rector knew ;
Who, though a younger brother, might address
A younger sister, fearless of success ;
His friends, a lofty race, their native pride
At first display'd, and their assent denied :
But, pleased such virtues and such love to trace,
They own'd she would aflorn the loftiest race.
The aunt, a mother's caution to supply,
Had watch'd the youthful priest with jealous eyo
And, anxious for licr charge, had view'd unseen
The cautious life that koejis the conscience clean :
Y 2



324 ckabbe's poems.

■ >

In all she found him all she vpish'd to find,
With slight exception of a loftj' mind :
A certain mannei- that express'd desire
To be received as brother to the squire.
Lucy's meek eye had beam'd with many a tear,
Lucy's soft heart had beat with many a fear,
Before he told (although his looks, she thought.
Had oft confoss'd) that he her favour sought ;
But when he kneel'd (she wish'd him not to kneel),
And sjioke the fears and hopes that lovers ieel ;
"When too the prudent aunt herself contess'd
Her wishes on the gentle youth would rest ;
The maiden's eye with tender passion beam'd,
She dwelt with fondness on the life she schemed ;
The household cares, the soft and lasting ties
Of love, with all his binding charities ;
Their village taught, consoled, assisted, fed,
Till the young zealot teais of pleasure shed.

But would her mother < Ah ! she fear'd it wrong
To have indulged these forward hopes so long :
Her mother loved, but was not used to grant
Favours so freely as her gentle aunt.—
Her gentle aunt, with smiles that angels wear,
Dispell'd her Lucy's apprehensive tear :
Her prudent foresight the request had made
To one whom none could govern, lew persuade ;
She doubted much it one in earnest woo'd
A girl with not a single charm endued ;
The sister's nobler views she then declared.
And what small sum for Lucy could be spared ;
" If more than this the foolish priest requires.
Tell him," she wrote, " to check his vain desires."
At length, with many a cold expression mix'd.
With many a sneer on girls so fondly lix'd.
There came a promise — should they not repent,
But take with grateful minds the portion meant.
And wait the sister's day — the mother might consent.

And here, might pitying hope o'er truth prevail.
Or love o'er fortune, we would end our tale ;
For who more bless'd than youthful pair removed
From fear of want — by mutual friends approved —
Short time to wait, and in that time to live
With all the pleasures ho]3e and fancy give :
Their equal passion raised on just esteem.
When reason sanctions all that love can dream ?

Yes ! reason sanctions what stern fate denies :
The early prospect in tlie glory dies,
As the soft smiles on dying infants play
In their mild features, and then pass away.

The Beuutu died ere she could yield her hand
In the high marriage by the mother plann'd ;
Who grieved indeeti, but found a vast relief
In a cold heart, that ever warr'd with grief.

Lucy was present when her sister died.



TALE VIII.— THE MOTHER. 325

Heiress to duties that she ill supplied :

There were no mutual feelings, sister arts,

No kindred taste, nor intercourse of hearts :

When in the mirror play'd the matron's smile.

The maiden's thoughts were traveling all the while ;

And when desired to speak, she sigh'd to iind

Her pause offended : " Envy made her blind :

Tasteless she was, nor had a claim in life

Above the station of a rector's wife ;

Yet as an heiress, she muse shun disgrace,

Although no heiress to her mother's face :

It is your duty," said th' imperious dame,

"(Advanced your fortune,) to advance j'our name,

And with superior rank, superior offers claim :

Your sister's lover, when his sorrows die.

May look upon you, and for favour sigh ;

Nor can you offer a reluctant hand ;

His birth is noble, and his seat is grand."

Alarm 'd was Lucy, was in tears — "A fool 1
Was she a child in love ?— a miss at school ?
Doubts any mortal, if a change of state
Dissolves all claims and ties of earlier date ? "

The rector doubted, for he came to mourn
A sister dead, and with a Avife return :
Lucy with heart unchanged received the youth.
True in herself, confiding in his truth ;
But own'd her mother's change ; the haughty dame
Pour'd strong contempt upon the youthful flame ;
She firmly vow'd her purpose to pursue.
Judged her own cause, and bade the youth adieu !
The lover begg'd, insisted, urged his pain,_
His brother wrote to threaten and complain :
Her sister reasoning proved the promise made,
Lucy appealing to a parent pray'd :
But'all opposed the event that she design'd.
And all in vain — she never changed her mind ;
But coldly answer'd in her wonted way,
That she "would rule, and Lucy must obey."

With peevish fear, she saw her health decline,
And cried, " Oh ! monstrous, for a man to pmo !
But if your foolish heart must yield to love,
Jj3t him possess it whom I now approve ;
This is my pleasure." Still the rector camo
With larger offers and with bolder claim ;
But the stem lady would attend no more —
She frown'd, and rudely pointed to the door ;
"VVhate'er ho wrote, he saw unread return'd.
And he, indignant, the dishonour spurn'd :
Nay, fix'd suspicion whore he might confide,
And sacrificed his passion to his pride.
Lucy, meantime, though thrcaten'd and distress'd,
Against her marriage made a strong protest :
All was domestic war ; the aunt robell'd
Against the sovereign will, and was expoll'd ;



326 ceabbe's poems,

And every power was tried, and every art,
To bend to falsehood one determined heart ;
Assail'd, in patience it received the shocls.
Soft as the wave, unshaken as the rock :
But while th' unconquer'd soul endures the storm
Of angry fate, it preys upon the form ;
With conscious virtue she resisted still, ^
And conscious love gave vigour to her will ;
But Lucy's trial was at hand ; with joy
The mother cried—" Behold your constant boy-
Thursday— was man-ied : — take the paper, sweet.
And read the conduct of your reverend cheat ;
See with what pomp of coaches, in what crowd
The creature married— of his falsehood proud !
False, did I say ?— at least no whining fool ;
And thus will hopeless passions ever cool :
But shall his bride yom- single state reproach ?
No ! give him crowd for crowd, and coach for coach.
Oh i you retire ; reflect then, gentle miss.
And gain some spirit in a cause like this."
Some spirit Lucy gain'd ; a steady soul.
Defying all persuasion, all control :
In vain reproach, derision, threats were tried ;
The constand mind all outward force defied,
By vengeance vainly urged, in vain assail'd by pride ;
Fix'd in her purpose, perfect in her part,



Online LibraryGeorge CrabbeThe poetical works of George Crabbe → online text (page 35 of 49)