George Crabbe.

The poetical works of George Crabbe online

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The meagre herbage, fleshless, lank, and lean :
Such o'er thy level turf, Newmarket, stray.
And there, with other black-legs, find their prey.
He saw some scatter 'd hovels ; turt was piled
In square brown stacks ; a prospect bleak and wild !
A mill, indeed, was in tlie centre found.
With short sear herbage withering all around ;
A smith's black shed ojjposed a wright's long shop.
And join'd an inn wliere humble travellers stop.

"Ay, this is Nature," said the gentle squire ;
"This ease, peace, ])leasure — who would not admire ?
With what delight these sturdy children play,
And joyful rustics, at the close of day ;
Sport follows labour ; on this even space
Will soon commence the wrestling and the race ;
Then will the village maidens leave their home.
And to the dance with buoyant spirits come ;
No afloctation in their looks is seen.
Nor know they what disguise and flattery mean ;
Nor aught to move an envious p:mg they see,
Easy their ser\'ico, and their love is free ;
Hence early springs that love, it long endures,
And life's first comfort, while they live, insures :
They the low. roof and rustic comforts prize.
Nor cast on prouder mansions envying eyes :
Sometimes the news at yonder town they hear,


And leaiii what busier mortals feel and fear ;
Secure themselves, although by tales amazed
Of towns bombarded, and of cities razed ;
As if they doubted, in their still retreat, *

The very news that makes their quiet sweet.
And their days happy — happier only knows
He on whotnLaura her regard bestows."

On rode Orlando, counting all the while
The miles he pass'd, and every coming mile ;
Like all attracted things, he quicker flies,
The place approaching where tli' attraction lies ;
When next appear'd a dam — so call the place —
Where lies the road confined in narrow space ;
A work of labour, for on either side
Is level fen, a prospect wild and wide,
With dikes on either hand by ocean's self supplied :
Far on the right the distant sea is seen,
And salt the springs that feed the marsh between :
Beneath an ancient bridge, the straiten'd flood
R(511s through its sloping banks of slimy mud ;
Near it a sunken boat resists the tide,
That frets and hurries to th' opposing side ;
The rushes sharp, that on the borders grow.
Bend their brown flow' rets to the stream below,
Impure in all its coui'se, in all its progress slow :
Here a grave Flora* scarcely deigns to bloom,
Nor wears a rosy blush, nor sheds perfume :
The few dull flowers that o'er the place are spread
Partake the nature of their fenny bed ;
Here on its wiry stem, in rigid bloom,
(Jrows the salt "lavender that lacks perfume ;
Here the dwarf sallows creep, the septfoil harsh,
And the soft slimy mallow of the marsh ;
Low on the ear the distant billows soUnd,
And just in view appears their stony bound ;
No hedge nor tree conceals the glowing sun,
Birds, save a wat'ry tribe, the district shun,
Nor chirp among the reeds where bitter waters run.

" Various as l)oauteous, Nature, is thy face,"
Exclaim'd Orlando,— "all that grows has grace :
All are appropriate — bog, and marsh, and len,
Are only poor to undiscerning men ;
Here may the nice and curious eye explore

• The ditches of a fen fo near the ocean arc lined with iiTcgnl.vr patches of a ooarse and
stained lava ; a muildy Bi;diuiL-nt rests on tlie liorsu tiil and otlier iiereiinial herbs, wliich
In i>art conceal tlio sliallownesa of the stream ; a lat-lcaved i>alc flowerinK' sonr\ y i,'r;i»s
^ppc•ln^ early in the year, ami the razor edged hnlrunli in the Buninier and ailtiinm. 1 ho
fen Itself has a dark and saline herl)nge ; there aro nLilus and arruw-hnid, and in a fi'W
patches the flakes of the cotton-grass are seen, Imt more commonly the ifu aat:-r, tne
dullest of that nnmerons and hanly genus : the K/.ri/f, blue In tlow.-r, l.nt withering and
remaining withered till the winter scatters it ; the „tltwin-t, both simple and shnibl.y ; a
few kinds of gniss changed hy their soil and atmosphere, and low plants of two or tlin-o
denominations undistinguished in a general view of the scenery ;— such Is the vegetjilion
of the fen when it is at a small distjincc from the o.:.'an ; and in tills c.ise there orlBC from
It efllnvla strong and peculiar, liall saline, halfputri.!. which would he considen'd by
most people as offensive, and by some as clangerous ; Imt there are others to whom
iliigulflrlty ol tMte or ugsoctatiou of Ideas has rendered it agreeable and plenaant.


338 crabbe's poems.

How Nature's hand adorns the rushy moor ;
Here the rare moss in secret shade is found,
Here the sweet myrtle of the sliaking ground ;
Beauties are these tliat from the view retire,
But well repay th' attention they require ;
For these my Laura will her home forsake,
And all the pleasures they afford partake."
Again, the country was inclosed, a wide
And sand}~ road has banks on either side ;
Where, lo ! a hollow on the left appear' d.
And there a gipsy tribe their tent had rear'd ;
'Twas open spread, to catch the morning sun,
And they had now their early meal begun.
When two brown boys just left their grassy seat,
The early trav'ller with their prayers to greet :
While yet Orlando held his pence in hand.
He saw their sister on her duty stand ;
Some twelve years old, demm-e, affected, sly.
Prepared the force of early powers to try ;
Sudden a look of languor he descries,
And well-feign'd apprehension in her eyes ;
Ti-aiii'd but yet savage, in her speaking face
He mark'd the features of her vagrant race ;
When a light laugh and roguish leer express'd
The vice imjilanted in her youthful breast :
Forth from the tent her elder brother came,
Who seem'd offended, yet forbore to blame
The young designer, but could only trace
The looks of pity in the trav'ller's face.
Within, the father, who from fences nigh
Had brought the fuel for the fire's sup})ly,
Watch'd now the feeble blaze, and stood dejected by.
On ragged rug, just borrow'd from the bed.
And by the hand of coarse indulgence fed,
In dirty p:itchwork negligently dress'd,
Reclined the wife, an infant at her breast ;
In her wild face some tovich of grace remain'd,
Of vigour palsied and of beauty stain'd ;
Her bloodshot eyes on her unheeding mate
Wero wrathful turn'il, and sccm'd hor wants to stato,
Cursing his tardy aid, - her mother there
With gipsy stato cngross'd the only chair ;
Solemn and dull her look ; with such she stands,
And reads the milk-maid's fortune in her hands,
Tracing the lines of life ; assvuned through years.
Each feature now the steady falsehood wears ;
With hard and savage eye she vic:ws the food,
And grudging pinches their intruding V)rood.
Last in the grouj), the worn-out grandsirc sits
Neglected, lost, and living but by iits :
Useless, despised, his worthless labours done.
And half- protected by the vicious son,
Who halt-supports him ; he v/ith heavy glance
Mews the young ruffians who around him danco

-'-1 ''' ^ -«^^ -s

■ Anil thiT.' a ppxy trilif Hi'ii' I''"! I'"'' rcm-'.l ;

Tw.-i-'. n|>cn sprcaii to i-iilrli l\>r iinirninK »iii)."— P, *)«.


And, by the sadness in his face, appears
To trace the progress of their future years :
Through what strange course of misery, vice, deceit,
Mnst wiklly wander each unpractised cheat ;
What shame and grief, what punishment and pain,
Sport of fierce passions, must each child sustain —
Ere they like him approach their latter end,
Without a hope, a comfort, or a friend !

But this Orlando felt not ; "Eogues," said he,
" Doubtless they are, but merry rogues they be ;
They wander round the land, and be it true
They break the laws — then let the laws pursue
The wanton idlers ; for the life they live.
Acquit I cannot, but I can forgive."
This said, a portion from his purse was thrown,
And every heart seem'd happy like his own.

He hurried forth, for now the town was nigh —
" The happiest man of mortal meu am I."
Thou art I but change in every state is near
(So while the wretched hope, the bless'd may fear) :
" Say, Where is Laura ?" — "That her words must show,"
A lass replied ; " read this, and thou shalt know ! "

" What, gone ! — ' Her fi-iend insisted — forced to go :
Is vex'd, w;is teased, could not refuse her ' — No ?
' But you can follow.' Yes ! ' The miles are few.
The way is pleasant ; will you come ? — Adieu !
Thy Laura.' No ! I feel I must resign
The pleasing hope ; thou hadst been here, if mine.
A lady was it ? — Was no brother there ?
But why should I afflict me, if there were ?
' The way is pleasant.' What to me the way ?
I cannot reach her till the close of day.
My dumb companion — is it thus we speed ?
Not I from grief nor thou from toil art freed ;
Still art thou doom'd to travel and to pine,
For my ve.xation — what a fate is mine !

" Gone to a friend, she tells me ; — I commend
Her purpose : means she to a female friend ?
By Heaven, I wish she suffer'd half the pain
Of hope protracted through the day in vain.
Shall I jiersist to see th' imgraLctul maid ?
Yes, I will see her, slight her, and upbraid.
What ! in the very hour ? She knew the time,
And doubtless chose it to increase her crime."

Forth rode Orlando by a river's side.
Inland and winding, smooth, and full, and wido.
That roll'd majestic on, in one soft-Howing tide ;
The bottom gravel, flow'ry were the banks,
Tall willows waving in their broken ranks ;
The road, now near, nowilistant, winding led
By lovely meadows which the waters fed ;
He'd the way-sido inn, the village spire,
Nor stopp'd to gaze, to (juestion, or admire ;
On either side the rural mansions stood,
Z 2


With hedge-row trees, and hills high-crown'd with wood,
And many a devious stream that reach'd the nobler flood.

" I hate these scenes," Orlando angry cried, _
"And these proud farmers ! yes I hate their pride :
See ! that sleek fellow, how he strides along,
Strong as an ox, and ignorant as strong ;
Can yon close crops a single eye detain
But his who counts the profits of the grain ?
And these vile beans with deleterious smell,
Where is their beauty — can a mortal tell?
These deep fat meadows I detest ; it shocks
One's feelings there to see the grazing ox ;
For slaughter fatted, as a lady's smile
Eejoices man, and means his death the while.
Lo ! now the sons of labour ! every day
Employ'd in toil and vex'd in every way ;
Theirs is but mirth assumed, and they conceal.
In their affected joys, the ills they feel :
I hate these long green lanes ; there's nothing seen
In this vile country but eternal green ;
Woods ! waters ! meadows ! Will they never end ?
'Tis a vile prospect : — ' Gone to see a friend ? ' "

Still on he rode ; a mansion fair and tall
Hose on his view — the pride of Loddon Hall :
Spread o'er the park he saw the grazing steer,
The full-fed steed, and herds of bounding deer :
On a clear stream the vivid sunbeams play'd.
Through noble elms, and on the surface made
That moving picture, checker'd light and shade ;
Th' attended children, there indulged to stray,
Enjoy'd and gave new beauty to the day ;
Whose happy parents from their room were seen
Pleased with the sportive idlers on the green.

"Well ! " said Orlando, " and for one so bless'd,
A thousand reasoning wretches are distress'd ;
Nay, these, so seeming glad, are grieving like the rest :
Man is a cheat — and all but strive to hide
Their inward misery by their outward pride.
What do yon lofty gates and walls contain,
But fruitless means to soothe unconquer'd pain ?
The parents read each infant daughter's smile,
Form'd to seduce, encouraged to beguile ;
They view the boys unconscious of their fate.
Sure to bo tempted, sure to take the bait ;
These will bo Lauras, sad Orlandos these —
There's guilt and grief in all one lieai-s and sees."

Our trav'llcr, lab'ring up a hill, look'd down
Upon a lively, busy, pleasant town ;
All he beheld were there alert, alive.
The busiest bees that ever stock'd a hive :
A pair were married, and the bells aloud
Proclaim'd tlioirjoy, and joyful sceni'd the crowd;
And now, proceeding on his way, he spied,
Bound by strong ties, the bridegroom and the bride ;


Each by some friends attended, near they drew.
And spleen beheld them with prophetic view.

" Married ! nay mad ! " Orlando cried in scorn ;
" Another wretch on this unlucky morn :
What arc this foohsh mirth, these idle joys ?
Attempts to stifle douWl and fear by noise :
To me these robes, expressive of delight,
Foreshow distress, and only grief excite ;
And for these cheerful friends, will they behold
Their wailing brood in sickness, want, and cold ;
And his proud look, and her soft languid air
Will— but I spare you— go, unhappy pair ! "

And now, approaching to the journey's end.
His anger falls, his thoughts to kindness tend,
He less°o£Feuded feels, and rather fears t' ohend :
Now gently rising, hope contends with doubt.
And casts a sunshine on the views without ;
And still reviving joy and lingering gloom
Alternate empire o'er his soul assume ;
Till, long perplex'd he now began to faid
The softer thoughts engross the settling mind !
He saw the mansion, and should quickly see
His Laura's self— and angry could he be ?
No ! the resentment melted all away —
" For this my grief a single smile will pay,"
Our trav'ller cried ;— " And why should it offend.
That one so good should have a pressing friend ?
Grieve not, my heart, to find a favourite guest
Thy pride and boast— ye selfish sorrows, rest ;
She will he kind, and I again be bless'd."

While gentler passions thus his bosom sway a.
He readied the mansion, and he saw the maid ;
" Mv Laura ! "— " My Orlando !— this is kind ;
In truth I came persuaded, not inclined :
Our friends' amusement let us now pursue,
And I to-morrow will return with you,"

Like man entranced the happy lover stood—
" As Laura wills, for she is kind and good ;
Ever the truest, gentlest, fairest, best— ^^
As Laura wills : I see her and am bless'd.

Home went the lovers through that busy placo,
By Loddon Hall, the country's pride and grace ;
By the rich meadows whore the oxen fed.
Through the green vale that form'd the river's bed;
And by unnumber'd cottages and farms,
That have for musing minds unnumber'd charms :
And how affected by the view of those
Was then Orlando— did they pain or °

Nor pain, nor i)loas\ire could they \ .old- and why !
The mind was tiU'd, was hai-py, and the eye _
Roved o'er the fleeting views, that but appear d to the,

Alono Orlando on the morrow paced
The well-known road ; the gipsy tent i>c traced ;
The dam bigh-raiscd the reedy dikes between.

3i2 crabbe's poems.

The scatter'd hovels on the barren green.
The burning sand, the fields of thin-set rye,
Mock'd by the useless Flora blooming by ;
And last the heath with all its various bloom.
And the close lanes that led the trav'ller home.

Then could these scenes the-forraer joys renew ?
Or was there now dejection in the view ? —
Nor one or other would they yield— and why?
The mind was absent, and the vacant eye
Wander'd o'er viewless scones, that but appear d to dio,



Seem they gr^e and learned ?
Why, so ditlst thon : Seem they religious ?
Why, so dids-t thou ; or are they spare in diet ;
Free from gross ]iassion, or ol mirth, or anger ;
Constiint in spirit, not swen'ing witli the blood ;
Gamish'd and dcck'd in lno<lest cf)mp!ement ;
Kot working with the eye, without the ear,
And, hut in pui-ged judgment trusting neither?
Such, and so finely bolted, didst thou seem.

Jlenry V,

Better 1 were distract :
So should my thoughts be so^er'd from my griefs ;
And woes, by wrong imaginations, lose
The knowlege ol themselves. King Lear.

Genius ! thou gift of Heav'n ! thou light (livine 1
Amid what dangers art thou doora'd to shine !
Oft will the body's weakness check thy lorce,
Oil damp thy vigour, and impede thy course ;
And trembling nerves compel thee to restrain
Thy nobler eftbrts, to contend with pain ;
Or Want (sad guest !) will in thy presence come.
And breathe around her melancholy gloom :
To life's low cares will thy proud thought confine.
And make her sufferings, her impatience, thine.

Evil and strong seducing passions prey
On soaring minds, and win them from their way ;
Who then to vice the subject spirits give,
And in the service of the coiKiu'ror live ;
Like captive Samson making sport for all,
Who fear'd their strength, and glory in their foil.

Genius, with virtue, still may lack the aid
Implored by humble minds, and hearts afiaid ;
May leave to timid souls the shield and sword
Of the tried Faith, and the resistless Word ;
Amid a world o. dangers venturing forth,
Frail, but yet iearless, proud in conscious worth,
Till strong" temptation, in some fatal time,
Assails the heart, and wins the soul to crime,
When left by hououi", and by sorrow spent.


Unused to pray, unable to repent,

The nobler powers, that once exalted high

Th' aspiring man, shall then degraded lie :

lleason, through anguish, shall her throne forsake.

And strength ol mind but stronger madness make.

When Echcard Shore had reach'd his twentieth year,
He felt his bosom light, his conscience clear ;
Applause at school the youthful hero gain'd.
And trials there with manly strength sustain'd :
With prospects bright upon the worhl he came.
Pure love of virtue, strong desire of fame :
Men watch'd the way his lofty mind would take.
And all foretold the progress he would make.

Boast of these friends, to older men a guide,
Proud of his parts, but gracious in his pride ;
He bore a gay good-nature in his face.
And in his air were dignity and grace ;
Dress that became his state an<l years he wore,
And sense and spii-it shone in Edwai d Shore.

Thus, while admiring friends the youth beheld,
His own disgust their forward liopos repell'd ;
For he unfix' d, unfixing, look'd around.
And no emploj'ment but in seeking found ;
He gave his restless thoughts to views refined,
And .shrank from worldly cares with wounded mind.

Rejecting trade, awhile he dwelt on laws,
" But who could plead, if unapproved the cause V
A doubting, dismal tribe {)hysicians seem'd ;
Divines o'er texts and disputations dream'd ;
War and its glory he perhaps could love,
But there again ho must the cause ai)prove.

Our hero thought no deed should gain applause
Where timid virtue found support in laws ;
He to all good would soar, would fly all .sin,
By the pure prompting of the will within ;
"Who needs a law that binds him not to steal,"
Ask'd the young teacher, "can ho rightly feel?
To curb the will, or arm in honour's cause,
Or aid the weak — arc these enforced by laws?
Should we a foul, ungenerous action dread,
Because a law condemns th' adulterous bed ?
Or fly pollution, not for fear of stain.
But that some statute tells us to refrain ?
The grosser herd in tics like these we bind.
In virtue's freedom moves th' enlighten'd mind."

" Man's heart deceives him," said a friend. — " Of course,"
Replied the j'outh ; ' ' but has it power to force ?
Unless it forces, call it as you will.
It is but wish, and proncness to the ill."

" Art thou not tempted { "— " Do I fall ?" said Shore.
" The pure have fallen." — " Then are pure no more.
While reason guides me, I shall walk aright,
Nor need a steadier hand, or stronger light ;
Nor this in dread of awful threats, desigu'd

34-1 ceabbe's poems.

For the weak spirit and the grov'lling mind ;
But that, engaged by thoughts and views sublime,
I wage free war with grossness and with crime."
Thus look'd he proudly on the vulgar crew,
Whom statutes govern, and whom fears subdue.

Faith, with his virtue, he indeed profess'd,
But doubts deprived his ardent mind of rest ;
Reason, his sovereign mistress, fail'd to show
Light through the mazes of the world below :
Questions arose, and they surpass'd the skill
Of his sole aid, and would be dubious still ;
These to discuss he sought no common guide,
But to the doubters in his doubts applied ;
When all together might in freedom speak.
And their loved truth with mutual ardour seek.
Alas ! though men who feel their eyes decay
Take more than common pains to find their way.
Yet, when for this they ask each other's aid,
Their mutual purpose is the more delay'd ;
Of all their doubts, their reasoning clear'd not one.
Still the same spots were present in the sun ;
Still the same scruples haunted Edward's mind,
Who found no rest, nor took the means to find.

But though with shaken faith, and slave to fame.
Vain and aspiring on the world he came.
Yet was he studious, serious, moral, grave.
No passion's victim, and no system's slave :
Vice ho opposed, indulgence he disdain'd,
And o'er each sense in conscious triumph reign'd.

Who often reads will sometimes wish to write.
And Shore would yield instruction and delight ;
A serious drama he design'd, but found
'Twas tedicius travelling in that gloomy ground ;
A deep and solemn story he would try.
But grew ashamed of ghosts, and laid it by ;
Sermons he wrote, but they who knew his creed.
Or knew it not, were ill-disposed to read ;
And he would lastly be the nation's g-uide.
But, studying, fail'd to fix upon a side ;
Fame he desired, and talents he possess'd.
But loved not labour, though he could not rest.
Nor firmly fix the vacillating mind.
That, ever working, could no centre find.

'Tis thus a sanguine reaclcr loves to trace
The Nile forth rushing on his glorious race ;
Calm and secure the fancied traveller goes
Through sterile deserts and by tlireat'ning foes ;
He thinks not then of Afric's scorching sands,
Th' Arabian sea, the Abyssinian bands ;
Fasils^ and Michaels, and the robbers all.
Whom wo politely chiefs and heroes call :

• Fii-<i1 was n rebel chief, and Michail the gdieral of tlio royal anny in Ahj-minfii,
when IMr. Bruce visited that courtry. la all other rcsiwcts tlieir cliaractcis were neaily


He of success alone delights to think,

He views that fount, he stands upon the brink,

And drinks a fancied draught, exulting so to drink.

In his own room, and with his books around,
His lively mind its chief employment found ;
Then idly busy, quietly employ'd,
And, lost to life, his visions were enjoy 'd :
Yet still he took a keen inquiring view
Of all tliat crowds neglect, desire, pursue ;
And thus abstracted, curious, still, serene,
He, unemploy'd, beheld life's shifting scene :
Still more averse from vulgar joys and cares.
Still more unfitted for the world's aflairs.

There was a house where Edward ofttimes went,
And social hours in pleasant trifling spent ;
He read, conversed, and reason'd, sang and play'd,
And all wore happy while the idler stay'd ;
Too happy one ! for thence arose the pain,
Till this engaging trifler came again.

But did he love ? We answer, day by day,
The loving feet would take th' accustom'd way,
The amorous eye would rove as if in quest
Of something rare, and on the mansion rest ;
The same soft passion touch'd the gentle tongue,
And Anna's charms in tender notes were sung ;
The car, too, seem'd to feel the common flame.
Soothed and delighted with the fair one's name ;
And thus, as love each other part possess'd,
The heart, no doubt, its sovereign power confess'd.
Pleased in her sight, the youth required no moro ;

Not rich himself, he saw the damsel poor ;

And ho too wisely, nay, too kindly loved.

To pain the being whom his soul api)roved.
A serious friend our cautious youth possess'd,

And at his table sat a welcome guest ;

Both unemploy'd, it was their chief delight

To read what free and daring authors write ;

Authors who loved from common views to soar,

And seek the fountains never traced before :

Truth they profess'd, yet often left the true

And beaten prospect, for the wild and new.

His chosen friend his flftieth year had seen.

His fortune easy, and his air serene ;

Deist and atheist call'd ; for few agreed

What were his notions, principles, or creed ;

His mind repossed not, for ho hated rest.

But all things made a query or a jest ;

Porplex'd himself, he ever sought to prove

That man is doom'd in endless doubt to rove ;

Himself in darkness ho ])rofess'd to bo,

And would maintain that not a man could see.
The youthful friend, dissentient, reason'd still

Of the soul's prowess, and the subject will ;

Of virtue's beauty, and ot honour's force.

346 cbabbe's roEMS.

Online LibraryGeorge CrabbeThe poetical works of George Crabbe → online text (page 37 of 49)