George Crabbe.

The poetical works of George Crabbe online

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And a waim zeal gave life to his discourse :
Since from his feelinpfs all his fire arose,
And he had interest iu the themes he chose.

The friend, indulging- a sarcastic smile.
Said, ' ' Dear enthusiast ! thou wilt change thy style.
When man's delusions, errors, crimes, deceit,
No more distress thee, and no longer cheat."
Yet, lo ! this cautious man, so coolly wise,
On a young beauty fix'd vmguarded eyes ;
And her he married : Edward at the view
Bade to his cheerful visits long adieu ;
But haply err'd, for this engaging bride
No mirth suppress'd, but rather cause supplied :
And when she saw the friends, by reasoning long,
Confused if right, and positive if wrong.
With playful speech, and smile that spoke delight.
She made them careless both of wrong and right.

This gentle damsel gave consent to wed.
With school and school-day dinners in her head :
She now was promised choice of daintiest food,
And costly dress, that made her sovereign good ;
With walks on hilly heath to banish spleen.
And summer visits when the roads were clean.
All these she loved — to these she gave consent,
And she was married to her heart's content.

Their manner this— the friends together read.
Till books a cause for disputation bred ;
Debate then follow'd, and the vapour'd child
Declared they argued till her head was wild ;
And strange to her it was that mortal brain
Could seek the trial, or endure the pain.

Then, as the friend reposed, the younger pair
Sat down to cards, and play'd beside his chair ;
Till he, awaking, to his books applied.
Or heard the music of th' obedient bride :
If mild the evening, in the fields tliey stray'd,
And their own flock with partial e3'c survey'd ;
But oft the husband, to indulgence })rone,
Kesumed his book, and bade them walk alone.

"Do, my kind Edward — I must take mine ease —
Name the dear girl the planets and the trees :
Tell her what warblers pour their evening song,
What insects flutter, as you walk along ;
Teach her to fix the roving thoughts, to hind
The wandering sense, and methodize the mind."
This was obey'd ; and oft when this \vas done,
Tlioy calmly gazed on the declining sun ;
In silence saw the glowing landscape fade,
Or, sitting, sang beneath the arbour's sliade :
Till rose the moon, and on each youthful face
Shod a soft beauty and a dangerous grace.

^ When the young wife beheld in long debate
The friends, all careless as she seeming sate.
It soon apjjear'd there was in one conibined


The nobler person and the richer mind :

He wore no wijj, no grisly beard was seen,

And none beheld him careless or unclean,

Or watch'd him sleepin.i^. We indeed have heard

Of sleeping beauty, and it has appear'd ;

'Tis seen in infants — there indeed we find

The features sotten'd by the slumbering mind ;

But other beauties, when disposed to sleep,

Should fivm the eye of keen inspector keep :

The lovely nymph" who would her swain surprise,

May close her mouth, but not conceal her eyes ;

Sleep from the fairest face some beauty takes.

And all the homely features homelier makes :

So thought our wife, beholding with a sigh

Her sleeping spouse, and Edward smiling by.

A sick relation for the liusband sent ;
Without delay the friendly sceptic went ;
Nor fear'd the youthful pair, for he had seen
The wife untroubled, and the friend serene ;
No selfish pui-joose in his roving eyes.
No vile deception in her fond replies :
So judged the husband — and with judgment true.
For neither yet the guilt or danger knew.

What now remain'd, but they again should play
Th' accustora'd game, and walk th' accustom'd way ;
With careless freedom should converse or read,
And the friend's absence neither fear nor heed :
But rather now they seem'd confused, constrain'd ;
Within their room still restless they remain'd,
And painfully they felt, and knew each other pain'd.
Ah, foolish men ! how could ye thus depend,
One on himself, the other on his friend?

The youth with troubled eye the lady saw,
Yet felt too brave, too daring to witlidraw ;
Wliile she, with tuneless hand the jarring keys
Touching, was not one moment at her ease :
Now would she walk, and call her friendly guide.
Now speak of rain, and cast her cloak aside ;
Seize on a book, unconscious what she read.
And restless still to new resources fled ;
Then laugh'd aloud, then tried to look serene ;
And ever changed, and every change was seen.

Painful it is to dwell on deeds of shame —
The trying day was ]iast, another came ;
The third was all remorse, confusion, dread,
And (all too late !) the fallen hero fled.

Then felt the youth, in that seducing time.
How feolily lionour guards the heart from crime :
Small in his native strength, man needs the stay.
The strength imparted in the trying day ;
For all that honour brings against the force
Of headlong passion, aids its rai)id course ;
Its slight resistance b\it provokes the fire,
As woodwork stops the llamo, and then conveys it higher.


The husband came : a wife by guilt made bold
Had, meeting, soothed him, as in days of old ;
But soon this fact transpired ; her strong distress.
And his friend's absence, left him nought to guess.

Still cool, though grieved, thus prudence made him write-
" I cannot pardon, and I will not fight ;
Thou art too poor a culprit for the laws,
And I too faulty to sujsport my cause :
All must be punish'd ; I must sigh alone,
At home thj' victim for her guilt atone ;
And thou, unhappy ! virtuous now no more.
Must loss of fame, peace, purit_y, deplore ;
Sinners with praise will pierce thee to the heart.
And saints, deriding, tell thee what thou art."

Such was his fall ; and Edward, from that time.
Felt in full force the censure and the crime —
Despised, ashamed ; his noble views before.
And his proud thoughts, degraded him the more :
Should he repent — would that conceal his shame ?
Could peace be his ? It perish'd with his fame :
Himself he scorn'd, nor could his crime forgive ;
He fear'd to die, yet felt ashamed to live :
Grieved, but not contrite, was his heart ; oppress'd.
Not broken ; not converted, but distress'd ;
He wanted will to bend the stubborn knee,
He wanted light the cause of ill to see,
To learn how frail is man, how humble then should be ;
For faith he had not, or a faith too weak
To gain the help that humble sinners seek ;
Else had he pray'd to an offended God —
His tears had flow'd a penitential flood ;
Though far astray, he would have heard the call
Of mercy — ' ' Come, return, thou prodigal ! **
Then, though confused, distress'd, ashamed, afraid.
Still had the trembling penitent obey'd :
Though faith had fainted, when assail'd by fear,
Hope to the soul had whisper'd, " Persevere ! "
Till in his Father's house, an humbled guest,
He would have found forgiveness, comfort, rest.

But all this joy was to our youth denied
By his fierce passions and his daring pride ;
And shame and doubt impell'd him in a course,
Onco so abhorr'd, with unresisted force.
Proud minds and guilty, whom their crimes oppress.
Fly to new crimes for comfort and redress ;
So found our fallen youth a short relief
In wine, the o]iiato guilt applies to grief, —
From fleeting mirth that o'er the bottle lives.
From the false joy its insjiiration gives, —
And from associates pleased to find a friend
With powers to lead them, gladden and defend,
In all those scenes where transient ease is found,
For minds whom sins oppress and sorrows wound.

Wine is like anger ; for it makes us strong.


Blind, and impatient, and it leads us wrong :

The strength is quickly lost, we feel the error long ;

Thus led. thus strengthen'd, in an evil cause,

For folly'pleading, sought the youth applause ;

Sad for a time, then eloquently wild.

He gaily spoke as his companions smiled;

Lightly he rose, and with his former grace

Proposed some doubt, and argued on the case ;

Fate and foreknowledge were his favourite themes —

How vain man's purpose, how absurd his schemes :

" Whatever is, was ere our birth decreed ;

We think our actions from ourselves proceed,

And idly we lament th' inevitable deed ;

It seems our own, but there's a Power above

Directs the motion, nay, that makes us move ;

Nor good nor evil can you beings name,

Who are but rooks and castles in the game ;

Superior natures with their puppets play.

Till, bagg'd or buried, all are swejjt away."

Such were the notions of a mind to ill
Now prone, but ardent and determined still :
Of joy now eager, as before of fame.
And screeu'd by folly when assail'd by shame.
Deeply he sank ; obey'd each passion's call.
And used his reason to defend them all.

Shall I proceed, and step by step relate
The odious progress of a sinner's fate ?
No— let me rather hasten to the time
(Sure to arrive 1) when misery waits on crime.

With virtue, prudence fled ; what Shore possess'd
Was sold, was spent, and he was now distross'd :
And Want, unwelcome stranger, pale and wan,
Met with her haggard looks the hurried man ;
His pride felt keenly what he must expect
From useless pity and from cohl neglect.

Struck by new terrors, from his friends he fled.
And wept his woes upon a restless bed ;
Retiring late, at early hour to rise,
With shrunken features and with bloodshot eyes :
If sleep one moment closed the dismal view,
Fancy her terrors built upon the true :
And night and day had their alternate woes,
That baffled pleasure, and that mock'd repose ;
Till to despair and anguish was cxjnsign'd
The wreck and ruin of a noble mind.

Now seized for debt, and lodged within a jail,
He tried his friendships, and ho found them fail ;
Then fail'd his spirits, and his thoughts were all
Fix'd on his sins, his sufl'erings, and his tall :
His ruffled mind was i)ictured in his face,
Once the fair seat of dignity and grace :
Great was the danger of a man so prone
To think of madness, and to think alone ;
Yet pride still lived, and struggled to sustain


330 crabbe's poems.

The droopin<T spirit and the roving brain ;

But this too fail'd : a friend his freedom gave,

And sent him help the threat'ning world to brave ;

Gave solid counsel what to seek or flee,

But still would stranger to his person be :

In vain ! the truth determined to explore,

He traced the friend whom he had wrong'd before.

This was too much ; both aided and advised
By one who shunn'd him, pitied, and despised :
He bore it not ; 'twas a deciding stroke,
And on his reason like a torrent broke :
In dreadful stillness he appear'd awhile.
With vacant horror and a ghastly smile ;
Then rose at once into the frantic rage,
That force controll'd not, nor could love assuage.
Friends now appear'd, but in the man was seen
The angry maniac, with vindictive mien ;
Too late their pity gave to care and skill
The hurried mind and ever-wandering will :
Unnoticed pass'd all time, and not a ray
Of reason broke on bis benighted way .
But now he spurn'd the straw in pure disdain.
And now laugh'd loudly at the clinking chain.

Then, as its wrath subsided by degi-ees.
The mind sank slowly to intantine ease.
To playful folly, and to causeless joy,
Speech without aim, and without end, employ ;
He drew fantastic figures on the wall.
And gave some wild relation of them all ;
With brutal shape he join'd the human face,
And idiot smiles approved the motley race.

Harmless at length th' unhappy man was found,
The spirit settled, but the reason drown'd ;
ifnd all the dreadful tempest died away
To the dull stillness of the misty day.

And now his freedom he attain'd — if free
The lost to reason, truth, and ho]ie can be ;
His friends, or wearied with the charge, or sure
The harmless wretch was now beyond a cure,
Gave him to wander where he pleased, and find
His own resources for tlie eager mind :
The playful children of the jilace he meets.
Playful with them he rambles through the streets ;
In all they need, his stronger arm he lends,
And his lost mind to these ai)proving friends.

That gentle maid, wliom once the youth had loved,
Is now with mild religious pity moved ;
Kindly she chides his boyish flights, while ho
Will tor a moment fix'd and pensive be ;
And as she trembling speaks, his lively eyes
Explore her looks, he listens to her sighs ;
Charm'd by her voice, th' harmonious sounds invade
His clouded mind, and for a time persuade :
Like a pleased infant, who has newly caught


From the maternal glance a gleam of thought,
He stands enwrapt, the half-known voice to hear.
And starts, half-conscious, at the falling tear.

Rarely from town, nor then unwatch'd, he goes,
In darker mood, as if to hide his woes.
Returning soon, he with impatience seeks
His youthful friends, and shouts, and sings, and speaks ;
Speaks a wild speech, with action all as wild —
The children's leader, and himself a child ;
He spins their top, or, at their bidding, bends
His back, while o'er it leap his laughing friends ;
Simple and weak, he acts the boy once more,
And heedless children call him ISilly Shore.



Such smiling rogues as these.
Like rats, oft bite the holy cords ntwain.
Which are too iiitrinse f unloose. King Lear.

My other self, my counsel's consistory.

My oracle, r.iy prophet,

I, as a child, will go by thy direction.— iJicRara ///.

It I do not take pity of her, I am a villain : if I do not love her, I am a Jew

Much Ado about A'othing.

Women are soft, mild, pitiful, and flexible ;
Thou, stern, obdurate, flinty, rough, reuioraeless.

■.ird I'art Henry VI.

He must he told on't, and he shall : the ofiice

Becomes a woman best ; I'll take't upon me : , ™ ,

If I prove honey-mouth'd, let my tongue blister.— rrin^fr » Tale.

Disguise, I see thou art a wickedness.— Twelfth Ulcjht.

Squire Thomas flatter'd long a wealthy aunt,

Who left him all that she could give or grant ;

Ten years he tried, with all his craft and skill,

To fi.x the sovereign lady's varying will ;

Ten years enduring at her board to sit.

He meekly listen'd to her tales and wit :

He took the meanest office man can take.

And his aunt's vices for her money's sake :

By many a throat'niug hint she waked his fear,

And lie was pain'd to see a rival near :

Yet all the taunts of her contemptuous pride

Ho bore, nor found his grov'lling spirit tried :

Nay, when she'd his parents to traduce.

Fawning he smiled, and justice call'd th' abuse:

"They taught you nothing : are you not, at best.

Said the proud dame, " a trifier, and a jest 1

Confess you are a fool !"— he bow'<l and ho confoss'd

Tliis vc.\'il him much, but could not always last:
The dame is buried, and tho trial past.

352 crabbe's poems.

There was a female, who had courted long
Her cousin's gifts, and deeply felt the wrong ;
By a vain boy forbidden to attend
The private councils of her wealthy friend,
She vow'd revenge, nor should that crafty boy
In triumj)h undisturb'd his spoils enjoy :
He heard, he smiled, and when the will was read.
Kindly dismiss'd the kindred of the dead ;
" The dear deceased " he call'd her, and the crowd
Moved off with curses deep and threat'nings loud.

The youth retired, and, with a mind at ease,
Found he was rich, and fancied he must please :
He might have pleased, and to his comfort found
The wife he wish'd, if he had sought around :
For there were lasses of his own degree.
With no more hatred to the state than he ;
But he had courted spleen and age so long.
His heart refused to woo the fair and yoxmg :
So long attended on caprice and whim.
He thought attention now was due to him ;
And as his flatt'ry pleased the wealthy dame,
Heir to the wealth, he might the flatt'ry claim :
But this the fair, with one accord, denied.
Nor waved for man's caprice the sex's pride.
There is a season when to them is due
Worship and awe — and they will claim it too :
"Fathers," they cry, "long hold us in their chain.
Nay, tyrant brothers claim a right to reign :
Uncles and guardians we in turn obej'.
And husbands rule with ever-during sway :
Short is the time when lovers at the feet
Of beaut}' kneel, and own the slavery sweet ;
And shall we this our triumph, this the aim
And boast of female power, forbear to claim ?
No ! we demand that homage, that respect,
Or the proud rebel punish and reject."

Our hero, still too indolent, too nice,
To pay for beauty the accustom'd price.
No less forbore f address the humbler maid,
Who might have yielded with the price unpaid ;
But lived, himself to humour and to please.
To count his money, and enjoy his ease.

It pleased a neighbouring stiuii'e to recommend
A faithful youth as servant to his friend ;
Nay, more than servant, whom he praised for parts
Ductile yet strong, and for the best of hearts :
One who might ease him in his small affairs,
With tenants, tradesmen, taxes, and repairs ;
Answer his letters, look to all his dues.
And entertain him with discourse and news.

The S(iuiro believed, and found the trusted youth
A very pattern for his care and truth ;
Not for his virtivcs to be praised alone,
But for a modest mien and humble tone ;


Assenting always, but as if he naoant

Only to strength of reasons to assent :

For was he stubborn, and retain'd his doubt,

Till the more subtle Squire had forced it out ;

Naj', still was rigVt, but ho perceived that strong

And powerful minds could make the right the wrong.

When the Squire's thoughts on some fair damsel dwcU,
The faithful friend his apprehensions felt ;
It wouUl rejoice his faithful heart to find
A lady suited to his master's mind ;
But who deserved that master ? who would prove
That hers was pure uninterested love ?
Akhough a servant, he would scorn to take
A countess, till she suffer'd for his sake ;
Some tender spirit, humble, faithful, true,
Such, my dear master, must be sought for you.

Six months had pass'd, and not a lady seen,
With just this love, 'twixt fifty and fifteen ;
All seeni'd his doctrine or his pride to shun.
All would be woo'd before they would be won ;
When the chance naming of a race and fair
Our Squire disposed to tako his pleasure there.
The h'iend profess" d, " although he first began
To hint the thing, it seem'd a thoughtless plan ;
The roads, he fear'd, were foul, the days were short,
The village far, and yet there might be sport."

"What ! you of roads an 1 starless nights afraid ?
You think to govern ! you to be obey'd I "
Smiling he spoke : the humble friend declared
His soul's obedience, and to go prepared.

The place was distant, but with great delight
They saw a race, and hail'il the glorious siglit :
The Sijuire exulted, and declared the ride
Had amply paid, and he was satisfied.
They gazed, they feasted, and in happy mood
Homeward return'd, and hastening as they rode ;
For short the day, and sudden was the change
From light to darkness, and the way was strange :
Our hero soon grew peevish, then distress'd ;
He dreaded darkness, and ho sigh'd for rest :
Going, they pass'd a village, but alas !
lleturning saw no village to repass ;
The Squiro romember'd too a noble hall,
Large as a church, and whiter than its wall :
This he had noticed as they rode along.
And justly reasou'd that their road was wrong.
George, full of awe, was modest in reply —
" The fault was his, 'twas folly to deny ;
And of his master's safety were he sure.
There was no grievance ho would not endure."
This made his peace with the relenting Squiro,
Whose thoughts yet dwelt on supper and a firo ;
When, as they roach'd a long atnl [)loasant green,
Dwellings of men, and next a man, wore seen.

li A

354 ceabbe's poems.

"My friend," said George, "to travellers astray
Point out an inn, and guide us on the way."

The man look'd up ; " Surpi-ising ! can it be
My master's son ? as I'm alive, 'tis he ! "
'• How ! Kobin ?" George replied, " and are we near
^ My father's house? how strangely things appear ! —

Dear sir, though wanderers, we at last are right :
Let us proceed, and glad my father's sight :
We shall at least bo fairly lodged and fed,
I can insure a supper and a bed ;
Let us this night as one of pleasure date.
And ot sm-prise ; it is an act of Fate."
'• Go on," the Squire in happy temper cried ;
"I like such blunder ! I approve such guide."
They ride, they halt, the farmer comes in haste,
Then tells his wife how much their house is graced ;
They bless the chance, they praise the lucky son,
That caused the error — Nay ! it was not one.
But their good fortune : cheerful grew the Squire,
Who found dependents, flattery, wine, and lire ;
He heard the jack turn round ; the busy dame
Produced her damask ; and with supper came
The daughter, dress'd with care, and full of maiden suame.

Surprised, our hero saw the air and dress.
And sti'ove his admiration to express ;
Nay ! felt it too — for Harriot was in truth
A tall fair beauty in the bloom of youth ;
And fi'om the pleasure and surprise, a grace
Adorn'd the blooming damsel's form and face ;
Then, too, such high respect and dutj' jiaid
By all — such silent reverence in the maid ;
Vent'ring with caution, yet with haste, a glance.
Loth to retire, yet trembling to advance,
Appear'd the nyn^ph, and in her gentle guest
Stirr'd soft emotions till the hour of rest :
Sweet was his sleep, and in the morn agaiu
He felt a mixture of <lelight and pain :
" How fair, how gentle," said the Squire, "iiow meek.
And j^et how sprightly, when disposed to speak !
Nature has bless'd her form, and Heaven her mind.
But in her favours fortune is unkind ;
Poor is the maid — nay, poor she cannot prove
"Who is cnrich'd with beauty, worth, and love."

The Squire arose, with no precise intent
To go or stay — uncertain what he meant :
He moved to part — they begg'<l him first to dine ;
And who could then escape ti-om love and wine '{
As came the night, more charming grew the fair,
And seeni'd to watch him witli a twofold care :
Oil the third morn, resolving not to stay,
Tho\igh urged by love, he bravelj' rode away.

Arrived at home, three pensive days he gave
To feelings fond and meditations grave ;
Lovely she was, and, if he did not err.


As fond of him as his fond heart of her ;

Still he delay'd, unable to decide.

Which was the master-passion, love or pride :

He.sometimes wonder'd how his friend could make,

And then exulted in, the night's mistake ;

Had she but fortune, "Doubtless then," he cried,

" Some happier man had won the wealthy bride."

While thus he hung in balance, now inclined
To change his state, and then to change his mind,
That careless George droppVl idly on the ground
A letter, which his crafty master found ;
The stupid youth confess' d his fault, and pray'd
The generous Sijuire to spare a gentle maid.
Of whom her tender mother, full of fears,
Had written much — " she caught her oft in. tears,
For ever thinking on a youth above
Her humble fortiuie — still she o^nl'd not love ;
Nor can define, dear girl ! the cherish'd pain.
But would rejoice to see the cause again :
That neighbouring youth, whom she endured before,
She now rejects, and will behold no more ;
Raised by her pa.ssion, she no longer stoops
To her own equals, but she pines and droops,
Like to a lily on whose sweets the sun
Has withering gazed — she saw and was undone ;
His wealth allured her not — nor was she moved
By his superior state, him.self she loved ;
So mild, .so good, so gracious, so genteel, —
But spare your .sister, and her love conceal ;
We must the fault forgive, since she the pain must feel."

"Fault!" sai<l the Squire, "there's coarseness in the mind
That thus conceives of feelings so refined ;
Here end my doubts, nor blame yourself, my friend.
Fate made you careless — here my doubts have end."

The way is plain before us — there is now
The lover's visit first, and then the vow,
Mutual and fond, the marriage-rite, the bride
Brought to her home with all a husband's pride :
The Squire receives the prize his merits won.
And tlie glad parents leave the patron-son.

But in short time he saw, with much surprise,
First glcjom, then grief, and then resentment rise.
From proud, commamling frowns, and anger-darting eyns :
" Is there in Harriot's humble mind this fire,
This fierce impatience ? " ask'd the puzzled Squire ;
" Has marriage changed her ? or the mask she wore
Has she thrown by, and is herself once more'? "

Hour after hour, when clo\iils on clouds a])pear,

Online LibraryGeorge CrabbeThe poetical works of George Crabbe → online text (page 38 of 49)