George Crabbe.

The poetical works of George Crabbe online

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Dark and more diirk, we know the tempest near ;
And th\is the frowning brow, the i-estless form,
Anil threat'ning glance, forerun domestic storm :
So read the husband, and, with troubled mind,
Koveal'd his fears—" My luvo, 1 hope you find
All here id pleasant — but 1 must couless
2 A 2

356 crabbe's poems.

You seem offended, or in some distress :

Explain the grief you feel, and leave me to redress."

'•■ Leave it to j'ou ? " replied the nymph — " indeed !
What — to the cause from whence the ills proceed I
Good Heaven ! to take me fi-om a place where I
Had every comfort underneath the sky ;
And then immure me to a gloomy place.
With the gi-im monsters of your ugly race,
That from their canvas staring, make me dread
Through the dark chambers, where they hang, to tread !
No friend nor neighbour comes to give that joy
Which all things here must banish or destroy.
Where is the promised coach ? the pleasant ride ? —
Oh ! what a fortune has a farmer's bride !
Your sordid pride has placed me just above
Your hired domestics — and what pays me ? Love !
A selfish fondness I endure each hour,
And share unwitness'd pomp, unenvied power.
I hear your folly, smile at your parade.
And see your favourite dishes duly made ;
Then am I richly dress'd for j-ou t' admire.
Such is my duty and my lord's desire :
Is this a life for youth, for health, for joy ?
Are these my duties — this my base employ ?
No ! to my father's house will I repair.
And make your idle wealth support me there.
Was it your wish to h.ive an humble bride,
For bondage thankful ? Curse upon yom- pride !
Was it a slave you wanted ? You shall see,
That, if not happy, I at least am free :
Well, sir ! your answer." — Silent stood the Squire,
As looks a miser at his house on fire ;
Where all he deems is vanish'd in that flame.
Swept from the earth his substance and his name ;
So lost to every promised joy of life.
Our Squire stood gaping at his angry wife ; —
His fate, his ruin, where he saw it vain
To hope for peace, pray, threaten, or complain ;
And thus, betwixt his wonder at the ill
And his despair, there stood ho gaping still.

" Your answer, sir ! — Shall I depart a spot
I thus detest ? "— " Oh, miserable lot ! "
Exclaim'd the man. " Go, serpent ! nor remain
To sharjjen woo bj- insult and disdain ;
A nest of harpies was I doom'd to meet ;
What plots, what combinations of deceit !
I see it now — all plann'd, design'd, contrived ;
Served by that villain — by this fury wived —
What fate is mine ! What wisdom, virtue, tnith.
Can stand if demons set their traps for youth ?
He lose his way ? vile dog ! he cannot lose
The way a villain through his life pursues ;
And thou, deceiver ! thou afraid to move,
And hiding close the serpent in the dove !


I saw — but, fated to endure disgrace,
Unheeding' saw — the iury in thy tace,
And call'd it spirit. Oh, I mi;j:ht have found
Frauil and imposture — all the kindred round !

A nest of vipers"

" Sir, I'll not admit
These wild effusions of your angry wit :
Have you that value, that we all should use
Such mighty arts for such inn^ortant views ?
Are j'ou such prize — and is my state so tair.
That the}' should sell their souls to get me there ?
Think you that we alone our thoughts disguise ?
When, in pursuit of some contended prize.
Mask we alone the heart, and soothe whom we despise ?
Speak you of craft and subtle schemes, who know
That all your wealth you to deception owe ;
Who play'd for ten dull years a scoundrel part,
To worm yourself into a widow's heart ?
Now, when you guarded, with superior skill,
That lady's closet, and preserved her will,
Blind in your craft, you saw not one of those
Opposed bj'' you might you in turn oppose.
Or watch your motions, and by art obtain
Share of that wealth, you gave your peace to gain.

Did conscience never"

" Cease, tormentor, cease —
Or reach me poison ;— let me rest in jjcace ! "

" Agreed — but hear mo^let the truth appear."
" Then state your purpose — I'll be calm and hear."
"Know then, this wealth, sole object of your care,
I had some right, without your hand, to share ;
]\Iy mother's claim was just — but soon she saw
Your power, compcU'd, insulted, to withdraw :
'Twas then my father, in his anger, swore
You should divide the fortune, or restore.
Long wo debated — and you find me now
Heroic victim to a father's vow ;
Like Jephtha's daughter, but in different state.
And both decreed to mourn our early fate ;
Hence was my brother servant to your pride,
Vengeance made him y(j\n' slave, and me your bride.
Now all is known — a dreadful price I pay
For our revenge — but still we have our day :
All that you love you must with others share,
Or all you dread from their resentment dare : —
Yet terms I offer — let contention cease ;
Diviilo the spoil, and lot us part in peace."

Our hero trembling heard — ho sat — he rose —
Nor could his motions nor his mind compose ;
He paced the room — and, stalking to her side,
Gazed on the face of his undaunted l)rido,
And nothing there but scorn and calm aversion spied.
He would have venfj^eanco, yet ho foar'd the law ;
Her friends would threaten, and their power ho saw ;

3&8 ceabbe's poems

" Then let her go : " hut, oh ! a mighty sum
Would that demand, since he had let her come ;
Nor from his sorrows coukl he find redrea
Save that which led him to a like distress
And all his ease was in his wife to see
A wretch as anxious and distress'd as he :
Her strongest wish, the fortune to divide,
And part in peace, his avarice denied ;
And thus it happen'd, as in all deceit,
The cheater found the e\\\ of the cheat ;
The husband grieved — nor was the wife at rest ;
Him she could vex, and he could her molest;
She could his passion into fi'snzy raise,
But, when the fire was kindled, fear'd the blaze ;
As much they studied, so in time they foimd
The easiest way to give the deepest wound ;
But then, like fencers, they were ential still, —
Both lost in danger what they gain d in skill ;
Each heart a keener kind of rancour gain'd.
And, paining more, was more severely pain'd ;
And thus by both was equal vengeance dealt,
And both the anguish they inflicted felt.



Then she plots, then she ruminates, then she devises ; and what they think in their
hearts they may effect, they "will break their hearts but they will eflect.

ilcrry Wivex uf Windsoi;

She has spoke what she should not, I am siire of that : Heaven knows what she h.iii
known. — Macbeth.

Our house is hell, and thou a meny devil. — McrcliaiU of Venice.

And yet, for aught I see, they are as sick that surfeit with too miu-h, as they that stiiiTO
with nothing ; it is no mean haijpiuess, therelore, to be seated in the mean.

Merchant of t'enice,

A ViCAB died and left his daughter poor —

It hurt her not, she was not rich before :

Her humble share of worldly goods she sold,

Paid every debt, and then her fortune told ;

And found, with youth and beauty, hope and health.

Two hundred guineas was her worldly wealth ;

It then remain'd to choose her path in life.

And first, said Jessie, " Shall 1 be a wife? —

Colin is mild and civil, kind and just,

I know his love, his temjier I can tnist ;

But small his farm, it asks i)erpetual care,

And wc must toil as well as tiouble share :

True, he was taught in all tlie gentle arts

That raise the soul and soften human hearts ;

And boasts a parent, who desenes to shine


In higher class, and I could wish her mine ;
Nor wants he will his station to improve,
A just ambition waked by faithtiil love ;
Still is be poor — and here my father's friend
Deigns for his daughter, as her own, to send :
A worthy lady, who it seems has known
A world of griefs and troubles of her own :
I was an infant when she came a guest
Beneath my father's humble roof to rest ;
Her kindred all unfeeling, vast her woes.
Such her complaint, and there she found repose ;
Enrich'd by fortune, now she nobly lives.
And nobly, from the bless'd abundance, gives ;
The grief, the want, of human life she knows,
And comfort there and here relief bestows :
But are they not de[)endents 'i — Foolish pride !
Am I not honour'd by such friend and guide ?
Have I a home " (here Jessie dropp'd a tear),
" Or friend beside <" — A faithful friend was near.

Now Colin came, at len'gth resolved to lay
His heai-t before her, and to urge her stay :
True, his own plough the gentle Colin drove,
An humble farmer with aspiring love ;
Who, urged by passion, never dared till now,
Thus urged by fears, his trembling hopes avow ;
Her father's glebe he managed ; every year
The grateful vicar held the youth more dear ;
He saw indeed the prize in Colin's view,
And wish'd his Jessie with a man so true :
Timid as true, he urged with anxious air
His tender hope, and made the trembling prayer ;
When Jessie saw, nor could with coldness see,
Such fond i-espect, such tried sincerity ;
Grateful for favours to her father dealt.
She more than grateful for his passion felt ;
Nor could she frown on one so good and kind,
Yet fear'd to smile, and was untix'd in mind ;
But prudence placed the female friend in view —
What might not one so rich and grateful do ?
So lately, too, the good okl vicar died,
His faithful daughter must not aside
The signs of filial grief, and be a ready bride.
Thus, led by })ru(lcnce, to the lady's seat
The \-illago l)eauty pviqiosed to retreat ;
But, as in hard-fought fiehls the victor know3
What to the vanquish'd he in honour owes,
So, in this conquest over powerful love.
Prudence resolved a generous foe to prove,
And Jes-sic felt a mingled fear ami pain
In her dismission of a faithful swain,
Gave her kind thanks, and when she saw his woo,
Kindly betray'd that she was loth to go ;
" But woulil she promise, if abroa<l slie met
A frowning world, she would remember yet

3'jO crabbe's poems.

Where dwelt a fi-iend ?" — '•' That could she not forg-ct."
And thus they parted ; hut each faithful heart
Felt the compulsion, and refused to ]iart.

Now, by the morning mail the timid maid
Was to that kind and wealthy dame couvey'd ;
Whose invitation, when her father died,
Jessie as comfort to her heart applied ;
She knew the days her generous friend had seen —
As wife and widow, evil days had been ;
She married early, and for half her life
Was an insulted and forsaken wife ;
Widow'd and poor, her angry father gave,
Mix'd with reproach, the pittance of a slave ;
Forgetful brothers pass'd her, but she knew
Her humbler friends, and to their home withdrew :
The good old vicar to her sire applied
For help, and help'd her when her sire denied.
When in few years death stalk'd through bower and hail,
Sires, sons, and sons of sons, were buried all ;
She then abounded, and had wealth to sj^are
For softening grief she once was doom'd to share ;
Thus train'd in misery's school, and taught to feel,
She would rejoice an orphan's woes to heal : —
So Jessie thought, who look'd within her breast,
And thence conceived how bounteous minds are bless'd.

From her vast mansion look'd tlie lady down
On humbler buildings of a busy town ;
Thence came her friends of either sex, and all
With whom she lived on terms reciprocal :
They pass'd the hours with their accustom'd ease,
As guests inclined, but not compell'd to please ;
But there were others in the mansion found.
For office chosen, and by duties bound ;
Three female rivals, each of power possess'd,
Th' attendant maid, poor friend, and kindred guest.

To these came Jessie, as a seaman thrown
By the ru<le storm upon a coast unknown :
The view was flattering, civil seem'd the race,
But all unknown the dangers of the jilace.

Few houis had pass'd, when, from attendants freed,
The lady utter'd, "This is kind indeed ;
Believe me, love ! that 1 for one like you
Have daily pray'd, a friend discreet and true ;
Oh, wonder not that I on you depend.
You are mine own hereditary friend :
Hearken, my Jessie, never can I trust
Beings ungrateful, selfish, and unjust ;
But you are present, and my load of care
Your love will serve to lighten and to share :
Come near me, Jessie — let not those liclow
Of my reliance on your friendship know ;
Look as they look, be in their freedoms free —
But all they say do you convey to mo."

Here Jessie's thoughts to Colin's cottage flew,


And with such speed she scarce their absence knew,
"Jane loves her mistress, and should she depart,
I lose her service, and she breaks her heart ;
My ways and wishes, looks and thoughts, she knows.
And duteous care by close attention shows :
But is she faithful ? "in temptation strong,
Will she not \vTong me ? ah ! I fear the wrong ;
Your father loved me ; now. in time of need,
Watch for mv good, and to his place succeed.

" Blood do'esu't bind— that girl, who every day
Eats of my bread, w.nild wish my life away ;
I am her dear relation, and she thinks
To make her fortune, an ambitious minx !
She only courts me for the prospect's sake.
Because she knows I have a will to make ;
Yes, love ! my will, delay'd I know not how —
But you are here, and 1 will make it now.

" That idle creature, keep her in your view.
See what she does, what she desires to do ;
On her young mind may artful villains prey,
And to my plate and jewels find a way : ^
A pleasant humour has the girl ; her smile,
And cheerful manner, tecUous hours beguile :
But well observe her, ever near her be,
Close in your thoughts, in your professions free.

"Again, my Jessie, hear wliat 1 advise.
And watch a woman ever in disguise ;
Jssop, that widow, serious, subtle, sly —
But what of this ? — I must have company :
She markets for me, and although she makes
Profit, no doubt, of all she \indertakes.
Yet slie is one I can to all i)roduce.
And all her talents are in daily use :
Deprived of her, I may another find
As sly and selfish, with a weaker mind :
But never trust her, she is full of art.
And worms herself into the closest heai't ;
Seem then, I pray you, careless in her sight,
Nor let her know, my love, how wo miite.

" Do, my good Jessie, a view around.
And let no wrong within my house be found ;

That girl associates with 1 know not who

Are her companions, nor what ill they do ;
'Tis then the widow plans, 'tis then she tries
Her various arts and schemes for fresh supplies ;
'Tis then, if ever, Jane her duty quits,
And, whom I know not, favours and admits :
Oh ! watch their movements all ; for me 'tis hard,
Indeed is vain, but you may keep a guard ;
And 1, when none your watchful glance deceive,
May make my will, and think what I shall leave."

Jessie, with fear, disgast, alarm, surprise,
Heard of these duties for her eais and eyes :
Heard by what service she must gain her bread,

362 crabbe's roEMs.

And went with scorn and sorrow to her bed.

Jane was a servant fitted for her place,
Experienced, cunniny;, fraudful, selfish, base;
Skill'd in those mean humiliating arts
That make their way to pro\id and selfish hearts :
By instinct taught, she felt an awe, a fear.
For Jessie's upright simple character ;
Whom with gross flattery she awhile assail'd,
And then beheld with hatred when it fail'd ;
Yet, trying still upon her mind for hold.
She all the secrets of the mansion told ;
And, to invite an equal trust, she drew
Of every mind a bold and rapid view ;
But on the widow'd friend with deep disdain,
And rancorous envy, dwelt the treacherous Jane.
In vain such arts ; — without deceit or pride.
With a just taste and feeling for her guide,
From all contagion Jessie kept apart,
Free in her manners, guarded in her heart.

Jessie one morn was thoughtful, and her sigh
The widow heard as she was passing by ;
And — " Well ! " she said, " is that some distant swain.
Or aught with us, that gives your bosom pain ?
Come, we are fellow sufferers, slaves in thrall.
And tasks and griefs are common to us all ;
Think not m}' frankness strange : they love to paint
Their state with freedom, who endure restraint ;
And there is something in that speaking eye
And sober mien that prove I may rely :
You came a stranger ; to my words attend,
Accept my offer, and you find a friend ;
It is a labyrinth in which you stray.
Come, bold my clue, and I will lead the way.

"Good Heav'n ! that one so jealous, envious, base.
Should be the mistress of so sweet a place ;
She, who so long herself was low and poor.
Now broods suspicious on her useless store ;
She loves to see us abject, loves to deal
Her insult round, and then {)retends to feel :
Prepare to cast all dignity aside.
For know, your talents will be quickly tried ;
Nor think, from favours past a friend to gain, —
'Tis but by duties we our posts maintain :
I read her novels, gossip through the town.
And daily go, for idle stories down ;
I cheapen all she buys, and bear the curse
Of honest tradesmen for my niggard purse ;
And, when for her tliis meanness I displa}',
She cries, ' I heed not what I throw away ;'
Of secret bargains I endure the shame.
And stake my credit for our fish and game ;
Oft has she smiled to hear ' lier generous soul
Would gladly give, hut stooi)s to my control : '
Nay ! I have heard her, when she chanced to come


"Where I contended for a petty sum.
Affirm 'twas painful to behold such care,
' But Issop's nature is to pinch and spare :'
Thus all the meanness of the house is mine,
And my reward — to scorn her, and to dine.

"See next that giddy thing, with neither pride
To keep her safe, nor principle to guide :
Poor, idle, simple flirt ! as sure as fate
Her maiden fame will have an early date :
Of her beware ; for all who live below
Have faults they wish not all the world to know ;
And she is fond of listening, full of doubt,
And stoops to guilt to find an error out.

" And now once more observe the artful maid,
A lying, prying, jilting, thievish jade ;
I tliink, my love, you would not condescend
To call a low, illiterate girl your friend :
But in our troubles we are apt, you know.
To lean on all who some compassion show ;
And she has flexile features, acting eyes.
And seems with every look to sympathize ;
No mirror can a mortal's grief express
With more precision, or can feel it less ;
That proud, mean spirit, she by fawning courts
By vulgar flattery, and by vile reports ;
And by that proof she every instant gives
To one so mean, that yet a meaner lives.

' ' Come, I have drawn the curtain, and you see
Your fellow-actors, all our company ;
Should you incline to throw reserve aside,
And in my judgment and my love confide,
I could some prospects open to your view.
That ask attention— and, till then, adieu."

" Farewell ! " said Jessie, hastening to her room,
Where all she saw within, without, was gloom :
C'onftised, perplex'd, she pass'd a dreary hour.
Before her reason could exert its power ;
To her all seem'd mysterious, all allied
To avarice, meanness, folly, craft, and pride ;
Wearied with thought, she breatherl the garden's air.
Then came the laughing lass, and join'd her there.

" My sweetest friend has dwelt with us a week.
And does she love us ? be sincere and speak ;
My aunt you cannot — Lord ! how I should hate
To be like her, all misery and state ;
I'roud, and yet envious, she disgusted sees
All who are happy, and who look at ease.
Let friendship bind us, I will quickly show
Some favourites near us you'll bo bless'd to know ;
My aunt forbids it — but, can she expect,
To soothe her spken, we shall ourselves neglect ?
Jane and the widow were to watch and stay
My free-boni feet ; I watch'd as well us they :
Lo ! what is this ?— this simple key explores

364 crabbb's poems.

The dark recess that holds the spinster's stores :

And, led by her ill star, I chanced to see

Where Issop keeps her stock of ratafie ;

Used in the hours of anger and alarm,

It makes her civil, and it keeps her warm :

Thus bless'd with secrets both would choose to hide.

Their fears now grant me what their scorn denied.

" My freedom thus by their assent secured,
Bad as it is, the place may be endured ;
And bad it is, but her estates, you know.
And her beloved hoards, she must bestow ;
So we can slily our amasements take,
And friends of demons, if they help us, make."

" Strange creatures these," thought Jessie, half in-lined
To smile at one malicious and yet kind ;
Frank and yet cunning, with a heart to love
And malice prompt— the sei-jjent and the dove ;
Here could she dwell? or could she j'et depart?
Could she be artful ? could she bear with art ? —
This splendid mansion gave the cottage grace,
She thought a dungeon was a happier place ;
And Colin pleading, when he pleaded best.
Wrought not such sudden change in Jessie's breast.

The wondering maiden, who had only read
Of such vile beings, saw them now with dread ;
Safe in themselves— for nature has design'd
The creature's poison harmless to the kind ;
But all beside who in the haunts are found
Must dread the poison, and must feel the woun<l.

Days full of care, slow wearj' weeks pass'd on,
Eager to go, still Jessie was not gone ;
Her time in trifling, or in tears, she spent ;
She never gave, she never felt, content :
The lady wonder'd that her hmnble guest
Strove not to please, would neither lie nor jest ;
She sought no news, no scandal would convey,
But walk'd for health, and was at church to pray :
All this displeased, and soon the widow cried,
" Let me be frank — I am not satisfied ;
You know my wishes, I your judgment trust ;
You can be useful, Jessie, and you must :
Let me be plainer, child — 1 want an ear,
When I am deaf, instead of mine to hear ;
When mine is sleeping let your eye awake ;
When I observe not, observation take :
Alas ! I rest not on my pillow laid.
Then threat'ning whispers make my soul afraid ;
The tread of strangers to my ear ascends,
Fed at my cost, the minions of my friends ;
While you, without a care, a wish to please,
Eat the vile bread of idleness and ease."

Th' indignant girl, astonish'd, answer'd — "Nay !
This instant, madam, let mo haste away :
Thus speaks my father's, thus an orphan's friend ?


This instant, lad}-, let your bount}' end."

The lady frowii'd iiKlig^iant— " What !" she cried,
" A vicar's daughter with a princess' pride
And pauper's lot ! but pityinp 1 forgive ;
How. simple Jessie, do you think to live ?
Have I not power to help you, foolish maid ?
To my concerns be your attention paid ;
With cheerful mind th' allotted duties take,
And recollect I have a will to make."

Jessie, who felt as liberal natures feel,
When thus the baser their designs reveal.
Replied — " Those duties were to her unfit.
Nor would her spirit to her tasks submit."

In silent scorn the lady sat awhile.
And then replied with stern contemptuous smile —
" Think you. fair mailam, that you came to share
Fortunes like mine without a thought or care ?
A g-uest, indeed ! from every trouble free,
Dress'd by my help, with not a care for me ;
When I a visit to your father made,
I for the poor assistance largely paid ;
To his domestics I their tasks assign' d,
I fix'd the portion for his hungry hind ;
And had your father (simple man !) obey'd
My good advice, and watch'd as well as pray'd.
He might have left you something with his prayers.
And lent some colour for these lofty airs.

" In tears, my love ! Oh, then my soften'd heart
Cannot resist— we never more will part ;
I need your friendship — I will be your friend,

And, thus determined, to my will attend."

Jessie went forth, but with determined soul
To fly such love, to break from such control :

" I hear enough," the trembling damsel cried ;

" Flight be my care, and Providence my guide :
Ere yet a pi-isoner. I escape will make ;

W'ill, thus display 'd, th' insidious arts forsake,

And, as the rattle sounds, will fly the fatal snake."
Jessie her thanks iqxvn ttie morrow paid,

Prepared to go, determined though afraid.

" Ungrateful creature !" said the lady, "this

CV)ul(l I imagine ? — are you frantic, miss ?

What ! leave your friend, your prospects — is it true ?"

This Jessie answer'd by a mild " Adieu !"
The dame replied, " Then houseless may you rovo,

The starving victim to a guilty love ;

Branded with shame, in sickness doom'd to nurse

An ill-form'd cub, your scandal and your curso ;

Spurn'd by its scoundrel father, .and ill fed

Online LibraryGeorge CrabbeThe poetical works of George Crabbe → online text (page 39 of 49)