George Crabbe.

The poetical works of George Crabbe online

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By svu-ly rustics with the parish broad ! —

Relent you not ? — speak — yet I can forgave ;

Still live with me." — " With you," said Jessie, " live ?

No ! I would first endure what you doscribo.

Rather than breathe with your detested tribe

5G6 crabbe's poems.

Who long have feign'd, till now their very hearts
Are firmly fix'd in their accursfed parts ;
Who all profess esteem, and feel disdain.
And all, with justice, of deceit complain ;
W^hom I couki pity, but that, while I stay,
My terror drives all kinder thoughts away ;
Grateful for this, that, when I think of you,
I little fear what poverty can do."

The angry matron her attendant Jane
Summon'd in haste to soothe the fierce disdain : —

" A vile detested wretch !" the lady cried,
" Yet shall she be by many an eftbrt tried,
And, clogg'd with debt and fear, against her will abide ;
And, once secured, she never shall depart
Till I have proved the firmness of her heart :
Then when she dares not, would not, cannot go,
I'll make her feel what 'tis to use me so."

The pensive Colin in his garden stray'd.
But felt not then the beauties it display'd ;
There many a pleasant object met his view,
A rising wood of oaks behind it grew ;
A stream ran by it, and the village green
And public road were from the garden seen ;
Save where the pine and larch the b<iund'ry made,
And on the rose-beds threw a softening shade.

The mother sat beside the garden-door,
Dress'd as in times ere she and hei-s were poor ;
The broad-laced cap was known in ancient days,
When madam's dress compell'd the village praise ;
And still she look'd as in the times of old,
Ere his last farm the erring husband sold ;
While yet the mansion stood in decent state,
And paupers waited at the well-known gate.
" Alas, my son !" the mother cried, "and why
That silent grief and oft-repeated sigh 1
True we are poor, but thou hast never felt
Pangs to thy father for his ei'ror dealt ;
Pangs from strong hopes of visionary gam.
For ever raised, and ever found in vain.
He rose unhappy from his fruitless schemes.
As guilty wretches from their blissful dreams ;
But thou wert then, my son, a playful child.
Wondering at K'rief, gay, innocent, and wild ;
Listening at times to thy i)Oor mother's sighs
With curious looks an<l innocent sui-]>rise ;
Thy father dying, thou, my virtuous boy,
My comfort always, waked my soul to joy ;
With the poor remnant ot our fortune left,
Thou our station of its gloom bereft :
'J'hy lively temper, and tliy cheerful air,
Have cast a smile ou sa<lness and despair ;
Thy active hand has dealt to this jwor spaco
The bliss of jijcnty and the charm of grace ;
And all around us wonder when they find


Such taste and strength, such skill and power combined ;

There is no mother, Colin, no not one.

But envies mo so kind, so good a son ;

By thee supported on this failing side,

\Veakness itself awakes a parent's pride :

I bless the stroke that was my grief before,

And feel such joy that 'tis disease no more ;

Shielded by thee, my want becomes my wealth.

And, soothed by Colin, sickness smiles at health ;

The old men love thee, they repeat thy praise.

And say, like thee were youth in earlier days ;

While every village maiden cries ' How gay,

How smart, how brave, how good is Colin Grey !'

" Yet art thou sad ; alas ! my son, I know
Thy heart is womided, and the cure is slow ;
Fain would I think that Jessie still may come
To share the comforts of our rustic home ;
She surely loved thee ; I have seen the maid,
Wlien thou hast kindly brought the vicar aid —
AVheu thou hast eased his bosom of its pain,
01) ! I have seen her — she will come again."

The matron ceased ; and Colin stood the while
Silent, but striving for a grateful smile ;
He then replied — "Ah ! sure, had Jessie stay'd.
And shared the comforts of our sylvan shade.
The tcnderest duty and the fondest love
Would not have fail'd that generous heart to move ;
A grateful pity would have ruled her breast,
And my distresses would have made me bless'd,

" But she is gone, and ever has in view
Grandeur and taste, — and what will then ensue ?
Surprise and then delight in scenes so fair and new ;
F()r many a day, pcrhajjs for many a week.
Home will have charms, and to her bosom speak ;
But thoughtless ease, and affluence, and pride,
Seen day b}^ daj^ will draw the heart aside ;
And she at length, though gentle and sincere.
Will think no more of our enjoyments here."

Sighing he spake — but hark ! he hears th' approach
Of rattling wheels ! and, lo ! the evenlYig coach ;
Once more the movement of the horses' feet
Makes the fond heart with strong emotion beat :
Faint were his hopes, but ever had the sight
Dniwn him to gaze beside his gate at night ;
And when with rapi<l wheels it hurried by.
He grieved his parent with a hopeless sigh ;
Au<l could tlio blessing have been bought — what sum
Had lie not oftcr'd to liave Jessie come !

She came — he saw her bending from the door,
Her face, her smile, and he lioheld no more ;
Lost in his joy — tlie mother lent her aid
T' assist and "to detain the willing mfild ;
Who thought her late her present home to make,
Sure of a welcome for the vicar's sake :

;;e8 crabbe's poems.

But the good parent was so pleased, so kind,

So pressing Colin, she so much inclined,

That night advanced ; and then, so long detain'd,

Ko wishes to depart she felt, or foign'd ;

Yet long in doubt she stood, and then perforce remain'd.

Here was a lover fond, a friend sincere ;
Here was content and joy, for she was here ;
In the mild evening, in the scene around,
The maid, now free, peculiar beauties foimd ;
Blended with village tones, the evening gale
Gave the sweet night-bird's warblings to the vale :
The j'outh, embolden'd, j-ot abash'd, now told
His fondest wish, nor found the maiden cold :
The mother, smiling, whisper'd, " Let him go,
And seek the license ! " Jessie answer'd, " No :"
But Colin went. — 1 know not if they live
With all the comforts wealth and plentj^ give ;
But with pure joy to envious souls denied.
To su]ipliant meanness and suspicious pride ;
And village maids of happy couples say,
" They live like Jessie Bourn and Coha Grey."



I am a villain : yet I lie, I am not.

Fool, of thyself sjiKik well :— Fool, do not flatter :

My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,

And every tongue brings in a several tale. — Richard III.

My conscience is a kind of hard conscience . . . The fiend gives the More frieniUy
counsel. — Merchant of Venice.

Thou hast it now — and I fear

Thou iilay'dst most foully for it.— Afaebeth.

Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased :
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow ;
Raze out the written troubles of the brain ;
And with some sweet oblivious antidote,
Cleanse the stuff 'd bosom nf that perilous stuff
"Which weighs upon the lu'.art V — .ilacbrth.

Soft I I did but dream.
coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me !

Itiduird I IT.

A SERIOUS toyman in the city dwelt.
Who much concern for his religion felt ;
Reading, he changed his tenets, road again,
And various questions could with skill maintain ;
Papist and (juakcr if we set aside,
He had the road of every traveller tried ;
There walk'd a while, and on a sudden turn'd
Into some by-way he had just discern'd :
He had a nephew, Fnlham : — Fulham went
His uncle's way, with every turn content ;
He saw his pious kinsman's watchful care,


'Tlip youth onihnUIiMu'il. yet iilinslipil, now Idlil
Hi" ti>iHli'«t w'lBh, niir (imiiil llir imiidi'ii cold."— IV .'IIW.


And thought such anxious pains his own might spare,
And he the truth obtain'd, without the toil, might share.
In fact, j-oung- Fulham, though he little read.
Perceived liis uncle was by fancy led ;
And smiled to see the constant care he took.
Collating creed with creed, and book with book.

At length the senior fix'd ; I pass the sect
He call'd a Church, 'twas precious and elect ;
Yet the seed fell not in the richest soil.
For few disciples paid the preacher's toil ;
All in an attic room were wont to meet,
These few disciples, at their pastor's feet ;
With these went Fulham, who, discreet and grave,
Follow'd the light his worthj' uncle gave ;
Till a warm preacher found the way t' impart
Awakening feelings to his torpid heart :
Some weighty truths, and of unpleasant kind.
Sank, though resisted, in his struggling mind :
He wish'd to fly them, but, compell'd to stay.
Truth to the waking conscience found her w.ay ;
For though the youth was call'd a prudent lad,
And prudent was, yet serious faults ho had ;
Who now reflected — •' ' Much am I surprised ;
I find these notions cannot be despised :
No ! there is something I perceive at last,
Although my uncle cannot hold it fast ;
Though I the strictness of these men reject,
Yet I determine to be circumspect :
This man alarms me, and I must begin
To look more closely to the things within :
These sons of zeal have I derided long.
But now begin to think the laughter's wrong :
Nay, my good uncle, by all teachers moved.
Will be preferr'd to him who none approved ;
Better to love amiss than nothing to have loved."

Such were his thoughts, when Conscience first began
To hold close converse with th' awaken'd man ;
He from that time reserved and cautious grew,
And for his duties felt obedience due ;
Pious he was not, but he foar'd the pain
Of sins committed, nor would sin again ;
Whene'er ho stray'd, he found his conscience rose,
Like one determined what was ill t' oppose.
What wrong t' accuse, what secret to ilisclose ;
To drag forth every latent act to light,
And fiK them fully in the actor's sight :
This gave him trouble, but he still confess'd
The labour useful, for it brought him rest.

The uncle died, and when the nephew read
The will, and saw the substance of the dead —
Five hundred guineas, with a stock in trade —
Ho much rejoiced, and thought his fortune made ;
Yet felt aspiring pleasure at the sight,
And for increase, increasing appetite :
2 B

370 crabbe's poems.

Desire of profit idle habits check'd

(For Fulham's virtue -^vas to be correct) ;

He and his Conscience had their compact made —

" Urge me with truth, and you will soon persuade ;

But not," he cried, " for meVe ideal things

Give me to ieel those terror-breeding stings."

" Let not such thoughts," she said, " your mind confound •
Trifles may wake mo, laut they never wound ;
In them indeed there is a wrong and right,
But you will find me pliant and polite ;
Not like a conscience of the dotard kind,
Awake to dreams, to dire oflences blind ;
Let all within be pure, in all beside
Be your own master, governor, and guide ;
Alive to danger, in temptation strong,
And I shall sleep our whole existence long."

"Sweet be thy sleep," said Fulham ; " strong must be
The tempting ill that gains access to me :
Never will I to evil deed consent ;
Or, if surpi-ised, oh ! how will I repent !
Should gain be doubtful, soon would I restore
The dangerous good, or give it to the poor ;
liepose tor them my growing wealth shall buy,
Or build — who knows '!• — an hospital like Gny.
Yet why such means to soothe the smart within.
While firmly purposed to renounce the sin ? "

Thus our "young trader and his Conscience dwelt
In mutual love, and great the joy they felt ;
But yet in small concerns, in trivial things,
"She was," he said, " too ready with the stings ;"
And he too apt, in search of growing gains,
To lose the fear of penalties and pains ;
Yet these were trilling bickerings, petty jars,
Domestic strifes, preliminary wars ;
He ventured little, little she express'd
Of indignation, and they both had rest.

Thus was he fix'd to walk the worthy way,
When profit urged him to a bold essay : —
A time was that when all at pleasure gamed
In lottery chances, yet of law unblamed :
This Fulham tried ; who would to him advance
A pound or crown, ho gave in turn a chance
p'or weighty prize — and should thoy nothing share,
Tiiey had their crown or pound in Fulham's ware ;
Thus the old stores within the shop were sold
For that which none refuses, new or old.

Was this unjust ? yet Conscience could not rest.
But made a mighty struggle in the breast.
And gave th' aspiring man an early proof
That shotild they war, he would have work enoiigh :
"Suppose," said she, " your vended inunbers rise
The same with those which gain caeli real i)rizo
(Such your pro]iosal), can you ruin shun ? " —
" A hundred thousand," he replied, " to one."


"Still it may happen." — " I the sum must pay."

" You know you cannot." — " I can run away."

"That is dishonest." — "Nay, but you must wink

At a chance hit : it cannot bo, I think.

Upon my conduct as a whole decide,

Such trilling errors let my virtues hide.

Fail I at meeting ? am I sleopj^ there ?

My purse refuse I with the priest to share ?

Do I deny the poor a helping hand ?

Or stop the wicked women in the Strand ?

Or drink at club bej^ond a certain pitch ?

Which are your charges ? Conscience, tell me which ? "

" 'Tis well," said she, "but — " "Nay, I pray have done :
Trust me, I will not into danger run."

The lottery drawn, not one demand was made ;
Fulham gain'd iJrofit and increase of trade.
" See now," said he — for Conscience yet arose -
" How foolish 'tis such measures to oppose :
ITave I not blameless thus my state advanced ? "
"Still," mutter'd Conscience, "still it might have chanced."
"Might!" said our hero: " who is so exact
As to inquire what might have been a fact ? "

Now Fulham's shop contain'd a curious view
Of costly trifles, elegant and new ;
The papers told where kind mammas might buy
The gayest toys to charm an infant's eye ;
Where generous beaux might gentle damsels please,
And travellers call who cross the land or seas,
And find the curious art, the neat device,
Of precious value and of trifling price.

Here Conscience rested, she was jileased to find
No loss an active than an honest mind ;
But when he named his price, ami when he swore,
His Conscience check'd hiui, that he ask'd no more,
When half he sought had been a large increase
On fair demand, she could not rest in peace
^Beside th' affront to call th' adviser in,
IVho would prevent, to justify the sin) :
She therefore told him that " ho vainly tried
To soothe her anger, conscious that he lied :
If thus he grasp'd at such usurious gains.
He must deserve, and should oxi»ect her pains."

Tlio charge was strong ; he would in part couies3
Oflbncc there was — but wlio offended less ?
" What ! is a mere assertion call'd a lie ?
Anil if it be, are men compell'd to buy ?
'Twas strange that Conscience on such points should dwell.
While ho was acting (he would call it) well ;
He bought as others buy, he sold as others sell ;
There was no fraud, and he demanded cause
Why he was troubled when ho kept the laws ? "

"My laws !" saidConscicnco.—" What, "said he, "arc thine?
Oral or written, human or divine'
Show mo the chapter, let mo sco the text ;


372 crabbe's poems.

By laws uncertain subjects are perplex'd :
Let my finger on the statute lay,
And I shall feel it duty to obey."

" Reflect," said Conscience, " 'twas your own desire
That I should warn you — does the compact tire 'i
Repent you this? then bid me not advise.
And rather hear your passions as they rise ;
So you may counsel and remonstrance shun ;
But then remember it is war begun ?
And you may judge from some attacks, my fi-iend,
What serious conflicts will on war attend."

" Nay, but," at length the thoughtful man replied,
" I say not that ; I wish you for my guide ;
Wish for your checks and your reproofs — but then
Be like a Conscience of my fellow-men :
Worthy I mean, and men of good report,
And not the wretches who with Conscience sport :
There's Bice, my friend, who passes off his grease
Of pigs for bears', in pots a crown apiece ;
His conscience never checks him when he swears
The fat he sells is honest fat of bears ;
And so it is, for he contrives to give
A drachm to each — 'tis thus that tradesmen live ;
Now why should you and I be over nice ?
What man is held in more repute than Bice ? "

Here ended the dispute ; but j'et 'twas plain
The parties both expected strife again :
Their friendship cool'd, he look'd about and saw
Numbers who seem'd unshackled by his awe ;
While like a schoolboy he was threaten'd still.
Now for the deed, now only for the will :
Here Conscience answer'd, " To thy neighbour's guide
Thy neighbour leave, and in thine own confide."

Such were each day the charges and replies,
When a new object caught the trader's eyes ;
A vestry patriot, could he gain the name.
Would famo\is make hini, and w-oiikl pay the fame.
He knew full well the sums bequeath'd in charge
For schools, for almsmen, for the poor, were large ;
Report had told, and he could feel it true,
That most unfairly dealt the trusted few ;
No partners would they in their office take.
Nor clear accounts at annual meetings make.
Aloud our hero in the vestry spoke
Of hidden deeds, and vow'd to draw the cloak ;
It was the poor man's cause, and he for one
Was quite determined to see justice done :
His foes afl'octcd laughter, then disdain.
They too wore loud and threat'ning, but in vain ;
The pauper's friend, their foe, arose and spoke again :
Fiercely he cried, " Your garbled statements show
That you determine we shall nothing know ;
But we shall bring your hidden crimes to light.
Give you to shame, and to the poor their right."


Virtue like this might some approval ask —
But Conscience sternly said, " You wear a mask ! "
'" At least," said Fulham, "if I have a view
To serve myself, I serve the public too."

Fulham, "though check'd, retain'd his former zeal,
And this the cautious rogues began to feel :
" Thus will he ever bark," in peevish tone
An elder cried — " the cur must have a bone."
They then began to hint, and to begin
Was all they needed — it was felt within :
In terms lass veil'd an offer then was made ;
Though distant still, it fail'd not to pei-suade :
More plainly then was every potat proposed,
Approved, accepted, and the bargain closed.
The exulting paupers hail'd their friend's success,
And bade adieu to murmurs and distress.

Alas ! their friend had now superior light.
And, view'd by that, he found that all was right ;
" There were no errors, the disbursements small ;
This was the truth, and truth was due to all."

And rested Conscience ? No ! she would not rest,
Yet was content with making a protest :
Some acts she now with less resistance bore,
Nor took alarm so quickly as before :
Like those in towns besieged, who every ball
At first with terror view, and dread them all ;
But, grown famihar with the scenes, they fear
The danger less, as it approaches near ;
So, more familiar with the view
Of growing evils, loss attentive grew :
Yet he, who felt some pain and dreaded more,
Gave a peacc-ofTering to the angry poor.

Thus had he quiet— but the time was brief ;
From his new triumph sprang a cause of grief ;
In office join'd, and acting wiih the rest,
He must admit the sacramental test.
Now, as a sectary, who had all hi.s life,
As he supposed, been with the Chui-ch at strife : —
No rules of hers, no laws had he jierused,
Nor knew the tenets he by rote abused ;
Yet Conscience here more fierce and strong
Than when she told of robbery and wiong.
" Change his religion ! No! ho must be sure
That was a blow no Conscience could endure."

Though friend to Vu-tue, yet she oft abides
In early notions, fix'd by erring guides ;
And is more startled by a call from those,
Than when the foulest crimes her rest oppose :
By error taught, by prejudice misled,
She yields lier riglits, and Fancy rules instead ;
When Conscience all her stings and terror deals.
Not as Truth dictates, but as Fancy feels :
And thus within our hero's troubled breast.
Crime was less torture than the odious tost.


New forms, new measures, he must now embrace,
With sad conviction that they warr'd with grace ;
To his new church no former frienil would come,
They scarce lareferr'd her to the Church of Rome ;
But thinking much, and weighing guilt and gain.
Conscience and he commuted for her pain ;
Then promised Fulham to retain his creed.
And their peculiar paupers still to feed ;
Their attic room (in secret) to attend,
And not forget he was the preacher's friend :
Thus he pi-oposed, and Conscience, troubled, tried.
And, wanting peace, reluctantly complied.

Now, care subdued, and apprehensions gone,
In peace our hero went aspiring on ;
But short tlie period — soon a quarrel rose.
Fierce in the birth, and fatal in the close ;
With times of truce between, which rather proved
That both were weary, than that either loved.

Fulham c'cn now disliked the heavy thrall,
And for her death would in his anguish call,
As Rome's mistaken friend exclaim"d, Lit Carthage fall ,
So felt om- hero, so his wish express'd,
Against this powerful sprite — delenda est :
Eorae in her conquest saw not danger near.
Freed from her rival and without a fear ;
So, Conscience conquer' d, men perceive how free.
But not how fatal, such a state must be.
Fatal, not free, om* hero's ; foe or friend.
Conscience on him was destined to attend :
She dozed indeed, gi-ew dull, nor seen\'d to spy
Crime following crime, and each of deeper dye ;
But all were noticed, and the reckoning time
With her account came on— crime following crime.

This, once a foe, now brother in the trust.
Whom Fulham late descrilied as fair and just,
Was the solo guardian of a wealthy maid.
Placed in his power, and of his frown afraid :
Not quite an idiot, for her busy brain
Sought, by })Oor cunning, trifling points to gain ;
Success in childish projects her delight,
She took no heed of each important right.

The friendly parties met— the guardian cried,
" I am too old ; my sons have each a bride :
Martha, my ward, would make an easy wife :
On easy terms I'll make her yours for life ;
And then the creature is so weak and mild,
She may be soothed and threaten'd as a child."
" Yet not obey," said Fulham, "for your fools.
Female and male, are obstinate as mules."

Some points adjusted, these new friends agreed,
Proiiosed the day, and lun-ried on the deed.

" 'Tis a vile act," said Conscience. — " It will prove,"
Replied the bolder man, " an act of love :
Her wicked guardian might the girl have sold


To endless misery for a tyrant's gold ;
Now may her life be happy — for I mean
To keep "my temper even and serene."
" I cannot thus compomid," the spirit cried,
" Nor have my laws thus broken and defied :
This is a fraud, a bargain for a wife ;
Expect my vengeance, or amend your life."

The wife was pretty, trilling, childish, weak ;
She could not think, but would not cease to speak :
This he forbade — she took the caution ill,
And boldly rose against his sovereign will ;
With idiot-cunning she would watch the hour,
When friends were present, to dispute his power :
With tyrant craft, he then was still and calm.
But raised in private terror and alarm :
By many trials, she perceived how far
To vex and tease, without an open war ;
And he discover'd that so weak a mind
No art could lead, and no compulsion bind ;
The rudest force would fail such mind to tame,
And she was callous to rebuke and shame ;
Proud of her wealth, the power of law she knew.
And would assist him in the spending too :
His thrcat'ning words with insult she defied, •
To all his reasoning with a stare replied ;
And when he begg'd her to attend, would say,

" Attend I will— but let me have my way."
Nor rest ha<i Conscience : " While you merit pain

From mo," she cried, "you seek redress in vain."

His thoughts were grievous : "All that I possess

From this vile bargain adds to my ilistress ;

To pass a life with one who will not mend,

Who cannot love, nor save, nor wisely spend.

Is a vile prospect, and I see no end :

For if we part, 1 must of course restore

Much ot her money, and must wed no more.

" Is there no way?" — Here Conscience rose in power, —

" Oh ! fly the danger of this fatal hour ;

I am thy Conscience, faithful, fond, and true :

Ah, fly this thought, or evil must ensue ;

Online LibraryGeorge CrabbeThe poetical works of George Crabbe → online text (page 40 of 49)