George Crabbe.

The poetical works of George Crabbe online

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With stragglers of each adverse camp, who lend
Their aid to both, but each in turn offend.

Though zealous still, yet he begins to feol
The heat too fierce that glows in vulgar zeal ;
With pain he hears his simple friends relate
Their week's experience, and their woful state J
With small temptation struggling every hour.
And bravely battling with the teiniiting power;
His native sense is hurt by strange complaints
Of inward motions in these warring saints ;
Who never cast on sinful Ijait a look,
But they perceive the devil at the hook :
Grieved, yet compcU'd to smile, he finds it hard
Against the blumlers of conceit to guard ;
He sighs to hoar the jests his converts cause,
He cannot give their erring zeal apjilauso ;
But fimls it inconsistent to condenm
The flights and follies he has nursed in thorn :
2



386 crabbe's poems.

These, in opposing minds, contempt produce.
Or niirtli occasion, or provoke abuse ;
On each momentous theme disgrace they bring.
And give to Scorn her poison and her sting,



'b»



TALE XVI.

THE CONFIDANT.

Think'st thou IM make a life of jealousy
T,, iciUow still the changes ol the moon
With fresh susiiiciuu J Othello.

Why h.ost thou lost the fresh hlood in thy checks ;
And given my treasures, anil my riglits of tliee.
To thick-eyed, musing and cursed melancholy t

1st Part Henry IV.

It is excellent
To have a giant's strength ; but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant. Mmsurcfor Measure.

Anna was young and lovely — in her eye

The glance'of beauty, in her cheek the dye :

Her shape was slender, and her features small.

But graceful, easy, unaffected all :

The liveliest tints her youthful face disclosed ;

There beauty sparkled, and there health reposed ;

For the pure blood that tlush'd that rosy cheek

Spoke what the heart forbade the tongue to speak,

And told the feelings of that heart as well,

Nay, with more candour, than the tongue could tell.

Though this fair lass had with the wealthy dwelt,

Yet like the damsel of the cot she felt ;

And, at the distant hint or dark surmise,

The blood into the mantling cheek would rise.

Now Anna's station frc(iucnt terrors wrought,
In one whoso looks were witli such meaning fraught,
For on a lady, as an humble friend.
It was her painful office to attend.

Her duties here were of the usual kind —
And some the body harass'd, some the mind :
Billets she wrote, and tender stories read,
To make the lady sleepy in her bed ;
She play'd at whist, but with inferior skill,
And heard the summons as a call to drill ;
Music was ever pleasant till she play'd
At a request that no re(iucst eonvey'd ;
The lady's tales with anxious looks she heard,
For she must witness what her friend averr'd ;
Tlie lady's taste she must in all approve,
Hate whom she hated, whom she loved must lovo ;
These, with the various iluties of her place,
With care she studied, and pcrforni'd with grace:
She veil'd her troubles in a mask of case,
And show'd her pleasure was a yowcr to please.



TALE XVI. — TUE CONFIDANT. 8S7

Such were the damsel's duties : she was poor —
Above a servant, but with service more :
Men on her face with careless freedom gazed,
Nor thought how painful was the glow they raised.
A wealthy few to gain her favour tried,
Lut not the favour of a grateful bride ;
They spoke their purpose with an easy air,
That shamed and highten'd the dependent fair ;
Past time she view'd, the passing time to cheat.
But nothing found to make the present sweet :
With pensive soul she read life's future page.
And saw dependent, poor, repining age.

But who shall dare t' assert what years may bring.
When wondei-s from the passing liour may spring?
There dwelt a yeoman in the place, whose mind
Was gentle, generous, cultivated, kind ;
For thirty years he labour'd ; fortune then
Placed the mild rustic with superior men ;
A richer Stafford who had lived to save,
What ho had treasured to the j>oorcr gave ;
Wlio with a sober mind that treiusure view'd,
And the slight studies of his youth renew'd :
He not profoundly, but discreetly read,
Ar.d a flvir mind with useful culture fed ;
Then thought of marriage — " But the great," said he,
" I shall not suit, nor will the meaner me."
Anna he saw, admired her modest air ;
He thought her virtuous, and he knew her fair ;
Love raised his pity for her humble state.
And prompted wishes for her haiipier fate ;
No pride in money would his feelings wound.
Nor vulgar manners hurt him and confound ;
He then the lady at the Hall addross'd.
Sought her consent, and his regard express'd :
Wit if some cause his earnest wish denied.
He begg'd to know it, and he bow'd and sigh'd.

The lady own'd that she was loth to jiart.
But praised the damsel fi;r her gentle heart,
Hor pleasing person, aiid her blcjoming health,
But ended thus, " Her virtue is her wealth."

"Then is she rich ! " he cried with lively air ;
" But wlience, so please j'ou, came a lass so fair ? "

" A placeman's child was Anna, one who died
i\nil left a widow by afJlictioiis tried ;
She to supi>ort licr inhmt daughter strove,
But early left the object of her love:
Her youth, her beauty, and her orphan state
G ive a kind countess interest in her fate :
AVith her she dwelt, and still might dwelling bo,
When the earl's folly cause<l the l;iss to flee ;
A second iriend was she compell'd to shun,
By the rude od'ers of an uncheck'd son ;
1 founil her then, and witli a motlio's love
Regard the geutlo girl, whom you approve :
2 c ;2



CRABBE'S rOEMS.

Yet e'en with me protection is not peace,
Nor man's designs nor beaut}''s trials cease :
Like sordid boj's bj' costly fruit they leel —
They will not purchase, but they try to steal."

Now this good lady, like a ^\-itness ti-ue.
Told but the truth, and all the truth she knew ;
And 'tis our duty and our pain to show
Truth this good lady had not means to know.
Yes, there was lock'd within the damsel's breast
A fact important to be now confess'd ;
Gently, my muse, th' afflicting tale relate.
And haA-e some feeling for a sister's fate.

Where Anna dwelt, a conquering hero came, —
An Irish captain, Sedleij was his name ;
And ho too had that same prcA'ailing art
That gave soft wishes to the virgin's heart :
In j'ears they differ'd ; he had thirty seen
When this young beauty counted just fifteen ;
But still they were a lovely lively pair.
And trod on earth as if they trod on air.

Ou love, delightful theme ! the captain dwelt
With force still growing with the hopes he lelt ;
But with some caution and reluctance told,
He had a father crafty, harsh, and old ;
Who, as possessing much, would much expect.
Or both, for ever, from his love reject :
Why then offence to one so powei-ful give.
Who (for their comfort) had not long to live ?

With this poor prospect the deluded maid.
In words confiding, was indeed beti-ay'd ;
And, soon as terrors in her bosom rose.
The hero fled ; they hindor'd his repose.
Deprived of him, she to a parent's breast
Her secret trusted, and her pains imjiress'd ;
Let her to town (so prudence urged) repair.
To shun disgrace, at least to hide it there ;
But ere she went, the luckless damsel pray'd
A chosen friend might lend her timely aid :
'' Yes ! my soul's sister, my Eliza, come.
Hear her last sigh, and ease thy Anna's doom."
" 'Tis a fool's wish," the angry father cried.
But, lost in troubles of his own complied ;
And dear Eliza to her friend was sent,
T' indulge that wish, and be her punishment.
The time .arrived, and brought a tenfold dread ;
The time was past, and all the terror fled ;
The infant died ; the face resumed each charm.
And reason now brought trouble and alarm.

Should her Eliza — no ! she was too just,
" Too good an<l kind — but ah ! too young to trust."
Anna return'd, hur furtner place resumed.
And faded beauty with new grace re-blooin'd ;
And if sonic whisjicrs of the past were heard,
They died innoxious, as no cause appear'd ;



TALE XVI. — THE CO>'FIDAKT, 3S9

But other cares on Anna's bosom press'd.

She saw her father gloomy and distress'd ;

He died o'er whelm 'd with debt, and soon was shed

The fiUal sorrow o'er a mother dead :

She sought Eliza's arras — that faithful triend was wed ;

Then was compassion by the countess shown,

And all th' adventures of her life are known.

And now, beyond her hopes — no longer tried
By slavish awe— she lived a yeoman's bride ;
Then bless'd her lot, and with a grateful mind
Was careful, cheerful, vigilant, and kind :
The gentle husband felt supreme delight,
Bless'd by her joy, and happy in her sight ;
He saw with pride in every friend and guest
High admiration and regard express' d.
With greater pride, and with superior joy,
He look'd exulting on his first-born boy ;
To her fond breast the wife her infant strain'd.
Some feelings utter'd, some were not explaiu'd ;
Ami she enraptured with her treasure grew,
The sight famihar, but the pleasure new.

Vet there appear'd within that tranquil state
Some threat'ning prospect of uncertain fate ;
Between the married when a secret lies,

It wakes suspicion from enforced disguise :

Still thought the wife upon her absent friend,

With all that must upon her truth depend.

" There is no being in the world beside

Who can discover what that friend will hide :

Who knew the fact, knew not my name or state.

Who these can tell cannot the fact relate ;

But thou, Eliza, can.st the whole impart.

Ami all my safety is thy generous heart."
Mix'd with these fears— but light and transient these—

Fled years of peace, prosperity, and ease ;

So tramiuil all, that scarce a gloomy day

For days of gloom unmix'd prepared the way.

One evo, the wife, still happy in her state,

Sang gaily, thoughtless of approaching fate ;

Then came a letter, that (received in dread

Not unobserved) she in confusion read ;

The substance this — " Her friend rejoiced to find

That she had riches with a grateful mind ;

AVhilo poor Eliza had, from place to pLace,

Been lured by hope to labour f(^r disgrace ;

That every scheme her wiuidcring husband tried,

Pain'd while he lived, and peri.sh'd when he died,"

She then of want in angry style complain' d.

Her child a burthen to her life rcmain'd,

Her kindred shunn'd her prayers, no friend her .soul sustain'd.
" Yet why neglected ? Dearest Anna knew

Her worth once tried, her friendship ever true ;

She hoped, she trusted, though l)y wants oppress'd.

To lock the treasured secret in her brcust ;



300 crabbe's poems.

Yet, vex'd by troiihle, imist apply to one
For kinJnoss due to licr for kindness done."

In Anna's mind was tumult, in her face
Flushings of dread had momentary place.
" I must," she judged, "these cruel lines expose.
Or fears, or worse than fears, my crime disclose."

The letter shown, he said, with sober smile,
"Anna, your friend has not a friendly style :
Say, where could you with this fair lady dwell.
Who boasts of secrets that she scorns to tell '?"
"At school," she answer'd : he "At school !" replied ;
" Nay, then, I know the secrets you would hide ;
Some early longings these, without dispute.
Some youthful gaspings for forbidden fruit :
Why so disorder'd, love — are such the crimes
That give us sorrow in our gi-aver times <
Come, take a present for your friend, and rest
In perfect peace — you find you are coniess'd. "

This cloud, though past, alarm'd the conscious wifo.
Presaging gloom and soitow for her life ;
Who to her answer join'd a fervent prayer
That her Eliza would a sister spare :
If she again — but was there cause '—should send.
Let her cUrect — and then she named a friend.
A sad expedient untried friends to trust.
And still to fear the tried may be unjust.
Such is his pain, who, by his debt oi>press'd.
Seeks by new bonds a temporary rest.

Few were her peaceful days till Anna read
Tlie words she dreaded, and had cause to dread : —

"Did she beheve, did she, unkind, suppose
That thiK Eliza's friendship was to close ?
No, though she tried, and her desire was plain.
To break the friendly bond, she strove in vain.
Ask'd she for silence — why so loud the call,
And yet the token of her love so small ?
By means like these will you attempt to bind
And check the movements of an injured mind ?
Poor as I am, I shall be proud to show
What dangerous secrets I may safely know :
Secrets to men of jealous minds convey'd
Have many a noble house in ruins laid ;
Anna, I trust, although with wrongs beset.
And urged by want, 1 shall be faithful yet ;
P>ut what temptation may from these arise.
To take a slighted woman by surprise,
Becomes a subject for your serious care.
For who ollciuis, must for oft'once prepare."

Perplex'd, dismay'd, the wife foresaw her doom ;
A day deferr'd was yet a day to come ;
But s'lill, though painful her suspended state.
She dreaded more the crisis of her fate ;
Better to die than Stafford's scorn to meet.
And her strange friend perhaps would be discreet :



TALE XVI. — TUE CONFIDANT. 391

Presents she sent, and made a strong appeal
To woman's feelin,<rs, hegj^inir her to teel :
With too much force she wrote of jealous men,
And her tears fallmg spoke bej'ond the pen ;
Eliza's silence she asjain implored.
And promiseil all that prudence could aftord.

For looks composed and careless Anna tried,
She seem'd in trouble, and unconscious sigh'd.
The faithful husband, who devoutly loved
His silent partner, with concern reproved :
" What secret sorrows on my Anna press,
That love may not partake, nor care redress ? "
" None, none !" she answer'd, with a look so kind,
Tliat the fond man determined to be blind.

A few succeeding weeks of brief repose
In Anna's cheek revived the faded rose :
A hue like this the western sky displays,
That glows awhile, and withers as we gaze.

Again the friend's tormenting letter came —
" The wants she sufier'd were affection's shame ;
She with her child a life of terrors led,
Unhappy fruit, but of a lawful bed :
llcr friend was tasting every bliss in life,
The joyful mother, and the wealthy T\ife ;
While she was i)laced in doubt, in fear, in want.
To starve on trifles that the happy grant ;
Poorly for all her faithful silence paid,
And tantalized by ineftectual aid :
She coulil not thus a beggar's lot endure ;
She wanted something pertnancnt and sure :
If they were friends, then eipial bo their lot,
And she were free to speak, if they were not."

Despair and terror seized the wife, to find
The artful workings of a vulgar mind :
Money she had not, but the hint of dress
Taught her new bribes, new terrors to redress ;
She with such feeling then describeil her woes,
That envy's self might on the view repose ;
Then to a mother's i)ains she made appeal,
And painted grief like one compell'd to loci.
Yes ! so she felt, that in her air, her face,
In every purpose, and in every place.
In her slow motion, in her languid mien.
The grief, the sickness of her soul, were seen.

Of some mysterious ill, the husband sure.
Desired to trace it, for he hoped to cure ;
Something he knew obscurely, and had seen
His wife attend a cottage on the green ;
Love, loth to wound, endin-ed conjecture long,
Till fear would speak, and spoke in language strong.

"All I must know, my Anna — truly know
Whence these emotions, terrors, troubles How:
Give me thy grief, and I will fairly prove
Mine is no selfish, no ungenerous love."



392 crabbe's poems.

Now Anna's soul the seat of strife became.
Fear with respect contended, love with shame :
But fear prevaiUng was the rulint; guide,
Prescribing- what to show and what to hide.

" It is my friend," slie said, " but why disclose
A woman's weakness struggling with her woes ?
Yes, she has grieved me by her fond complaints,
The wrongs she suffers, the distress she paints :
Something we do, but she afflicts me still,
And saj's, with power to help, I want the will ;
This plaintive stylo I pity and excuse.
Help when I can, and grieve when I refuse ;
But here my useless sorrows I resign,
And will be happy in a love like thine."

The husband doubted : he was kind, but cool :
" 'Tis a strong friendship to arise at school ;
Once more, then, love, once more the sufterer aid,—
I too can pity, but I must uj^braid :
Of these vain feelings, then, thy bosom free,
Nor bo o'erwhelm'd by useless sj-mpathy."

The wife again despatch'd the useless bribe,
Again essay'd her terrors to describe ;
Again with kindest words entreated peace.
And begg'd her offerings for a time might cease.

A calm succeeded, but too like the one
That causes terror ere the storm comes on :
A secret sorrow lived in Anna's heart.
In Stafford's mind a secret fear of art ;
Not long they lasted — this determined foe
Knew all her claims, and nothing would forego.
Again her letter came, where Anna read,
" My child, one cause of my distress, is dead :
Heaven has my infant." — " Heartless wretch ! " she cried,
" Is this thy joy 'i " — " I am no longer tied :
Now will I, hastening to my friend, partake
Her cares and comforts, and no more forsake ;
Now shall we both in equal station move.
Save that my friend enjoys a husband's love."

Complaint and threats so strong the wife amazed.
Who wildly on her cottage neighbour gazed ;
Her tones, her trembling, lii-st bctray'd her grief.
When floods of tears gave anguish its relief.
She fear'd that Stafford would refuse assent.
And knew her sultish friend would not relent :
She must i)Ctition, yet dclay'd the task,
Ashamed, afraid, and yet conipell'd to ask ;
Unknown to him some objecfctill'd her mind.
And, once suspicious, he became unkind ;
They sat one evening, each absorb'd in gloom,
When, hark ! a noise ; and rushing to the room.
The friend tripp'd lightly in, and laughing, said, "I como."

Anna reooivod her witli an anxious mind.
And meeting, whi.sj)er'd, " Is Eliza kind ?"
llescrvcd and cool, the husband sought to prove



TALE XVI. — THE CONFIDANT. 393

The depth and force of this mysterions love.
To nought that pass'd between the stranger friend
And his nieelc partner seem'd he to attend ;
But, anxious, listen'd to the lightest word
That might some knowledge of his guest afford ;
And learn the reason one to him so dear
Should feel such fondness, j'et betray such fear.

Soon he perceived this unmvitod guest,
Unwelcome too, a sovereign power possess'd ;
Lofty she was and careless, while the meek
And humbled Anna was afraid to speak :
As mute she listen'd with a painful smile.
Her friend sat laughing, and at ease the while,
Telling her idle tales with all the glee
Of careless and unfeeling levity.
With calm good sense he knew his wife endued,
And now with wounded pride her conduct view'd ;
Her speech was low, her every look convey 'd —
" I am a slave, subservient, and atraid."
All trace of comfort vanish'd ; if she spoke,
The noisy friend upon her purpose broke ;
To her remarks with insolence replied,
And her assertions doubted or denied :
While the meek Anna like an infant shook,
Woe-struck and trembling at the serpent's look.
" There is," said Stafford, "yes, there is a cause —
This creature frights her, overpowers, and awes."
Six weeks had pass'd — " In truth, my love, this friend
Has liberal notions ; what docs she intend ?
Without a hint she came, and will she stay
Till she receives the hint to go away '("

Confused the wife replied, in spite of truth,
" I love the dear companion of my youth."
" 'Tis well," said Stafford ; " then your loves renew :
Trust me, your rivals, Anna, will be few."

Though playful this, she felt too much distress'd
T' admit the consolation of a jest.
Ill she reposed, and in her drean^s would sigh,
And murmuring forth her anguish, beg to die ;
With sunken eye, slow i)ace, and pallid cheek.
She look'd confusion, and she fcar'd to speak.

All this the frieml beheld, for, (juick of sight,
She knew the husband eager for her flight ;
And that by force alone she could retain
1'he lasting comforts she had hope to gain.
She now perceived, to win her post for life,
She mvist infuse fresh terrors in the wife :
]\IuHt bid to friendship's feebler ties adieu,
And boldly claim the olijcct in her view :
She saw the husband's love, and knew the power
licr friend might use in some propitious hour.

Meantime the anxious wife, from pm'C distress
Assuming courage, said, " I will contess ;"
But with her children felt a parent's prido,



>94 CRABBE'S POEMS.

And sought once more the hated truth to hide.

Offended, grieved, impatient, Stafford bore
The odious change, till he could bear no more :
A friend to truth, in speech and action plain,
He held all fraud and cunning in disdain ;
But fraud to find, and falsehood to detect.
For once he fied to measures indirect.

One day the friends were seated in that room
The guest with care adorn'd, and named her home :
To please the eye, there curious prints were placud.
And some light volumes to amuse the taste j
Letters and music, on a table laid.
The fjivourite studies of the fair betray'd :
Beneath the window was the toilet sjiread,
And the fire gleam'd upon a crimson bed.

In Anna's looks and falling tears were seen
How interesting had their subjects been :
" Oh ! then," resumed the friend, " I plainly find
That you and Stafford know each other's mind ;
I must depart, must on the world be thrown.
Like one discarded, worthless, and unknown j
But, shall I carry, and to please a foe,
A painful secret in my bosom ? — no !
Think not your friend a reptile you may tread
Beneath your feet, and say, the worm is dead ;
I have some feeling, and will not be made
The scorn of her whom love cannot i>ersnade :
Would not your word, your slightest wish, effect
All that I hope, petition, or expect?
The power you have, but you the use decline —
Proof that you feel not, or you fear not mine.
There was a time when I, a tender maid,
Flew at a call, and j-our desires obey'd ;
A very mother to the child became.
Consoled your sorrow, and conceal'd your shame ;
But now, grown rich and happy, fnnn the duor
You thrust a bosom friend, despised and poor ;
That child alive, its mother might have known
The hard, ungrateful spirit she has shown."

Here paused the guest, and Anna cried at length —
" You try me, cruel friend ! beyond my strength :
Would I had been beside my infant laiil,
Where none would vex me, threaten, or upbi-aid ! "

In Anna's looks the friend behold despair ;
Her speech she softcn'd, and composed her air ;
Yet while professi ig love, she answcr'd still —
" You can befriend mo, but you want the will."
They parted thus, and Anna went her way,
To shed her secret sorrows, and to pray.

Staftnrd, amused with books, ami fond of home,
By reading oft dispell'd the evening gloom ;
History or tale— all heard him with delit;ht.
And thus was pass'd this memorable night.

The listening friend bestow'd a fiatterin-' smile ;



TALE XVI. — THE CONFIDANT. 395

A sleeping boy the mother held the while ;
And ere she fondly bore him to his bed,
On his fair face the tear of anguish shed.

And now his task resumed, " My tale," said he,
" Is short and sad, short may our sadness be !

" The Caliph Harun,* as historians tell,
Ruled, for a tyrant, admirablj- well ;
Where his own pleasures were not touch'd, to men
He was humane, and sometimes even then.
Harun was fond of fruits and gardens fair,
And woe to all whom he found poaching there :
Among his pages was a lively boy,
Eager in search of every tritling joy ;
His feelings vivid, and his fancy strong,
He sigh'd for pleasure while he shrank from wrong :
When by the Caliph in the garden placed.
He saw the treasures which he long'd to taste ;
And oft alone he ventured to behold
Rich hanging fruits with rind of glowing gold ;
Too long he stay'd forbid<len bliss to view,
His virtue failing as his longings grew.
Athirst and wearied with the noontide heat.
Fate to the garden led his luckless feet ;
With eager eyes and open mouth he stood,
Fnielt the swott breath, and touch'd the fragrant food ;
The temjiting beauty sparkling in the sun
Charm'd his young sense — he ate, and was undone.
When the fond glutton paused, his eyes around
He tum'd, and eyes upon him turning found ;
Pleased he beheld the si)y, a brother page,
A friend allied in office and in age ;
Who promised much that secret he would bo,
But high the price he fix'd on secrecy :— -
" ' Were you sus]]Octed, my unhappy friend,'
Began the boy, ' where would your sorrows end ?
In all the palace there is not a page
The Caliph would not torture in his rage :
I think I see thee now impaled alive.



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