George Crabbe.

The poetical works of George Crabbe online

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And rules around in systems and in suns :
Still has the love of order found a place.
With all that's low, degrading, mean, and base.
With all that merits scorn, and all that meets disgi-ace ;
In the cold miser, of all change afraid ;
In pompous men in public seats obey'd ;
In humble placemen, heralds, solemn drones,
Fanciers of flowers, and lads like Stephen Jones :
Order to these is armour and defence,
And love of method serves in lack of sense.

For rustic youth could I a list produce
Of Stephen's books, how great might be the use !
But evil fate was theii-s — survey'd, enjoy'd
Some happy months, and then by force destroy'd :
So will'd the fates— but these with patience read
Had vast effect on Stephen's heart and head.
This soon appear'd : within a single week
He oped his lips, and made attempt to speak ;
He fail'd indeed — but still his friend confess'd
The best have fail'd, and he had done his best :
The first of swimmers, when at first he swims,
Has little use or freedom in his limbs ;
Nay, when at length he strikes with manly force.
The cramp may seize him, and impede his course.

Encouraged thus, our clerk again essay'd
The daring act, though daunted and afraid :
Succeeding now, though ))artial his success,
And i)ertness mark'd his manner and address.
Yet such improvement issued from his books,
That all discern'd it in his speech and looks :
Ho ventured then on every theme to speak,
And lelt no feverish tingling in his cheek ;
His friend, approving, hail'd the happy change,
The clerks cxclaim'd— " 'Tis tamous, and 'tis strange."

Two years had i)ass'd ; the youth attended still
(Though thus accomi)lish'd) with a ready (juill :
He sat th' allotted hours, though hard the case
While timid prudence ruled in virtue's place ;
By promise bound, the son his letters pcnn'd
To his good parent at the quarter's end.
At first he sent those lines, the state to tell
Of his own health, an<l hoped his friends were well ;
He kept their virtuous precepts in his mind.
And needed nothhig— then his name was sigu'd :


But now he wrote of Sunday walks nnd views,
Of actors' names, choice novels, and strani^^e news ;
How coats were cut, and of his urgent need
For fresh supplj', which he desired with si>eed.
The father doubted, when these letters came.
To what they tended, j-et was loth to blame :
" Stephen was once rni/ duteous son, and now
My most obedient — thLs can I allow ]
Can I with pleasure or with patience see
A boy at once so heartless and so free 'i "

But soon the kinsman heavy tidings told,
That love and jarudence could no more withhold :
'■■ Stephen, though steady at his desk, was grown
A rake and coxcomb — this lie grieved to own ;
His cousin lett his church, and spent the day
Lounging about in quite a heathen way ;
Sometimes he swore, but had indeed the grace
To show^ the shame imprinted on his face :
I search'd his room, and in his absence read
Books that I knew would turn a stronger head :
The works of atheists half the number made,
The rest were lives of harlots leaving trade ;
Which neither man nor boy would deign to read,
If from the scandal ;md pollution freed :
I sometimes threaten'd, and would fairly state
My sense of things so vile and profligate ;
But I'm a cit, such works are lost on me —
They're knowledge, and (good Lord '.) philosophy."

" Oh, send him down," the father soon replied ;
" Let me behold him, and my skill be tried :
If care and kindness lose their wonted use.
Some rougher medicine will the end produce."

Stephen with grief and anger heard his doom —
" Go to the farmer — to the rustic's home ?
Curse the base threat' ning — " " Nay, child, never curse ;
Cornipted long, your case is growing worse."
" I !" quoth the youth ; " I challenge all nvinldnd
To find a fault ; what fault have y(ju to find ?
Improve I not in manner, speech, and grace?
Inquire — my friuiifls will toll it to your face ;
Have I been taught to guard his kine and shcop ;
A man like me hius other things to keep ;
This let him know." — " It would his wrath excite :
But come, prepare, you must away to-night."
" What ! leave my studies, my improvements leave.
My faithful friends and intimates to grieve?"
" Go to your father, Stephen, let him .see
All these im])rovoments ; they are lost on mo."

The youth, though loth, obey'd, and soon he saw
The farmer father, with some signs of awe ;
Who, kind, j'ct silent, waited to boholil
liow one would act, so daring, yet so colil :
And soon he found, between the friendly i)air
That secreta pass'd which he Wiis not to sh.ire ;

438 crabee's roEMS.

But he resolved those secrets to obtain.
And quash rebellion in his lawful reign.

Stephen, though vain, was with his lather mute ;
He feai'd a crisis, and he shunn'd dispute ;
And yet he long'd with youthful pride to show
He knew such things as farmers could not know ;
These to the grandam he with freedom spoke.
Saw her amazement, and enjoy'd the joke :
But on the father when he cast his eye,
Something he found that made his valour shy ;
And thus there seem'd to be a hollov? truce.
Still threat'ning something dismal to produce.

Ere this the father at his leisiu-e read
The son's choice volumes, and his wonder fled ;
He saw how wrought the works of either kind
On so presuming, yet so weak a mind ;
These in a chosen hour he marie his prey,
Condemn'd, and bore with vengeful tliovights away ;
Then in a close recess the couple near.
He sat unseen to see, unheard to hear.

There soon a trial for his patience came ;
Beneath were placed the youth and ancient dame.
Each on a purpose fix'd — but neither thought
How near a foe, with jx)wer and vengeance fraught.

And now the matron told, as tidings sad.
What she had hcai"d of her beloved lad ;
How he to gi-aceless, wicked men gave heed,
And wicked books would night and morning read ;
Some former lectures she again began,
And begg'd attention of her little man ;
She brought, with many a pious boast, in view
His former studies, and condemn'd the new :
Once he the names of saints and patriarchs old.
Judges and kings, and chiefs and prophets, told ;
Then he in winter nights the Bible took.
To count how often in the sacred book
The sacred name appear'd, and could rehearse
Which were the middle chapter, word, and verso;
The very letter in the middle placed.
And so cmploy'd the hours that others waste.

" Such wert thou once ; and now, my child, they say
Thy faith like water nmneth fast away ;
The prince of devils hath, I fear, beguiled
The ready wit of my backsliding child."

On this, with lofty looks, our clerk began
His grave rebuke, as ho assumed the man. —

"There is no devil," said the hopeful youth,
" Nor prince of devils : that I know for truth.
Have I not told j'ou how my books describe
The arts of piiests, and all the canting tribe?
Your Bible mentions Egj^tt, whore it seems
Was Joseph found wlien I'liaiaoh drcam'd his dreams :
Now in that place, in some bewilder'd heail,
(The learned write) religious droaius were bred ;


Whence through the earth, with various forras combiiietl,

Tlicy came to frighten and afflict mankind,

Prone (so I read) to let a priest inva<le

Their souls with awe, anil by his craft be made

Slave to his will, and profit to his trade :

So say my books, and how the rogues agreed

To blind the victims, to defraud and lead ;

When joys above to ready dupes were sold,

And hell was threaten'd to the shy and coM.

"Why so amazed and so prepared to pray ?
As il a Being heard a word we say :
This may surprise you ; I myself began
To feel disturb'd, and to my Bible ran :
I now am wiser — yet agree in this,
The book has things that are not much amiss ;
It is a fine old work, and I protest
I hate to hear it treated as a jest :
The book has wisdom in it, if you look
Wisely upon it as another book."

" Oh ! wicked ! wicked ! my unhappy child,
How hast thou been by evil men beguiled ! "

"How ! wicked say you ? You can little guess
The gain of that which you call wickedness :
Why, sins you think it sinful but to name
Have gain'd both wives and widows wealth and fame ;
And this because such people never dread
Those threaten'd pains ; hell comes not in their head :
Love is our nature, wealth we all desire.
And what we wish 'tis lawful to acquire ;
So say my book — and what beside they show
'Tis time to let this honest farmer know.
Nay, look not grave ; am I commanded down
To feed his cattle, and become his clown?
Is such his purpose ? Then he shall be told
Tho vulgar insult —

Hold, in mercy hold !
Father, oh ! father ! throw the whip aw.aj'' ;
I was but jesting ; on my knees I pray —
There, hold his arm — oh ! leave us not alone :
In pity cease, and I will yet atone

For ail my sin." In vain ; stroke after stroke,

On side and shoulder, quick as mill-wheels broke ;
Quick as the patient's pulse, who trembling cried,
AtkI still the parent with a stroke replied ;
Till all the medicine he prepared was dealt,
And every bone the precious influence felt ;
Till all the panting flesh was rod and raw.
And every thought was turn'd to fear and awe ;
Till every doubt to due respect gave place. —
Such cures are done when doctors know the case.

" Oh ! I shall die — my father ! do receive
My dying words ; indeed I do believe.
The books are lying books, I know it well ;
There is a devil, oh! there is a hell ;

440 crabbe's poems.

And I'm a sinner ; spare me, I am young,
My sinful words were only on my tongue ;
My heart consented not ; 'tis all a lie :
Oh ! spare me then, I'm not prepared to die."

"Vain, worthless, stupid wretch !" the father cried;
"Dost thou presume to teach — art thou a guide?
Driveller and dog, it gave the mind distress
To hear thy thoughts in their religious dress ;
Thy pious folly moved my strong disdain,
Yet I forgave thee for thy want of brain ;
But Job in patience must the man exceed
Who could endure thee in thy present creed.
Is it for thee, thou idiot, to pretend
The wicked cause a helping hand to lend ?
Canst thou a judge in any question be !
Atheists themselves would scorn a friend like thee

" Lo ! yonder blaze thy worthies ; in one heap
Thy scoundrel favourites must for ever sleep :
Each yields its poison to the flame in turn,
Where whores and infidels are doom'd to burn ;
Two noble faggots made the flame you see.
Reserving only two fair twigs for thee :
That in thy view the instruments may stand.
And bo in future ready for my hand :
The just mementos that, though silent, show
Whence thy correction and improvements flow ;
Beholding these, thou wilt confess their power.
And feel the shame of this important hour.

" Hadst thou been humble, I had first design'd
By care from folly to have freed th}' mind ;
And when a clean foundation had been laid.
Our priest, more able, would hayo lent his aid :
But thou art weak, and force must folly guide ;
And thoii art vain, and j)ain must humble prido :
Teachers men honour, learners they allure ;
But learners teaching, of contempt are sure ;
Scorn is their certain meed, and smart their only euro !"



It Iiaa been held in ancient rules,
Th;it flattery is the food oi fools ;
Yit now auJ then your men of wit
Will condescend to taste a bit. — Swnr.

The Subject — Poverty and Cunning described— When united, a J:irring Couple— Mutual
reproof— the Wife consoled by a l>rcam— Birth of a Dauyliter— Dcscri)'tiou and I'r :dic-
tion of Envy — How t^) be rendered ineffectual, explained in a Visivn — Simulation
foretells the future Success and 'triumphs of l-'luttcry— Her power over various Charac-
ters and Diilerent Minds ; over certain Classes of men ; over Envy himself — Her
successful Art of softening the Evils of Life ; of changing Characters ; of meliorating
>*ro9p6ct3, and aflixing Value to Possessions, Pictures, &c. — Conclusion.

Muse of my Spenser, who so well could sing

The passions all, their bearings and their ties ;

Who could in view those shadowy beings bring,

And with bold hand remove each dai'k disguise,

Wherein love, hatred, scorn, or anger lies :

Guide him to Fairyland, who now intends

That way his flight ; assist him as lie flies,

To mark those passions. Virtue's foes and friends,
Cy whom when led she di-oops, when leading she ascends.

Yes ! they appear, I see the fairj' train !

And who that modest nymph of meek address ?

Not Vanity, though loved by all the vain ;

Not Hope, though promising to all success ;

Nor Mirth, nor Joy, though foe to all distress ;

'j'hce, sprightly siren, from this train I choose.

Thy birth relate, thy soothing arts confess ;

'Tis not in thy mild nature to refuse,
When poets ask thine aid, so oft their meed and muse.

In Fairyland, on wide and cheerless plain,

Dwelt, in the house of Care, a sturdy swain ;

A hireling he, who, when he till'd the soil,

Look'd tf) the pittance that repaid his toil.

And to a master left the mingled joy

And anxinus care that foUow'd his employ.

Sullen and ])atieut he at once a()pear'd,

As one who murmin-'d, yet as one wlio foar'd ;

Th' attire was coarse that clothed his sinewy framo,

llude his address, and Poverty his name.


In that same plain a nymph, ot curious taste,
A cottage (plann'd, with all her skill) hail i)!aced ;
Strange the materials, and for what clesign'd
The various parts, no simple man might find ;
What seem'd the door, each entering guest withstood,
What seem'd a window was but painted wood ;
But by a secret spring the w;dl would move,
And daylight drop through glassy door above :
'Twas all her pride new traj)s for praise to lay,
And all her wisdom was to hide her way ;
In small attempts incessant were her pains.
And Cunning was her name among the swains.

Now, whether fate decreed this pair should wed,
And blindly drove them to the marriage bed ;
Or whether love in some soft hour inclined
The damsel's heart, and won her to be kind.
Is yet unsung : they were an ill-match'd pair,
But both disposed to wed — and wed they wei-e.

Yet, though united in their fortune, still
Their ways were diverse ; varying was their will ;
Nor long the maid had bless'd the simple man,
Before dissensions rose, and she began : —

" Wretch that I am ! since to thy fortune bound.
What plan, what project, with success is crowTi'd ?
I, who a thousand secret arts possess.
Who every rank apjiroach with right address ;
Who've loosed a guinea from a miser's chest,
And worm'd his secret from a traitcw's breast ;
Thence gifts and gains collecting, great and small.
Have brought to thee, and thou consum'st them all ,
For want like thine — a bog without a base —
Ingulfs all gains I gather for the Y>\a.ce ;
Feeding, unfill'd ; destroying, undestroy'd ;
It craves for ever, and is ever void :
Wretch that I am ! what misery have I found,
Since my sure craft was to thy calling bound ! "

'■ Oh ! vaimt oi wortless art," the swain replied,
Scowling contempt, " how pitilul this jiride !
What are these specious gifts, these paltry gains,
But base rewards for ignominious pains ?
With all thy tricking, still for bread we strive.
Thine is, proud wretch ! the care that cannot thrive ;
By all thy boasted skill and baffled hooks,
Thou gain'st no more than students by their books.
No more than I for my poor deeds am paid,
Whom none can blame, will help, or dare upbraid.

"Call this our need, a bog that all devours, —
Then what tliy petty arts, but summer flowers,
Gauily and niean, and serving to betray
The place they make mqirofitably gay <
Who know it not, some- useless beauties see, —
But ah ! to prove it was reserved for mc."
Unhappy state ! that, in decay of love,
Permits harsh truth his errors to disprove ;


While he remains, to wranc>le and to jar,

Is friendly tournament, not fatal war ;

Love in his play will borrow arms of hato.

Anger and rage, upbraiding and debate ;

And by his power the desperate weapons thrown,

Become as safe and pleasant as his own ;

But left by him, their natures they assume.

And fatal, in their poisoning force, become.

Time fled, and now the swain compell'd to see
New cause for fear — " Is this thy thrift? " quoth I.e.
To whom the wife with cheerful voice replied : —
" Thou moody man, lay all thy fears asiile ;
I've seen a vision — they, from whom I came,
A daughter promise, pi-omise wealth and fame ;
Born with my features, with my arts, yet she
Shall patient, pliant, persevering be,
And in thy better ways resemble thee.
The fiiiries round shall at her birth attend.
The friend of all in all shall find a friend.
And save that one sad star that hour must gleam
On our fair child, how glorious were my dream I "

This heard the husband, and, in surly smile,
Aim'd at contempt, but yet he hoped the while:
For as, when sinking, wretched men are found
To catch at rushes rather than be drown'd ;
So on a dream our peasant placed his hope.
And foiuid that rush as valid as a rope.

Swift fled the days, for now in hope they fled.
When a fair daughter bless'd the nuptial bed;
Her infant face the mother's pains beguiled.
She look'd so pleasing and so softlj"^ smiled ;
Those smiles, those looks, with sweet sensations moved
The gazer's soul, and as he look'd he loved.

And now the fairies came with gifts, to grace
So mild a nature, and so fair a face.

They gave, with beauty, that bewitching art.
That holds in easy chains the liuman heart ;
They gave her skill to win the stubborn mind.
To make the suffering to their sorrows blind,
To bring on pensive looks the pleasing smile,
And Care's stern brow of every frown beguile.

These magic favours graced cho infant maid,
Whose more enlivening smile the charming gifts repaid.

Now Fortune changed, who, were she constant long,
Would leave us few adventures for our song.

A wicked elfin roved this land around.
Whoso joys proceeded from the griefs he found ;
Envy his name :— his fascinating eye
From the light bosom drew tlic siidden sigh ;
Unsocial ho, but with malignant mind.
He dwelt with man, that ho might curse mankind ;
Like the first foe, he sought th' abode oi joy
(}ricve<l to behold, but eager to destroy ;
Kound blooming beauty, like tho wasp, he flew.

444 crabbe's poems.

Soil'd the fresh sweet, and changed the rosy hue ;

The wise, the good, with anxious heart ho saw,

And here a failing found, and there a flaw ;

Discord in families 'twas his to move,

Distrust in friendship, jealousy in love ;

He told the poor, what joys the great posscss'd ;

The great, what calm content the cottage bless'd :

To part the learned and the rich be ti'ied,

Till their slow friendship perish'd in their pride.

Such was the fiend, and so secure of prey.

That only misery pass'd unstung away.

Soon as he heard the fairy babe was born,
Scornful he smiled, but felt no more than scorn :
Tor why, when fortune placed her state so low.
In useless sjnte his lofty malice show ?
Why, in a niiscViief of the meaner kind.
Exhaust the vigour of a ranc'rous mind ;
But, soon as fame the fairy gifts proclaim'd,
Quick-rising wrath his ready soul inflamed
To swear, by vows that o'cn the wicked tie.
The nymph should weep her varied destiny ;
That every gift, that now appear'd to shine
In her fair face, and make her smiles divine,
Should all the poison of his magic prove.
And they should scorn her, whom she sought for love.

His spell prepared, in form an ancient dame,
A fiend in si)irit, to the cot he came ;
There gain'd admittance, and the infant press'd
(Muttering his wicked magic) to his i)reast ;
And thus he said : — " Of all the powers who wait
On Jove's decrees, and do the work of fate.
Was I, alone, despised or worthless, found.
Weak to protect, or impotent to wovnid ?
See then thy foo, regret the friendship lost,
And learn my skill, but learn it at your cost.

" Know, tlien, child ! devote to fates severe.
The good shall hate thy name, the wise shall fear ;
Wit shall deride, and no protecting friend
Thy shame shall cover, or thy name defend.
Thy gentle sex, who, more than ours, should spare
A humble foe, will greater scorn declare ;
The alone thy advocates shall be,
Or boast alliance with a wretch like tliee."

He spake, and vanish'd, other prey to find,
And waste in slovi' disease the eoncjuor'd mind.

Awed by the elfin's threats, and fill'd with dread.
The parents wept, and sought their infant's bod:
Despair alone the father's soul possess'd ;
But hope rose gently in the mother's breast ;
For well she knew that neither grief nor joy
Pain'd without hope, or pleased without alloy ;
And wliile those hojies and fears her heart divide,
A cheerful vision bade the fears subside.

She saw descending to the world below


An ancient form, with solemn pace and slow.

" Daughter, no more be sad " (the phantom cried),

"Success is seldom to the wise denied ;

In idle wishes fools supinely stay;

Be there a will, and wisdom finds a way :

Why art ttiou grieved ? Be rather glad, that ho

Who hates the happy, aims his darts at thee,

But aims in vain ; thy favour'd dauorhtcr lies

Serenely bless'd, and shall to joy arise.

For, grant that curses on her name shall wait

(So envy wills, and such the voice of fate).

Yet if that name be prudently suppress'd,

She shall be courted, favour'd, and caress'd.

" For what are names ? and where agree mankind,
In those to persons or to acts assign'd ?
Brave, learii'd, or wise, if some their favourites call.
Have they the titles or the praise from all ?
Not so, but others will the brave disdain
As rash, and deem the sons of wisdom vain ;
The self-same mind shall scorn or kindness move.
And the same deed attract contempt and love.

" So all the powers who move the human soul,
With all the passions who the will control,
Have various names — One given by Truth Divine
(As Simnlatuin thus was fix'd for mine),
The rest by man, who now, as wisdom's prize
My secret counsels, now as art despise ;
One hour, as just, those counsels they embrace.
And spurn, the next, as pitiful and base.
Thee, too, my child, those fools as Cunning fly.
Who on thy counsel and thy craft rely ;
That worthy craft in others they condemn.
But 'tis their prudence, while conducting them.

" Be FLATTiiRV, then, thy hai)pj' infant's name.
Let Honour scorn her and let Wit defame ;
Let all be true that Envy dooms, yet all,
Not on herself, but on her name, shall fall ;
While she thy fortune and her own shall raise,
And decent frutk bo call'd, and loved as modest Praise.

" happy child ! the glorious day .shall shine,
Wiien evei-y ear shall to thy speech incline,
Thj' words alluring and thy voice divine ;
The sullen pedant and the sprightly wit,
To hear thy soothing eloquence shall sit ;
And both, abjuring flattery, will agree
That Truth insj)ires, and they must honour thee.

" Jiiivii himself shall to thy accents bend.
Force a f lint smile, and sullenly attend,
When thoushalt call him Virtue s ji-a/ouf! friend,
Whose bosom glows with generous rage to find
How fools and knaves are flatter'd by mankind.

"The sago retired, who spends aluno his days.
And flies th' obstreperous voice of |)ublic iiraiso ;
Tho vain, the vulgar cry, — shall gladly meet.

4'16 crabbe's poems.

And bid thee welcome to his still retreat ;

JIuch will he wonder, how thou cam'st to find

A man to glory dead, to peace consign'd.

' O Fame ! ' he'll cry (for he will call thee Fame),

' From thee I fly, from thee conceal my name ;'

But thou shalt say, ' Though Genius takes his flight,

He leaves behind a glorious train of light,

And hides in vain : — j'et prudent he that flies

The flatterer's art, and for himself is wise.'

'' Yes, happy child ! I mark th' approaching day,
When warring natures will confess thy sway ;
When thou shalt Saturn's golden reign restore,
And vice and folly shall bo known no more.

"Pride shall not then in h\nnan kind have place,
Changed by thy skill to iJignity and Grace ;
While Shame, who now betrays the inward sense
Of secret ill, shall be thy Diffidence ;
Avarice shall thenceforth ])rudent Forecast be.
And bloody Vengeance, Magna nimit // ;
The lavish tongue shall honest truths impart.
The lavish hand shall show the generous heart,
And Indiscretion be, contenjpt of art ;
Folly and Vice shall then, no longer known.
Be, this as Viitue, that as Wisdom, shown.

" Then shall the robber as the hero, rise
To seize the good that churlish law denies ;

Online LibraryGeorge CrabbeThe poetical works of George Crabbe → online text (page 47 of 49)