George Crabbe.

The poetical works of George Crabbe online

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No more recites her French the hinds among,
But chides her maidens in her mother-tongue ;
Her tambour-frame she leaves and diet spare,



THE PARISH REGISTER — MARRIAGES. 37

Plain work and plenty with her house to share ;
Till, all her varnish lost in few short years.
In all her worth the farmer's wife appears.

Yet not the ancient kind ; nor she who gave
Her soul to gain — a mistress and a slave :
"Who, not to sleep allow'd the needful time ;
To whom repose was loss, and sport a crime ;
Who, in her meanest room (and all were mean),
A noisy drudge, from morn till night was seen ; —
But she, the daughter, boasts a decent room.
Adorn 'd with carpet, form'd in Wilton's loom ;
Fair prints along the paper'd wall are spread ;
There, Werter sees the sportive children fed,
And Charlotte, here, bewails her lover dead.

'Tis here, assembled, while in space apart
Their husbands, drinking, warm the opening heart,
Our neighbouring dames, on festal days, unite,
With tongues more fluent and with hearts as light ;
Theirs is that art, which English wives alone
Profess — a boast and privilege their own ;
An art it is where each at once attends
To all, and claims attention from her friends.
When they engage the tongue, the eye, the ear,
Reply when listenuig, and when speaking hear •
The ready converse knows no dull delays,
" But double are the pains, and double be the praise."*

Yet not to those alone who bear command
Heaven gives a heart to hail the marriage band ;
Among their servants, we the pairs can show
Who much to love and more to prudence owe ;
Kcuben and Rachel, though as fond as doves.
Were yet discreet and cautious in their loves ;
Nor would attend to Cupid's wild commands,
Till cool reflection bade them join thuir hands :
When both were poor, they thought it argued ill
Of hasty love to make them poorer still ;
Year after year, with savings long laid by,
They bought the future dwelling's full supply ;
Hor frugal fancy cull'd the smaller ware,
The weightier purchase ask'd her Reuben's care ;
Together then their last year's gain they threw,
And lo ! an auction'd bed, with curtains neat and new.

Thus both, as prudence counsell'd, wisely stay'd,
And cheerful then the calls of Love obey'd :
What if, when Rachel gave her hand, 'twas one
Embrown'd by winter's ico and summer's sun '(
What if, in Reuben's hair the female eye
Usurping grey among the bhick could spj' ?
What if, in both, life's bloomy flush was lost.
And their full autumn felt the mellowing frost?
■Yet time, that blow'd the rose of youth away,
Had left the vigorous stem without decay ;
Like those tall elms in Farmer Franktord's ground,



33 crabbe's poems.

They'll grow no more, — but all their growth is sound ;

By time confirm'd and rooted in the land,

The storms they've stood, still promise they shall stand

These are the happier pairs, their life has rest,
Their hopes are strong, their humble portioH blest.
While those more rash to hasty marriage led.
Lament th' impatience which now stints their bread :
When such their union, j'ears their cares increase,
Their love grows colder, and their pleasures cease ;
In health just fed, in sickness just relieved.
By hardships harass'd and by children grieved ;
In petty quarrels and in peevish strife
The once fond couple waste the spring of life ;
But when to age mature those children grown,
Find hopes and homes, and hardships of their own.
The harass'd couple feel their lingering woes
Receding slowly till they find repose.
Complaints and murmurs then are laid aside
(By reason these subdued, and those by pride) ;
And, taught by care, the patient man and wife
Agree to share the bitter-sweet of life
(Life that has sorrow much and sorrow's cure.
Where they who most enjoy shall much endure) ;
Their rest, their labours, duties, sufferings, prayers,
Compose the soul, and lit it for its cares ;
Their graves before them and their griefs behind,
Have each a med'cine for the rustic mind ;
Nor has ho care to whom his wealth shall go,
Or who shall labour with his spade and hoe ;
. But as he lends the strength that yet remains.
And some dead neighbour on his bier sustains
(One with whom oft he whirl'd the bounding flail,
Toss'd the broad quoit, or took th' inspiring ale),
" For me " (he meditates) " shall soon be doho
This friendly duty when my race be run ;
'Twas first in trouble as in error pass'd.
Dark clouds and stormy cares whole years o'ercast.
But calm my setting day, and sunshine smiles at last :
My vices punish'd, and my follies spent.
Not loth to die, but yet to live content,
I rest : " — then casting on the grave his eye.
His friend compels a tear, and his own griefs a sigh.

Last on my list appears a match of love.
And one of virtue ; — happy may it prove ! —
Sir Edward Archer is an amorous knight,
And maidens chaste and lovely shun his sight ;
His bailiff's daughter suited much his taste,
For Fanny Price was lovely and was chaste ;
To her the knight with gentle looks drew near,
And timid voice assumed to banish fear : —

" Hope of my life, dear sovereign of my breast,
Which since I knew thee, knows not joy nor rest ;
Know, thou art all that my delighted eyes.
My fondest thoughts, my proudest wishes prize ;



THE PARISH REGISTER— MARRIAGES. 39

And is that bosom (what on earth so fair !)

To cradle some coarse peasant's sprawling heir,

To be that pillow which some surly swain

May treat with scorn and agonize with pain ?

Art thou, sweet maid, a ploughman's wants to share,

To dread his insult, to support his care,

To hear his follies, his contempt to prove.

And (oh ! the torment !) to endure his love ;

Till want and deep regret those charms destroy.

That time would spare, if time were pass'd in joy?

With him, in varied pains, from morn till night,

Your hours shall pass ; yourself a ruffian's right ;

Your softest bed shall be the knotted wool ;

Your purest drink the waters of the pool ;

Your sweetest food will but your life sustain :

And your best pleasui-e be a rest from pain ;

While, through each year, as health and strength abate,

You'll weep your woes and wonder at your fate ;

And crj', ' Behold, ' as life's last cares come on,

* My burthen 's growing when my strength is gone.'

"Now turn with me, and all the young desire,
That taste can form, that fancy can require ;
All that excites enjoyment, or procures
Wealth, health, respect, delight, and love, are yours :
Sparkling, in cups of gold, j'our wine shall flow,
Orace that fair hand, in that dear bosom glow :
Fruits of each clime, and flowers, through all the year.
Shall on your walls and in your walks appear :
Where all beholding, shall your praise repeat.
No fruit so tempting, and no flower so sweet :
The softest carpets in j'our rooms shall lie.
Pictures of happiest love shall meet your eye,
And tallest mirrors reaching to the floor.
Shall show you all the object I adore ;
Who, by the hands of wealth and fashion dress' d.
By slaves attended and by friends caress'd.
Shall move, a wonder, through the public ways.
And hear the whispers of adoring praise.
Your female friends, though gayest of the gay,
Shall see you happy, and shall, sighing, say,
While smother'd envy rises in the breast, —
' Oh ! that we lived so beauteous and so blest ! '

"Come, then, my mistress, and my wife ; for she
Who trusts my honour is the wife for mo ;
Your slave, your husband, and your friend employ
In search of pleasures we may both enjoy."

To this, the damsel, meekly firm, replied :
" My mother loved, was married, toifd, and died :
With joys she'd griefs, had troubles in her course,
But not one grief was pointed by remorse :
My mind is tix'd, to Heaven I resign,
And bo her love, her life, her comforts mine."

Tyrants have wept ; and those with hearts of steel,
Unused the anguish of the heart to heal,



40 crabbe's poems.

Have yet tlie transient power of virtue known.
And felt th' imparted joy promote their own.

Our knight relenting, now befriends a youth,
Who to the yielding maid had vow'd his truth ;
And finds in that fair deed a sacred joy,
That will not perish, and that cannot cloy ; —
A living joy, that shall its spirit keep.
When every beauty fades, and all the passions sleep.



PART III.

BUELAL3.

True Christian Eesignatlon not frequently to be seen— The Register a melancholy Eecovd
— A dying Man, who at length sends for a Priest : for what puri'ose ? answered— Old
Collett of the Inn, an lustance of Dr. Young's slow-sudden Death : his Character and
Conducts— The Manners and Management of the Widow Goe : her successful Attention
to Business : her Decease unexpected — the Infant Boy of Gerard Ablett dies : Reflections
on his Death, and the SurviTor his Sister-Twin— The Funeral of the deceased Lady of
the Manor described : her neglected Mansion : Undertaker and Train : the Character
which her Monument will hereafter display — Bwrial of an Ancient Maiden : some former
drawbaek on her Virgin Fame ; Description of her House and Household : her Manners,
Apprehensions, Death— Isaac Ashford, a virtuous Peasant, dies : his manly Character :
Reluctance to enter the Poor-house ; and why — Misfortune and Derangement of In-
tellect in Robin Diugley : whence they proceeded : he is not restrained by Misery from
a wandering Life : his various returns to his Parish : his final Return — Wife of Farmer
Fraukford dies in Prime of Life : Affliction in consequence of such Death : melancholy
View of her House, Ac, on her Family's Return from her Funeral ; Address to Sorrow
— Leah Cousins, a Midwife : her Character ; and successful Practice ; at length opposed
by Dr. Glibb : Opposition in the Parish ; Ai"gument of the Doctor ; of Leah ; her Failure
and Decease — Burial of Roger Cuff, a Sailor ; his Enmity to his Family ; how it origi-
nated : his Experiment and its Conseiiuence — The Register terminates — A Bell heard :
Inquiry for whom ? The Sexton — Character of Old Dibble, and the five Rectors whom
he served— Reflections— Conclusion.

There was, 'tis said, and I believe, a time
When humble Christians died with views sublime ;
"When all were ready for their faith to bleed.
But few to write or wrangle for their creed ;
When lively Faith upheld the sinking heart.
And friends, assured to meet, prepared to part ;
When Love felt hope, when Sorrow grew serene.
And all was comfort in the death-bed scene.

Alas ! when now the gloomy king they wait,
'Tis weakness yielding to resistless fate ;
Like v?retched men upon the ocean cast.
They labour hard and struggle to the last ;
"Hope against hope," and wildly gaze around.
In search of help that never shall be found :
Nor, till the last strong billow stops the breath.
Will they believe thorn in the jaws of Death !

When these my Records I reflecting read,
And find what ills these numerous births succeed ;
What powerful griefs these nuptial ties attend ;
With what regi-et these painful journeys end ;
When from the cradle to the grave I look,
Mino I conceive a melancholy book.



THE PARISH REGISTER — BURIALS. 41

Where now is perfect resignation seen ?
Alas ! it is not on the village gieen : —
I've seldom known, though I have often read,
Of happy peasants on their dying bed ;
Whose looks proclaim'd that sunshine of the breast,
That more than hope, that Heaven itself express'd.

What I behold are feverish fits of strife,
'Twixt fears of dying and desire of life :
Those earthly hopes, that to the last endure ;
Those fears, that hopes superior fail to cure ;
At best a sad submission to the doom,
Which, turning from the danger, lets it come.

Sick lies the man, bewilder'd, lost, afraid.
His spirits vanquish'd, and his strength decay'd ;
No hope the friend, the nurse, the doctor lend —
" Call then a priest, and tit him for his end."
A priest is call'd ; 'tis now, alas ! too late,
Death enters with him at the cottage gate ;
Or time allow'd — he goes, assured to find
The self-commending, all-confiding mind ;
And sighs to hear, what wc may justly call
Death's common-place, the train of thought in all.

" True I'm a sinner," feebly he begins,
" But trust in mercy to forgive my sins "
(Such cool confession no past crimes excite !
Such claim on mercy seems the sinner's right !)
" I know mankind are frail, that God is just.
And pardons those who in his mercy trust ;
We're sorely tempted in a world like this —
All men have done, and I like all, amiss ;
But now, if spared, it is my full intent
On all the past to ponder and repent :
Wrongs against mo I pardon, great and small,
And if I die, I die in peace with all."

His merits thus, and not his Sins confcss'd,
He speaks his hopes, and leaves to Heaven the rest.
Alas ! are these the prospects, dull and cold,
That dying Christians to their priests unfold ?
Or mends the prospect when th' enthusiast cries,
" I die assured !" and in a rapture dies ?

Ah, where that humble, self-abasing mind,
With that confiding spirit, shall we find ;
The mind that, feeling what repentance brings,
Dejection's terrors and Contrition's stings.
Feels then the hope that mounts all care above.
And the pure joy that ilows from pardoning love ?

Such have I seen in death, and much deplore.
So many dying — that I see no more :
Lo ! now my Kecords, where I grieve to trace
How Death has triumph'd in so short a space ;
Who are the dead, how died they, 1 relate,
And snatch some portion of their acts from fate.

With Andrew Collett we the year begin.
The blind, fat landlord of the Old Crown Inn, —



42 crabbe's poems.

Big as his butt, and, for the selfsame use,

To take in stores of strong fermenting juice.

On his huge chair beside the fire he sate,

In revel chief, and umpire in debate ;

Each night his string of vulgar tales he told.

When ale was cheap and bachelors were bold :

His heroes all were famous in their days.

Cheats were his boast, and drunkards had his praise:

" One, in three draughts, three mugs of ale took down,

As mugs were then — the champion of the Crown ;

For thrice three days another lived on ale.

And knew no change but that of mild and stale ;

Two thirsty soakers watch'd a vessel's side.

When he the tap, with dext'rous hand, applied ;

Nor from their seats departed, till they found

That butt was out, and heard the mournful sound."

He praised a poacher, precious child of fun !
Who shot the keeper with his own spring gun ;
Nor less the smuggler who th' exciseman tied,
And left him hanging at the birch-wood side,
There to expire ; — but one who saw him hang
Cut the good cord — a traitor of the gang.

His own exploits with boastful glee he told.
What ponds he emptied and what pikes he sold ;
And how, when blest with sight, alert and gay,
The night's amusements kept him through the day.

He sang the praises of those times, when all
" For cards and dice, as for their drink, might call ;
When justice wink'd on every jovial crew.
And ten-pins tumbled in the jiarson's view."

He told when angry wives, provoked to rail,
Or drive a third-day drunkard from his ale,
What were his triumphs, and how great the skill
That won the vex'd virago to his will ;
Who raving came ; — then talk'd in milder strain, —
Then wept, then drank, and pledged her spouse again.

Such were his themes : how knaves o'er laws prevail,
Or, when made captives, how they fly from jail ;
The young how brave, how subtle were the old :
And oaths attested all that Folly told.

On death like his what name shall wo bestow.
So very sudden ! yet so vei-y slow ^
'Twas slow : — Disease, augmenting year by year,
Show'd the grim king by gradual steps brought near :
'Twas not less sudden ; in the night ho died ;
He drank, he swore, be jested, and ho lied ;
Thus aiding folly with departing breath : —
" Beware, Lorenzo, the slow-sudden death."

Next died the Widow Goe, an active dame.
Famed ten miles round, and worthy all her fame ;
She lost her husband when their loves were young.
But kept her farm, her credit, and her tongue :
Full thirty years she ruled, with matchless skill,
With guiding judgment and resistless will ;



THE PABISn EEGISTER — DUUIALS. 43

Advice she scom'd, rebellions she suppress'd,

And sons and servants bow'd at her behest.

Like that great man's, who to his Saviour came,

Were the strong words of this commanding dame : —

" Come," if she said, they came ; if " Go," were gone ;

And if " Do this," — that instant it was done :

Her maidens told she was all eye and ear.

In darkness saw, and could at distance hear ;

No parish business in the place could stir.

Without direction or assent from her ;

In turn she took each office as it fell.

Knew all their duties and discharged them well ;

The lazy vagrants in her presence shook,

And pregnant damsels fear'd her stem rebuke ;

She look'd on want with judgment clear and cool.

And folt with reason and bestow'd by rule ;

She match'd both sons and daughters to her mind.

And lent them eyes, for Love, she heard, was blind ;

Yet ceaseless still she throve, alert, alive,

The working bee, in full or empty hive ;

Busy and careful, like that working bee.

No time for love nor tender cares had she ;

But when our farmers made their amorous vows,

She talk'd of market-steeds and patent ploughs.

Not unemploy'd her evenings pass'd away,

Amusement closed, as business waked the day ;

When to her toilet's brief concern she ran.

And conversation with her friends began.

Who all were welcome, what they saw, to share ;

And joyous neighbours praised her Christmas fare.

That none around might, in their scorn, complain

Of Gossip Goe as greedy in her gain.

Thus long she reign'd, admired, if not approved ;
Praised, if not honour'd ; fear'd, if not beloved ; —
When, as the busy days of spring drew near.
That call'd for all the forecast of the year ;
When lively hope the rising crops surve3''d.
And April promised what September paid ;
When stray'd her lambs where gorse and greenweed grow ;
When rose her gi-ass in licher vales below ;
When pleased she look'd on all the smiling land,
And view'd the hinds, who wrought at her command
(Poultry in groups still follow'd where she went) ;
Then dread o'ercame her, — that her days were spent.

" Bless me ! I die, and not a warning given, —
With much to do on earth, and all for Hoav'n ! —
No reparation for my soul's afl'aii-s.
No leave petition'd for the barn's repairs ;
Accounts perplex'd, my interest yet unpaid,
!My mind imsettled, and my will unmade ; —
A lawyer haste, and in your way, a priest ;
And let me die in one good work at least."
She spake, and trembling, dropp'd upon her knees,
Heaven in her eye and in her baud her keys ;



41 crabbe's poems.

And still the more she found her life decay,
With greater force she grasp'd those signs of sway :
Then fell and died ! — In haste her sons drew near.
And dropp'd, in haste, the tributary tear ;
Then from th' adhering clasp the keys unbound,
And consolation for their sorrows found.

Death has his infant train ; his bony arm
Strikes from the baby cheek the rosy charm ;
The brightest eye his glazing film makes dim,
And his cold touch sets fast the lithest limb :
He seized the sick'ning boy to Gerard lent,
When three days' life, in feeble cries, were spent ;
In pain brought forth, those painfiil hours to stay.
To breathe in pain and sigh its soul away !

" But why thus lent, if thus recall'd again.
To cause and feel, to live and die in pain ? "
Or rather say, Why grievous these appear,
If all it pays for Heaven's eternal year ;
If these sad sobs and piteous sighs secure
Dehghts that live, when worlds no more endure ?

The sister spirit long may lodge below,
And pains from nature, pains from reason, know :
Through all the common ills of life may run.
By hope perverted and by love undone ;
a' wife's distress, a mother's pangs, may dread,
And widow's tears, in bitter anguish, shed ;
May at old age arrive through numerous banns,
With children's children in those feeble arms :
Nor till by years of want and grief oppress' d.
Shall the sad spirit flee and be at rest !

Yet happier therefore shall we deem the boy,
Secured from anxious care and dangero\is joy 'J

Not so ! for then would love divine in vain
Send all the burthens weary men sustain ;
All that now curb the passions when they rage,
The checks of youth and the regrets of age ;
All that now bid us hope, believe, endure.
Our sorrow's comfort and our vice's cure ;
All that for Heaven's high joys the spirits train,
And charity, the crown of all, were vain.

Say, will you call the breathless infant blest.
Because no cares the silent grave molest ?
So would you deem the imrsling from the wing
Untimely thrust and never train 'd to sing ;
But far more blest the bird whose grateful voice
Sings its own joy and makes the woods rejoice.
Though, while untaught, ere yet ho charm'd the ear.
Hard were his trials and his pains severe !

Next died the Lady who yon Hall possess'd.
And here they brought her noble bones to rest.
In town she dwelt ; — forsaken stood the Hall :
Worms ate the floors, the tap'stry fled the wall:
No fire the kitchen's cheerless grate display 'd ;
No cheerful light the long-closed sash convey'd :



THE PARISH REGISTER— BURIALS. 45

The crawling worm, that turns a summer fly,
Here spun his shroud, and laid him up to die
The winter death : — upon the bed of state.
The bat shrill shrieking woo'd his flickering mate ;
To empty rooms the curious came no more ;
From empty cellars turn'd the angry poor.
And sm-ly beggars cursed the ever-bolted door.
To one small room the steward found his way
Where tenants follow'd to complain and pay ;
Yet no complaint before the Lady came.
The feehng servant spared the feeble dame ;
Who baw her farms with his observing eyes.
And answer'd all requests with his replies : —
She came not down, her falling groves to view ;
Why should she know, what one so faithful knew ?
Why come, from many clamorous tongues to hear
What one so just might whisper in her ear ?
Her oaks or acres, why with care explore ;
Why learn the wants, the sufferings of the poor ;
When one so knowing all their worth could trace,
And one so piteous govern'd in her place?

Lo ! now, what dismal sons of Darkness come.
To bear this daughter of Indulgence home ;
Tragedians all, and well-arranged in black !
Who nature, feeling, force, expression lack ;
Who cause no tear, but gloomily pass by.
And shake their sables in the wearied eye.
That turns disgusted from the pompous scene,
Proud without grandeur, with profusion mean !
The tear for kindness past affection owes ;
For worth deceased the sigh from reason flows ;
E'en well-feign'd passion for our sorrows call,
And real tears for mimic miseries fall :
But this poor farce has neither truth nor art,
To please the fancy or to touch the heart ;
Unlike the darkness of the sky, that pours
On the drj' ground its fertilizing showers ;
Unlike to that which strikes the soul with dread,
Wlien thunders roar and forky fires are shed ;
Dark but not awful, dismal but yet mean,
With anxious bustle moves the cumbrous scene ;
Presents no objects tender or profound.
But spreads its cold unmeaning gloom around.

When woes are feign' d, how ill sucli forms api')car,
And oh ! how needless, when the woe 's sincere.

Slow to the vault they come, with heavy tread,
Bending beneath the Lady and her lead ;
A case of elm surrounds that ponderous chest,
Close on that case the crimson velvet 's prcss'd ;
Ungenerous this, that to the worm denies,
With niggard caution, his appointed prize ;
For now, ere yet he works his tedious way,
1'hro\igh cloth and wood and metal to his prey,
That prey dissolving shall a mass remain,



4S crabbe's poems.

That fancy loathes, and worms themselves disdain.

But see ! the master-mourner makes his waj^,
To end his office for the cofBn'd clay ;
Pleased that our rustic men and maids behold
His plate like silver, and his studs like gold.
As they approach to spell the age, the name.
And all the titles of th' illustrious dame. —
This as (my duty done) some scholar read,
A village father look'd disdain, and said :
" Away, my friends ! why take such pains to know
What some brave marble soon in church shall show ?
Where not alone her gracious name shall stand,
But how she lived — the blessings of the land ;
How much we all deplored the noble dead.
What groans we utter'd and what tears we shed ;
Tears, true as those which in the sleepy eyes
Of weeping cherubs on the stone shaU rise ;
Tears, true as those which, ere she lound her grave,



Online LibraryGeorge CrabbeThe poetical works of George Crabbe → online text (page 6 of 49)