George Crabbe.

The poetical works of George Crabbe online

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The noble Lady to our sorrows gave."

Down by the church-way walk, and where the brook
Winds round the chancel like a shepherd's crook ;
In that small house, with those green pales before,
Where jasmine trails on either side the door ;
Where those dark shrubs, that now grow wild at will,
Were clipp'd in form and tantalized with skill ;
Where cockles blanch 'd and pebbles neatly spread,
Form'd shining borders for the larkspurs' bed ; —
There lived a lady, wise, austere, and nice.
Who show'd her virtue by her scorn of vice ;
In the dear fashions of her youth she dress' d,
A pea-green Joseph was her favounte vest ;
Erect she stood, she walk'd with stately mien.
Tight was her length of stays, and she was tall and loan.

There long she lived in maiden state immured.
From looks of love and treacherous man secured ;
Though evil fame— (but that was long before) —
Had blown her dubious blast at Catherine's door :
A captain thither, rich from India came.
And though a cousin call'd, it touch'd her fame :
Her annual stipend rose from his behest.
And all the long-prized treasures she possess'd —
If aught like joy awhile appcar'd to stay
In that stern face, and chase those frowns away,
'Twas when her treasures she disposed for view
And heard the praises to their splendour dtie ;
Silks beyond price, so rich, they'd stand alono,
And diamonds blazing on the buckled zone ;
Rows of rare pearls by curious workmen set.
And bracelets fair in box of glossy jet ;
Bright polish'd ambor, precious from its size.
Or forms the fairest I'ancy could devise ;
Her drawers of cedar, shut with secret springs,
Conceal'd the watch of gold and rubied rings ;
Letters, long proofs of love, and verses fine.


Round the pink'd rims of crisped Valentine.
Her china-closet, cause of daily care,
For woman's wonder held her pencill'd ware ;
That pictured wealth of China and Japan,
Like its cold mistress shunn'd the eye of man.

Her neat small room, adom'd with maiden taste,
A clipp'd French puppy, first of favourites, graced ;
A parrot next, but dead and stufFd with art
(For Poll, when living, lost the lady's heart.
And then his life ; for he was heard to speak
Such fi'ightful words as tinged his lady's cheek) :
Unhappy bird ! who had no power to prove,
Save by such speech, his gratitude and love.
A grey old cat his whiskers lick'd beside ;
A type of sadness in the house of pride.
The polish'd surface of an India chest,
A glassy globe, in frame of ivory, press' d ;
Where swam two finny creatures ; one of gold,
Of silver one ; both beaiiteous to behold : —
All these were form'd, the guiding taste to suit ;
The beast well-manner'd, and the fishes mute.
A widow'd aunt was there, compell'd by need
The nymph to flatter and her tribe to feed ;
Who veiling well her scorn, endured the clog.
Mute as the fish and fawning as the dog.

As years increased, these treasures, her delight,
Arose in value in their owner's sight :
A miser knows that, view it as he will,
A guinea kept is but a g^iinea still ;
And so he puts it to its proper use.
That something more this guinea may produce ;
But silks and rings, in the jiossessor's eyes.
The oft'ner seen, the more in value rise.
And thus are wisely hoarded to bestow
The kind of pleasure that with years will grow.

But what avail'd their worth — if worth had they—
In the sad summer of her slow decay ?

Then we beheld her turn an anxious look
From ti-unks and chests, and fix it on her book, —
A rich-bound Book of Prayer the captain gave
(Some princess had it, or was said to have).
And then once more on all her stores look I'ound,
And draw a sigh so piteous and profound.
That told, "Alas ! how hard from tliese to part.
And for new ho{)es anfl habits form the heart !
What shall I do (she cried), my peace of mind
To gain in dying, and to die resign'd ?"

" Hear," we retum'd ; — " these baubles cast aside,
Nor give thy God a rival in thy pride ;
Thy closets shut, and ope thy kitchen's door ;
There own thy failings, here invite the poor ;
A friend of Mammon let thy bounty make ;
For widows' prayers, thy vanities forsake ;
And let the hungry of thy pride partake :

48 ceabbe's poems.

Then shall thy inward eye with joy survey
The angel Mercy tempering Death's delay ! "

Alas ! 'twas hard ; the treasure still had charms,
Hope still its flatterj', sickness its alarms ;
Still was the same unsettled, clouded view.
And the same plaintive cry, " What shall I do ? "

Nor change appear' d ; for when her race was run,
Doubtful we all exclaim'd, " What has been done ? "
Apart she lived, and still she lies alone ;
' Yon earthy heap awaits the flattering stone

On which invention shall be long employ'd,
To show the various worth of Catherine LJoyd.

Next to these ladies, but in nought allied,
A noble peasant, Isaac Ashford, died.
Noble he was, contemning all things mean.
His truth unquestion'd, and his soul serene :
Of no man's presence Isaac felt afraid ;
At no man's question Isaac look'd dismay'd :
Shame knew him not, he dreaded no disgrace ;
Truth, simple tiiith, was written in his face :
Yet while the serious thought his soul approved.
Cheerful he seem'd, and gentleness he loved ;
To bliss domestic he his heart resign'd.
And with the firmest had the fondest mind ;
Were 6thers joyful, he look'd smiling on.
And gave allowance where he needed none ;
Good he refused with future ill to buy.
Nor knevr a joy that caused reflection's sigh ;
A friend to virtue, his unclouded breast
No envy stung, no jealousy distress'd
(Bane of the poor ! it wounds their weaker mind,
To miss one favour which their neighbours find) ;
Yet far was he from stoic pride removed ;
He felt humanely, and ho warmly loved :
I mark'd his action when his infant died.
And his old neighbour for offence was tried ;
The still tears stealing down that furrow'd cheek.
Spoke pity, plainer than the tongue can speak.
If pride were his, 'twas not their vulgar pride,
Who, in their base contempt, the great deride ;
Nor pride in Icarning,^ — though my clerk agreed,
If fate should call him. Ashford might succeed ;
Nor pride in rustic skill, although we knew
None his superior, and his equals few : —
But if that spirit in his soul had place.
It was the jealous pride that shuns di.sgi-ace ;
A pride in honest fame, by virtue gain'd.
In sturdy boys to virtuous labours train'd ;
Pride in the power that guards his country's coast,
Anil all that Englishmen enjoy and boast ;
Pride in a life that slander's tongue defied, —
In fact a noble passion, misnamed Pride,

lie had no party's rage, no sect'ry's whim ;
ChiTstian and countrymau was all with him :


True to his clmrch lie came ; no Sunday shower
Kept him at home in that important hour ;
Nor his firm feet could one persuading sect.
By the strong glare of their new light direct : —
"On hope, in mine own sober light, I gaze,
But should be bhnd, and lose it, in your blaze."

In times severe, when many a sturdy swain
Felt it his pride, his comfort to complain ;
Isaac their wants would soothe, his own would hide,
And feel in that his comfort and his pride.

At length he found, when seventy years were run,
His strength departed and his labour done ;
When he, save honest fame, retain'd no more.
But lost his wife, and saw his children poor :
'Twas then a spark of — saj' not discontent —
Struck on his mind, and thus he gave it vent : —

" Kind are your laws ('tis not to be denied),
That in j-on house for ruin'd age provide.
And they are just ;— when young we give you all,
And for assistance in our weakness call.—
Why then this proud reluctance to be fed.
To join your poor, and eat the parish bread?
But yet I linger, loth with him to feed.
Who gains his plenty by the sons of need ;
He who, by contract, all your paupers took,
And gauges stomachs with an anxious look :
On some old master I could well depend ;
See him with joy and thank him as a friend ;
But ill on him who doles the day's supply,
And counts our chances who at night may die :
Yet help me, Heav'u ! and let me not complain
Of what I suffer, but my fate sustain."

Such were his thoughts, and so resign'd he grew ;
Daily he placed the workhouse in his view !
But came not there ; for sudden was his fate,
He dropp'd, expiring, at his cottage gate.

I feel his absence in the hours of prayer.
And view his seat, and sigh for Isaac there :
I see no more these white locks thinly spread
Round the bald polish of that honour'd head ;
No more that awful glance on playful wiglit,
ConipeU'il to kneel and tremble at the sight.
To fold his fingers, all in dread the while,
Till Mister Ashlord soften'd to a smile ;
No more that meek and suppliant look in prayer.
Nor the pure faith (to give it force), are there : —
But he is blest, and I lament no more
A wise good man contented to be poor.

Then died a rambler ; not the one who sails,
And trucks, for female iiivours, beads and nails ;
Not one who posts from jilaco to place— of men
And manners treating with a flying pen ;
Not he who climbs, for prospects, Suowdon's height.
And chides the clouds that intercept the sight ;


50 crabbe's poems.

No curious shell, rare plant, or brilliant spar,
Enticed oui' traveller from bis home so fur ;
But all the reason bj' himself assign'd
For so much rambling, was a restless mind ;
As on, from place to place, without intent.
Without reflection, Robin Dingley went.

Not thus by nature : — never man was found
Less prone to wander from his parish bound :
Claudian's old man, to whom all scenes were new,
Save those where he and where his apples grew,
Eesembled Robin, who around would look,
And his horizon for the earth's mistook.

To this poor swain a keen attorney came ; —
" I give thee joj% good fellow ! on thy name ;
The rich old Dingley 's dead ; — no child has he,
Nor wife, nor will ; his all is left for thee :
To be his fortune's heir thy claim is good ;
Thou hast the name, and we will prove the blood."
The claim was made ; 'twas tried, — it would not stand
They proved the blood, but were refused the land.

Assured of wealth, this man of simple heart
To every friend had predisposed a pai-t ;
His wife had hopes indulged of various kind ;
The three Miss Dingleys had their school assign'd.
Masters were sought for what they each required,
And books were bought and harpsichords were hired ;
So high was hope :— the failure touch'd his brain,
And Robin never was liimself again ;
Yet he no wrath, no angi-j' wish express'd.
But tried, in vain, to lai)our or to rest ;
Then cast his bundle on his back, and went
He knew not whither, nor for what intent.

Years fled ; — of Robin all remembrance past.
When home he wander'd in his rags at last :
A sailor's jacket on his limbs was thrown,
A sailor's story he had made his own ;
Had sufler'd battles, prisons, tempests, storms,
Encountering Death in all his ugliest forms :
His checks were haggard, hollow was his eye,
Where madness lurk'd conceal'd in miser}' ;
Want, and th' ungentle world, had taught a part.
And piomptcd cunning to that simple heart :
" He now bethought him, he would roam no more,
But live at home and labour as before."

Here clothed and led, no sooner he began
To roimd and redden, than away he I'an ;
His wife was dead, their children past his aid ;
So, immolcstcd, from his home he stray 'd :
Six years elajised, when, worn with want and pain.
Came Robin, wrapt in all his rags again :
We chide, we pity ; — placed among our poor.
He fed again, and was a man once moro.

As when a gnunt and hungry fox is found,
Eutrapp'd alive in some rich hunter's ground ;


Fed for the field, although each day 's a feast,
Fatten you raav, but never tame the beast ;
A bouse protects him, savoury viands sustain ;—
But loose bis neck, and oft' be goes again :
So stole our vagrant from bis warm retreat.
To rove a prowler and be duera'd a cheat.

Hard was bis fare ; for him at length we saw
In cart convey'd and laid supine on straw.
His feeble voice now spoke a sinking heart ;
His groans now told the motions of the cart ;
And when it stopp'd, he tried in vain to stand ;
Closed was his eye, and clench'd his clammy hand ;
Life ebb'd apace, and our best aid no more
Could his weak sense or dying heart restore :
But now he fell, a victim to the snare
That vile attorneys for the weak prepare ;—
They who when profit or resentment call,
Heed not the groaning victim they enthrall.

Then died lamented in the strength of life,
A valued mother and a faithful wife;
Call'd not away when time had loosed each hold
On the fond heart, and each desire grew cold ;
But when, to all that knit us to our kind.
She felt fast-bound, as charity can bind ;—
Not when the ills of age, its pain, its care.
The drooping s]iirit for its fate prepare ;
And, each attection failing, leaves the heart
Loosed from life's charm, and willing to depai't ;
But all her ties the strong invader broke.
In all their strength, by one tremendous stroke !
Sudden and swift the eager pest came on.
And terror grew, til' eveiy hope was gone ;
Still those around appear'd for hope to seek !
But view'd the sick and were afraid to speak.
Slowly they bore, with solemn step, the dead :

When grief grew loud and bitter tears were shed.

My part began ; a crowd diew near the place,

Awe in each eye, alarm in every face :

So swift the ill, and of so fierce a kind,

That fear with pity mingled in each mind ;

Friends with the husband came tbeir griefs to blend ;

For Goodman Frankford was to all a friend.

Q'he last-born boy they hold above the bier,

He knew not grief, but cries expross'd his fear ;

Each ditforenl age and sex reveal'd its paiu.

In now a louder, now a lower strain ;

Wbilothe mot.'k father listening to tbeir tones,

Swell'd the full cadence of the grief by groans.
Tho elder sister strove her pangs to hide,

And soothing words to younger minds applied :

" Bo still, bo j.atient ;" oft she strove to stay ;

But fail'd as oft, and weeping turn'd aw.-iy.
Curious and sad, upon the fresh dug hill

The village lads stood melancholy still ;
K 2


And idle cldldren, wandering to and fro,
As Nature guided, took the tone of woo.

Arrived at home, how then they gazed around
On every place — where she — no more was found ; —
The seat at table she was wont to fill ;
The fire-side chair, still set, but vacant still ;
The garden-walks, a labour all her own ;
The latticed bower, with trailing shrubs o'ergrown ;
The Sunday pew she fill'd with all her race, —
Each place of hers, was now a sacred place, —
That, while it call'd up sorrows in the eyes.
Pierced the full heart and forced them still to rise.

Oh sacred sorrow ! by whom souls are tried,
Sent not to punish mortals, but to guide ;
If thou art mine (and who shall proudly dare
To tell his Malcer he has had his share ! )
Still let me feel for what thy pangs are sent.
And be my guide, and not my punishment !

Of Leah Cousins next the name appears,
With honours crown'd and blest with length of j'ears.
Save that she lived to feel, in life's decay.
The pleasure die, the honours drop away :
A matron she, whom every village wife
View'd as the help and guardian of her life ;
Fathers and sous, indebted to her aid,
Respect to her and her profession paid ;
Who in the house of plenty largely fed,
Yet took her station at the pauper's bed ;
Nor from that duty could be bribed again.
While fear or danger urged her to remain :
Jn her experience all her friends relied ;
Heaven was her help, and Nature was her guide.

Thus Leah lived ; long trusted, much caress'd.
Till a town dame a youthful fanner bless'd ;
A gay vain bride, who would example give
To that poor village where she deign'd to live ;
Some few months past, she sent, in hour of need,
For Doctor Glibb, who came with wondrous speed :
Two days he waited, all his art applied.
To save the mother when her infant died : —
" 'Twas well I came," at last he deign'd to say ;
" 'Twas wondrous well ; " — and proudly rode away.

The news ran round ; — " How vast the doctor's pow'r !
He saved the lady in the trying hour ;
Saved her from death, when she was dead to hope,
And her fond husband had resign'd her up :
So all, like her, may evil fate defy,
If Docttir Glibb, with saving hand, be nigh."
Fame (now his friend), fear, novelty, and whim,
And fashion, sent the varying sex to him :
From this, contention in the village rose ;
And tkesi' the dame espoused ; the doctor those ;
The wealtliier part to him and science went ;
With luck and her the poor rernain'd content.


The matron si.^h'd, for slio was vex'd at heart,
With so much profit, so much fame, to part :
"So long successful in my art," she cried,
" And this proud man, so young and so untried !"

" Nay," said the doctor, " dare you trust your wives,
The joy, the pride, the solace of j'our lives,
To one who acts, and knows no reason why,
But trusts, poor hag ! to luck for an ally ? —
Who, on experience, can her claims advance,
And own the powers of accident and chance ?
A whining dame, who prays in danger's view
(A proof she knows not what beside to do) ;
What's her experience ? In the time that's gone,
Blundering she wrought, and still she blunders on : —
And what is Nature ? One who acts in aid
Of gossips half asleep and half afraid :
With such allies I scorn my fame to blend.
Skill is my luck, and courage is my friend :
No slave to Nature, 'tis my chief delight
To win my way and act in her despite : —
Trust then my art, that, in itself complete,
Needs no assistance, and fears no detuat.''

Warm'd by her well-spiced ale and aiding pipe,
The angry matron grew for contest ripe.

" Can you," she said, " ungrateful and unjust.
Before experience, ostentation trust ?
What is your hazard, foolish daughters, tell ?
If safe, you're certain ; if secure, you're well :
That I have luck must friend and foe confess;
And what's good judgment but a lucky guess ?
He boasts but what ho can do :— will you vwa.
From me, your friend ! who, all he boasts, have done ?
By proud and learned words his powers are known ;
By healthy boys and handsome girls my own :
Wives ! fothers ! children ! by my help you live ;
Has this pale doctor more than life to give?
No stunted cripple hops the village round ;
Your hands are active and your heads are sound;
My lads are all your fields and flocks require ;
My lasses all those sturdy lads admire.
Can this proud leech, with all his boasted skill.
Amend the soul or body, wit or will ?
Does he fr>r courts the sons of farmers frame.
Or make the daughter difter from the dame ?
Or, whom he brings into this world of woe,
Prepares he them their part to undergo ?
If not, this stranger from your doors repel.
And be content to ie and bo we//."

She spake ; lint, ah ! with words too strong and plam ;
Her warmth offended, and her truth was vain :
The maiiii left her, and tho frieudly./c'ic.
If never colder, yet they older grow ;
Till, unemploy'd, she felt her spirits droop.
And took, insidious aid ! th' inspiring ciii> ;

54 crabbe's poems.

Grew poor and peevish as her powers decay 'd,
And propp'd the tottering frame with stronger aid.
Then died ! I saw our careful swains convey,
From this our changeful world, the matroJi's clay.
Who to this world, at least, with equal care,
Brought them its changes, good and ill, to share.

Now to his grave was Roger Cufl'convey'd,
And strong resentment's lingering spirit laid.
Shipwrcck'd in youth, he home return'd, and found
His brethren three — and thrice they wish'd him di-own'd.
" Is this a landsman's love < Be certain then.
We part for ever ! " and they cried, "Amen !"

His words were truth's : — Some forty summers fled,
His brethren died ; his kin supposed him dead :
Three nephews these, one sprightly niece, and one.
Less near in blood, — they call'd him svrly John, ;
He work'd in woods apart from all his kind.
Fierce were his looks and moody was his mind.

For home the sailor now began to sigh : —
" The dogs are dead, and I'll return and die :
When all I have, my gains, in years of care,
The younger Cuffs with kinder souls shall share —
Yet hold ! I'm rich ; — with one consent they'll say,
'You're welcome, uncle, as the flowers in May,'
No ; I'll disguise me, be in tatters dress'd,
And best befriend the lads who treat me best."

Now all his kindred — neither rich nor poor —
Kept the wolf Want some distance from the door.

In piteous plight ho knock'd at George's gate.
And begg'd for aid, as he described his state :
But stern was George :— " Let them who had thee strong,
Help thee to drag thy weaken'd frame along ;
To us a stranger, while your limbs would move,
From us depart, and try a stranger's love : —
" Ha ! dost thou mui-mur ?" for, in Roger's throat
Was "Rascal !" rising with disdainfid note.

To pious James he then his praj'er addross'd ; —
" Good-lack," quoth James, "thy sorrowS'pierce my breast;
And, had I wealth, as have my brethren twain.
One board should feed us, and one roof contain :
But plead I will thy cause, and I will pray :
And so fi'.rewell ! Heaven help thco on thy way ! "

" Scoundrel !" said Roger (but ajiart) ; — and told
His case to Peter : — Peter too was cold :
" The rates are high ; wo have a-many poor;
But I will think," — he said, and shut the door.

Then the gay niece the seeming jianper press'd : —
"Turn, Nancy, turn, and view this foi-m distress'd :
Akin to thine is this declining frame.
And this poor beggar claims an uncle's name."

" Avaunt ! begone !" the courteous maiden said,
"Thou vile impostor ! Uncle Roger's dead :
I hate thee, beast ; thy look my spirit shocks ;
Oh ! that I saw thee starving m. the stocks ! "


" My gentle niece," he said — and sought the wood : —
"I hunger, fellow ; prithee give me food !"

" Give ! am I rich ? This hatchet take, and try
Thy proper strength, nor give those limbs the lie ;
Work, feed thyself, to thine own powers appeal.
Nor whine out woes thine own right hand can heal ;
And while that hand is thine, and thine a leg,
Scorn of the proud or of the base to beg."

" Come, surly John, thy wealthy kinsman view,"
Old Roger said ; — " thy words are brave and true ;
Come, live with me : we'll vex those scoundrel boys,
And that prim shrew shall, envying, hear our joys. —
Tobacco's glorious fume all day we'll share,
With beef and brandy kill all kinds of care;
We'll beer and biscuit on our tal)le heap,
And rail at rascals, till we fall asleep."

Such was their life ; but when the woodman died.
His grieving kin for Roger's smiles applied —
In vain ; he shut, with stern rebuke, the door.
And djing, built a refuge for the poor,
With this restriction, that no C«^ should share
One meal, or shelter for one moment there.

My Record ends : — But hark ! e'en now I hear
The bell of death, and know not whose to fear :
Our farmers all, and all our hinds were well ;
In no man's cottage danger seem'd to dwell : —
Yet death of man proclaim these heavy chimes.
For thrice they sound, with pausing space, three times.

" Go ; of my sexton seek, whose days are sped 1 —
What ! he, himself ! — and is old Dibble dead ? "
His eightieth j^ear he reach'd, still undecay'd,
And rectors five to one close vault convey'd : —
But he is gone ; his care and skill I lose.
And gain a mournful subject for my muse :
His masters lost, he'd oft in tin-n deplore.
And kindly add, — " Heaven grant 1 lose no more !"
Yet, while he spake, a sly and pleasant glance
Appear'd at variance with his complaisance :
For, as he told their fate and varying worth.
He archly look'd, — "I yet may bear thee forth."
" When first (ho so began) my trade I plied,
Good master Addle was the parish guide ;
His clerk and sexton, I beheld with fear,
His stride majestic, and his frown severe ;
A noble pillar of the church he stood,
Adorn '<1 with college gown and parish hood :
Then as he paced the hallow'd aisles about,
He fill'd the seven-fold surplice fairly out !
But in his pulpit wearied down with prayer.
He sat and seem'd as in his study's chair ;
For while the anthem swell'd, and when it ceased,
Th' expecting people vicw'd their slumbering priest ;
Who, dozing, die(l. — Our Parson Peclo was next :
' I will not spare you,' was his favourite text ;

56 crabee's poems.

Nor did he spare, but raised them many a pound ;

Online LibraryGeorge CrabbeThe poetical works of George Crabbe → online text (page 7 of 49)