George Crabbe.

The poetical works of George Crabbe online

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E'en me he mulct for my poor rood of ground ;
Yet cai'ed he nought but with a gibing speech,
'What should I do,' quoth he, 'but what I preach?'
His j^icrcing jokes (and he'd a plenteous store)
Were daily ofler'd both to rich and poor ;
His scorn, his love, in playful words he spoke ;
His pity, praise, and promise, were a joke :
But though so young and blest with spirits high,
He died as grave as any judge could die :
The strong attack subdued his hvely powers, —
His was the grave, and Doctor Grandspear ours.

" Then were there golden times the village round ;
In his abundance all appear'd t' abound ;
Liberal and rich, a plenteous board he spread.
E'en cool Dissenters at his table fed ;
Who wish'd and hoped, — and thought a man so kind,
A way to Heaven, though not their own, might find.
To them, to all, he was polite and free.
Kind to the poor, and, ah ! most kind to me !
' Ralph,' would he say, ' Ralph Dibble, thou art old ;
That doublet fit, 'twill keep thee from the cold :
How does my sexton ? — What ! the times are hard ;
Drive that stout pig, and pen him in thy yard.'
But most, his rev'rence loved a mirthful jest : —
'Thy coat is thin ; why, man, thourt hareiy dress'd ;
It's worn to th' thread : but I have nappy beer ;
Clap that within, and see how they \\\\\ wear ! '

"Gay days were these ; but they were quickly past ;
When first he came, we found he couldn't last :
A whoreson cough (and at the fall of leaf)
Upset him quite ; — but what's the gain of grief ?

"Then came the author rector : his delight
Was all in books ; to read them or to write :
Women and men he strove alike to shun,
And hunied homeward when his tasks were done ;
Courteous enough, but careless what he said.
For points of learning he reserved his head ;
And when addressing either poor or rich.
He knew no better than his cassock which :
He, like an osier was of pliant kind,
Erect by nature, but to bend inclined ;
Not hke a creeper falling to the ground.
Or moanlj^ catching on the neighbours round :
Careless was he of svu'plice, hood, and band, —
And kindly took them as they came to hand,
Nor, like the doctor, wore a world of hat.
As if he sought for dignity in that :
He talk'd, ho gave, but not with cautious rules ;
Nor turn'd from gipsies, vagabonds, or fools ;
It was his nature, but they thought it whim.
And so our beaux and beauties turn'd from him.
Of questions, much he wrote, proibund and dark, —
How spake the scrncnt, and where stopp'd the ark ;


From what fai- land the queen of Sheba came ;
Who Salem's priest, and what his father's name ;
He made the Song of Songs its mysteries yield,
And Revelations to the world reveal'd.
He sleeps i' the aisle, — but not a stone records
His name or fame, his actions or his words :
And truth, your reverence, when I look around.
And mark the tombs in our sepulchral ground
(Though dare I not of one man's hope to doubt),
I'd join the party who repose without.

" Next came a youth from Cambridge, and in truth
He was a sober and a comely youth ;
He blush'd in meekness as a modest man.
And gain'd attention ere his task began ;
When preaching, seldom ventured on reproof.
But touch'd his neighbours tenderly enough.
Him, in his youth, a clamorous sect assail'd.
Advised and censured, flatter'd,- — and prevail'd. —
Then did he much his sober hearers vex.
Confound the simple, and the sad perplex ;
To a new style his reverence rashly took ;
Loud grew his voice, to threat'ning swell'd his look ;
Above, below, on either side he gazed.
Amazing all, and most himself amazed :
No more he read his preachments pure and plain.
But launch'd outright, and rose and sank again :
At times he smiled in scorn, at times he wept.
And such sad coil with words of vengeance kept.
That our best sleepers started as they slept.

" 'Conviction comes like lightning,' he would cry ;
' In vain you seek it, and in vain j'ou fly ;
'Tis like the rushing of the mighty wind,
Unseen its progress, but its power you find ;
It strikes the child ere yet its reason wakes ;
His reason fled, the ancient sire it shakes ;
The proud, leam'd man, and him who loves to know
How and ti'om whence those gusts of grace will blow.
It shuns, — but sinners in their way impedes,
And sots and harlots visits in their deeds :
Of faith and penance it supplies the place ;
Assures the vilest that they live by grace,
And, without running, makes them win the race.'

"Such was the doctrine our young proi)het taught ;
And here conviction, there confusion wrought !
When his thin cheek assumed a deadly hue,
And all the rose to one small spot withdrew :
They call'd it hectic ; 'twas a fiery flush.
More fix'd and deeper than the maiden blush ;
Hi.s paler lips the ])ear]y teeth disclosed,
And lab'ring lungs the length'ning speech opposed.
No more his span-girth shanks and quiv'ring thighs
Upheld a body of the smaller size ;
But down ho sank ujion his dying bed,
And gloomy crotchets fiU'd his wandering head.

53 crabbe's poems.

" ' Spite of my faith, all-saving faith,' he cried,
' I fear of worldly works the wicked pride ;
Poor as I am, degraded, abject, blind.
The good I've wrought still rankles in my mind ;
My alms-deeds all, and every deed I've done ;
My moral rags defile me every one ;
It should not be : — what say'st thou ! tell me, Kalph.'
Quoth I, ' Your reverence, I believe you're safe ;
Your faith 's your prop, nor have you pass'd such time
In life's good works as swell them to a crime.
If I of pardon for my sins were sure.
About my goodness I would rest secure.'

" Such was his end, and mine approaches fast ;
I've seen my best of preachers, — and my last." —
He bow'd, and archly smiled at what he said,
Civil but sly :— " And is old Dibble dead ?"

Yes, he is gone : and we are going all ;
Ijike flowers we wither, and like leaves we fall ; —
Here, with an infant, joyful sponsors come,
Then bear the new-made Christian to its home •
A few short years anfl we behold him stand
To ask a blessing with his bride in hand :
A few, still seeming shorter, and we hear
His widow weeping at her husband's bier.
Thus, as the months succeed, shall infants take
Their names ; thus parents shall the child forsake ;
Thus brides again and bridegrooms blithe shall kneel,
By love or law compell'd their vows to seal,
Ere I again, or one like me, explore
These simple Annals of the Village Poor.


Books afford Consolation to the tronWed Mind by substituting a lighter kind of Distress
for its o\vn— They are productive of other Advantages^ An Author's Hope of being known
in distant times— Arrangement of the Librai-y — Size and Form of the Volumes^ The
ancitnt Folio, clasped and chained — Fashion prevalent even in this Place— The Mode of
publishing in Numbers, Famplilets, &c. — Subjects of the different Cl.'isses — Divinity —
Controversy — Tlie Friends of Religion often more dangerous than her Foes — Scexitical
Authors — Reason too much reject»'d by the former Convei-ts ; exclusively relied upon hy
the latter — Philosnphy a^ceiuiin^' ilirougli tlie Scale of Being to Moral Subjects — Books
of Medicine ; their Variety, Variance, and Pruneness to System : the Evil of this, and
the Ditliculty it causes — Farewell to this Study— Law : the increasing Number of its
Volumes — ,Supposed happy State of Man witliout Laws — Provress of Society^Historians :
their Subjects — Dramatic Autliun*, Tr;igic and Comic — Ancient Romances — The Captive
Heroine — Happiness in the perusal of such Books : why— Criticism — ApiTebensions of
the Author : removed by the Appearance of the Genius of the Place ; whose Reasoning
and Admonition conclude the subject.

When the sad soul, by care and grief oppress'd,

Looks round the world, but looks in vain for rest ;

When every object that appears in view

Partakes her prloom and seems dejected too ;

Where shall affliction from itself retire ?

Where fade away and placidly expire ?

Alas ! we fly to silent scenes in vain ;

Care blasts the honours of the flowery plain :

Care veils in clouds the sun's meridian beam,

Sighs through the grove and murmurs in the stream ;

For when the soul is labouring in despair,

In vain the l)ody breathes a purer air :

No storm-toss'd sailor sighs for slumbering seas ; —

He dreads the tempest, but invokes the breeze;

On the smooth mirror of the deep resides

Reflected woe, and o'er unruffled tides

The ghost of every former danger glides.

Thus, in the calms of life, we only see

A steadier image of our misery ;

But lively gales and gently clouded skies

Disperse the sad reflections as they rise ;

And busy thoughts and little cares avail

To ease the mind, when rest and reason fail.

When the dull thought, by no designs employ'd,

Dwells on the past, or suffbr'd or enjoy'd,

We bleed anew in every fonner grief.

And joys departed furnish no relief.

60 crabbe's poems.

Not Hope herself, with all her flattering art,

Can cure this stubborn sickness of the heart :

The soul disdains each comfort she prepares,

And anxious searches for congenial cares ;

Those lenient cares, which with our own combined,

By mix'd sensations ease th' afflicted mind,

And steal our grief away, and leave their own behind ;

A lighter grief! which feeling hearts endure

Without regret, nor e'en demand a cure ;

But what strange art, what magic can dispose
The troubled mind to change its native woes ?
Or lead us willing from ourselves, to see
Others more wretched, more undone than we ?
This Books can do ; — nor this alone ; they give
New views to life, and teach us how to live ;
They soothe the grieved, the stubborn they chastise,
Fools they admonish, and confirm the wise :
Their aid they yield to all ; they never shun
The man of sorrow, nor the wretch undone : ,
Unlike the hard, the selfish, and the proud,
They fly not sullen from the suppliant crowd ;
Nor tell to various people various things.
But show to subjects what they show to kings.

Come, Child of Care ! to make thy soul serene.
Approach the treasures of this tranquil scene ;
Survey the dome, and as the doors unfold.
The soul's best cure, in all her cares, behold !
Where mental wealth the poor in thought may find.
And mental physic the diseased in mind ;
See here the balms that passion's wounds assuage ;
See coolers hero that damp the fire of rage ;
Here alt'ratives, by slow degrees control
The chronic habits of the sickly soul ;
And round the heart and o'er the aching head.
Mild opiates here their sober influence shed.
Now bid thy soul man's busy scenes exclude.
And view composed this silent multitude : —
Silent they are ; but though deprived of sound.
Here all the living languages abound ;
Here all that live no more ; preserved they lie.
In tombs that open to the curious eye.

Blest be the gracious Power who taught mankind
To stamp a lasting image of the mind !
Beasts may convey, ami tuneful birds m.ay sing,
Their mutual feelings, in the opening spring ;
But Man alone has skill and power to send
The heart's warm dictates to the disbint friend ;
'Tis his alone to ])lease, instruct, advise
Ages remote, and nations yet to rise.

In sweet repose, when Labour's children sleep,
When Joy forgets to smile and Care to weep.
When Passion slumbers in the lover's breast.
And Fear and Guilt partake the balm of rest.
Why then denies the studious man to share


Man's common good, who feels his common care ?

Because the hope is his, that bids him fiy
Night's soft repose, and sleep's mild power defy ;
That after ages may repeat his praise.
And fame's fair meed be his, for length of days.
Delightful prospect ! when we leave behind
A worthy offspring of the fruitful mind !
Which, bora and nursed through many an anxious da}',
Shall all our labour, all our cares repay.

Yet all are not these births of noble kind,
Not all the children of a vigorous mind ;
But where the wisest should alone preside,
The weak would rule us, and the blind would guide ;
Nay, man's best eflbrts taste of man, and show
The poor and troubled source from which they flow ;
Where most he triumphs, we his wants perceive,
And for his weakness in his wisdom grieve.
But though imperfect all, yet Wisdom loves
This seat serene, and Virtue's self approves : —
Here come the grie\ed, a change of thought to find ;
The curious here to feed a craving mind ;
Here the devout their peaceful temple choose ;
And here the poet meets his favouring Muse.

With awe around these silent walks I tread ;
These are the lasting mansions of the dead : —
" The dead ! " methinks a thousand tongues reply ;
" These are the tombs of such as cannot die !
Crown'd with eternal fame, thej' sit sublime.
And laugh at all the little strife of time. "

Hail, then, immortals ! ye who shine above,
Each, in his sphere, the literary Jove ;
And ye the common people of these skies,
A humbler crowd of nameless deities ;
Whether 'tis yours to lead the willing mind
Through Hintory's mazes, and the turnings find j
Or, whether led by Science, ye retire,
Lost and bewilder'd in the vast desire ;
Whether the Muse invites you to her bowers.
And crowns your placid brows with living flowers ;
Or godlike Wisdom teaches you to show
The noblest road to happiness below ;
Or men and manners prompt the easy page
To mark the flying follies of the age :
Whatever good ye boast, that good impart ;
Inform the head and rectify the heart.

Lo, all in silence, all in order stand.
And mighty folios first, a lordly band ;
Then quartos their woll-order'd ranks maintain,
And light octavos fill a spacious plain :
See yonder, ranged in more frequented rows,
A humbler band of duodecimos ;
While undistinguish'd trifles swell the scene,
The last new j)lay and fritter'd magazine.
Thus 'tis in life, where fii'st the proud, the great,

62 crabbe's poems.

In leagued assembly keep their cumbrous state ;
Heavy and huge they fill the world with dread.
Are much admireil, and are but little read :
The commons next, a middle rank are found ;
Professions fruitful pour their offspring round ;
Reasoners and wits are next their place allow'd,
And last, of vulgar tribes, a countless crowd.

First let us view the form, the size, the dress ;
For these the manners — nay, the mind express ;
That weight of wood, with leathern coat o'erlaid ;
Those ample clasps of solid metal made ;
The close-press'd leaves, unclosed for many an age ;
The dull red edging of the well-fill'd page ;
On the broad back the stubborn ridges roll'd.
Where yet the title stands in tamish'd gold ; ■
These all a sage and labour'd work proclaim,
A painful candidate for lasting fame :
No idle wit, no trifling verse can lurk
In the deep bosom of that weighty work ;
No playful thoughts degrade the solemn stylo,
Nor one light sentence claims a transient smile.

Hence, in these times, untouch'd the pages lie,
And slumber out their immortality :
They had their Any, when, after all his toil.
His morning study, and his midnight oil,
At length an author's one great •work appear' d.
By patient hope and length of days endear'd :
Expecting nations hail'd it from the press ;
Poetic friends prefix'd each kind address ;
Princes and kings received the pond'rous gift,
And ladies read the work they could not lift.
Fashion, though Folly's child, and guide of fool.s,
Rules o'en the wisest, and in learning rules ;
From crowds and courts to Wisdom's seat she gooa
And reigns triumphant o'er her mother's foes.
For lo ! these fav'rites of the ancient mode
Lie all neglected, like the Birthday Ode.

Ah ! needless now this weight of massy chain ; *
Safe in themselves, the onco-lovod works remain ;
No readers now invade their still retreat.
None try to steal them from their parent seat ;
Like ancient beauties, they may now discard
Chains, bolts, m\A locks, and lie without a guard.

Our patient fathers trifling themes laid by,
And roll'd, o'er labour'd works, th' attentive eye ;
Pago after page the much-enduring men
Explored the deeps and shallows of the pen :
Till, every former note and comment knowTi,
They mark'd the spacious margin with their own ;
Minute corrections prove their studious care ;
The little index, pointing, told us whore ;
And many an emendation show'd the age

• In old libraries, works- of value niid importMice were faatcned to their places by «
lentil otclijiiu, aiul might so be perused, but not taken awaj-.


Look'd far beyond tho rubric title-page.

Our nicer palates lighter labours seek,
Cloy'd with a folio numher once a week ;
Bibles, with cuts and comments, thus go down :
E'en light Voltaire is number'd through the town :
Thus physic flies abroad, and thus the law.
From men of study, and from men of straw ;
Abstracts, abridgments, please the fickle times.
Pamphlets and plays, and politics and rhymes :
But though to write be now a task of ease.
The task is hard by manly arts to please,
When all our weakness is exposed to view.
And half our judges are our rivals too.

Amid these works, on which the eager eye
Delights to fix, or glides reluctant bj',
When all combined, their decent pomp display,
Where shall we first our early offering pay ? —

To thee. Divinity ! to thee, the light
And guide of mortals through their mental night ;
By whom we learn our hopes and fears to guide ;
To bear with pain and to contend with pride ;
When grieved, to pray ; when injui-ed, to forgive ;
And with the world in charity to live.

Not tnitlis like these inspired that numerous race
Whose pious labours fill this ample space ;
But questions nice, where doubt on doubt arose,
Awaked to war the long-contending foes.
For dubious meanings, Icarn'd polemics strove.
And wars on faith prevented works of love ;
The brands of discord far around were hurl'd.
And holy wrath inflamed a sinful world : —
Dull though impatient, peevish though devout.
With wit disgusting, and despised without ;
Saints in design, in execution men.
Peace in their looks, and vengeance in their pen,

Methinks 1 see, a»d sicken at the sight,
Spirits of spleen from yonder pile alight ;
Spirits who laromptod every damning page,
With pontiff pride and still-increasing rage :
Lo ! how they stretch their gloomy wings around.
And lash ^^•ith furious strokes the trembling ground !
They pray, they fight, they murder, and they weej), —
Wolves in their vengeance, in theu" manners sheep ;
Too well they act the prophet's fatal part.
Denouncing evil with a zealous heart ;
And each, like Jonah, is displeased if God
Repent his anger, or withhold his rod.
But here the dormant fury rests unsought,
And Zeal sleeiis soundly by the foes she fought ;
Here all tho rage of controversy ends.
And riviil zealots rest like bosom friends :
An hero, in deep repose.
Sleeps with the fiercest of his Arian foes ;
Socinians here with Calviuists abide,

64 crabbe's poems.

And thin partitions angry chiefs divide ;

Hero wily Jesuits simple Quakers meet.

And Bellarmine has rest at Luther's feet.

Great authors, for the church's glory fired,

Are for the church's peace to rest retired ;

And close beside, a mystic, maudlin race.

Lie " Crumbs of Comfort for the Babes of Grace."

Against her foes Religion well defends
Her sacred truths, but often fears her friends :
If learn'd, their pi-ide, if weak, their zeal, she dreads,
And their hearts' weakness who have soundest heads ;
But most she fears the controversial pen.
The holy strife of disputatious men ;
Who the blest Gospel's peaceful page explore,
Only to fight against its precepts more.

Near to these seats behold yon slender frames,
All closely fill'd and mark'd with modern names ;
Where no foir science ever shows her face,
Few sparks of genius, and no spark of grace ;
There sceptics rest, a still increasing throng,
And stretch their widening wings ten thousand strong ;
Some in close fight their dubious claims maintain ;
Some skirmish lightly, fly, and fight again ;
Coldly profane, and impiously gay,
Their end the same, though various in their way.

When first Religion came to bless the land.
Her friends were then a firm believing hand ;
To doubt was then to plunge in guilt extreme.
And all was gospel that a monk could dream ;
Insulting Reason fled the grov'lling soul.
For Fear to guide, and visions to control :
But now, when Reason has assumed her throne,
She, in her turn, demands to reign alone ;
Rejecting all that lies beyond her view.
And being judge, will be a witness too :
Insulted Faith then leaves the doubtful mind.
To seek for truth, without a power to find :
Ah ! when will both iu friendly beams unite,
And pour on erring man resistless light i
Next to the seats, well stored with works divine,
An ample space. Philosophy ! is thine ;
Our reason's guide, by whose assisting light
We trace the moral bounds of wrong and nght ;
Our guide through nature, from the sterile clay.
To the bright orbs of yon celestial way !
'Tis thine, the great, the golden chain to trace.
Which runs through all, connecting race with race ;
Save where those puzzling, stubborn links remain,
Which thy uifcrior light pursues iu vain : —

How vice and virtue in the soul contend ;
How widely differ, yet how nearly blend ;
What various passions war on either part.
And now confirm, now melt the yielding heart :
How Fancy loves around the world to stray,


While Judg-ment slowly picks his sober way ;
The stores ot memory, and the flights sublinie
Of genius, bound by neither space nor time ; —
All these divine Philosophy explores,
Till, lost in awe, she wonders and adores.

From these, descending to the earth, she turns
And matter, in its various forms, discerns ;
She parts the beamy light with skill profound.
Metes the thin air, and weighs the flying sound ;
'Tis hers the lightning from the clouds to call,
And teach the fiery mischief where to fall.

Yet more her volumes teach, — on these we look
As abstracts drawn from Nature's larger book :
Here, first described, the toi-pid earth appears,
And next, the vegetable robe it wears ;
Where flow'ry tribes, in valleys, fields, and groves,
Nurse the still flame, and teed the silent loves ;
Loves where no grief, nor joy, nor bliss, nor pain,
Warm the glad heart or vex the labouring brain ;
But as the green blood moves along the blade,
The bed of Flora on the branch is made ;
Where, without passion love instinctive lives,
And gives new life, unconscious that it gives.
Advancing still in Nature's maze, we trace,
In dens and burning plains, her savage race
With those tame tribes who on their lord attend,
And find in man a master and a friend ;
Man crowns the scene, a world of wonders new,
A moral world, that well demands our view.

This world is here ; for, of more lofty kind.
These neighbouring volumes reason on the mind ;
They paint the state of man ere yet endued
With knowledge ;— man, poor, ignorant, and rude ;
Then, as his state improves, their pages swell,
And all its cares, and all its comforts, tell :
Here we behold how inexperience buys.
At little price, the wisdom of the wise ;
Without the troubles of an active state,
Without the cares and dangers of the great,
Without the miseries of the poor, we know
What wisdom, wealth, and poverty bestow ;
Wo see how reason calms the raging mind.
And how contending passions urge mankind :
Some, won by virtue, glow with sacred fire ;
Some, lured by vice, indulge the low desire ;
Whilst others, won by either, now pursue
The guilty chase, now keep the good in view ;
For ever wretched, with themselves at strife,
They lead a juizzlcd, vex'd, uncertain life ;
For transient vice bequeaths a lingering pain.
Which transient virtue seeks to cure in vain.

Whilst thus engaged, high views enlarge the soul,
New interests draw, new principles control :
Nor thus the soul alono resigns ner grief,


66 crabbb's poems.

But here the tortured body finds relief ;

For see where yonder sage Arachnb shapes

Her subtile gin, that not a fly escapes !

There Physic fills the space, and far around.

Pile above pile her learned works abound :

Glorious their aim — to ease the labouring heart ;

To war with Death, and stop his flying dart ;

To ti'ace the source whence the fierce contest grow.

And life's short lease on easier terms renew ;

To calm the phrensy of the burning brain ;

To heal the tortures of imploring pain ;

Or, when more powerful ills all efforts brave.

To ease the victim no device can save,

And smooth the stormy passage to the grave.

Online LibraryGeorge CrabbeThe poetical works of George Crabbe → online text (page 8 of 49)