George Crabbe.

The poetical works of George Crabbe online

. (page 9 of 49)
Online LibraryGeorge CrabbeThe poetical works of George Crabbe → online text (page 9 of 49)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

But man, who knows no good unmix'd and pure.
Oft finds a poison where he sought a cure ;
For grave deceivers lodge their labours here.
And cloud the science they pretend to clear ;
Scourges for sin, the soleuni tribe are sent ;
Like fire and storms, they call us to repent ;
But storms subside, and fires forget to rage.
These are eternal scourges of the age ;
'Tis not enough that each terrific hand
Spreads desolation round a guilty land ;
But, train'd to ill, and harden'd by its crimes,
Their pen relentless kills through future times.

Say, j'e, who search these records of the dead —
Who read huge works, to boast what ye have lead,
Can all the real knowledge ye possess.
Or those — if such there are — who more than guess,
Atone for each impostor's wild mistakes.
And mend the blunders pride or folly makes ?

What thought so wild, what airj' dream so light,
That will not prompt a theorist to write ?
What art so prevalent, what proof so sti-ong.
That will convince him his attempt is wrong ?
One in the solids finds each lurking ill,
Kor grants the passive fluids power to kill ;
A learned friend some subtler reason brings.
Absolves the channels, but condemns their springs ;
The subtile nerves, that shun the doctor's eye,
Escape no more his subtler theory ;
The vital heat, that warms tbe labouring heart,
Lends a fair system to these sons oi art ;
The vital air, a pure and subtile stream.
Serves a foundation for iu\ airy scheme,
Assists the doctor, and supports his dream.
Some have their favourite ills, and each disease
Is but a younger branch that kills from these ;
One to the gout contracts all human pain ;
He views it raging in the frantic brain ;
Finds it in fevers all his efforts mar.
And sees it lurking ui the cold catarrh :
Bilious by some, by others nervous seen.


Rage the fantastic demons of the spleen ;

And ever}' symptom of the strange disease

With every system of the sage agrees.
Ye frigid tribe, on whom I wasted long

The tedious hours, and ne'er indulged in song ;

Ye first seducers of my easy heart,

Who promised knowledge ye could not impart ;

Ye dull dehiders, truth's destructive foes ;

Ye sons of fiction, clad in stupid prose ;

Ye treacherous leaders, who, yourselves in doubt,

Light up false fires, and send us far abo\it ; —

Still may yon spider round your pages spin.

Subtile and slow, her emblematic gin !

Buried in dust and lost in silence, dwell.

Most potent, grave, and reverend friends — farewell ;
Near these, and where the setting sun displays,

Through the dim window, his departing rays.

And gilds yon columns, there, on either side,

The huge abridgments of the Law abide ;

Fruitful as vice the dread correctors stand,

And spread their guardian terrors round the land ;

Yet, as the best that human care can do
Is mix'd with error, oft with evil too,

Skill'd in deceit, and practised to evade,

Knaves stand secure, for whom these laws were made.

And justice vainly each expedient tries.

While art eludes it, or while power defies.

"Ah ! happy age," the youthful poet sings,

" When the "free nations knew not laws nor kings ;

When all were blest to share a common store.

And none were proud of wealth, for none were poor ;

Nor wars nor tumults vex'd each still domain.

No thirst of empire, no desire of gain ;

No proud great man, nor one who would be great,

Drove modest merit from its proper state ;

Nor into distant climes would Avarice roam.

To fetch delights for Luxury at home :

Bound by no ties which kept the soul in awe.

They dwelt at liberty, and love was law ! "

" Mistaken youth I each nation first was rud^.
Each man a cheerless son of solitude.
To whom no joys of social life wore known.
None felt a care that was not all his own ;
Or in some languid clime his abject soul
Bow'd to a little tyrant's stern control ;
A slave, with slaves his monarch's throne ho raised.
And in rude song his ruder idol praised ;
The meaner cares of life were all he knew ;
Bounded his pleasures, and his wishes few ;
But when by slow degrees the Arts arose.
And Science waken'd from her long repose ;
When Commerce, rising from the bod of ease.
Ran round the land, and pointed to the seas j
When Emulation, born with jealous eye,
F 2



And Avarice, lent their spurs to iudnstry ;
Then one by one the minierous laws were made,
Those to control, and these to succour trade ;
To curb the insolence ot rude command,
To snatch the victim from the usurer's hand ;
To awe the bold, to yield the wrong'd redress,
And feed the poor with Luxury's excess."

Like some vast flood, unbounded, fierce, and strong,
His nature leads ungovern'd man along ;
Like mighty bulwarks made to stem that tide.
The laws are form'd, and placed on ev'ry side ;
Whene'er it breaks the bounds by these decreed.
New statutes rise, and stronger laws succeed ;
More and more gentle grows the dying stream.
More and more strong the rising bulwarks seem ;
Till, like a miner working sure and slow.
Luxury creeps on, and ruins all below ;
The basis sinks, the ample piles decay ;
The stately fabric shakes and falls away ;
Primeval want and ignorance come on,
But freedom, that exalts the savage state, is gone.

Next, History ranks ; — there full in front she lies,
And every nation her dread tale supplies ;
Yet History has her doubts, and every age
With sceptic queries marks the passing page ;
Records of old nor later date are clear.
Too distant those, and these are placed too near ;
There time conceals the objects from our view,
Here our own passions and a writer's too :
Yet, in these volumes, see how states arose !
Guarded by virtue from surrounding foes ;
Their virtue lost, and of their triumphs vain, !

Lo ! how they sunk to slaverj' again !
Satiate with power, of fiime and wealth possess'd,
A nation grows too glorious to be blest ;
Conspicuous made, she stands the mark of all.
And toes join foes to triumph in her fall.

Thus speaks the page that paints ambition's race.
The monarch's pride, his glory, his disgrace ;
The headlong course, that madd'ning heroes run,
How soon triumphant, and how soon imdone ;
How slaves, turn'd tyrants, offer crowns to sale,
And each fall'n nation's melancholy tale.

Lo ! where of late the Book of Martyrs stood,
Old pious tracts, and Bibles bound in wood ;
There, such the taste of our degenerate age,
Stand the profane delusions ot the Stage :
Yet Virtue ovms the Tragic Muse a friend.
Fable her means, morality her end ;
For this she rules all passions in their turns.
And now the bosom bleeds, and now it bums ;
Pity with weeping eye surveys her bowl.
Her anger swells, her terror chills the soul ;
She makes the vUe to virtue }ield applause,


And own her sceptre while they break her laws ;

For vice in others is abhorr'd of all,

And villains triumph when the worthless fall.

Not thus her sister Comedy prevails,
Who shoots at Folly, for her arrow fails ;
Folly, by Dulness arm'd, eludes the wound,
And harmless sees the feather'd shafts rebound ;
Unhurt she stands, applauds the archer's skill,
Laughs at her malice, and is Folly still.
Yet well the ]\Iuse portrays, in fancied scenes.
What pride will stoop to, what profession means ;
How formal fools the tarce of state applaud ;
How caution watches at the lips of fraud ;
The wordy variance of domestic life ;
The tyrant husband, the retorting wife ;
The snares for innocence, the lie of trade,
And the smooth tongue's habitual masquerade.

With her the Virtues too obtain a place,
Each gentle passion, each becoming grace ;
The social joy in life's securer road.
Its easy pleasure, its substantial good ;
The happy thought that conscious virtue gives,
And all that ought to hve, and all that lives.

But who are these ? Methinks a noble mien
And awhil grandeur in their form are seen,
Now in disgrace : what though by time is spread
Polluting dust o'er every reverend head ;
What though beneath yon gilded tribe they lio.
And dull observers pass insulting by :
Forbid it shame, forbid it decent awe.
What seems so grave, should no attention draw
Come, let us then with reverend step advance.
And greet — the ancient worthies of Romance.

Hence, ye profane ! I feel a former dread,
A thousand visions float around my head :
Hark ! hollow blasts through empty courts resound.
And shadowy forms with staring eyes stalk round ;
See ! moats and bridges, walls and castles rise.
Ghosts, iairies, demons, dance beloro our eyes ;
Lo ! magic verse inscribed on golden gate.
And bloody hand that beckons on to late : —
"And who art thou, thou little page, unfold ?
Say, doth my lord my Claribcl withhold?
Go tell him straight. Sir Knif,dit, thou must resign
The captive queen ; — for Claribcl is mine."
Away he flies ; and now for bloody deeds.
Black suits of armour, masks, and foaming steeds ;
The giant falls ; his recreant throat I seize.
And from his corslet take the massy keys : —
Dukes, lords, anil knights, in long procession move.
Released from bondage with my virgin love : —
She comes ! she comes ! in all the charms of youth,
Unequall'd love, and unsuspected trutii !

Ah ! happy ho who thus, in magic themes.

70 crabbe's poems.

O'er worlds bewitch'd in early rapture dreams.
Where wild Enchantment waves her potent wand.
And Fancy's beauties fill her fairy land ;
Whore doubtlul objects strange desires excite.
And Fear and Ignorance afford delight.

But lost, for ever lost, to me these joys.
Which Fv,eason scatters, and which Time destroys ;
Too dearly bought : maturer judgment calls
My busied mind from tales and madrigals ;
My doughty giants all are slain or fled,
And all my knights — blue, green, and yellow — dead !
No more the midnight fairy ti'ibo I view.
All in the merry moonshine tippling dew ;
E'en the last lingering fiction of the brain.
The churchyard ghost, is now at rest again ;
And all these wayward wanderings of my youth
Fly Reason's power, and shun the light of Truth,

With Fiction then does real joy reside,
And is our reason the delusive guide ?
Is it then right to dream the sirens sing ?
Or mount enraptured on the dragon's wing ?
No ; 'tis the infant mind, to care unknown,
That makes th' imagined paradise its own ;
Soon as reflectii)ns in the bosom rise,
Light slumbers vanish fi-om the clouded eyes :
The tear and smile, that once together rose,
Are then divorced ; the head and heart are foes :
Enchantment bows to Wisdom's serious i)lan,
And Pain and Prudence make and mar the man.

While thus, of power and fancied empire vain.
With various thoughts my mind I entertain ;
While books, my slaves, with tyrant hand I seine.
Pleased with the pride that will not let them please,
Sudden I find terrific thoughts arise,
And sympathetic sorrow fills my eyes ;
For, lo ! while yet my heart admits the wound,
I see the CRITIC army ranged around.

Foes to our race ! if ever ye have known
A father's fears Ibr offspring of your own ;
If ever, smiling o'er a lucky line,
Ye thought the sudden sentiment divine,
Then paused and doubted, and then, tired of doubt.
With rage as sudden dash'd the stanz.a out ; —
If, after fearing much and pausing long,
Yo ventured on the world your labour'd song,
And from the crusty critics of those days
Implored the feeble tribute of their jiraise ;
Remember now the fears that moved you then.
And, spite of truth, let mercy guide your pen.

What vent'rous race are oin-s ! what mighty foes
Lie waiting all around them to opi)ose !
What treacherous friends betray them to the fight !
What dangers threaten them :— yet still they write :
A hapless tribe ! to every evil born.



Whom villains hate, and fools affect to scorn :
Strangers they come, amid a world of woe,
And taste the largest portion ere they go.

Pensive I spoke, and cast mine eyes around ;
The roof, methought, return'd a solemn sound ;
Each column seem'd to shake, and clouds, like smoke,
From dusty piles and ancient volumes broke ;
Gathering above, like mists condensed they seem.
Exhaled in summer from the rushy stream ; _
Like flowing robes they now appear, and twine
Round the large members of a form divine ;
His silver beard, that swept his aged breast.
His piercing eye, that inward light express' d.
Were seen, — but clouds and darkness veil'd the rest.
Fear chill'd my heart : to one of mortal race,
How awful seem'd the Genius of the place !
So in Cimmerian shores, Ulysses saw
His parent-shade, and shrunk in pious awe ;
Like him I stood, and wrapp'd in thought profound,
When from the pitying power broke forth a solemn sound :—

" Care lives with all ; no rules, no precepts save
The wise from woe, no fortitude the brave ;
Grief is to man as certain as the grave :
Tempests and storms in life's whole progress rise,
And hope shines dimly through o'erclouded skies ;
Some drops of comfort on the favour'd fall,
But showers of sorrow are the lot of all :
Partial to talents, then, shall Heav'n withdraw
Th' aiflicting rod, or break the general law ?
Shall he who soars, inspired by loftier views,
Life's little cares and little pains refuse ?
Shall he not rather feel a double share
Of mortal woe, when doubly arm'd to bear ?

" Hard is his fate who builds his peace of mind
On the precarious mercy of mankind ;
Who hopes for wild and visionary things.
And mounts o'er unknown seas with vent'rous wings ;
But as, of various evils that befall
The human race, some portion goes to all ;
To him, perhaps, the milder lot's assigned
Who feels his consolation in his mind,
And, lock'd within his bosom, bears about
A mental chann for every care without.
E'en in the pangs of each domestic grief.
Or health or vigorous hope aflords relief ;
And every wound the tortured bosom feels.
Or virtue bears, or some preserver heals ;
Some generous friend, of ample power possess'd ;
Some feeling heart, that bleeds for the distress'd ;
Some breast that glows with virtues all divine ;
Some noble Rutland, misery's friend and thine.

" Nor say, the Muse's song, the Poet's pen.
Merit the scorn they meet Irom little men.
With cautious freedom if the numbers flow.

12 ckabbe's poems.

Not wildly liigh, nor pitifully low ;

If vice alone thoir honest aims oppose,

Why so ashamed their friends, so loud their foes 1

Happy for men in every ago and clime,

If all the sons of vision dealt in rhjTne.

Go on, then, Son of Vision ! still pursue

Thy airy dreams ; the world is dreaming too.

Ambition's lofty views, the pomp of state,

The pride of wealth, the splendour of the great,

Stripp'd of their mask, their cares and troubles known,

Ai-e visions far less happy than thy own : _

Go on ! and while the sons of care complain.

Be wisely gay and innocently vain ;

While serious souls are by their fears undone.

Blow sportive bladders in the beamy sun,

And call them worlds ! and bid the greatest show

More radiant colours in their worlds below :

Then, as they break, the slaves of care reprove.

And tell them. Such are all the toys they love."


This is not a Time favourable to Poetical Composition : aiid why — Newspapers enemies to
Literature, and their general Influence — their Numbei-s — Tlie Sunday Monitor — Their
general Cliaru^ter— Their Effect upon Individuals — upon Society — in the Country — The
Village Freeholder — What kind of Composition a Newspaper is ; and the Anmsement it
affords— 01 what Parts it is chiefly composed — Articles of Intelligence : Advertisements :
the Stage : Quacks : Puffing— The Correspondents to a Newspaper, political and poetical
— Advice to the latter — Conclusion.

A TIME like this, a busy, bustling time.
Suits ill with writers, very ill with rhyme :
Unheard we sing, when party rage runs strong,
And mightier madness checks the flowing song ;
Or, should we force the peaceful Muse to wield
Her feeble arms amid the furious field.
Where party pens a wordy war maintain.
Poor is her anger and her friendship vain ;
And oft the foes who feel her sting combine,
Till serious vengeance pays an idle line :
For party poets are like wasps, who dart
Death to themselves, and to their foes but smart.

Hard then our fate : if general themes wo choose,
Neglect awaits the song, and chills tho Muse ;
Or should we sing the subject of the day,
To-morrow's wonder puffs our praise away.
More blest the bards of that poetic time,
When all found readers who could find a rhyme ;
Green grew the bays on every teeming head.
And Gibber was enthroned and Settle read.
Sing, drooping Muse, the cause of thy decline ;
Why reign no more the once triumphant Nine ?
Alas ! new charms the wavering many gain.
And rival sheets the reader's eye detain ;
A daily swarm, that banish every Muse,
Come flying forth, and mortals call them News :
For these, unread, the noblest vohmics lie ;
For these, in sheets unsoil'd, the Muses die ;
Unbought, unblest, the virgin copies wait
In vain for fame, and sink, unseen, to fate.

Since, then, the Town forsaki.'S us for our foos,
Tho smoothest numbers for tho harshest prose ;


Let 113, with generous acorn, the taste deride,
And sing our rivals with a rival's pride.

Ye gentle poeta, who so oft complain
That foul neglect is all your labours gain ;
That pity only checks your growing spite
To erring man, and prompts you still to write ;
That your choice works on humble stalls are laid.
Or vainly grace the windows of the trade ;
Be ye my friends, if friendship e'er can warm
Those rival bosoms whom the Muses charm ;
Think of the common cause wherein we go.
Like gallant Greeks against the Trojan foe ;
Nor let one peevish chief his leader blame.
Till, crown'd with conquest, we regain our fame ;
And let ua join our forces to subdue
This bold, assuming, but succeasful crew.

I sing of News, and all those vapid sheets
The rattling hawker vends through gaping streets ;
Whate'er their name, whate'er the time they fly.
Damp from the press, to charm the reader's eye :
For soon as morning dawns with roseate hue.
The Herald of the mom arises too ;
Post after Post succeeds, and all day long.
Gazettes and Ledgers swarm, a noisy throng.
When evening comes, she comes with all her tnin
Of Ledgers, Chronicles, and Posts again.
Like bats, appearing when the sun goes down.
From holes obscure, and comers of the town.
Of all these triflers, all like these I write ;
Oh ! like my subject could my song delight,
The crowd at Lloyd's one poet's name should raise.
And all the Alley echo to his praise.

In shoals the hours their constant numbers bring;
Like insects waking to th' advancing spring ;
Which take their rise from grubs obscene that lie
Jn shallow pools, or thence ascend the sky :
Such are these base ephemeras, so bom
To die before the next revolving mom.

Yet thus they differ : insect tribes are lost
In the first visit of a winter's frost ;
While these remain, a base but constant breed.
Whose swarming sons their short-lived sires succeed ;
No changing season makes their number less.
Nor Sunday shines a sabbath on the press !

Then lo ! the sainted Monitor is bom,
Wliose pious face some sacred texts adorn :
As artful sinners cloak the secret sin,
To veil with seeming grace the guile within ;
So moral essays on his front appear.
But all is carnal business in the rear ;
The fresh-coin'd lie, the secret whLsjier'd last.
And all the gleanings of the six days pa.'it.

With these retired through half the Sabbath-day,
The Londaa locmger yavma his hours away ;


Not SO, my little flock, your preacher fly 1
Nor waste* the time no worldly wealth can buy ;
But let the decent maid and sober clown
Pray for these idlers of the sinfiil town :
This day, at least, on nobler themes bestow.
Nor give to Woodfaix, or the world below.

But, Sunday, what numbers flourish then,
What wondrous labours of the press and pen ;
Diurnal most, some thrice each week affords.
Some only once, — O avarice of words ;
When thousand starving minds such manna seek,
To drop the precio'is food but once a week.

Endless it were to sing the pyowers of all.
Their names, their numbers ; how they rise and fall :
Like baneful herbs, the gazer's eye they seize.
Rush to the head and poison where they please :
Like idle flies, a busy, buzzing train,
They drop their maggots in the trifler's brain :
That genial soil receives the fruitful store,
And there they grow, and breed a thousand more.

Now be their arts display'd, how first they choose
A cause and party, as the bard his Muse ;
Inspired by these, with clamorous zeal they cry,
And through the town their dreams and omens fly ;
So the Sibylline leaves were blown about.
Disjointed scraps of fate involved in doubt ;
So idle dreams, the journals of the night.
Are right and wrong by txuTis. and mingle wrong with right.—
Some champions for the rights that prop the crown.
Some sturdy patriots sworn to pull them down ;
Some neutral powers, with secret forces fraught.
Wishing for war, but willing to be bought :
While some to every side and party go.
Shift every friend, and join with every foe ;
Like sturdy rogues in privateers, they strike
This aide and that, the foea of both alike,
A traitor-crew, who thrive in troubled times,
Fear'd for their force, and cotuted for their crimes.

Chief to the prosperous side the number sail.
Fickle and false, they veer with every gale ;
As birds that migrate from a freezing shore
In search of warmer climes come skimming o'er,
Some bold adventurers first prepare to try
The doubtful simshine of the distant sky ;
But soon the growing Summer's certain sun
Wins more and more, till all at last are won :
So, on the early prospect of disgrace,
Fly in vast troops this apprehensive race ;
Instinctive tribw ! their failing food they dread.
And buy, with timely change, their future broad.

Such are our guides ; how many a peaceful head.
Bom to be stLU, have thev' to wrangling led ;
How many an honest zealot, ^tol'n trom trade.
And iactious tools ot pious pastors made !

76 crabbe's poems.

With clues like these they thread the maze ol state.
These oracles explore to learn our fate ;
Pleased with the guides who can so well deceive,
Who cannot he so last as they believe.

Oft lend I, loth, to some sage friend an ear
(For we who will not speak are doom'd to hear) ;
While he, bewilder'd, tells his anxious thought.
Infectious fear from tainted scribblers caught.
Or idiot hope ; for each his mind assails,
As Lloyd's court-light or Stockdale's gloom prevails.
Yet stand I patient while bvit one declaims, _
Or gives dull comments on the speech he maims :
But oh ! ye Muses, keep your votary's feet
From tavern-haunts where politicians meet ;
Where rector, doctor, and attorney pause.
First on each parish, then each public cause :
Indited roads, and rates that still increase ;
The murmuring poor, who will not fast in peace ;
Election zeal and friendship, since declined ;
A tax commuted, or a tithe in kind ;
The Dutch and Germans kindling into strife ;
Dull port and poachers vile ; the serious ills of life.

Here comes the neighbouring justice, pleased to guide
His Uttle club, and in the chair preside.
In private business his commands prevail,
On public themes his reasoning turns the scale ;
Assenting silence soothes his happy ear,
And, in or out, his party triumphs here.

Nor here th' infectious rage for party stops.
But flits along from palaces to shops ;
Our weekly journals o'er the land abound.
And spread their plague and influenzas round ;
The village, too, the peaceful, pleasant plain,
Breeds the Whig farmer and the Tory swain ;
Brookes' and St. Alban's boasts not, but, instead.
Stares the Red Ram, and swings the Rodney's Head :—
Hither, with all a patriot's care, comes he
Who owns the little hut that makes him free ;
Whoso yeai-ly forty shillings buy the smile
Of mightier men, and never waste the while ;
Who feels his freehold's worth, and looks elate,
A little prop and pillar of the state.

Here he delights the weekly news to con,
And mingle comments as he blunders on ;
To swallow all their varying authors teach,
To spell a title, and confound a speech :
Till with a muddled mind he quits the news.
And claims his nation's license to abuse ;
Then joins the cry, " That all the coiutly race
Are venal candirlates for power and place ;"
Yet feels some joy, amid the general vice.
That his own vote will bring its wonted price.

These are the ills the teeming l^ress supplies,
The pois'nous springs from learning's fountain rise ;


Online LibraryGeorge CrabbeThe poetical works of George Crabbe → online text (page 9 of 49)