Ernest Rhys.

The golden treasury of longer poems, selected & ed online

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Or change the rocks of Scotland for the Strand ?
There none are swept by sudden fate away,
But all whom hunger spares with age decay:
Here malice, rapine, accident, conspire, ',;:

And now a rabble rages, now a fire ;
Their ambush here relentless ruffians lay,
And here the fell attorney prowls for prey;
Here falling houses thunder on your head,
And here a female atheist talks you dead.

While Thales waits the wherry that contains
Of dissipated wealth the small remains,
On Thames's banks in silent thought we stood,
Where Greenwich smiles upon the silver flood;
Struck with the seat that gave Eliza birth,
We kneel, and kiss the consecrated earth;
In pleasing dreams the blissful age renew,
And call Britannia's glories back to view:
Behold her cross triumphant on the main,
The guard of commerce and the dread of Spain,
Ere masquerades debauch'd, excise oppress'd,
Or English honour grew a standing jest.

A transient calm the happy scenes bestow,
And for a moment lull the sense of woe.
At length awaking, with contemptuous frown
Indignant Thales eyes the neighboring town.

Since worth, he cries, in these degenerate days
Wants ev'n the cheap reward of empty praise ;
In those curs'd walls, devote to vice and gain,
Since unrewarded science toils in vain ;
Since hope but sooths to double my distress,
And ev'ry moment leaves my little less ;
While yet my steady steps no staff sustains,
And life still vig'rous revels in my veins,
Grant me, kind heaven, to find some happier place ;
Where honesty and sense are no disgrace;
Some pleasing bank where verdant osiers play,
Some peaceful vale with nature's paintings gay,
Where once the harass'd Briton found repose,
And safe in poverty defy'd his foes;
Some secret cell, ye pow'rs, indulgent give.

Let live here, for has learn'd to live.

Here let those reign, whom pensions can incite


To vote a patriot black, a courtier white;
Explain their country's dear-bought rights away,,
And plead for pirates in the face of day;
With slavish tenets taint our poison'd youth,
And lend a lie the confidence of truth.

Let such raise palaces, and manors buy,
Collect a tax, or farm a lottery;
With warbling eunuchs fill our silenc'd stage,
And lull to servitude a thoughtless age.

Heroes, proceed! what bounds your pride shall hold?
What check restrain your thirst of pow'r and gold ?
Behold rebellious virtue quite overthrown,
Behold our fame, our wealth, our lives your own.
To such the plunder of a land is giv'n,
When publick crimes inflame the wrath of heav'n ;
But what, my friend, what hope remains for me,
Who start at theft, and blush at perjury?
Who scarce forbear, tho' Britain's court he sing,
To pluck a titled poet's borrow'd wing;
A statesman's logic unconvinc'd can hear,
And dare to slumber o'er the Gazetteer;
Despise a fool in half his pension dress'd.
And strive in vain to laugh at Clodio's jest?

Others, with softer smiles and subtler art,
Can sap the principles, or taint the heart;
With more address a lover's note convey,
Or bribe a virgin's innocence away.
Well may they rise, while I, whose rustick tongue
Ne'er knew to puzzle right, or varnish wrong,
Spurn' d as a beggar, dreaded as a spy,
Live unregarded, unlamented die.

For what but social guilt the friend endears ?
W T ho shares Orgilio's crimes, his fortune shares.
But thou, should tempting villany present
All Marlb'rough hoarded, or all Villiers spent,
Turn from the glitt'ring bribe thy scornful eye,
Nor sell for gold, what gold could never buy,
The peaceful slumber, self -approving day,
Unsullied fame, and conscience ever gay.

The cheated nation's happy fav'rites see!
Mark whom the great caress, who frown on me!
London, the needy villain's gen'ral home,
The common sewer of Paris and of Rome,


With eager thirst, by folly or by fate,
Sucks in the dregs of each corrupted state.
Forgive my transports on a theme like this,
I cannot bear a French metropolis.

Illustrious Edward ! from the realms of day.
The land of heroes and of saints survey;
Nor hope the British lineaments to trace.
The rustick grandeur, or the surly grace,
But, lost in thoughtless ease and empty show,
Behold the warrior dwindled to a beau;
Sense, freedom, piety, refin'd away,
Of France the mimick, and of Spain the prey.

All that at home no more can beg or steal,
Or like a gibbet better than a wheel,
Hiss'd from the stage, or hooted from the court,
Their air, their dress, their politicks import;
Obsequious, artful, voluble, and gay,
On Britain's fond credulity they prey.
All sciences a fasting Monsieur knows,
And bid him go to hell, to hell he goes.

Ah! what avails it, that, from slav'ry far,
I drew the breath of life in English air;
Was early taught a Briton's right to prize,
And lisp the tale of Henry's victories ;
If the gull'd conqueror receives the chain,
And flattery prevails when arms are vain ?

Studious to please and ready to submit,
The supple Gaul was born a parasite:
Still to his int'rest true, where'er he goes,
Wit, brav'ry, worth, his lavish tongue bestows;
In ev'ry face a thousand graces shine,
From ev'ry tongue flows harmony divine.
These arts in vain our rugged natives try,
Strain out with fault'ring diffidence a lie,
And get a kick for awkward flattery.

Besides, with justice this discerning age
Admires their wond'rous talents for the stage:
Well may they venture on the mimick's art,
Who play from morn to night a borrow'd part ;
Practised their master's notions to embrace,
Repeat his maxims, and reflect his face;
With ev'ry wild absurdity comply,
And view each object with another's eye;


To shake with laughter ere the jest they hear,
To pour at will the counterfeited tear,,
And as their patron hints the cold or heat,,
To shake in dog days, in December sweat,
How, when competitors like these contend,
Can surly virtue hope to fix a friend ?
Slaves that with serious impudence beguile,
And lie without a blush, without a smile ;
Can Balbo's eloquence applaud, and swear
He gropes his breeches with a monarch's air.

For arts like these preferr'd, admir'd, caress'd
They first invade your table, then your breast;
Explore your secrets with insidious art,
Watch the weak hour, and ransack all the heart ;
Then soon your ill-plac'd confidence repay,
Commence your lords, and govern or betray.

By numbers here from shame or censure free
All crimes are safe, but hated poverty.
This, only this, the rigid law pursues ;
This, only this, provokes the snarling muse.
The sober trader at a tatter'd cloak
Wakes from his dream, and labours for a joke;
With brisker air the silken courtiers gaze,
And turn the varied taunt a thousand ways,
Of all the griefs that harass the distress'd,
Sure the most bitter is a scornful jest;
Fate never wounds more deep the gen'rous heart,
Than when a blockhead's insult points the dart.

Has heaven reserved, in pity to the poor,
No pathless waste, or undiscovered shore ?
No secret island in the boundless main?
No peaceful desert yet unclaim'd by Spain?
Quick let us rise, the happy seats explore,
And bear oppression's insolence no more.
This mournful truth is ev'ry where confess'd,


But here more slow, where all are slaves to gold,
Where looks are merchandise, and smiles are sold;
Where won by bribes, by flatteries implor'd,
The groom retails the favours of his lord.

But hark ! th' affrighted crowd's tumultuous cries
Roll through the streets, and thunder to the skies :
Rais'd from some pleasing dream of wealth and pow'r.


Some pompous palace, or some blissful bow'r,
Aghast you start, and scarce with aching sight
Sustain the approaching fire's tremendous light;
Swift from pursuing horrors take your way,
And leave your little ALL to flames a prey;
Then thro' the world a wretched vagrant roam,
For where can starving merit find a home ?
In vain your mournful narrative disclose.
While all neglect, and most insult your woes.

Should heaven's just bolts Orgilio's wealth confound,
And spread his flaming palace on the ground,
Swift o'er the land the dismal rumour flies,
And publick mournings pacify the skies ;
The laureat tribe in venal verse relate
How virtue wars with persecuting fate;
With well-feign'd gratitude the pensioned band
Refund the plunder of the beggar 'd land.
See ! while he builds, the gaudy vassals come,
And crowd with sudden wealth the rising dome;
The price of boroughs and of souls restore;
And raise his treasures higher than before :
Now bless'd with all the baubles of the great,
The polish'd marble, and the shining plate,
Orgilio sees the golden pile aspire,
And hopes from angry heav'n another fire.

Could'st thou resign the park and play, content,
For the fair banks of Severn or of Trent ;
There might 'st thou find some elegant retreat,
Some hireling senator's deserted seat,
And stretch thy prospects o'er the smiling land,
For less than rent the dungeons of the Strand;
There prune thy walks, support thy drooping flow'rs,
Direct thy rivulets, and twine thy bow'rs,
And, while thy grounds a cheap repast afford,
Despise the dainties of a venal lord :
There ev'ry bush with nature's musick rings,
There ev'ry breeze bears health upon its wings ;
On all thy hours security shall smile,
And bless thine evening walk and morning toil.

Prepare for death, if here at night you roam,
And sign your will before you sup from home.

Some fiery fop, with new commission vain,
Who sleeps on brambles till he kills his man,


Some frolick drunkard, reeling from a feast,
Provokes a broil , and stabs you for a jest.

Yet ev'n these heroes, mischievously gay,
Lords of the street, and terrors of the way,
Flush'd as they are with folly, youth, and wine,
Their prudent insults to the poor confine ;
Afar they mark the flambeau's bright approach,
And shun the shining train and golden coach.

In vain, these dangers past, your doors you close,
And hope the balmy blessings of repose :
Cruel with guilt, and daring with despair,
The midnight murd'rer bursts the faithless bar ;
Invades the sacred hour of silent rest,
And leaves, unseen, a dagger in your breast.

Scarce can our fields, such crowds at Tyburn die,
With hemp the gallows and the fleet supply.
Propose your schemes, ye senatorian band,
Whose ways and means support the sinking lancl,
Lest ropes be wanting in the tempting Spring,
To rig another convoy for the king.

A single gaol in Alfred's golden reign
Could half the nation's criminals contain;
Fair Justice then, without constraint ador'd,
Held high the steady scale, but sheath'd the sword ;
No spies were paid, no special juries known:
Blest age ! but, ah ! how diif 'rent from our own !

Much could I add, but see ! the boat at hand,
The tide retiring, calls me from the land :
Farewell ! When, youth and health and fortune spent,
Thou fly'st for refuge to the wilds of Kent,
And tir'd, like me, with follies and with crimes,
In angry numbers warn'st succeeding times;
Then shall thy friend nor thou refuse his aid
Still foe to vice, forsake his Cambrian shade;
In virtue's cause once more exert his rage,
Thy satire point, and animate thy page.




AH me ! full sorely is my heart forlorn,
To think how modest worth neglected lies ;
While partial fame doth with her blasts adorn
Such deeds alone as pride and pomp disguise;
Deeds of ill sort, and mischievous emprise;
Lend me thy clarion , goddess ! let me try
To sound the praise of merit ere it dies;
Such as I oft have chanced to espy,
Lost in the dreary shades of dull obscurity.

In every village marked with little spire,
Embowered in trees, and hardly known to fame,
There dwells, in lowly shed, and mean attire,
A matron old, whom we schoolmistress name ;
Who boasts unruly brats with birch to tame :
They grieven sore, in piteous durance pent,
Awed by the power of this relentless dame;
And oft-times, on vagaries idly bent,
For unkempt hair, or task unconned, are sorely shent.

And all in sight doth rise a birchen tree,
Which learning near her little dome did stow;
Whilome a twig of small regard to see,
Though now so wide its waving branches flow,
And work the simple vassals mickle woe;
For not a wind might curl the leaves that blew,
But their limbs shuddered, and their pulse beat low;
And as they looked, they found their horror grew,
And shaped it into rods, and tingled at the view.

Near to this dome is found a patch so green,
On which the tribe their gambols do display;
And at the door imprisoning board is seen,
Lest weakly wights of smaller size should stray;
Eager, perdie, to bask in sunny day !
The noises intermixed, which thence resound,
Do learning's little tenement betray;
Where sits the dame, disguised in look profound,
And eyes her fairy throng, and turns her wheel around.


Her cap, far whiter than the driven snow,
Emblem right meet of decency does yield :
Her apron dyed in grain,, as blue, I trow,
As is the harebell that adorns the field;
And in her hand, for sceptre, she does wield
Tway birchen sprays ; with anxious fear entwined,
With dark distrust, and sad repentance filled;
And steadfast hate, and sharp affliction joined,
And fury uncontrolled, and chastisement unkind.

A russet stole was o'er her shoulders thrown;
A russet kirtle fenced the nipping air;
'Twas simple russet, but it was her own;
'Twas her own country bred the flock so fair !
'Twas her own labour did the fleece prepare;
And, sooth to say, her pupils ranged around,
Through pious awe, did term it passing rare;
For they in gaping wonderment abound,
And think, no doubt, she been the greatest wight on ground.

Albeit ne flattery did corrupt her truth,
Ne pompous title did debauch her ear;
Goody, good woman, gossip, n'aunt, forsooth,
Or dame, the sole additions she did hear;
Yet these she challenged, these she held right dear ;
Ne would esteem him act as mought behove,
Who should not honoured eld with these revere;
For never title yet so mean could prove,
But there was eke a mind which did that title love.

One ancient hen she took delight to feed,
The plodding pattern of the busy dame;
Which, ever and anon, impelled by need,
Into her school, begirt with chickens, came;
Such favour did her past deportment claim;
And, if neglect had lavished on the ground
Fragment of bread, she would collect the same;
For well she knew, and quaintly could expound,
What sin it were to waste the smallest crumb she found.

Herbs, too, she knew, and well of each could speak,
That in her garden sipped the silvery dew;
Where no vain flower disclosed a gaudy streak,


But herbs for use and physic, not a few,,
Of gray renown, within those borders grew :
The tufted basil, pun-provoking thyme,
Fresh balm, and marigold of cheerful hue :
The lowly gill, that never dares to climb ;
And more I fain would sing, disdaining here to rhyme.

Here oft the dame, on Sabbath's decent eve,
Hymned such psalms as Sternhold forth did mete;
If winter 'twere, she to her hearth did cleave,
But in her garden found a summer-seat :
Sweet melody ! to hear her then repeat
How Israel's sons, beneath a foreign king,
While taunting foemen did a song entreat,
All, for the nonce, untuning every string,
Uphung their useless lyres small heart had they to sing.

For she was just, and friend to virtuous lore,
And passed much time in truly virtuous deed;
And in those elfins' ears would oft deplore
The times, when truth by popish rage did bleed,
And tortuous death was true devotion's meed;
And simple faith in iron chains did mourn,
That nould on wooden image place her creed ;
And lawny saints in smouldering flames did burn :
Ah ! dearest Lord, forefend thilk days should e'er return !

In elbow-chair (like that of Scottish stem,
By the sharp tooth of cankering eld defaced,
In which, when he receives his diadem,
Our sovereign prince and liefest liege is placed)
The matron sat; and some with rank she graced,
(The source of children's and of courtiers' pride !)
Redressed affronts for vile affronts there passed ;
And warned them not the fretful to deride.
But love each other dear, whatever them betide.

Right well she knew each temper to descry,
To thwart the proud, and the submiss to raise;
Some with vile copper-prize exalt on high,
And some entice with pittance small of praise;
And other some with baleful sprig she 'frays :
Even absent, she the reins of power doth hold,


While with quaint arts the giddy crowd she sways;
Forewarned, if little bird their pranks behold,
'Twill whisper in her ear, and all the scene unfold.

Lo ! now with state she utters her command ;
Eftsoons the urchins to their tasks repair,
Their books of stature small they take in hand,
Which with pellucid horn secured are,
To save from finger wet the letters fair:
The work so gay, that on their back is seen,
St. George's high achievements does declare;
On which thilk wight that has y-gazing been,
Kens the forthcoming rod unpleasing sight, I ween !

Ah ! luckless he, and born beneath the beam
Of evil star! it irks me whilst I write;
As erst the bard by Mulla's silver stream, 1
Oft, as he told of deadly dolorous plight,
Sighed as he sung, and did in tears indite;
For brandishing the rod, she doth begin
To loose the brogues, the stripling's late delight;
And down they drop; appears his dainty skin,
Fair as the furry coat of whitest ermilin.

O ruthful scene ! when, from a nook obscure,
His little sister doth his peril see,
All playful as she sat, she grows demure;
She finds full soon her wonted spirits flee;
She meditates a prayer to set him free;
Nor gentle pardon could this dame deny
If gentle pardon could with dames agree -
To her sad grief that swells in either eye,
And wrings her so that all for pity she could die*

No longer can she now her shrieks command;
And hardly she forbears, through awful fear,
To rushen forth, and, with presumptuous hand,
To stay harsh justice in its mid career.
On thee she calls, on thee her parent dear;
(Ah ! too remote to ward the shameful blow !)
She sees no kind domestic visage near,
And soon a flood of tears begins to flow,
And gives a loose at last to unavailing woe,

1 Spenser


But,, ah ! what pen his piteous plight may trace ?
Or what device his loud laments explain
The form uncouth of his disguised face
The pallid hue that dyes his looks amain
The plenteous shower that does his cheek distain ?
When he, in abject wise, implores the dame,
Ne hopeth aught of sweet reprieve to gain;
Or when from high she levels well her aim,
And, through the thatch, his cries each falling stroke proclaim.

But now Dan Phoebus gains the middle sky,
And liberty unbars her prison door;
And like a rushing torrent out they fly;
And now the grassy cirque han covered o'er
With boisterous revel rout and wild uproar;
A thousand ways in wanton rings they run.
Heaven shield their short-lived pastimes I implore;
For well may freedom erst so dearly won
Appear to British elf more gladsome than the sun.

Enjoy, poor imps! enjoy your sportive trade,
And chase gay flies, and cull the fairest flowers;
For when my bones in grass-green sods are laid,
O never may ye taste more careless hours
In knightly castles or in ladies' bowers.
O vain to seek delight in earthly thing !
But most in courts, where proud ambition towers;
Deluded wight ! who weens fair peace can spring
Beneath the pompous dome of kaiser or of king.

See in each sprite some various bent appear !
These rudely carol most incondite lay;
Those sauntering on the green, with jocund leer
Salute the stranger passing on his way;
Some builden fragile tenements of clay;
Some to the standing lake their courses bend,
With pebbles smooth at duck and drake to play;
Thilk to the huxter's savoury cottage tend,
In pastry kings and queens the allotted mite to spend.

Here as each season yields a different store,
Each season's stores in order ranged been;
Apples with cabbage-net y-covered o'er,
Galling full sore the unmoneyed wight, are seen,


And gooseb'rie clad in livery red or green ;
And here,, of lovely dye, the Catherine pear,
Fine pear! as lovely for thy juice, I ween;
may no wight e'er penniless come there,
Lest, smit with ardent love, he pine with hopeless care.

See, cherries here, ere cherries yet abound,
With thread so white in tempting posies tied,
Scattering, like blooming maid, their glances round,
With pampered look draw little eyes aside;
And must be bought, though penury betide.
The plum all azure, and the nut all brown;
And here each season do those cakes abide,
Whose honoured names * the inventive city own,
Rendering through Britain's isle Salopia's praises known.

Admired Salopia ! that with venial pride
Eyes her bright form in Severn's ambient wave,
Famed for her loyal cares in perils tried,
Her daughters lovely, and her striplings brave :
Ah ! midst the rest, may flowers adorn his grave
Whose art did first these dulcet cates display !
A motive fair to learning's imps he gave,
Who cheerless o'er her darkling region stray;
Till reason's morn arise, and light them on their way.



THE curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,

The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,

Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;
1 Shrewsbury Cakes.


Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower
The moping owl does to the moon complain

Of such as, wand'ring near her secret bower,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap,

Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn,
The swallow twitt'ring from the straw-built shed,

The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewife ply her evening care ;

No children run to lisp their sire's return,
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.

Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke ;

How jocund did they drive their team afield !
How bowed the woods beneath their sturdy stroke !

Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;

Nor Grandeur hear, with a disdainful smile,
The short and simple annals of the poor.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,

Awaits alike th' inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Nor you, ye Proud, impute to these the fault,
If Mem'ry o'er their tomb no trophies raise, .

Where thro' the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.


Can storied urn or animated bust

Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?

Can Honour's voice provoke the silent dust.
Or Flatt'ry soothe the dull cold ear of Death?

Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid

Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire ;

Hands, that the rod of empire might have swayed,
Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre.

But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page
Rich with the spoils of time did ne'er unroll ;

Chill Penury repressed their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of the soul.

Full many a gem, of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear;

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood;

Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood.

Th' applause of listening senates to command,
The threats of pain and ruin to despise,

To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,
And read their history in a nation's eyes,

Their lot forbad ; nor circumscribed alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confined ;

Forbad to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,

The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,

Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride

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Online LibraryErnest RhysThe golden treasury of longer poems, selected & ed → online text (page 10 of 25)