THE PARISH REGISTER.
IN THREE PARTS.[Page 140]
The Village Register considered, as containing principally the Annals of the Poor — State of the Peasantry as meliorated by Frugality and Industry — The Cottage of an industrious Peasant; its Ornaments — Prints and Books — The Garden; its Satisfactions — The State of the Poor, when improvident and vicious — The Row or Street, and its Inhabitants — The Dwellings of one of these — A Public House — Garden and its Appendages — Gamesters; rustic Sharpers, &c. — Conclusion of the Introductory Part.
The Child of the Miller's Daughter, and Relation of her Misfortune — A frugal Couple: their Kind of Frugality — Plea of the Mother of a natural Child: her Churching — Large Family of Gerard Ablett: his Apprehensions: Comparison between his State and that of the wealthy Farmer his Master: his Consolation — An old Man's Anxiety for an Heir: the Jealousy of another on having many — Characters of the Grocer Dawkins and his Friend; their different Kinds of Disappointment — Three Infants named — An Orphan Girl and Village Schoolmistress — Gardener's Child: Pedantry and Conceit of the Father: his Botanical Discourse: Method of fixing the Embryo-fruit of Cucumbers — Absurd Effects of Rustic Vanity: observed in the Names of their Children — Relation of the Vestry Debate on a Foundling: Sir Richard Monday — Children of various Inhabitants — The poor Farmer — Children of a Profligate: his Character and Fate — Conclusion.
Tum porro puer (ut sævis projectus ab undis,
Navita) nudus humi jacet infans indigus omni
Vitali auxilio, —
Vagituque locum lugubri complet, ut æquum est,
Cui tantum in vitâ restat transire malorum.
Lucret. de Nat. Rerum, lib. 5. (2)
1 The year revolves, and I again explore
2 The simple Annals of my Parish poor;[Page 142]
3 What Infant-members in my flock appear,
4 What Pairs I bless'd in the departed year;
5 And who, of Old or Young, or Nymphs or Swains,
6 Are lost to Life, its pleasures and its pains.
7 No Muse I ask, before my view to bring
8 The humble actions of the swains I sing. —
9 How pass'd the youthful, how the old their days;
10 Who sank in sloth, and who aspired to praise;
11 Their tempers, manners, morals, customs, arts,
12 What parts they had, and how they 'mploy'd their parts;
13 By what elated, soothed, seduced, depress'd,
14 Full well I know — these Records give the rest.
15 Is there a place, save one the poet sees,
16 A land of love, of liberty and ease;
17 Where labour wearies not, nor cares suppress
18 Th' eternal flow of rustic happiness;
19 Where no proud mansion frowns in awful state,
20 Or keeps the sunshine from the cottage-gate;
21 Where young and old, intent on pleasure, throng,
22 And half man's life is holiday and song?
23 Vain search for scenes like these! no view appears,
24 By sighs unruffled or unstain'd by tears;
25 Since vice the world subdued and waters drown'd,
26 Auburn and Eden can no more be found.
27 Hence good and evil mix'd, but man has skill
28 And power to part them, when he feels the will! [Page 143]
29 Toil, care, and patience bless th' abstemious few,
30 Fear, shame, and want the thoughtless herd pursue.
31 Behold the Cot! where thrives th' industrious swain,
32 Source of his pride, his pleasure, and his gain;
33 Screen'd from the winter's wind, the sun's last ray
34 Smiles on the window and prolongs the day;
35 Projecting thatch the woodbine's branches stop,
36 And turn their blossoms to the casement's top:
37 All need requires is in that cot contain'd,
38 And much that taste untaught and unrestrain'd
39 Surveys delighted; there she loves to trace,
40 In one gay picture, all the royal race;
41 Around the walls are heroes, lovers, kings;
42 The print that shows them and the verse that sings.
43 Here the last Lewis on his throne is seen,
44 And there he stands imprison'd, and his Queen;
45 To these the mother takes her child, and shows
46 What grateful duty to his God he owes;
47 Who gives to him a happy home, where he
48 Lives and enjoys his freedom with the free;[Page 144]
49 When kings and queens, dethroned, insulted, tried,
50 Are all these blessings of the poor denied.
51 There is King Charles, and all his Golden Rules,
52 Who proved Misfortune's was the best of schools:
53 And there his Son, who, tried by years of pain,
54 Proved that misfortunes may be sent in vain.
55 The Magic-mill that grinds the gran'nams young,
56 Close at the side of kind Godiva hung;
57 She, of her favourite place the pride and joy,
58 Of charms at once most lavish and most coy,
59 By wanton act the purest fame could raise,
60 And give the boldest deed the chastest praise.
61 There stands the stoutest Ox in England fed;
62 There fights the boldest Jew, Whitechapel bred;
63 And here Saint Monday's worthy votaries live,
64 In all the joys that ale and skittles give.
65 Now lo! on Egypt's coast that hostile fleet,
66 By nations dreaded and by Nelson beat;
67 And here shall soon another triumph come,
68 A deed of glory in a day of gloom;[Page 145]
69 Distressing glory! grievous boon of fate!
70 The proudest conquest, at the dearest rate.
71 On shelf of deal beside the cuckoo-clock,
72 Of cottage-reading rests the chosen stock;
73 Learning we lack, not books, but have a kind
74 For all our wants, a meat for every mind:
75 The tale for wonder and the joke for whim,
76 The half-sung sermon and the half-groan'd hymn.
77 No need of classing; each within its place,
78 The feeling finger in the dark can trace;
79 "First from the corner, farthest from the wall,"
80 Such all the rules, and they suffice for all.
81 There pious works for Sunday's use are found;
82 Companions for that Bible newly bound;
83 That Bible, bought by sixpence weekly saved,
84 Has choicest prints by famous hands engraved;
85 Has choicest notes by many a famous head,
86 Such as to doubt, have rustic readers led;
87 Have made them stop to reason why? and how?
88 And, where they once agreed, to cavil now.
89 Oh! rather give me commentators plain,
90 Who with no deep researches vex the brain;
91 Who from the dark and doubtful love to run,
92 And hold their glimmering tapers to the sun;
93 Who simple truth with nine-fold reasons back,
94 And guard the point no enemies attack.
95 Bunyan's famed Pilgrim rests that shelf upon,
96 A genius rare but rude was honest John;[Page 146]
97 Not one who, early by the Muse beguiled,
98 Drank from her well the waters undefiled;
99 Not one who slowly gain'd the hill sublime,
100 Then often sipp'd and little at a time;
101 But one who dabbled in the sacred springs,
102 And drank them muddy, mix'd with baser things.
103 Here to interpret dreams we read the rules,
104 Science our own! and never taught in schools;
105 In moles and specks we Fortune's gifts discern,
106 And Fate's fix'd will from Nature's wanderings learn.
107 Of Hermit Quarll we read, in island rare,
108 Far from mankind and seeming far from care;
109 Safe from all want, and sound in every limb;
110 Yes! there was he, and there was care with him.
111 Unbound and heap'd, these valued tomes beside,
112 Lay humbler works, the pedlar's pack supplied;
113 Yet these, long since, have all acquired a name;
114 The Wandering Jew has found his way to fame;[Page 147]
115 And fame, denied to many a labour'd song,
116 Crowns Thumb the Great, and Hickathrift the strong.
117 There too is he, by wizard-power upheld,
118 Jack, by whose arm the giant-brood were quell'd:
119 His shoes of swiftness on his feet he placed;
120 His coat of darkness on his loins he braced;
121 His sword of sharpness in his hand he took,
122 And off the heads of doughty giants stroke:
123 Their glaring eyes beheld no mortal near;
124 No sound of feet alarm'd the drowsy ear;
125 No English blood their pagan sense could smell,
126 But heads dropt headlong, wondering why they fell.
127 These are the Peasant's joy, when placed at ease,
128 Half his delighted offspring mount his knees.
129 To every cot the lord's indulgent mind
130 Has a small space for garden-ground assign'd;
131 Here — till return of morn dismiss'd the farm —
132 The careful peasant plies the sinewy arm,
133 Warm'd as he works, and casts his look around
134 On every foot of that improving ground:
135 It is his own he sees; his master's eye
136 Peers not about, some secret fault to spy;
137 Nor voice severe is there, nor censure known; —
138 Hope, profit, pleasure, — they are all his own. [Page 148]
139 Here grow the humble cives, and, hard by them,
140 The leek with crown globose and reedy stem;
141 High climb his pulse in many an even row,
142 Deep strike the ponderous roots in soil below;
143 And herbs of potent smell and pungent taste,
144 Give a warm relish to the night's repast.
145 Apples and cherries grafted by his hand,
146 And cluster'd nuts for neighbouring market stand.
147 Nor thus concludes his labour; near the cot,
148 The reed-fence rises round some fav'rite spot;
149 Where rich carnations, pinks with purple eyes,
150 Proud hyacinths, the least some florist's prize,
151 Tulips tall-stemm'd and pounced auriculas rise.
152 Here on a Sunday-eve, when service ends,
153 Meet and rejoice a family of friends;
154 All speak aloud, are happy and are free,
155 And glad they seem, and gaily they agree.
156 What, though fastidious ears may shun the speech,
157 Where all are talkers, and where none can teach;
158 Where still the welcome and the words are old,
159 And the same stories are for ever told;
160 Yet theirs is joy that, bursting from the heart,
161 Prompts the glad tongue these nothings to impart;
162 That forms these tones of gladness we despise,
163 That lifts their steps, that sparkles in their eyes;
164 That talks or laughs or runs or shouts or plays,
165 And speaks in all their looks and all their ways.
166 Fair scenes of peace! ye might detain us long,
167 But vice and misery now demand the song;
168 And turn our view from dwellings simply neat,
169 To this infected Row, we term our Street. [Page 149]
170 Here, in cabal, a disputatious crew
171 Each evening meet; the sot, the cheat, the shrew:
172 Riots are nightly heard: — the curse, the cries
173 Of beaten wife, perverse in her replies;
174 While shrieking children hold each threat'ning hand,
175 And sometimes life, and sometimes food demand:
176 Boys, in their first-stol'n rags, to swear begin,
177 And girls, who heed not dress, are skill'd in gin:
178 Snarers and smugglers here their gains divide;
179 Ensnaring females here their victims hide;
180 And here is one, the Sibyl of the Row,
181 Who knows all secrets, or affects to know.
182 Seeking their fate, to her the simple run,
183 To her the guilty, theirs awhile to shun;
184 Mistress of worthless arts, depraved in will,
185 Her care unblest and unrepaid her skill,
186 Slave to the tribe, to whose command she stoops,
187 And poorer than the poorest maid she dupes.
188 Between the road-way and the walls, offence
189 Invades all eyes and strikes on every sense:
190 There lie, obscene, at every open door,
191 Heaps from the hearth and sweepings from the floor,
192 And day by day the mingled masses grow,
193 As sinks are disembogued and kennels flow.
194 There hungry dogs from hungry children steal;
195 There pigs and chickens quarrel for a meal;
196 There dropsied infants wail without redress,
197 And all is want and wo and wretchedness:
198 Yet should these boys, with bodies bronzed and bare,
199 High-swoln and hard, outlive that lack of care —
200 Forced on some farm, the unexerted strength,
201 Though loth to action, is compell'd at length,[Page 150]
202 When warm'd by health, as serpents in the spring,
203 Aside their slough of indolence they fling.
204 Yet, ere they go, a greater evil comes —
205 See! crowded beds in those contiguous rooms;
206 Beds but ill parted, by a paltry screen
207 Of paper'd lath or curtain dropt between;
208 Daughters and sons to yon compartments creep,
209 And parents here beside their children sleep:
210 Ye who have power, these thoughtless people part,
211 Nor let the ear be first to taint the heart.
212 Come! search within, nor sight nor smell regard;
213 The true physician walks the foulest ward.
214 See! on the floor, what frousy patches rest!
215 What nauseous fragments on yon fractured chest!
216 What downy dust beneath yon window-seat!
217 And round these posts that serve this bed for feet;
218 This bed where all those tatter'd garments lie,
219 Worn by each sex, and now perforce thrown by!
220 See! as we gaze, an infant lifts its head,
221 Left by neglect and burrow'd in that bed;
222 The Mother-gossip has the love suppress'd
223 An infant's cry once waken'd in her breast;
224 And daily prattles, as her round she takes,
225 (With strong resentment) of the want she makes.
226 Whence all these woes? — From want of virtuous will,
227 Of honest shame, of time-improving skill;
228 From want of care t' employ the vacant hour,
229 And want of ev'ry kind but want of power.
230 Here are no wheels for either wool or flax,
231 But packs of cards — made up of sundry packs;[Page 151]
232 Here is no clock, nor will they turn the glass,
233 And see how swift th' important moments pass;
234 Here are no books, but ballads on the wall,
235 Are some abusive, and indecent all;
236 Pistols are here, unpair'd; with nets and hooks,
237 Of every kind, for rivers, ponds, and brooks;
238 An ample flask, that nightly rovers fill
239 With recent poison from the Dutchman's still;
240 A box of tools, with wires of various size,
241 Frocks, wigs, and hats, for night or day disguise,
242 And bludgeons stout to gain or guard a prize.
243 To every house belongs a space of ground,
244 Of equal size, once fenced with paling round;
245 That paling now by slothful waste destroy'd,
246 Dead gorse and stumps of elder fill the void;
247 Save in the centre-spot, whose walls of clay
248 Hide sots and striplings at their drink or play:
249 Within, a board, beneath a tiled retreat,
250 Allures the bubble and maintains the cheat;
251 Where heavy ale in spots like varnish shows,
252 Where chalky tallies yet remain in rows;
253 Black pipes and broken jugs the seats defile,
254 The walls and windows, rhymes and reck'nings vile;
255 Prints of the meanest kind disgrace the door,
256 And cards, in curses torn, lie fragments on the floor.
257 Here his poor bird th' inhuman Cocker brings,
258 Arms his hard heel and clips his golden wings;
259 With spicy food th' impatient spirit feeds,
260 And shouts and curses as the battle bleeds. [Page 152]
261 Struck through the brain, deprived of both his eyes,
262 The vanquish'd bird must combat till he dies;
263 Must faintly peck at his victorious foe,
264 And reel and stagger at each feeble blow:
265 When fallen, the savage grasps his dabbled plumes,
266 His blood-stain'd arms, for other deaths assumes;
267 And damns the craven-fowl, that lost his stake,
268 And only bled and perish'd for his sake.
269 Such are our Peasants, those to whom we yield
270 Praise with relief, the fathers of the field;
271 And these who take from our reluctant hands,
272 What Burn advises or the Bench commands.
273 Our Farmers round, well pleased with constant gain,
274 Like other farmers, flourish and complain. —
275 These are our groups; our Portraits next appear,
276 And close our Exhibition for the year.
277 With evil omen we that year begin:
278 A Child of Shame, — stern Justice adds, of Sin,
279 Is first recorded; — I would hide the deed,
280 But vain the wish; I sigh and I proceed:[Page 153]
281 And could I well th' instructive truth convey,
282 'T would warn the giddy and awake the gay.
283 Of all the nymphs who gave our village grace,
284 The Miller's daughter had the fairest face:
285 Proud was the Miller; money was his pride;
286 He rode to market, as our farmers ride,
287 And 't was his boast, inspired by spirits, there,
288 His favourite Lucy should be rich as fair;
289 But she must meek and still obedient prove,
290 And not presume, without his leave, to love.
291 A youthful Sailor heard him; — "Ha!" quoth he,
292 'This Miller's maiden is a prize for me;
293 "Her charms I love, his riches I desire,
294 " And all his threats but fan the kindling fire;
295 "My ebbing purse no more the foe shall fill,
296 " But Love's kind act and Lucy at the mill. " [Page 154]
297 Thus thought the youth, and soon the chase began,
298 Stretch'd all his sail, nor thought of pause or plan:
299 His trusty staff in his bold hand he took,
300 Like him and like his frigate, heart of oak;
301 Fresh were his features, his attire was new;
302 Clean was his linen, and his jacket blue:
303 Of finest jean, his trowsers, tight and trim,
304 Brush'd the large buckle at the silver rim.
305 He soon arrived, he traced the village-green,
306 There saw the maid, and was with pleasure seen;
307 Then talk'd of love, till Lucy's yielding heart
308 Confess'd 'twas painful, though 'twas right to part.
309 "For ah! my father has a haughty soul;
310 " Whom best he loves, he loves but to control;
311 "Me to some churl in bargain he'll consign,
312 " And make some tyrant of the parish mine:
313 "Cold is his heart, and he with looks severe
314 " Has often forced but never shed the tear;
315 "Save, when my mother died, some drops express'd
316 " A kind of sorrow for a wife at rest: —
317 "To me a master's stern regard is shown,
318 " I'm like his steed, prized highly as his own;
319 "Stroked but corrected, threaten'd when supplied,
320 " His slave and boast, his victim and his pride. "
321 "Cheer up, my lass! I'll to thy father go,
322 " The Miller cannot be the Sailor's foe;
323 "Both live by Heaven's free gale, that plays aloud
324 " In the stretch'd canvass and the piping shroud;
325 "The rush of winds, the flapping sails above,
326 " And rattling planks within, are sounds we love;
327 "Calms are our dread; when tempests plough the deep,
328 " We take a reef, and to the rocking sleep. " [Page 155]
329 "Ha!" quoth the Miller, moved at speech so rash,
330 "Art thou like me? then where thy notes and cash?
331 " Away to Wapping, and a wife command,
332 "With all thy wealth, a guinea, in thine hand;
333 " There with thy messmates quaff the muddy cheer,
334 "And leave my Lucy for thy betters here."
335 "Revenge! revenge!" the angry lover cried,
336 Then sought the nymph, and "Be thou now my bride."
337 Bride had she been, but they no priest could move
338 To bind in law, the couple bound by love.
339 What sought these lovers then by day, by night?
340 But stolen moments of disturb'd delight;
341 Soft trembling tumults, terrors dearly prized,
342 Transports that pain'd, and joys that agonised;
343 Till the fond damsel, pleased with lad so trim,
344 Awed by her parent, and enticed by him,
345 Her lovely form from savage power to save,
346 Gave — not her hand — but ALL she could she gave.
347 Then came the day of shame, the grievous night,
348 The varying look, the wandering appetite;
349 The joy assumed, while sorrow dimm'd the eyes,
350 The forced sad smiles that follow'd sudden sighs;
351 And every art, long used, but used in vain,
352 To hide thy progress, Nature, and thy pain.
353 Too eager caution shows some danger's near,
354 The bully's bluster proves the coward's fear;
355 His sober step the drunkard vainly tries,
356 And nymphs expose the failings they disguise.
357 First, whispering gossips were in parties seen
358 Then louder Scandal walk'd the village-green;[Page 156]
359 Next babbling Folly told the growing ill,
360 And busy Malice dropp'd it at the mill.
361 "Go! to thy curse and mine," the Father said,
362 "Strife and confusion stalk around thy bed;
363 " Want and a wailing brat thy portion be,
364 "Plague to thy fondness, as thy fault to me; —
365 " Where skulks the villain? "—
365 — "On the ocean wide
366 " My William seeks a portion for his bride. "—
367 "Vain be his search! but, till the traitor come,
368 " The higgler's cottage be thy future home;
369 "There with his ancient shrew and care abide,
370 " And hide thy head, — thy shame thou canst not hide. "
371 Day after day was pass'd in pains and grief;
372 Week follow'd week, — and still was no relief:
373 Her boy was born — no lads nor lasses came
374 To grace the rite or give the child a name;
375 Nor grave conceited nurse, of office proud,
376 Bore the young Christian roaring through the crowd:
377 In a small chamber was my office done,
378 Where blinks through paper'd panes the setting sun;
379 Where noisy sparrows, perch'd on penthouse near,
380 Chirp tuneless joy, and mock the frequent tear;
381 Bats on their webby wings in darkness move,
382 And feebly shriek their melancholy love.
383 No Sailor came; the months in terror fled!
384 Then news arrived — He fought, and he was dead!
385 At the lone cottage Lucy lives, and still
386 Walks for her weekly pittance to the mill;
387 A mean seraglio there her father keeps,
388 Whose mirth insults her, as she stands and weeps;[Page 157]
389 And sees the plenty, while compell'd to stay,
390 Her father's pride, become his harlot's prey.
391 Throughout the lanes she glides, at evening's close,
392 And softly lulls her infant to repose;
393 Then sits and gazes, but with viewless look,
394 As gilds the moon the rippling of the brook;
395 And sings her vespers, but in voice so low,
396 She hears their murmurs as the waters flow:
397 And she too murmurs, and begins to find
398 The solemn wanderings of a wounded mind:
399 Visions of terror, views of woe succeed,
400 The mind's impatience, to the body's need;
401 By turns to that, by turns to this a prey,
402 She knows what reason yields, and dreads what madness may.
403 Next, with their boy, a decent couple came,
404 And call'd him Robert, 't was his father's name;
405 Three girls preceded, all by time endear'd,
406 And future births were neither hoped nor fear'd:
407 Blest in each other, but to no excess,
408 Health, quiet, comfort, form'd their happiness;
409 Love all made up of torture and delight,
410 Was but mere madness in this couple's sight:
411 Susan could think, though not without a sigh,
412 If she were gone, who should her place supply;
413 And Robert, half in earnest, half in jest,
414 Talk of her spouse when he should be at rest:
415 Yet strange would either think it to be told,
416 Their love was cooling or their hearts were cold.
417 Few were their acres, — but, with these content,
418 They were, each pay-day, ready with their rent:[Page 158]
419 And few their wishes — what their farm denied,
420 The neighbouring town, at trifling cost, supplied.
421 If at the draper's window Susan cast
422 A longing look, as with her goods she pass'd,
423 And, with the produce of the wheel and churn,
424 Bought her a Sunday-robe on her return;
425 True to her maxim, she would take no rest,
426 Till care repaid that portion to the chest:
427 Or if, when loitering at the Whitsun-fair,
428 Her Robert spent some idle shillings there;
429 Up at the barn, before the break of day,
430 He made his labour for th' indulgence pay:
431 Thus both — that waste itself might work in vain —
432 Wrought double tides, and all was well again.
433 Yet, though so prudent, there were times of joy,
434 (The day they wed, the christening of the boy,)
435 When to the wealthier farmers there was shown
436 Welcome unfeign'd, and plenty like their own;
437 For Susan served the great, and had some pride
438 Among our topmost people to preside:
439 Yet in that plenty, in that welcome free,
440 There was the guiding nice frugality,
441 That, in the festal as the frugal day,
442 Has, in a different mode, a sovereign sway;
443 As tides the same attractive influence know,
444 In the least ebb and in their proudest flow;
445 The wise frugality, that does not give
446 A life to saving, but that saves to live;
447 Sparing, not pinching, mindful though not mean,
448 O'er all presiding, yet in nothing seen. [Page 159]
449 Recorded next a babe of love I trace!
450 Of many loves, the mother's fresh disgrace. —
451 "Again, thou harlot! could not all thy pain,
452 " All my reproof, thy wanton thoughts restrain? "
453 "Alas! your reverence, wanton thoughts I grant,
454 " Were once my motive, now the thoughts of want;
455 "Women, like me, as ducks in a decoy,
456 " Swim down a stream, and seem to swim in joy:
457 "Your sex pursue us, and our own disdain;
458 " Return is dreadful, and escape is vain.
459 "Would men forsake us, and would women strive
460 " To help the fall'n, their virtue might revive. "
461 For rite of churching soon she made her way,
462 In dread of scandal, should she miss the day: —
463 Two matrons came! with them she humbly knelt,
464 Their action copied and their comforts felt,
465 From that great pain and peril to be free,
466 Though still in peril of that pain to be;
467 Alas! what numbers, like this amorous dame,
468 Are quick to censure, but are dead to shame!
469 Twin-infants then appear; a girl, a boy,
470 Th' o'erflowing cup of Gerard Ablett's joy:
471 One had I named in every year that pass'd
472 Since Gerard wed! and twins behold at last! [Page 160]
473 Well pleased, the bridegroom smiled to hear — "A vine
474 " Fruitful and spreading round the walls be thine,
475 "And branch-like be thine offspring!" — Gerard then
476 Look'd joyful love, and softly said, "Amen."
477 Now of that vine he'd have no more increase,
478 Those playful branches now disturb his peace:
479 Them he beholds around his tables spread,
480 But finds, the more the branch, the less the bread;
481 And while they run his humble walls about,
482 They keep the sunshine of good humour out.
483 Cease, man, to grieve! thy master's lot survey,
484 Whom wife and children, thou and thine obey;
485 A farmer proud, beyond a farmer's pride,
486 Of all around the envy or the guide;
487 Who trots to market on a steed so fine,
488 That when I meet him, I'm ashamed of mine;
489 Whose board is high up-heap'd with generous fare,
490 Which five stout sons and three tall daughters share.
491 Cease, man, to grieve, and listen to his care.
492 A few years fled, and all thy boys shall be
493 Lords of a cot, and labourers like thee:
494 Thy girls unportion'd neighb'ring youths shall lead
495 Brides from my church, and thenceforth thou art freed:
496 But then thy master shall of cares complain,
497 Care after care, a long connected train;
498 His sons for farms shall ask a large supply,
499 For farmers 'sons each gentle miss shall sigh;
500 Thy mistress, reasoning well of life's decay,
501 Shall ask a chaise, and hardly brook delay;[Page 161]
502 The smart young cornet who, with so much grace,
503 Rode in the ranks and betted at the race,
504 While the vex'd parent rails at deed so rash,
505 Shall d — n his luck, and stretch his hand for cash.
506 Sad troubles, Gerard! now pertain to thee,
507 When thy rich master seems from trouble free;
508 But 'tis one fate at different times assign'd,
509 And thou shalt lose the cares that he must find.
510 "Ah!" quoth our village Grocer, rich and old,
511 "Would I might one such cause for care behold!"
512 To whom his Friend, "Mine greater bliss would be,
513 " Would Heav'n take those my spouse assigns to me. "
514 Aged were both, that Dawkins, Ditchem this,
515 Who much of marriage thought, and much amiss;
516 Both would delay, the one, till — riches gain'd,
517 The son he wish'd might be to honour train'd;
518 His Friend — lest fierce intruding heirs should come,
519 To waste his hoard and vex his quiet home.
520 Dawkins, a dealer once, on burthen'd back
521 Bore his whole substance in a pedlar's pack;
522 To dames discreet, the duties yet unpaid,
523 His stores of lace and hyson he convey'd:
524 When thus enrich'd, he chose at home to stop
525 And fleece his neighbours in a new-built shop;
526 Then woo'd a spinster blithe, and hoped, when wed,
527 For love's fair favours and a fruitful bed.
528 Not so his Friend; — on widow fair and staid
529 He fix'd his eye, but he was much afraid;
530 Yet woo'd; while she his hair of silver hue
531 Demurely noticed, and her eye withdrew:[Page 162]
532 Doubtful he paused — "Ah! were I sure," he cried,
533 "No craving children would my gains divide;
534 " Fair as she is, I would my widow take,
535 "And live more largely for my partner's sake."
536 With such their views some thoughtful years the pass'd,
537 And hoping, dreading, they were bound at last.
538 And what their fate? Observe them as they go,
539 Comparing fear with fear and wo with wo.
540 "Humphrey!" said Dawkins, "envy in my breast
541 " Sickens to see thee in thy children blest;
542 "They are thy joys, while I go grieving home
543 " To a sad spouse, and our eternal gloom:
544 "We look despondency; no infant near,
545 " To bless the eye or win the parent's ear;
546 "Our sudden heats and quarrels to allay,
547 " And soothe the petty sufferings of the day:
548 "Alike our want, yet both the want reprove;
549 " Where are, I cry, these pledges of our love?
550 "When she, like Jacob's wife, makes fierce reply,
551 " Yet fond — Oh! give me children, or I die:
552 "And I return — still childless doom'd to live,
553 " Like the vex'd patriarch — Are they mine to give?
554 "Ah! much I envy thee thy boys, who ride
555 " On poplar branch, and canter at thy side;
556 "And girls, whose cheeks thy chin's fierce fondness know,
557 " And with fresh beauty at the contact glow. "
558 "Oh! simple friend," said Ditchem, "would'st thou gain
559 " A father's pleasure by a husband's pain? [Page 163]
560 "Alas! what pleasure — when some vig'rous boy
561 " Should swell thy pride, some rosy girl thy joy;
562 "Is it to doubt who grafted this sweet flower,
563 " Or whence arose that spirit and that power?
564 "Four years I've wed; not one has pass'd in vain;
565 " Behold the fifth! behold a babe again!
566 "My wife's gay friends th' unwelcome imp admire,
567 " And fill the room with gratulation dire:
568 "While I in silence sate, revolving all
569 " That influence ancient men, or that befall;
570 "A gay pert guest — Heav'n knows his business — came;
571 " A glorious boy, he cried, and what the name?
572 "Angry I growl'd, — My spirit cease to tease,
573 " Name it yourselves, — Cain, Judas, if you please;
574 "His father's give him, — should you that explore,
575 " The devil's or yours: — I said, and sought the door
576 "My tender partner not a word or sigh
577 " Gives to my wrath, nor to my speech reply;
578 "But takes her comforts, triumphs in my pain,
579 " And looks undaunted for a birth again. "
580 Heirs thus denied afflict the pining heart,
581 And thus afforded, jealous pangs impart;
582 Let, therefore, none avoid, and none demand
583 These arrows number'd for the giant's hand.
584 Then with their infants three, the parents came,
585 And each assign'd — 'twas all they had — a name;
586 Names of no mark or price; of them not one
587 Shall court our view on the sepulchral stone,
588 Or stop the clerk, th' engraven scrolls to spell,
589 Or keep the sexton from the sermon bell. [Page 164]
590 An orphan-girl succeeds: ere she was born
591 Her father died, her mother on that morn:
592 The pious mistress of the school sustains
593 Her parents 'part, nor their affection feigns,
594 But pitying feels: with due respect and joy,
595 I trace the matron at her loved employ;
596 What time the striplings, wearied e'en with play,
597 Part at the closing of the summer's day,
598 And each by different path returns the well-known way —
599 Then I behold her at her cottage-door,
600 Frugal of light; — her Bible laid before,
601 When on her double duty she proceeds,
602 Of time as frugal — knitting as she reads:
603 Her idle neighbours, who approach to tell
604 Some trifling tale, her serious looks compel
605 To hear reluctant, — while the lads who pass,
606 In pure respect, walk silent on the grass:
607 Then sinks the day, but not to rest she goes,
608 Till solemn prayers the daily duties close.
609 But I digress, and lo! an infant train
610 Appear, and call me to my task again.
611 "Why Lonicera wilt thou name thy child?"
612 I asked the Gardener's wife, in accents mild:
613 "We have a right," replied the sturdy dame; —
614 And Lonicera was the infant's name.
615 If next a son shall yield our Gardener joy,
616 Then Hyacinthus shall be that fair boy;[Page 165]
617 And if a girl, they will at length agree,
618 That Belladonna that fair maid shall be.
619 High-sounding words our worthy Gardener gets,
620 And at his club to wondering swains repeats;
621 He then of Rhus and Rhododendron speaks,
622 And Allium calls his onions and his leeks;
623 Nor weeds are now, for whence arose the weed,
624 Scarce plants, fair herbs, and curious flowers proceed;
625 Where Cuckoo-pints and Dandelions sprung,
626 (Gross names had they our plainer sires among,)
627 There Arums, there Leontodons we view,
628 And Artemisia grows, where Wormwood grew.
629 But though no weed exists his garden round,
630 From Rumex strong our Gardener frees his ground,
631 Takes soft Senecio from the yielding land,
632 And grasps the arm'd Urtica in his hand.
633 Not Darwin's self had more delight to sing
634 Of floral courtship, in th' awaken'd Spring,
635 Than Peter Pratt, who simpering loves to tell
636 How rise the Stamens, as the Pistils swell;
637 How bend and curl the moist-top to the spouse,
638 And give and take the vegetable vows;[Page 166]
639 How those esteem'd of old but tips and chives,
640 Are tender husbands and obedient wives;
641 Who live and love within the sacred bower, —
642 That bridal bed, the vulgar term a flower.
643 Hear Peter proudly, to some humble friend,
644 A wondrous secret, in his science, lend: —
645 "Would you advance the nuptial hour, and bring
646 " The fruit of Autumn with the flowers of Spring;
647 "View that light frame where Cucumis lies spread,
648 " And trace the husbands in their golden bed,
649 "Three powder'd Anthers; — then no more delay
650 " But to the Stigma's tip their dust convey;
651 "Then by thyself, from prying glance secure,
652 " Twirl the full tip and make your purpose sure;
653 "A long-abiding race the deed shall pay,
654 " Nor one unblest abortion pine away. "
655 T' admire their friend's discourse our swains agree,
656 And call it science and philosophy.
657 'Tis good, 'tis pleasant, through th' advancing year,
658 To see unnumber'd growing forms appear;
659 What leafy-life from Earth's broad bosom rise!
660 What insect-myriads seek the summer skies!
661 What scaly tribes in every streamlet move;
662 What plumy people sing in every grove!
663 All with the year awaked to life, delight, and love.
664 Then names are good; for how, without their aid,
665 Is knowledge, gain'd by man, to man convey'd?
666 But from that source shall all our pleasures flow?
667 Shall all our knowledge be those names to know? [Page 167]
668 Then he, with memory blest, shall bear away
669 The palm from Grew, and Middleton, and Ray:
670 No! let us rather seek, in grove and field,
671 What food for wonder, what for use they yield;
672 Some just remark from Nature's people bring,
673 And some new source of homage for her King.
674 Pride lives with all; strange names our rustics give
675 To helpless infants, that their own may live;
676 Pleased to be known, they'll some attention claim,
677 And find some by-way to the house of fame.
678 The straightest furrow lifts the ploughman's art,
679 The hat he gain'd has warmth for head and heart;
680 The bowl that beats the greater number down
681 Of tottering nine-pins, gives to fame the clown
682 Or, foil'd in these, he opes his ample jaws,
683 And lets a frog leap down, to gain applause;
684 Or grins for hours, or tipples for a week,
685 Or challenges a well-pinch'd pig to squeak:
686 Some idle deed, some child's preposterous name,
687 Shall make him known, and give his folly fame.
688 To name an infant meet our village sires,
689 Assembled all as such event requires;
690 Frequent and full, the rural sages sate,
691 And speakers many urged the long debate, —[Page 168]
692 Some harden'd knaves, who roved the country round,
693 Had left a babe within the parish-bound. —
694 First, of the fact they question'd — "Was it true?"
695 The child was brought — "What then remain'd to do?"
696 "Was't dead or living?" This was fairly proved, —
697 'T was pinch'd, it roar'd, and every doubt removed.
698 Then by what name th' unwelcome guest to call
699 Was long a question, and it posed them all;
700 For he who lent it to a babe unknown,
701 Censorious men might take it for his own:
702 They look'd about, they gravely spoke to all,
703 And not one Richard answer'd to the call.
704 Next they inquired the day, when, passing by,
705 Th' unlucky peasant heard the stranger's cry:
706 This known, — how food and raiment they might give,
707 Was next debated — for the rogue would live;
708 At last, with all their words and work content,
709 Back to their homes the prudent vestry went,
710 And Richard Monday to the workhouse sent.
711 There was he pinch'd and pitied, thump'd and fed,
712 And duly took his beatings and his bread;
713 Patient in all control, in all abuse,
714 He found contempt and kicking have their use:
715 Sad, silent, supple; bending to the blow,
716 A slave of slaves, the lowest of the low;
717 His pliant soul gave way to all things base,
718 He knew no shame, he dreaded no disgrace.
719 It seem'd, so well his passions he suppress'd,
720 No feeling stirr'd his ever-torpid breast;[Page 169]
721 Him might the meanest pauper bruise and cheat,
722 He was a footstool for the beggar's feet;
723 His were the legs that ran at all commands;
724 They used on all occasions Richard's hands:
725 His very soul was not his own; he stole
726 As others order'd, and without a dole;
727 In all disputes, on either part he lied,
728 And freely pledged his oath on either side;
729 In all rebellions Richard join'd the rest,
730 In all detections Richard first confess'd:
731 Yet, though disgraced, he watch'd his time so well,
732 He rose in favour, when in fame he fell;
733 Base was his usage, vile his whole employ,
734 And all despised and fed the pliant boy.
735 At length, "'Tis time he should abroad be sent, '
736 Was whisper'd near him, — and abroad he went;
737 One morn they call'd him, Richard answer'd not;
738 They deem'd him hanging, and in time forgot, —
739 Yet miss'd him long, as each, throughout the clan,
740 Found he" had better spared a better man. "
741 Now Richard's talents for the world were fit,
742 He'd no small cunning, and had some small wit;
743 Had that calm look which seem'd to all assent,
744 And that complacent speech which nothing meant:
745 He'd but one care, and that he strove to hide,
746 How best for Richard Monday to provide.
747 Steel, through opposing plates, the magnet draws,
748 And steely atoms culls from dust and straws;
749 And thus our hero, to his interest true,
750 Gold through all bars and from each trifle drew;[Page 170]
751 But still more surely round the world to go,
752 This fortune's child had neither friend nor foe.
753 Long lost to us, at last our man we trace, —
754 "Sir Richard Monday died at Monday-place:"
755 His lady's worth, his daughter's we peruse,
756 And find his grandsons all as rich as Jews:
757 He gave reforming charities a sum,
758 And bought the blessings of the blind and dumb;
759 Bequeathed to missions money from the stocks,
760 And Bibles issued from his private box;
761 But to his native place severely just,
762 He left a pittance bound in rigid trust; —
763 Two paltry pounds, on every quarter's-day,
764 (At church produced) for forty loaves should pay;
765 A stinted gift, that to the parish shows
766 He kept in mind their bounty and their blows!
767 To farmers three, the year has given a son,
768 Finch on the Moor, and French, and Middleton.
769 Twice in this year a female Giles I see,
770 A Spalding once, and once a Barnaby: —
771 A humble man is he, and, when they meet,
772 Our farmers find him on a distant seat;
773 There for their wit he serves a constant theme, —
774 "They praise his dairy, they extol his team,
775 " They ask the price of each unrivall'd steed,
776 "And whence his sheep, that admirable breed?
777 " His thriving arts they beg he would explain,
778 "And where he puts the money he must gain.
779 " They have their daughters, but they fear their friend
780 "Would think his sons too much would condescend; —[Page 171]
781 " They have their sons who would their fortunes try,
782 "But fear his daughters will their suit deny."
783 So runs the joke, while James, with sigh profound,
784 And face of care, looks moveless on the ground;
785 His cares, his sighs, provoke the insult more,
786 And point the jest — for Barnaby is poor.
787 Last in my list, five untaught lads appear;
788 Their father dead, compassion sent them here, —
789 For still that rustic infidel denied
790 To have their names with solemn rite applied:
791 His, a lone house, by Deadman's Dyke-way stood;
792 And his, a nightly haunt, in Lonely-wood:
793 Each village inn has heard the ruffian boast,
794 That he believed "in neither God nor ghost;
795 " That, when the sod upon the sinner press'd,
796 "He, like the saint, had everlasting rest;
797 " That never priest believed his doctrines true,
798 "But would, for profit, own himself a Jew,
799 " Or worship wood and stone, as honest heathen do;
800 "That fools alone on future worlds rely,
801 " And all who die for faith, deserve to die. "
802 These maxims, — part th' Attorney's Clerk profess'd,
803 His own transcendent genius found the rest.
804 Our pious matrons heard, and, much amazed,
805 Gazed on the man, and trembled as they gazed;
806 And now his face explored, and now his feet,
807 Man's dreaded foe, in this bad man, to meet:
808 But him our drunkards as their champion raised,
809 Their bishop call'd, and as their hero praised;
810 Though most, when sober, and the rest, when sick,
811 Had little question whence his bishoprick[Page 172]
812 But he, triumphant spirit! all things dared,
813 He poach'd the wood, and on the warren snared;
814 'T was his, at cards, each novice to trepan,
815 And call the want of rogues "the rights of man;"
816 Wild as the winds, he let his offspring rove,
817 And deem'd the marriage-bond the bane of love.
818 What age and sickness, for a man so bold,
819 Had done, we know not; — none beheld him old:
820 By night, as business urged, he sought the wood, —
821 The ditch was deep, — the rain had caused a flood, —
822 The foot-bridge fail'd, — he plunged beneath the deep,
823 And slept, if truth were his, th' eternal sleep.
824 These have we named; on life's rough sea they sail,
825 With many a prosperous, many an adverse gale!
826 Where passion soon, like powerful winds, will rage,
827 And prudence, wearied, with their strength engage:
828 Then each, in aid, shall some companion ask,
829 For help or comfort in the tedious task;
830 And what that help — what joys from union flow,
831 What good or ill, we next prepare to show;
832 And row, meantime, our weary bark ashore,
833 As Spenser his — but not with Spenser's oar.
PART II.[Page 174]
Previous Consideration necessary: yet not too long Delay — Imprudent Marriage of old Kirk and his Servant — Comparison between an ancient and youthful Partner to a young Man — Prudence of Donald the Gardener — Parish Wedding: the compelled Bridegroom: Day of Marriage, how spent — Relation of the Accomplishments of Phoebe Dawson, a rustic Beauty: her Lover: his Courtship: their Marriage — Misery of Precipitation — The wealthy Couple: Reluctance in the Husband; why? — Unusually fair Signatures in the Register: the common Kind — Seduction of Lucy Collins by Footman Daniel: her rustic Lover: her Return to him — An ancient Couple: Comparisons on the Occasion — More pleasant View of Village Matrimony. Farmers celebrating the Day of Marriage: their Wives — Reuben and Rachel, a happy Pair: an Example of prudent Delay — Reflections on their State who were not so prudent, and its Improvement towards the Termination of Life: an old Man so circumstanced — Attempt to seduce a Village Beauty: Persuasion and Reply: the Event.
Nubere si quà voles, quamvis properabitis ambo, Differ; habent parvæ commoda magna moræ.
Ovid. Fast. lib. iii.
1 Disposed to wed, e'en while you hasten, stay;
2 There's great advantage in a small delay: —
3 Thus Ovid sang, and much the wise approve
4 This prudent maxim of the priest of Love;
5 If poor, delay for future want prepares,
6 And eases humble life of half its cares;
7 If rich, delay shall brace the thoughtful mind,
8 T' endure the ills that e'en the happiest find:
9 Delay shall knowledge yield on either part,
10 And show the value of the vanquish'd heart;
11 The humours, passions, merits, failings prove,
12 And gently raise the veil that's worn by Love;
13 Love, that impatient guide! — too proud to think
14 Of vulgar wants, of clothing, meat and drink,[Page 176]
15 Urges our amorous swains their joys to seize,
16 And then, at rags and hunger frighten'd, flees: —
17 Yet not too long in cold debate remain;
18 Till age refrain not — but if old, refrain.
19 By no such rule would Gaffer Kirk be tried;
20 First in the year he led a blooming bride,
21 And stood a wither'd elder at her side.
22 Oh! Nathan! Nathan! at thy years trepann'd,
23 To take a wanton harlot by the hand!
24 Thou, who wert used so tartly to express
25 Thy sense of matrimonial happiness,
26 Till every youth, whose bans at church were read,
27 Strove not to meet, or meeting, hung his head;
28 And every lass forbore at thee to look,
29 A sly old fish, too cunning for the hook:
30 And now at sixty, that pert dame to see,
31 Of all thy savings mistress, and of thee;
32 Now will the lads, remem'bring insults past,
33 Cry, "What, the wise one in the trap at last!"
34 Fie! Nathan! fie! to let an artful jade
35 The close recesses of thine heart invade;
36 What grievous pangs! what suffering she'll impart!
37 And fill with anguish that rebellious heart;[Page 177]
38 For thou wilt strive incessantly in vain,
39 By threatening speech thy freedom to regain:
40 But she for conquest married, nor will prove
41 A dupe to thee, thine anger or thy love;
42 Clamorous her tongue will be: — of either sex,
43 She'll gather friends around thee and perplex
44 Thy doubtful soul; — thy money she will waste,
45 In the vain ramblings of a vulgar taste;
46 And will be happy to exert her power,
47 In every eye, in thine, at every hour.
48 Then wilt thou bluster — "No! I will not rest,
49 " And see consumed each shilling of my chest: "
50 Thou wilt be valiant, —" When thy cousins call,
51 "I will abuse and shut my door on all:"
52 Thou wilt be cruel! — "What the law allows,
53 'That be thy portion, my ungrateful spouse!
54 ' Nor other shillings shalt thou then receive,
55 'And when I die — What! may I this believe?
56 " Are these true tender tears? and does my Kitty grieve?
57 "Ah! crafty vixen, thine old man has fears;
58 " But weep no more! I'm melted by thy tears;
59 "Spare but my money; thou shalt rule me still,
60 " And see thy cousins — there! I burn the will. "
61 Thus, with example sad, our year began,
62 A wanton vixen and a weary man;
63 "But had this tale in other guise been told,"
64 Young let the lover be, the lady old,
65 And that disparity of years shall prove
66 No bane of peace, although some bar to love:
67 'Tis not the worst, our nuptial ties among,
68 That joins the ancient bride and bridegroom young; —[Page 178]
69 Young wives, like changing winds, their power display
70 By shifting points and varying day by day;
71 Now zephyrs mild, now whirlwinds in their force,
72 They sometimes speed, but often thwart our course
73 And much experienced should that pilot be,
74 Who sails with them on life's tempestuous sea.
75 But like a trade-wind is the ancient dame,
76 Mild to your wish and every day the same;
77 Steady as time, no sudden squalls you fear,
78 But set full sail and with assurance steer;
79 Till every danger in your way be past,
80 And then she gently, mildly breathes her last;
81 Rich you arrive, in port awhile remain,
82 And for a second venture sail again.
83 For this, blithe Donald southward made his way
84 And left the lasses on the banks of Tay;
85 Him to a neighbouring garden fortune sent,
86 Whom we beheld, aspiringly content:
87 Patient and mild he sought the dame to please,
88 Who ruled the kitchen and who bore the keys.
89 Fair Lucy first, the laundry's grace and pride,
90 With smiles and gracious looks, her fortune tried;
91 But all in vain she praised his "pawky eyne,"
92 Where never fondness was for Lucy seen:
93 Him the mild Susan, boast of dairies, loved,
94 And found him civil, cautious and unmoved:
95 From many a fragrant simple, Catherine's skill
96 Drew oil and essence from the boiling still;
97 But not her warmth, nor all her winning ways
98 From his cool phlegm could Donald's spirit raise:[Page 179]
99 Of beauty heedless, with the merry mute,
100 To Mistress Dobson he preferr'd his suit;
101 There proved his service, there address'd his vows,
102 And saw her mistress, — friend, — protectress, — spouse;
103 A butler now, he thanks his powerful bride,
104 And, like her keys, keeps constant at her side.
105 Next at our altar stood a luckless pair,
106 Brought by strong passions and a warrant there;
107 By long rent cloak, hung loosely, strove the bride,
108 From every eye, what all perceived, to hide.
109 While the boy-bridegroom, shuffling in his pace,
110 Now hid awhile and then exposed his face;
111 As shame alternately with anger strove,
112 The brain confused with muddy ale to move
113 In haste and stammering he perform'd his part,
114 And look'd the rage that rankled in his heart;
115 (So will each lover inly curse his fate,
116 Too soon made happy and made wise too late:)
117 I saw his features take a savage gloom,
118 And deeply threaten for the days to come.
119 Low spake the lass, and lisp'd and minced the while,
120 Look'd on the lad, and faintly tried to smile;
121 With soften'd speech and humbled tone she strove
122 To stir the embers of departed love:
123 While he, a tyrant, frowning walk'd before,
124 Felt the poor purse, and sought the public door,
125 She sadly following in submission went,
126 And saw the final shilling foully spent;[Page 180]
127 Then to her father's hut the pair withdrew,
128 And bade to love and comfort long adieu!
129 Ah! fly temptation, youth, refrain! refrain!
130 I preach for ever; but I preach in vain!
131 Two summers since I saw at Lammas Fair,
132 The sweetest flower that ever blossom'd there,
133 When Phoebe Dawson gaily cross'd the Green,
134 In haste to see and happy to be seen:
135 Her air, her manners, all who saw admired;
136 Courteous though coy, and gentle though retired;
137 The joy of youth and health her eyes display'd,
138 And ease of heart her every look convey'd;
139 A native skill her simple robes express'd,
140 As with untutor'd elegance she dress'd;
141 The lads around admired so fair a sight,
142 And Phoebe felt, and felt she gave, delight.
143 Admirers soon of every age she gain'd,
144 Her beauty won them and her worth retain'd;
145 Envy itself could no contempt display,
146 They wish'd her well, whom yet they wish'd away.
147 Correct in thought, she judged a servant's place
148 Preserved a rustic beauty from disgrace;
149 But yet on Sunday-eve, in freedom's hour,
150 With secret joy she felt that beauty's power,
151 When some proud bliss upon the heart would steal,
152 That, poor or rich, a beauty still must feel. —
153 At length the youth ordain'd to move her breast,
154 Before the swains with bolder spirit press'd;[Page 181]
155 With looks less timid made his passion known,
156 And pleased by manners most unlike her own;
157 Loud though in love, and confident though young;
158 Fierce in his air, and voluble of tongue;
159 By trade a tailor, though, in scorn of trade,
160 He served the 'Squire, and brush'd the coat he made.
161 Yet now, would Phoebe her consent afford,
162 Her slave alone, again he'd mount the board;
163 With her should years of growing love be spent,
164 And growing wealth: — she sigh'd and look'd consent.
165 Now, through the lane, up hill, and 'cross the green,
166 (Seen by but few, and blushing to be seen —
167 Dejected, thoughtful, anxious, and afraid,)
168 Led by the lover, walk'd the silent maid,
169 Slow through the meadows roved they, many a mile,
170 Toy'd by each bank, and trifled at each stile;
171 Where, as he painted every blissful view,
172 And highly colour'd what he strongly drew,
173 The pensive damsel, prone to tender fears,
174 Dimm'd the false prospect with prophetic tears. —
175 Thus pass'd th' allotted hours, till lingering late,
176 The lover loiter'd at the master's gate;
177 There he pronounced adieu! and yet would stay,
178 Till chidden — soothed — entreated — forced away;
179 He would of coldness, though indulged, complain,
180 And oft retire, and oft return again;
181 When, if his teasing vex'd her gentle mind,
182 The grief assumed, compell'd her to be kind!
183 For he would proof of plighted kindness crave,
184 That she resented first and then forgave,[Page 182]
185 And to his grief and penance yielded more
186 Than his presumption had required before. —
187 Ah! fly temptation, youth; refrain! refrain!
188 Each yielding maid and each presuming swain!
189 Lo! now with red rent cloak and bonnet black,
190 And torn green gown loose hanging at her back,
191 One who an infant in her arms sustains,
192 And seems in patience striving with her pains;
193 Pinch'd are her looks, as one who pines for bread,
194 Whose cares are growing and whose hopes are fled;
195 Pale her parch'd lips, her heavy eyes sunk low,
196 And tears unnoticed from their channels flow;
197 Serene her manner, till some sudden pain
198 Frets the meek soul, and then she's calm again; —
199 Her broken pitcher to the pool she takes,
200 And every step with cautious terror makes;
201 For not alone that infant in her arms,
202 But nearer cause, her anxious soul alarms.
203 With water burthen'd, then she picks her way,
204 Slowly and cautious, in the clinging clay;
205 Till, in mid-green, she trusts a place unsound,
206 And deeply plunges in th' adhesive ground;
207 Thence, but with pain, her slender foot she takes,
208 While hope the mind as strength the frame forsakes:
209 For when so full the cup of sorrow grows,
210 Add but a drop, it instantly o'erflows.
211 And now her path but not her peace she gains,
212 Safe from her task, but shivering with her pains;[Page 183]
213 Her home she reaches, open leaves the door,
214 And placing first her infant on the floor,
215 She bares her bosom to the wind, and sits,
216 And sobbing struggles with the rising fits:
217 In vain, they come, she feels the inflating grief,
218 That shuts the swelling bosom from relief;
219 That speaks in feeble cries a soul distress'd,
220 Or the sad laugh that cannot be repress'd.
221 The neighbour-matron leaves her wheel and flies
222 With all the aid her poverty supplies;
223 Unfee'd, the calls of Nature she obeys,
224 Not led by profit, not allured by praise;
225 And waiting long, till these contentions cease,
226 She speaks of comfort, and departs in peace.
227 Friend of distress! the mourner feels thy aid,
228 She cannot pay thee, but thou wilt be paid.
229 But who this child of weakness, want, and care?
230 'Tis Phoebe Dawson, pride of Lammas Fair:
231 Who took her lover for his sparkling eyes,
232 Expressions warm, and love-inspiring lies:
233 Compassion first assail'd her gentle heart,
234 For all his suffering, all his bosom's smart:
235 "And then his prayers! they would a savage move,
236 " And win the coldest of the sex to love: "—
237 But ah! too soon his looks success declared,
238 Too late her loss the marriage-rite repair'd;
239 The faithless flatterer then his vows forgot,
240 A captious tyrant or a noisy sot:
241 If present, railing, till he saw her pain'd;
242 If absent, spending what their labours gain'd;[Page 184]
243 Till that fair form in want and sickness pined,
244 And hope and comfort fled that gentle mind.
245 Then fly temptation, youth; resist, refrain!
246 Nor let me preach for ever and in vain!
247 Next came a well-dress'd pair, who left their coach,
248 And made, in long procession, slow approach:
249 For this gay bride had many a female-friend,
250 And youths were there, this favour'd youth t' attend:
251 Silent, nor wanting due respect, the crowd
252 Stood humbly round, and gratulation bow'd;
253 But not that silent crowd, in wonder fix'd,
254 Not numerous friends, who praise and envy mix'd,
255 Nor nymphs attending near to swell the pride
256 Of one more fair, the ever-smiling bride;
257 Nor that gay bride, adorn'd with every grace,
258 Nor love nor joy triumphant in her face,[Page 185]
259 Could, from the youth's, sad signs of sorrow chase:
260 Why didst thou grieve? wealth, pleasure, freedom thine;
261 Vex'd it thy soul, that freedom to resign?
262 Spake Scandal truth? "Thou didst not then intend
263 " So soon to bring thy wooing to an end? "
264 Or, was it, as our prating rustics say,
265 To end as soon, but in a different way?
266 'Tis told thy Phillis is a skilful dame,
267 Who play'd uninjured with the dangerous flame:
268 That, while, like Lovelace, thou thy coat display'd,
269 And hid the snare for her affection laid,
270 Thee, with her net, she found the means to catch,
271 And at the amorous see-saw, won the match:
272 Yet others tell, the Captain fix'd thy doubt,
273 He'd call thee brother, or he'd call thee out: —
274 But rest the motive — all retreat too late,
275 Joy like thy bride's should on thy brow have sate;
276 The deed had then appear'd thine own intent,
277 A glorious day, by gracious fortune sent,
278 In each revolving year to be in triumph spent.
279 Then in few weeks that cloudy brow had been
280 Without a wonder or a whisper seen;
281 And none had been so weak as to enquire,
282 " Why pouts my Lady? "or" why frowns the Squire? "
283 How fair these names, how much unlike they look
284 To all the blurr'd subscriptions in my book:
285 The bridegroom's letters stand in row above.
286 Tapering yet stout, like pine-trees in his grove;[Page 186]
287 While free and fine the bride's appear below,
288 As light and slender as her jasmines grow.
289 Mark now in what confusion, stoop or stand,
290 The crooked scrawls of many a clownish hand;
291 Now out, now in, they droop, they fall, they rise,
292 Like raw recruits drawn forth for exercise;
293 Ere yet reform'd and modell'd by the drill,
294 The free-born legs stand striding as they will.
295 Much have I tried to guide the fist along,
296 But still the blunderers placed their blottings wrong:
297 Behold these marks uncouth! how strange that men,
298 Who guide the plough, should fail to guide the pen:
299 For half a mile, the furrows even lie;
300 For half an inch the letters stand awry; —
301 Our peasants, strong and sturdy in the field,
302 Cannot these arms of idle students wield:
303 Like them, in feudal days, their valiant lords
304 Resign'd the pen and grasp'd their conqu'ring swords;
305 They to robed clerks and poor dependent men
306 Left the light duties of the peaceful pen;
307 Nor to their ladies wrote, but sought to prove,
308 By deeds of death, their hearts were fill'd with love.
309 But yet, small arts have charms for female eyes;
310 Our rustic nymphs the beau and scholar prize;
311 Unletter'd swains and ploughmen coarse they slight,
312 For those who dress, and amorous scrolls indite.
313 For Lucy Collins happier days had been,
314 Had Footman Daniel scorn'd his native green
315 Or when he came an idle coxcomb down,
316 Had he his love reserved for lass in town;[Page 187]
317 To Stephen Hill she then had pledged her truth, —
318 A sturdy, sober, kind, unpolish'd youth;
319 But from the day, that fatal day she spied
320 The pride of Daniel, Daniel was her pride.
321 In all concerns was Stephen just and true;
322 But coarse his doublet was and patch'd in view,
323 And felt his stockings were, and blacker than his shoe;
324 While Daniel's linen all was fine and fair, —
325 His master wore it, and he deign'd to wear:
326 (To wear his livery, some respect might prove;
327 To wear his linen, must be sign of love:)
328 Blue was his coat, unsoil'd by spot or stain;
329 His hose were silk, his shoes of Spanish grain;
330 A silver knot his breadth of shoulder bore;
331 A diamond buckle blazed his breast before —
332 Diamond he swore it was! and show'd it as he swore:
333 Rings on his fingers shone; his milk-white hand
334 Could pick-tooth case and box for snuff command:
335 And thus, with clouded cane, a fop complete,
336 He stalk'd, the jest and glory of the street.
337 Join'd with these powers, he could so sweetly sing,
338 Talk with such toss, and saunter with such swing;
339 Laugh with such glee, and trifle with such art,
340 That Lucy's promise fail'd to shield her heart.
341 Stephen, meantime, to ease his amorous cares,
342 Fix'd his full mind upon his farm's affairs;
343 Two pigs, a cow, and wethers half a score,
344 Increased his stock, and still he look'd for more.
345 He, for his acres few, so duly paid,
346 That yet more acres to his lot were laid;
347 Till our chaste nymphs no longer felt disdain,
348 And prudent matrons praised the frugal swain;[Page 188]
349 Who thriving well, through many a fruitful year,
350 Now clothed himself anew, and acted overseer.
351 Just then poor Lucy, from her friend in town,
352 Fled in pure fear and came a beggar down;
353 Trembling, at Stephen's door she knock'd for bread, —
354 Was chidden first, next pitied, and then fed;
355 Then sat at Stephen's board, then shared in Stephen's bed:
356 All hope of marriage lost in her disgrace,
357 He mourns a flame revived, and she a love of lace.
358 Now to be wed a well-match'd couple came;
359 Twice had old Lodge been tied, and twice the dame;
360 Tottering they came and toying, (odious scene!)
361 And fond and simple, as they'd always been.
362 Children from wedlock we by laws restrain;
363 Why not prevent them, when they're such again?
364 Why not forbid the doting souls to prove
365 Th' indecent fondling of preposterous love?
366 In spite of prudence, uncontroll'd by shame,
367 The amorous senior woos the toothless dame,
368 Relating idly, at the closing eve,
369 The youthful follies he disdains to leave;
370 Till youthful follies wake a transient fire,
371 When arm in arm they totter and retire.
372 So a fond pair of solemn birds, all day,
373 Blink in their seat and doze the hours away;
374 Then by the moon awaken'd, forth they move,
375 And fright the songsters with their cheerless love
376 So two sear trees, dry, stunted, and unsound,
377 Each other catch, when dropping to the ground;[Page 189]
378 Entwine their wither'd arms 'gainst wind and weather,
379 And shake their leafless heads and drop together.
380 So two cold limbs, touch'd by Galvani's wire,
381 Move with new life, and feel awaken'd fire;
382 Quivering awhile, their flaccid forms remain,
383 Then turn to cold torpidity again.
384 "But ever frowns your Hymen? man and maid,
385 " Are all repenting, suffering or betray'd? "
386 Forbid it, Love! we have our couples here
387 Who hail the day in each revolving year:
388 These are with us, as in the world around;
389 They are not frequent, but they may be found.
390 Our farmers too, what though they fail to prove,
391 In Hymen's bonds, the tenderest slaves of love,
392 (Nor, like those pairs whom sentiment unites,
393 Feel they the fervour of the mind's delights;)
394 Yet coarsely kind and comfortably gay,
395 They heap the board and hail the happy day:
396 And though the bride, now freed from school, admits,
397 Of pride implanted there, some transient fits;
398 Yet soon she casts her girlish flights aside,
399 And in substantial blessings rests her pride.
400 No more she moves in measured steps; no more
401 Runs, with bewilder'd ear, her music o'er;
402 No more recites her French the hinds among,
403 But chides her maidens in her mother-tongue;
404 Her tambour-frame she leaves and diet spare,
405 Plain work and plenty with her house to share;[Page 190]
406 Till, all her varnish lost in few short years.
407 In all her worth the farmer's wife appears.
408 Yet not the ancient kind; nor she who gave
409 Her soul to gain — a mistress and a slave:
410 Who not to sleep allow'd the needful time;
411 To whom repose was loss, and sport a crime;
412 Who, in her meanest room (and all were mean),
413 A noisy drudge, from morn till night was seen; —
414 But she, the daughter, boasts a decent room,
415 Adorn'd with carpet, formed in Wilton's loom;
416 Fair prints along the paper'd wall are spread;
417 There, Werter sees the sportive children fed,
418 And Charlotte, here, bewails her lover dead.
419 'T is here, assembled, while in space apart
420 Their husbands, drinking, warm the opening heart,
421 Our neighbouring dames, on festal days, unite,
422 With tongues more fluent and with hearts as light;
423 Theirs is that art, which English wives alone
424 Profess — a boast and privilege their own;
425 An art it is where each at once attends
426 To all, and claims attention from her friends,
427 When they engage the tongue, the eye, the ear,
428 Reply when list'ning, and when speaking hear:
429 The ready converse knows no dull delays,
430 "But double are the pains, and double be the praise."
431 Yet not to those alone who bear command
432 Heaven gives a heart to hail the marriage band;[Page 191]
433 Among their servants, we the pairs can show,
434 Who much to love, and more to prudence owe:
435 Reuben and Rachel, though as fond as doves,
436 Were yet discreet and cautious in their loves;
437 Nor would attend to Cupid's wild commands,
438 Till cool reflection bade them join their hands:
439 When both were poor, they thought it argued ill
440 Of hasty love to make them poorer still;
441 Year after year, with savings long laid by,
442 They bought the future dwelling's full supply;
443 Her frugal fancy cull'd the smaller ware,
444 The weightier purchase ask'd her Reuben's care;
445 Together then their last year's gain they threw,
446 And lo! an auction'd bed, with curtains neat and new.
447 Thus both, as prudence counsell'd, wisely stay'd,
448 And cheerful then the calls of Love obey'd:
449 What if, when Rachel gave her hand, 'twas one.
450 Embrown'd by Winter's ice and Summer's sun?
451 What if, in Reuben's hair the female eye
452 Usurping grey among the black could spy?
453 What if, in both, life's bloomy flush was lost,
454 And their full autumn felt the mellowing frost?
455 Yet time, who blow'd the rose of youth away,
456 Had left the vigorous stem without decay;
457 Like those tall elms, in Farmer Frankford's ground,
458 They'll grow no more, — but all their growth is sound;
459 By time confirm'd and rooted in the land,
460 The storms they've stood, still promise they shall stand.
461 These are the happier pairs, their life has rest,
462 Their hopes are strong, their humble portion blest[Page 192]
463 While those more rash to hasty marriage led,
464 Lament th' impatience which now stints their bread:
465 When such their union, years their cares increase,
466 Their love grows colder, and their pleasures cease;
467 In health just fed, in sickness just relieved;
468 By hardships harass'd and by children grieved;
469 In petty quarrels and in peevish strife,
470 The once fond couple waste the spring of life:
471 But when to age mature those children grown,
472 Find hopes and homes and hardships of their own,
473 The harass'd couple feel their lingering woes
474 Receding slowly, till they find repose.
475 Complaints and murmurs then are laid aside,
476 (By reason these subdued, and those by pride;)
477 And, taught by care, the patient man and wife
478 Agree to share the bitter-sweet of life;
479 (Life that has sorrow much and sorrow's cure,
480 Where they who most enjoy shall much endure:)
481 Their rest, their labours, duties, sufferings, prayers,
482 Compose the soul, and fit it for its cares;
483 Their graves before them and their griefs behind,
484 Have each a med'cine for the rustic mind;
485 Nor has he care to whom his wealth shall go,
486 Or who shall labour with his spade and hoe;
487 But as he lends the strength that yet remains,
488 And some dead neighbour on his bier sustains,
489 (One with whom oft he whirl'd the bounding flail,
490 Toss'd the broad coit, or took th' inspiring ale,)
491 "For me," (he meditates,) "shall soon be done
492 'This friendly duty, when my race be run;[Page 193]
493 " 'T was first in trouble as in error past,
494 "Dark clouds and stormy cares whole years o'ercast,
495 " But calm my setting day, and sunshine smiles at last:
496 "My vices punish'd and my follies spent,
497 " Not loth to die, but yet to live content,
498 "I rest:" — then casting on the grave his eye,
499 His friend compels a tear, and his own griefs a sigh.
500 Last on my list appears a match of love,
501 And one of virtue; — happy may it prove! —
502 Sir Edward Archer is an amorous knight,
503 And maidens chaste and lovely shun his sight;
504 His bailiff's daughter suited much his taste,
505 For Fanny Price was lovely and was chaste;
506 To her the Knight with gentle looks drew near,
507 And timid voice assumed, to banish fear: —
508 "Hope of my life, dear sovereign of my breast,
509 " Which, since I knew thee, knows not joy nor rest;
510 "Know, thou art all that my delighted eyes,
511 " My fondest thoughts, my proudest wishes prize;
512 "And is that bosom — (what on earth so fair!)
513 " To cradle some coarse peasant's sprawling heir,
514 "To be that pillow which some surly swain
515 " May treat with scorn and agonise with pain?
516 "Art thou, sweet maid, a ploughman's wants to share,
517 " To dread his insult, to support his care;
518 "To hear his follies, his contempt to prove,
519 " And (oh! the torment!) to endure his love;
520 "Till want and deep regret those charms destroy,
521 " That time would spare, if time were pass'd in joy?
522 "With him, in varied pains, from morn till night,
523 " Your hours shall pass; yourself a ruffian's right;[Page 194]
524 "Your softest bed shall be the knotted wool;
525 " Your purest drink the waters of the pool;
526 "Your sweetest food will but your life sustain,
527 " And your best pleasure be a rest from pain;
528 "While, through each year, as health and strength abate,
529 " You'll weep your woes and wonder at your fate;
530 "And cry, 'Behold,' as life's last cares come on,
531 "'My burthens growing when my strength is gone.'
532 "Now turn with me, and all the young desire,
533 " That taste can form, that fancy can require;
534 "All that excites enjoyment, or procures
535 " Wealth, health, respect, delight, and love, are yours:
536 "Sparkling, in cups of gold, your wines shall flow,
537 " Grace that fair hand, in that dear bosom glow;
538 "Fruits of each clime, and flowers, through all the year,
539 " Shall on your walls and in your walks appear:
540 "Where all beholding, shall your praise repeat,
541 " No fruit so tempting and no flower so sweet:
542 "The softest carpets in your rooms shall lie,
543 " Pictures of happiest loves shall meet your eye,
544 "And tallest mirrors, reaching to the floor,
545 " Shall show you all the object I adore;
546 "Who, by the hands of wealth and fashion dress'd,
547 " By slaves attended and by friends caress'd,
548 "Shall move, a wonder, through the public ways,
549 " And hear the whispers of adoring praise.
550 "Your female friends, though gayest of the gay,
551 " Shall see you happy, and shall, sighing, say,
552 "While smother'd envy rises in the breast, —
553 "'Oh! that we lived so beauteous and so blest!' [Page 195]
554 "Come, then, my mistress, and my wife; for she
555 " Who trusts my honour is the wife for me;
556 "Your slave, your husband, and your friend employ,
557 " In search of pleasures we may both enjoy. "
558 To this the Damsel, meekly firm, replied:
559 "My mother loved, was married, toil'd, and died;
560 " With joys, she'd griefs, had troubles in her course,
561 "But not one grief was pointed by remorse;
562 " My mind is fix'd, to Heaven I resign,
563 "And be her love, her life, her comforts mine."
564 Tyrants have wept; and those with hearts of steel,
565 Unused the anguish of the heart to heal,
566 Have yet the transient power of virtue known,
567 And felt th' imparted joy promote their own.
568 Our Knight relenting, now befriends a youth,
569 Who to the yielding maid had vow'd his truth;
570 And finds in that fair deed a sacred joy,
571 That will not perish, and that cannot cloy; —
572 A living joy, that shall its spirit keep,
573 When every beauty fades, and all the passions sleep.
PART III.[Page 198]
True Christian Resignation not frequently to be seen — The Register a melancholy Record — A dying Man, who at length sends for a Priest: for what Purpose? answered — Old Collett of the Inn, an Instance of Dr. Young's slow-sudden Death: his Character and Conduct — The Manners and Management of the Widow Goe: her successful Attention to Business: her Decease unexpected — The Infant-Boy of Gerard Ablett dies: Reflections on his Death, and the Survivor his Sister-Twin — The Funeral of the deceased Lady of the Manor described: her neglected Mansion: Undertaker and Train: the Character which her Monument will hereafter display — Burial of an ancient Maiden: some former drawback on her Virgin-Fame: Description of her House and Household: her Manners, Apprehensions, Death — Isaac Ashford, a virtuous Peasant, dies: his manly Character: Reluctance to enter the Poor-House; and why — Misfortune and Derangement of Intellect in Robin Dingley: whence they proceeded: he is not restrained by Misery from a wandering Life: his various Returns to his Parish: his final Return — Wife of Farmer Frankford dies in Prime of Life: Affliction in Consequence of such Death: melancholy View of her House, &c. on her Family's Return from her Funeral: Address to Sorrow — Leah Cousins, a Midwife: her Character; and successful Practice: at length opposed by Dr. Glibb: Opposition in the Parish: Argument of the Doctor; of Leah: her Failure and Decease — Burial of Roger Cuff, a Sailor: his Enmity to his Family; how it originated: — his Experiment and its Consequence — The Register terminates — A Bell heard: Enquiry for whom? The Sexton — Character of old Dibble, and the five Rectors whom he served — Reflections — Conclusion.
Qui vultus Acherontis atri, Qui Stygia tristem, non tristis, videt, — [.....] Par ille Regi, par Superis erit.
Seneca in Agamem.
1 There was, 't is said, and I believe, a time,
2 When humble Christians died with views sublime;
3 When all were ready for their faith to bleed,
4 But few to write or wrangle for their creed;
5 When lively Faith upheld the sinking heart,
6 And friends, assured to meet, prepared to part;
7 When Love felt hope, when Sorrow grew serene,
8 And all was comfort in the death-bed scene. [Page 200]
9 Alas! when now the gloomy king they wait,
10 'T is weakness yielding to resistless fate;
11 Like wretched men upon the ocean cast,
12 They labour hard and struggle to the last;
13 "Hope against hope," and wildly gaze around,
14 In search of help that never shall be found:
15 Nor, till the last strong billow stops the breath,
16 Will they believe them in the jaws of Death!
17 When these my Records I reflecting read,
18 And find what ills these numerous births succeed;
19 What powerful griefs these nuptial ties attend,
20 With what regret these painful journeys end;
21 When from the cradle to the grave I look,
22 Mine I conceive a melancholy book.
23 Where now is perfect resignation seen?
24 Alas! it is not on the village-green: —
25 I've seldom known, though I have often read
26 Of happy peasants on their dying-bed;[Page 201]
27 Whose looks proclaim'd that sunshine of the breast,
28 That more than hope, that Heaven itself express'd.
29 What I behold are feverish fits of strife,
30 'Twixt fears of dying and desire of life:
31 Those earthly hopes, that to the last endure;
32 Those fears, that hopes superior fail to cure;
33 At best a sad submission to the doom,
34 Which, turning from the danger, lets it come.
35 Sick lies the man, bewilder'd, lost, afraid,
36 His spirits vanquish'd and his strength decay'd;[Page 202]
37 No hope the friend, the nurse, the doctor lend —
38 "Call then a priest, and fit him for his end."
39 A priest is call'd; 't is now, alas! too late,
40 Death enters with him at the cottage-gate;
41 Or time allow'd — he goes, assured to find
42 The self-commending, all-confiding mind;
43 And sighs to hear, what we may justly call
44 Death's common-place, the train of thought in all.
45 "True, I'm a sinner," feebly he begins,
46 "But trust in Mercy to forgive my sins:"
47 (Such cool confession no past crimes excite!
48 Such claim on Mercy seems the sinner's right!)
49 "I know, mankind are frail, that God is just,
50 " And pardons those who in his mercy trust;
51 "We're sorely tempted in a world like this,
52 " All men have done, and I like all, amiss;
53 "But now, if spared, it is my full intent
54 " On all the past to ponder and repent:
55 "Wrongs against me I pardon great and small,
56 " And if I die, I die in peace with all. "
57 His merits thus and not his sins confess'd,
58 He speaks his hopes, and leaves to Heaven the rest.
59 Alas! are these the prospects, dull and cold,
60 That dying Christians to their priests unfold?
61 Or mends the prospect when th' enthusiast cries,
62 "I die assured!" and in a rapture dies?
63 Ah, where that humble, self-abasing mind,
64 With that confiding spirit, shall we find;
65 The mind that, feeling what repentance brings,
66 Dejection's terrors and Contrition's stings,
67 Feels then the hope, that mounts all care above,
68 And the pure joy that flows from pardoning love? [Page 203]
69 Such have I seen in Death, and much deplore,
70 So many dying — that I see no more:
71 Lo! now my Records, where I grieve to trace,
72 How Death has triumph'd in so short a space;
73 Who are the dead, how died they, I relate,
74 And snatch some portion of their acts from fate.
75 With Andrew Collett we the year begin,
76 The blind, fat landlord of the Old Crown Inn, —
77 Big as his butt, and, for the self-same use,
78 To take in stores of strong fermenting juice.
79 On his huge chair beside the fire he sate,
80 In revel chief, and umpire in debate;
81 Each night his string of vulgar tales he told;
82 When ale was cheap and bachelors were bold:
83 His heroes all were famous in their days,
84 Cheats were his boast and drunkards had his praise;
85 "One, in three draughts, three mugs of ale took down,
86 " As mugs were then — the champion of the Crown;
87 "For thrice three days another lived on ale,
88 " And knew no change but that of mild and stale;
89 "Two thirsty soakers watch'd a vessel's side,
90 " When he the tap, with dext'rous hand, applied;
91 "Nor from their seats departed, till they found
92 " That butt was out and heard the mournful sound. "
93 He praised a poacher, precious child of fun!
94 Who shot the keeper with his own spring-gun;[Page 204]
95 Nor less the smuggler who the exciseman tied,
96 And left him hanging at the birch-wood side,
97 There to expire; — but one who saw him hang
98 Cut the good cord — a traitor of the gang.
99 His own exploits with boastful glee he told,
100 What ponds he emptied and what pikes he sold;
101 And how, when blest with sight alert and gay,
102 The night's amusements kept him through the day.
103 He sang the praises of those times, when all
104 "For cards and dice, as for their drink, might call;
105 " When justice wink'd on every jovial crew,
106 "And ten-pins tumbled in the parson's view."
107 He told, when angry wives, provoked to rail,
108 Or drive a third-day drunkard from his ale,
109 What were his triumphs, and how great the skill
110 That won the vex'd virago to his will;
111 Who raving came; — then talk'd in milder strain, —
112 Then wept, then drank, and pledged her spouse again.
113 Such were his themes: how knaves o'er laws prevail,
114 Or, when made captives, how they fly from jail;
115 The young how brave, how subtle were the old:
116 And oaths attested all that Folly told.
117 On death like his what name shall we bestow,
118 So very sudden! yet so very slow?
119 'T was slow: — Disease, augmenting year by year,
120 Show'd the grim king by gradual steps brought near:
121 'T was not less sudden; in the night he died,
122 He drank, he swore, he jested, and he lied;
123 Thus aiding folly with departing breath: —
124 "Beware, Lorenzo, the slow-sudden death." [Page 205]
125 Next died the Widow Goe, an active dame,
126 Famed ten miles round, and worthy all her fame;
127 She lost her husband when their loves were young,
128 But kept her farm, her credit, and her tongue:
129 Full thirty years she ruled, with matchless skill,
130 With guiding judgment and resistless will;
131 Advice she scorn'd, rebellions she suppress'd,
132 And sons and servants bow'd at her behest.
133 Like that great man's, who to his Saviour came,
134 Were the strong words of this commanding dame; —
135 "Come," if she said, they came; if "go," were gone;
136 And if "do this," — that instant it was done:
137 Her maidens told she was all eye and ear,
138 In darkness saw and could at distance hear; —
139 No parish-business in the place could stir,
140 Without direction or assent from her;
141 In turn she took each office as it fell,
142 Knew all their duties and discharged them well;
143 The lazy vagrants in her presence shook,
144 And pregnant damsels fear'd her stern rebuke;
145 She look'd on want with judgment clear and cool,
146 And felt with reason and bestow'd by rule;
147 She match'd both sons and daughters to her mind,
148 And lent them eyes, for Love, she heard, was blind;
149 Yet ceaseless still she throve, alert, alive,
150 The working bee, in full or empty hive;[Page 206]
151 Busy and careful, like that working bee,
152 No time for love nor tender cares had she;
153 But when our farmers made their amorous vows,
154 She talk'd of market-steeds and patent-ploughs.
155 Not unemploy'd her evenings pass'd away,
156 Amusement closed, as business waked the day;
157 When to her toilet's brief concern she ran,
158 And conversation with her friends began,
159 Who all were welcome, what they saw, to share;
160 And joyous neighbours praised her Christmas fare,
161 That none around might, in their scorn, complain
162 Of Gossip Goe as greedy in her gain.
163 Thus long she reign'd, admired, if not approved;
164 Praised, if not honour'd; fear'd, if not beloved; —
165 When, as the busy days of Spring drew near,
166 That call'd for all the forecast of the year;
167 When lively hope the rising crops survey'd,
168 And April promised what September paid;
169 When stray'd her lambs where gorse and greenweed grow;
170 When rose her grass in richer vales below;
171 When pleased she look'd on all the smiling land,
172 And view'd the hinds, who wrought at her command;
173 (Poultry in groups still follow'd where she went;)
174 Then dread o'ercame her, — that her days were spent.
175 "Bless me! I die, and not a warning giv'n, —
176 " With much to do on Earth, and all for Heav'n! —
177 "No reparation for my soul's affairs,
178 " No leave petition'd for the barn's repairs;
179 "Accounts perplex'd, my interest yet unpaid,
180 " My mind unsettled, and my will unmade; —[Page 207]
181 "A lawyer haste, and in your way, a priest;
182 " And let me die in one good work at least. "
183 She spake, and, trembling, dropp'd upon her knees,
184 Heaven in her eye and in her hand her keys;
185 And still the more she found her life decay,
186 With greater force she grasp'd those signs of sway:
187 Then fell and died! — In haste her sons drew near,
188 And dropp'd, in haste, the tributary tear,
189 Then from th' adhering clasp the keys unbound,
190 And consolation for their sorrows found.
191 Death has his infant-train; his bony arm
192 Strikes from the baby-cheek the rosy charm;
193 The brightest eye his glazing film makes dim,
194 And his cold touch sets fast the lithest limb:
195 He seized the sick'ning boy to Gerard lent,
196 When three days 'life, in feeble cries, were spent;
197 In pain brought forth, those painful hours to stay,
198 To breathe in pain and sigh its soul away!
199 "But why thus lent, if thus recall'd again,
200 " To cause and feel, to live and die in, pain? "
201 Or rather say, Why grievous these appear,
202 If all it pays for Heaven's eternal year;
203 If these sad sobs and piteous sighs secure
204 Delights that live, when worlds no more endure?
205 The sister-spirit long may lodge below,
206 And pains from nature, pains from reason, know;
207 Through all the common ills of life may run,
208 By hope perverted and by love undone;
209 A wife's distress, a mother's pangs, may dread,
210 And widow-tears, in bitter anguish, shed;[Page 208]
211 May at old age arrive through numerous harms,
212 With children's children in those feeble arms:
213 Nor till by years of want and grief oppress'd
214 Shall the sad spirit flee and be at rest!
215 Yet happier therefore shall we deem the boy,
216 Secured from anxious care and dangerous joy?
217 Not so! for then would Love Divine in vain
218 Send all the burthens weary men sustain;
219 All that now curb the passions when they rage,
220 The checks of youth and the regrets of age;
221 All that now bid us hope, believe, endure,
222 Our sorrow's comfort and our vice's cure;
223 All that for Heaven's high joys the spirits train,
224 And charity, the crown of all, were vain.
225 Say, will you call the breathless infant blest,
226 Because no cares the silent grave molest?
227 So would you deem the nursling from the wing
228 Untimely thrust and never train'd to sing;
229 But far more blest the bird whose grateful voice
230 Sings its own joy and makes the woods rejoice,
231 Though, while untaught, ere yet he charm'd the ear,
232 Hard were his trials and his pains severe!
233 Next died the Lady who yon Hall possess'd;
234 And here they brought her noble bones to rest. [Page 209]
235 In Town she dwelt; — forsaken stood the Hall:
236 Worms ate the floors, the tap'stry fled the wall:
237 No fire the kitchen's cheerless grate display'd;
238 No cheerful light the long-closed sash convey'd;
239 The crawling worm, that turns a summer-fly,
240 Here spun his shroud and laid him up to die
241 The winter-death: — upon the bed of state,
242 The bat shrill shrieking woo'd his flickering mate;
243 To empty rooms the curious came no more,
244 From empty cellars turn'd the angry poor,
245 And surly beggars cursed the ever-bolted door.
246 To one small room the steward found his way,
247 Where tenants follow'd to complain and pay;
248 Yet no complaint before the Lady came,
249 The feeling servant spared the feeble dame;
250 Who saw her farms with his observing eyes,
251 And answer'd all requests with his replies: —
252 She came not down, her falling groves to view;
253 Why should she know, what one so faithful knew?
254 Why come, from many clamorous tongues to hear,
255 What one so just might whisper in her ear?
256 Her oaks or acres, why with care explore;
257 Why learn the wants, the sufferings of the poor;
258 When one so knowing all their worth could trace,
259 And one so piteous govern'd in her place? [Page 210]
260 Lo! now, what dismal Sons of Darkness come,
261 To bear this Daughter of Indulgence home;
262 Tragedians all, and well-arranged in black!
263 Who nature, feeling, force, expression lack;
264 Who cause no tear, but gloomily pass by,
265 And shake their sables in the wearied eye,
266 That turns disgusted from the pompous scene,
267 Proud without grandeur, with profusion, mean!
268 The tear for kindness past affection owes;
269 For worth deceased the sigh from reason flows;
270 E'en well-feign'd passion for our sorrows call,
271 And real tears for mimic miseries fall:
272 But this poor farce has neither truth nor art,
273 To please the fancy or to touch the heart;
274 Unlike the darkness of the sky, that pours
275 On the dry ground its fertilising showers;
276 Unlike to that which strikes the soul with dread,
277 When thunders roar and forky fires are shed;
278 Dark but not awful, dismal but yet mean,
279 With anxious bustle moves the cumbrous scene;
280 Presents no objects tender or profound,
281 But spreads its cold unmeaning gloom around.
282 When woes are feign'd, how ill such forms appear
283 And oh! how needless, when the wo's sincere.
284 Slow to the vault they come, with heavy tread,
285 Bending beneath the Lady and her lead;
286 A case of elm surrounds that ponderous chest,
287 Close on that case the crimson velvet's press'd;
288 Ungenerous this, that to the worm denies,
289 With niggard-caution, his appointed prize;
290 For now, ere yet he works his tedious way,
291 Through cloth and wood and metal to his prey,[Page 211]
292 That prey dissolving shall a mass remain,
293 That fancy loathes and worms themselves disdain.
294 But see! the master-mourner makes his way,
295 To end his office for the coffin'd clay;
296 Pleased that our rustic men and maids behold
297 His plate like silver, and his studs like gold,
298 As they approach to spell the age, the name,
299 And all the titles of th' illustrious dame. —
300 This as (my duty done) some scholar read,
301 A Village-father look'd disdain and said:
302 "Away, my friends! why take such pains to know
303 " What some brave marble soon in Church shall show?
304 "Where not alone her gracious name shall stand,
305 " But how she lived — the blessing of the land;
306 "How much we all deplored the noble dead,
307 " What groans we utter'd and what tears we shed;
308 "Tears, true as those, which in the sleepy eyes
309 " Of weeping cherubs on the stone shall rise;
310 "Tears, true as those which, ere she found her grave,
311 " The noble Lady to our sorrows gave. "
312 Down by the church-way walk, and where the brook
313 Winds round the chancel like a shepherd's crook;
314 In that small house, with those green pales before,
315 Where jasmine trails on either side the door;
316 Where those dark shrubs, that now grow wild at will,
317 Were clipp'd in form and tantalised with skill;
318 Where cockles blanch'd and pebbles neatly spread,
319 Form'd shining borders for the larkspurs 'bed; —
320 There lived a Lady, wise, austere, and nice,
321 Who show'd her virtue by her scorn of vice;[Page 212]
322 In the dear fashions of her youth she dress'd,
323 A pea-green Joseph was her favourite vest;
324 Erect she stood, she walk'd with stately mien,
325 Tight was her length of stays, and she was tall and lean.
326 There long she lived in maiden-state immured,
327 From looks of love and treacherous man secured;
328 Though evil fame — (but that was long before)
329 Had blown her dubious blast at Catherine's door.
330 A Captain thither, rich from India came,
331 And though a cousin call'd, it touch'd her fame:
332 Her annual stipend rose from his behest,
333 And all the long-prized treasures she possess'd: —
334 If aught like joy awhile appear'd to stay
335 In that stern face, and chase those frowns away;
336 'Twas when her treasures she disposed for view
337 And heard the praises to their splendour due;
338 Silks beyond price, so rich, they'd stand alone,
339 And diamonds blazing on the buckled zone;
340 Rows of rare pearls by curious workmen set,
341 And bracelets fair in box of glossy jet;
342 Bright polish'd amber precious from its size,
343 Or forms the fairest fancy could devise:
344 Her drawers of cedar, shut with secret springs,
345 Conceal'd the watch of gold and rubied rings;
346 Letters, long proofs of love, and verses fine
347 Round the pink'd rims of crisped Valentine.
348 Her china-closet, cause of daily care,
349 For woman's wonder held her pencill'd ware;
350 That pictured wealth of China and Japan,
351 Like its cold mistress, shunn'd the eye of man. [Page 213]
352 Her neat small room, adorn'd with maiden-taste,
353 A clipp'd French puppy, first of favourites, graced: