To the Duke of Rutland.

Poems by George Crabbe. 3 Vols [Adolphus William Ward, ed.]

Rev. George Crabbe

A verse epistle, dated "Belvoir, August, 1782." Charles Manners, fourth duke of Rutland (1754-1787) was a member of Parliament and lord-lieutenant of Ireland (1784). Edmund Spenser is mentioned, and there is a catalogue of painters represented at Belvoir Castle.

George Crabbe: "Mr. Crabbe had, by the direction of the Duke of Rutland, taken a curacy at Stathorn, a village near to Belvoir Castle, where he purposed to reside till his grace should determine respecting his more permanent situation. In this place he continued with his family, for he was now married and a father, till the news arrived so distressing as well as so important to him, and to many, of his grace's decease in Ireland, where he had been Lord Lieutenant from the year 1784 to 1787" "Account of Crabbe" in New Monthly Magazine 4 (January 1816) 515.

Mary Leadbeater: "I saw Crabbe in the year 1784 at Edmund Burke's, in London, with his newly wedded wife. He was a young man of pleasing countenance, and his manner seemed remarkably modest and diffident. He had then written The Village, and The Library, and I believe The Newspaper. My father greatly admired these pieces, and my first view of The Village, read by him to us as we sat at work, delighted me excessively, perhaps for that reason; for my father, a nice judge of poetry, and himself possessing a fine poetical talent, was wont to point out the beauties of what he presented to us" to Melesina Chenevix Trench, 20 July 1810; Leadbeater Papers (1862) 2:195.

William Hazlitt: "Shut out from social converse, from learned colleges and halls, where he passed his youth, he has no cordial fellow-feeling with the unlettered manners of the Village or the Borough; and he describes his neighbours as more uncomfortable and discontented than himself. All this while he dedicates successive volumes to rising generations of noble patrons; and while he desolates a line of coast with sterile, blighting lines, the only leaf of his books where honour, beauty, worth, or pleasure bloom, is that inscribed to the Rutland family!" Spirit of the Age (1825) 203.

Samuel Rogers: "The situation of domestic chaplain in a great family is generally a miserable one: what slights and mortifications attend it! Crabbe had had his share of such troubles in the Duke of Rutland's family; and I well remember that, at a London evening party, where the old Duchess of Rutland was present, he had a violent struggle with his feelings before he could prevail on himself to go up and pay his respects to her" Table Talk (1856) 245.

Norma Dalrymple-Champneys: "Written at Belvoir after 19 August 1784 .... C refers to his attempt to earn a living by his pen in London some three years previously when he had come near to starvation, and to his present literary inertia. The poem was the prelude to his long silence until 1807" Poetical Works (1988) 3:413.

From your own Belvoir, 'mid your flow'ring Lymes
And loftier Oaks, accept these feeble rhymes—
Feeble, and far unlike this beauteous scene
Of Woods and Turrets grey and vallies green!—

To Rutland Health! Where'er his way he takes—
By Ireland's frowning Hills or simple Lakes;
By Shannon's spacious current, spreading wide
His aged Banks, or Allo's tumbling Tide;
By Barrow's Deeps, where Silver Salmon play;
Or where stout Nore winds on his waters grey;
By sedgy Lee, and Bandon's Woods among,
Or Spenser's Mulla, where he wept and sung—
Health to the Muses' Judge, the Muses' friend,
The last and meanest of her vot'ries send.

Health to her Grace; both ours and Dublin's pride—
Yet chiefly ours, nor we the boast divide!
Tho' like the Sun she quits her favourite Line
And deigns awhile in colder climes to shine:
Let not the children of the pole aver
Theirs is that sun, nor Ireland boast of her!
Ye nymphs of Leicester, famed for Maidens fair!
When now your poets paint the fairest there,
No luckless Lucy yields the favourite theme,
But Rutland, bright as Liffey's limpid stream—
Liffey, that rolls with prouder current on
And bear[s] our sighs, who mourn, now she is gone!—

Health to the future glories of that race,
In whom the likeness of the past we trace;
Who live to add new honours to their name,
Their Uncle's blooming praise and their brave grandsire's fame!
And that sweet pair, whose milder prowess lies
Not in their conquering arms, but in their eyes—
Health to that pair, these sister charms that show
To whom the world their varying beauties owe;
Varying but as the sun's bright rays that shine
With separate hues, which in their source combine!—

So glow my wishes; and, my Lord, you know
They flow sincere, howe'er my numbers flow;
These are the tribute I can better pay,
Who have forgot to write, but not to pray.—

Think you, my Lord; your Belvoir heights infuse
Vigor, like old Parnassus, to the Muse?
Not so; Parnassus was a dismal scene,
And hunger made the wretched Tenants keen;
Still the same kinds of Inspiration last:
A London garret and a long day's fast.—

I — and I thank your Grace-have ceased to strive
In niggard rhymes to keep us just alive,
And little can, if now it pleased the State
To tax your poets as they tax your plate.
Exempt from both, my useless life I'd close,
Use humbler ware, and correspond in prose.—

Yet, if it pleased your Grace, I'd now and then
Employ a grateful, but a lazy, pen,
To paint these laughing scenes that round me shine—
Scenes worthy thee, and then to call them thine;
Nor vainly then the Village Squire should charm,
The buried Cottage [or] the busy Farm;
Nor then unpaid the blooming banks should die,
Nor Wood-shop's little rill run vainly by.—

Then, Granby, humble village of the Vale
How should thy name inspire the glorious tale!
Like Beth'lem thou, the least of all thy race;
Yet the Redeemer chose that humble place
To give Him birth, and thou hast lent a name
To Him who pays thee with eternal fame.—

[Bottesford] should then the rising song bring on,
And the great dead, to their last Mansion gone;
Where, like the Hero's and the Statesman's Dust,
Crown'd with the fretted scroll, and sleeping bust,
And guiltless trappings, which poor wits deride
With little spite and moralising pride,
The grateful tribute['s] paid the glorious dead—
The wise who governed and the brave who bled.

Long, long, ye sacred dead, in peace remain,
Ere yet your hallowed home resounds again,
With groans resound[s] and the loud sighs which tell,
Another Rutland bids the sun farewell;
Ere yet the mourning crowd's slow steps attend
The friend to merit and the poor man's friend,
Or read with weeping eyes the finished sum
Of all his days-blest days, and yet to come!

Belvoir should then the closing stanzas fill,
This sacred dome that crowns the lordly Hill,
Rever'd through rolling times and venerable still:
She that looks down o'er the rich Vale and sees
Trees at her feet and hills adorned with Trees;
She that contains within her stately towers
The works of ages past and the delight of ours!—

Here might the poet chuse the noblest themes,
Indulge his vein and dream enchanting dreams;
Might trace the relics of the days of old,
When Kings' [Impeachment] warned our Barons bold,
Whose arms the love of Sovereign Pride withstood,
And veiled the freedom of their sons with blood.

Here doubtless, long before the Romans came,
Dwelt Glorious Lords in now forgotten fame,
Who met the world's proud victors on the shore,
And drove them back who drove the world before.
The Saxon then a [subject] race appear,
What time bold William reigned the Sovereign here.
Let Leland tell how their fair damsels stood,
Like beauty's Goddess, as she left the wood;
When one to wife an amorous Monarch chose;
For these are tales that suit with solemn prose.
The giddy Muses must forbear to touch
On themes, when poets always tell too much.
Too much has West — but let his beauties die,
For there are those who Time and Death defy;
Guido and rich Salvator's offspring wild,
And meek Murillo, holy, modest, mild;
Rubens, whose matchless tints as sunbeams strike;
Claud[e]'s woodland glories and the strong Vandyke;
Painstaking Flemings here display their art
And charm the eye, although they miss the heart;
Numbers beside, the rich, the grave, the free—
Names known to glory but unknown to me:
These in their turns all tastes and Judgments please,
And Reynolds last, not least, nor less than these.

Pardon, my Lord, these idle fits of rhyme
That flow from too much ease and too much time!
You bade th' inspiring Days of Gloom depart
And spoiled the poet when you eas'd his heart:
Take then such feeble thanks as he can pay,
Who feels more grateful as his powers decay,
And finds the will to sing, but cannot find the way!