1790 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Allegory of Labour.

Poems by George Butt. In Two Volumes.

Rev. George Butt


A brief moral allegory in eight irregular Spenserians (ababcC — only the last with the alexandrine). When Labour is bereft of his wife Wisdom, he departs with his daughters Health and Content for the metropolis of Pride, where the family is undone by Intemperance and Sloth. Reprinted "From the World" — a London newspaper published 1787-94.



Following my fancies wheresoe'er they please,
O'er hill and dale, thro' glen and bosky bourn,
Sudden a sound, amid my reveries,
Made mine eyes towards it quickly turn,
There I beheld, beneath a yew-tree's shade,
(The tree by lightning rent), a mourner laid:—

"Pity me, stranger," said the son of Woe—
(A poor old man he seem'd, bow-bent with years)
"Hear my sad tale, and may the sad tale shew
How best thy feet may fly the vale of tears;
For I was happy once, and bless'd my lot,
Till Pride allur'd me from my lowly cot.

"Want was my sire, and I am Labour nam'd,
And Wisdom was my wife," (of heav'nly race)
"Who, far and wide, above all nymphs was fam'd
For sage demeanour blent with modest grace:
Two fair-daughters pleas'd my parent pride,
And fifteen years, whilst Wisdom liv'd, I joy'd.

"Health, ever-blooming, was my eldest child,
And still she tended duteous on her sire;
Content her sister, damsel gayly mild,
My widow'd heart with comfort wont inspire—
My mountain cottage still beheld me blest,
Till vain Ambition all her sting impress'd.

"Forth we must go, a novel life essay,
And roam for Fortune's golden gifts abroad—
Health on one side my faltering steps would stay,
With many a song Content beguil'd the road,
Till at Pride's great metropolis arriv'd,
A happy household for a time we liv'd.

"Till Health the youth Intemp'rance saw, and lov'd
(Wisdom wont say bad company beware)—
A thousand wily ways her virtue prov'd,
Prevail'd at length, and sunk her in his snare;
For when nine months of less'ning joy were past,
Worn with disease, my darling dy'd at last.

"Still dear Content surviv'd, and on her breast
Would sooth my sorrows; but I found my strength
Diminish'd by degrees, till Sloth address'd
My child with vows of love, and won at length
My heart — so free the youth appear'd from guile,
So calm his speech, so simply frank his smile.

"Then first to her my rules became austere,
And cruelly she fled her sinking sire;
Still have I sought her till you found me here
Lorn of all joy, and hast'ning to expire."
Scarce had he spoken, when he deeply sigh'd,
Call'd for Content, once more, but call'd in vain, and dy'd.

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