The Parish Register. Part I. Baptisms.

Poems. By the Rev. George Crabbe, LL.B.

Rev. George Crabbe

George Crabbe, who had not been heard from in many years, concludes the first part of his Parish Register with a reference to Spenser's nautical metaphor for composition: "And row, meantime, our weary Bark ashore, | As SPENCER his — but not with SPENCER'S Oar" p. 66. Crabbe's (later) note: "Allusions of this kind are to be found in the Fairy Queen. See the end of the first book, and other places." Crabbe's poem, if not propelled by Spenser's oar, adopts the device of tale-weaving, while the opening descriptions of pious and reprobate cottages derive from the Spenserian tradition of allegorical description as practiced by eighteenth-century moral poets. Crabbe terminates his first tale with a very prominent alexandrine.

Francis Jeffrey: "After an introductory and general view of village manners, the Reverend author proceeds to present his readers with an account of all the remarkable baptisms, marriages and funerals, that appear on his register for the preceding year, with a sketch of the character and behaviour of the respective parties, and such reflections and exhortations as are suggested by the subject. The poem consists, therefore, of a series of portraits taken from the middling and lower ranks of rustic life, and delineated on occasions at once more common and more interesting, than any other that could well be imagined. They are selected, we think, with great judgment, and drawn with inimitable accuracy and strength of colouring. They are finished with much more minuteness and detail, indeed, than the more general pictures in The Village; and, on this account, may appear occasionally deficient in comprehension, or in dignity. They are, no doubt, executed in some instances with a Chinese accuracy; and enter into details which many readers may pronounce tedious and unnecessary. Yet, there is a justness and force in the representation which is entitled to something more than indulgence; and though several of the groups are confessedly composed of low and disagreeable subjects, still, we think that some allowance is to be made for the author's plan of giving a full and exact view of village life, which could not possibly be accomplished without including those baser varieties. He aims at an important moral effect by this exhibition; and must not be defrauded either of that, or of the praise which is due to the coarser efforts of his pen, out of deference to the sickly delicacy of his more fastidious readers" Edinburgh Review 12 (April 1808) 141.

Thomas Denman: "The Parish Register, which is the most considerable poem in the volume, and indeed occupies nearly a third part of it, may be characterised as a more expanded continuation of The Village. It is stated to be 'an endeavour once more to describe village manners, not by adopting the notion of pastoral simplicity, or assuming ideas of rustic barbarity, but by more natural views of the peasantry, considered as a mixed body of persons sober or profligate, and from hence, in a great measure, contented or miserable. To this more general description are added the various characters, which occur in the three parts of a register: Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials.' The poem accordingly consists of three divisions, in which the pastor takes a review of these interesting events, as they have happened to his parishioners, and of course is led into extensive and minute details of parish-biography. He has presented us with a great variety of characters, which are discriminated with skill and spirit: while his incidents are in general judiciously selected, and told with peculiar felicity of narration, displaying occasionally much natural pathos, and uncommon powers of satire" Monthly Review NS 56 (June 1808) 172-73.

William Wordsworth to Samuel Rogers: "After all, if the picture were true to nature, what claim would it have to be called poetry? At the best, it is the meanest kind of satire, except the merely personal. The sum of all is, that nineteen out of twenty of Crabbe's pictures are mere matters of fact, with which the Muses have just about as much to do as they have with a collection of medical reports or of law cases" 29 September 1808; Clayden, Rogers and his Contemporaries (1889) 1:49-50.

Walter Scott to Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe: "I wish you would review Crabbe. He has, I think, great vigour and force of painting; but his choice of subjects is so low, so coarse, and so disgusting, that he reminds me of the dexterity of Pallet [in Peregin Pickle], who painted that which is as good for a sow as a pancake, in such a lively manner as to set a whole pigstye in an uproar" 1809; Letters to and from C. K. Sharpe (1888) 1:353-54.

Mary Russell Mitford to her father: "Crabbe's poem is too long, and contains too gloomy a picture of the world. This is real life, perhaps; but a little poetical fairy land, something to love and admire, is absolutely necessary as a relief to the feelings, among his list of follies and crimes" 6 April 1810; in L'Estrange, Life of Mary Russell Mitford (1870) 1:87.

Robert Southey: "The fault of writing too little is one which has not so often been laid to a poet's charge. Dr. Sayers is to be charged with it, as will presently be seen. So might Crabbe have been, during a silence of more than twenty years, — but the crab-tree hath borne well since, and its verjuice is of a strong body, and will keep" "Sayers's Works" in Quarterly Review 35 (1827) 195.

Ebenezer Elliott: "Crabbe takes his hideous mistress in his arms, and she rewards him with her confidence by telling him all her dreadful secrets. The severity of his style is an accident belonging not to him, but to the majesty of his unparalleled subject. Hence it is that the unhappy people of the United States of America cannot bear to read Crabbe. They think him unnatural, and he is so to them, for in their wretched country cottagers are not paupers — marriage is not misery" in Russell, Book of Authors (1860) 348.

Norma Dalrymple-Champneys: "Cf. Faerie Queene, II. i. 32: 'And to the wished haven bring thy weary barke.' Cf. also I. xii. 42 and the opening lines of I. xii and VI. xii. The same metaphor was, of course, used by other poets with whose work C. was familiar, as Pope, 'Say, shall my little bark attendant sail, | Pursue the triumph and partake the gale?' (Essay on Man, iv. 385-86); from Statius, Silv. I. iv. 120-2, and V. i. 242-46; and Matthew Green, 'Thus, thus I steer my bark, and sail | On even keel, with gentle gale' (Spleen (1737), ll. 814-15)" Poetical Works (1988) 1:699.

The year revolves, and I again explore
The simple Annals of my Parish poor;
What Infant-members, in my flock, appear,
What Pairs I blest in the departed year;
And who, of Old or Young, or Nymphs or Swains,
Are lost to Life, its pleasures and its pains.

No Muse I ask, before my view to bring
The humble actions of the swains I sing.—
How pass'd the youthful, how the old their days;
Who sank in sloth, and who aspir'd to praise;
Their tempers, manners, morals, customs, arts,
What parts they had, and how they 'employ'd their parts;
By what elated, soothed, seduced, deprest,
Full well I know — these Records give the rest.

Is there a place, save one the Poet sees,
A land of Love, of Liberty and Ease;
Where labour wearies not, nor cares suppress
Th' eternal flow of rustic happiness;
Where no proud Mansion frowns in aweful State,
Or keeps the Sunshine from the Cottage-Gate;
Where Young and Old, intent on pleasure, throng,
And half man's life is Holiday and Song?
Vain search for scenes like these! no view appears,
By sighs unruffled or unstain'd by tears;
Since Vice the world subdued and Waters drown'd,
Auburn and Eden can no more be found.

Hence good and evil mix'd, but Man has skill
And power to part them, when he feels the will;
Toil, care, and patience bless th' abstemious few,
Fear, shame, and want the thoughtless herd pursue.

Behold the Cot! where thrives th' industrious Swain,
Source of his pride, his pleasure, and his gain;
Screen'd from the Winter's wind, the Sun's last ray
Smiles on the window and prolongs the day;
Projecting thatch the woodbine's branches stop,
And turn their blossoms to the casement's top:—
All need requires, is in that Cot contain'd,
And much that taste untaught and unrestrain'd
Surveys delighted; there she loves to trace,
In one gay picture, all the Royal Race;
Around the walls are Heroes, Lovers, Kings;
The print that shews them, and the verse that sings.

Above the mantel, bound with ribband blue,
The Swain's emblazon'd Arms demand our view.

In meadow Vert, there feeds in Gules a cow,
Beneath an Argent share and Sable plough;
While for a crest, an Azure arm sustains
In Or a wheatsheaf, rich with bristling grains.

There is King Charles, and all his Golden Rules,
Who proved Misfortune's was the best of schools;
And there his Son, who, tried by years of pain,
Proved that misfortunes may be sent in vain.

The magic-mill that grinds the gran'nams young,
Close at the side of kind Godiva hung;
She, of her favourite place the pride and joy,
Of charms at once most lavish and most coy;
By wanton act, the purest fame could raise,
And give the boldest deed the chastest praise.

There stands the stoutest Ox in England fed;
There fights the boldest Jew, Whitechapel bred;
And here Saint Monday's worthy votaries live,
In all the joys that ale and skittles give.

Now lo! on Egypt's coast that hostile fleet,
By nations dreaded and that NELSON beat;
And here will soon that other fleet be shown,
That NELSON made the ocean's and our own,
Distressing glory! grievous boon of fate!
The proudest conquest, at the dearest rate.

On shelf of deal, beside the cuckoo-clock,
Of cottage-reading rests the chosen stock;
Learning we lack, not books, but have a kind
For all our wants, a meat for every mind:
The tale for wonder and the joke for whim,
The half-sung sermon and the half-groan'd hymn.

No need of classing; each within its place,
The feeling finger, in the dark can trace;
"First from the corner, farthest from the wall,"
Such all the rules, and they suffice for all.

There pious works for Sunday's use are found,
Companions for that Bible newly bound;
That Bible, bought by sixpence weekly sav'd,
Has choicest prints by famous Hands engraved;
Has choicest notes by famous Heads made out,
That teach the simple reader where to doubt;
Have made them stop, to reason why? and how?
And where he wonder'd then, to cavil more.
Oh! rather give me commentators plain,
Who with no deep researches vex the brain;
Who from the dark and doubtful love to run,
And hold their glimmering tapers to the sun;
Who simple Truth with nine-fold Reasons back,
And guard the point, no enemies attack.
Bunyan's famed Pilgrim rests that shelf upon,
A genius rare but rude was honest John;
Not one who, early by the Muse beguil'd,
Drank from her well, the waters undefil'd;
Not one who slowly gain'd the hill sublime,
Then often sipp'd and little at a time;
But one who dabbled in the sacred springs,
And drank them muddy, mix'd with baser things.

Here to interpret Dreams we read the rules,
Science our own! and never taught in schools;
In moles and specks we Fortune's gifts discern,
And Fate's fix'd will, from Nature's wanderings learn.

Of Hermit Quarle we read in island rare,
Far from mankind and seeming far from Care;
Safe from all want, and sound in every limb,
Yes! there was he, and there was Care with him.

Unbound and heap'd these valued tomes beside,
Lay humbler works, the pedler's pack supplied;
Yet these, long since, have all acquir'd a name;
The Wandering Jew, has found his way to fame;
And fame, denied to many a labour'd song,
Crowns Thumb the Great, and Hickerthrift the strong.

There too is he, by wizard-power upheld,
Jack, by whose arm the giant-brood were quell'd:
His shoes of swiftness, on his feet, he plac'd;
His coat of darkness, on his loins, he brac'd;
His sword of sharpness, in his hand, he took,
And off, the heads of doughty Giants stroke;
Their glaring eyes beheld no mortal near;
No sound of feet alarm'd the drowsy ear;
No English blood their pagan sense could smell,
But heads dropt headlong, wondering why they fell.

These hear the parent Swain, reclin'd at ease,
With half his listening offspring on his knees.

To every cot the Lord's indulgent mind,
Has a small space for Garden-ground assign'd;
Here — till return of morn, dismiss'd the farm—
The careful Peasant plies the sinewy arm:
Warm'd as he works and casts his look around
On every foot of that improving ground;
It is his own he sees; his Master's eye,
Peers not about, some secret fault to spy;
Nor voice severe is there, nor censure known;—
Hope, profit, pleasure, — they are all his own.
Here grow the humble Cives, and, hard by them,
The tall Leek, tapering with his rushy stem;
High climb his Pulse in many an even row,
Deep strike the ponderous roots in soil below;
And herbs of potent smell and pungent taste,
Give a warm relish to the Night's repast.
Apples and Cherries grafted by his hand,
And cluster'd Nuts, for neighbouring market stand.

Nor thus concludes his labour; near the cot,
The Reed-fence rises round some favourite spot;
Where rich Carnations, Pinks with purple eyes,
Proud Hyacinths, the least some florist's prize,
Tulips tall-stemm'd and pounced Auricula's rise.

Here on a Sunday-eve, when service ends,
Meet and rejoice a Family of Friends;
All speak aloud, are happy and are free,
And glad they seem and gaily they agree.

What, though fastidious ears may shun the speech,
Where all are talkers, and where none can teach;
Where still the welcome and the words are old,
And the same stories are for ever told;
Yet their's is joy that, bursting from the heart,
Prompts the glad tongue these nothings to impart;
That forms these tones of gladness we despise,
That lifts their steps, that sparkles in their eyes;
That talks or laughs or runs or shouts or plays,
And speaks in all their looks and all their ways.

Fair scenes of peace! ye might detain us long,
But Vice and Misery now demand the song;
And turn our view from dwellings simply neat,
To this infected Row, we term our street.

Here, in cabal, a disputatious crew
Each evening meet; the Sot, the Cheat, the Shrew;
Riots are nightly heard, the curse, the cries
Of beaten wife, perverse in her replies;
While shrieking children hold each threat'ning hand,
And sometimes life and sometimes food demand:
Boys, in their first stol'n rags, to swear begin,
And girls, who heed not sex, are skill'd in gin:
Snarers and Smugglers here their gains divide,
Ensnaring females here their Victims hide;
And here is one, the Sibyl of the Row,
Who knows all secrets, or affects to know.
Seeking their fate, to her the simple run,
To her the guilty, theirs awhile to shun;
Mistress of worthless arts, deprav'd in will,
Her care unblest and unrepaid her skill,
Slave to the tribe, to whose command she stoops,
And poorer than the poorest maid she dupes.

Between the road-way and the walls, offence
Invades all eyes and strikes on every sense;
There lie, obscene, at every open door,
Heaps from the hearth and sweepings from the floor,
And day by day the mingled masses grow,
As sinks are disembogu'd and gutters flow.

There hungry dogs from hungry children steal,
There pigs and chickens quarrel for a meal;
There dropsied infants wail without redress,
And all is want and woe and wretchedness:
Yet should these Boys with Bodies bronz'd and bare,
High-swoln and hard outlive that lack of care—
Forc'd on some farm, the unexerted strength,
Though loth to action, is compell'd at length,
When warm'd by health, as Serpents in the spring,
Aside their slough of Indolence they fling.

Yet ere they go, a greater evil comes—
See crowded beds in those contiguous rooms;
Beds but ill parted, by a paltry screen,
Of paper'd lath or curtain, dropt between;
Daughters and Sons to yon compartments creep,
And Parents here, beside their Children sleep;
Ye who have power, these thoughtless people part,
Nor let the Ear be first to taint the Heart.

Come! search within, nor sight nor smell regard;
The true Physician walks the foulest ward.
See! on the floor, what frowsy patches rest!
What nauseous fragments on yon fractur'd chest!
What downy-dust beneath yon window-seat!
And round these posts that serve this bed for feet;
This bed where all those tatter'd garments lie,
Worn by each sex, and now perforce thrown by.

See! as we gaze, an Infant lifts its head,
Left by neglect and burrow'd in that bed;
The Mother-gossip has the love supprest,
An Infant's cry once waken'd in her breast;
And daily prattles, as her round she takes,
(With strong resentment) of the want she makes.

Whence all these Woes? — from want of virtuous Will,
Of honest Shame, of time-improving Skill;
From want of care, t' employ the vacant hour,
And want of ev'ry kind but want of Power.

Here are no wheels for either Wool or Flax,
But Packs of Cards, made up of sundry packs;
Here is no clock, nor will they turn the glass,
And see how swift th' important moments pass;
Here are no Books, but ballads on the wall,
Are some abusive, and indecent all;
Pistols are here, unpair'd; with nets and hooks,
Of every kind, for rivers, ponds, and brooks;
An ample flask that nightly rovers fill
With recent poison from the Dutchman's still;
A box of tools with wires of various size,
Frocks, wigs, and hats, for Night or Day disguise,
And bludgeons stout to gain or guard a prize.

To every House belongs a space of Ground,
Of equal size, once fenc'd with Paling round;
That Paling now by slothful waste destroy'd,
Dead Gorse and stumps of Elder fill the void;
Save in the centre-spot whose walls of clay
Hide Sots and Striplings at their drink or play:
Within, a board, beneath a til'd retreat,
Allures the bubble and maintains the cheat;
Where heavy ale in spots like varnish shows,
Where chalky tallies yet remain in rows;
Black pipes and broken jugs the seats defile,
The walls and windows, rhymes and reck'nings vile;
Prints of the meanest kind disgrace the door,
And cards in curses torn, lie fragments on the floor.

Here his poor Bird, th' inhuman Cocker brings,
Arms his hard heel, and clips his golden wings;
With spicy food th' impatient spirit feeds,
And shouts and curses as the battle bleeds:
Struck through the brain, depriv'd of both his eyes,
The vanquish'd bird must combat till he dies;
Must faintly peck at his victorious foe,
And reel and stagger at each feeble blow;
When fall'n, the savage grasps his dabbled plumes,
His blood-stain'd arms, for other deaths assumes;
And damns the Craven-fowl, that lost his stake,
And only bled and perish'd for his sake.

Such are our Peasants, those to whom we yield
Glories unsought, the Fathers of the Field;
And these who take from our reluctant hands,
What Burn advises or the Bench commands.

Our Farmers round, well pleas'd with constant gain,
Like other farmers, flourish and complain.—
These are our Groups; our Portraits next appear,
And close our Exhibition for the year.

With evil omen we that Year begin:
A child of shame, — stern Justice adds, of sin,
Is first recorded; — I would hide the deed,
But vain the wish; I sigh and I proceed:
And could I well th' instructive truth convey,
'Twould warn the Giddy and awake the Gay.

Of all the Nymphs, who gave our Village grace,
The Miller's Daughter had the fairest face;
Proud was the Miller; Money was his pride;
He rode to market, as our Farmers ride,
And 'twas his boast, inspir'd by spirits, there,
His favourite Lucy should be rich as fair;
But she must meek and still obedient prove,
And not presume, without his leave, to love.

A youthful Sailor heard him; — "Ha!" quoth he,
"This Miller's maiden is a Prize for me;
Her charms I love, his riches I desire,
And all his threats but fan the kindling fire;
My ebbing purse, no more the foe shall fill,
But Love's kind act and Lucy at the Mill."

Thus thought the Youth, and soon the chace began,
Stretch'd all his sail, nor thought of pause or plan:
His trusty staff, in his bold hand, he took,
Like him and like his frigate, Heart of Oak;
Fresh were his features, his attire was new;
Clean was his linen and his jacket blue:
Of finest jean his trowsers tight and trim,
Brush'd the large buckle, at the silver rim.

He soon arriv'd, he trac'd the Village-green,
There saw the Maid, and was with pleasure seen;
Then talk'd of Love, till Lucy's yielding heart
Confess'd 'twas painful, though 'twas right to part.

"For ah! my Father has a haughty soul;
Whom best he loves, he loves but to controul;
Me to some churl in bargain he'll consign,
And make some tyrant of the Parish mine;
Cold is his heart, and he with looks severe
Has often forc'd, but never shed the tear;
Save when my Mother died, some drops express'd
A kind of sorrow for a Wife at rest:—
To me a Master's stern regard is shown,
I'm like his steed, priz'd highly as his own;
Stroak'd but corrected, threaten'd when supplied,
His slave and boast, his victim and his pride."

"Cheer up, my Lass! I'll to thy Father go,
The Miller cannot be the Sailor's foe;
Both live by Heaven's free gale that plays aloud
In the stretch'd canvass and the piping shroud;
The rush of winds, the flapping sails above,
And rattling planks within, are sounds we love;
Calms are our dread; when Tempests plough the Deep,
We take a Reef, and to the rocking, Sleep."

"Ha!" quoth the Miller, mov'd at speech so rash,
"Art thou like me? Then where thy notes and cash?
Away to Wapping, and a wife command,
With all thy wealth, a guinea, in thine hand;
There with thy messmates quaff the muddy cheer,
And leave my Lucy for thy betters here."

"Revenge! revenge!" the angry lover cried,
Then sought the Nymph, and "Be thou now my Bride."
Bride had she been, but they no Priest could move
To bind in Law, the Couple bound by Love.

What then was left, these Lovers to requite?
But stolen moments of disturb'd delight;
Soft trembling tumults, terrors dearly priz'd,
Transports that pain'd and joys that agoniz'd:
Till, the fond Damsel, pleas'd with Lad so trim,
Aw'd by her Parent and intic'd by him;
Her lovely form from savage power to save,
Gave — not her hand — but ALL she could, she gave.

Then came the day of shame, the grievous night,
The varying look, the wandering appetite;
The joy assum'd, while sorrow dimm'd the eyes,
The forc'd sad smiles that follow'd sudden sighs;
And every art, long us'd, but us'd in vain,
To hide thy progress, Nature, and thy pain.

Too eager caution shews some danger's near,
The bully's bluster proves the coward's fear;
His sober step, the drunkard vainly tries,
And nymphs expose the failings they disguise.

First, whispering gossips were in parties seen;
Then louder Scandal walk'd the Village-green;
Next babbling Folly told the growing ill,
And busy Malice dropp'd it at the Mill.

"Go! to thy curse and mine," the Father said,
"Strife and confusion stalk around thy bed;
Want and a wailing Brat, thy portion be,
Plague to thy fondness as thy fault to me,
Where skulks the villain?"—

—"On the Ocean wide
"My William seeks a portion for his Bride."—

"Vain be his search! but, till the traitor come,
The Higgler's Cottage be thy future home;
There with his antient shrew and Care abide,
And hide thy head, thy shame thou canst not hide."

Day after day was pass'd in grief and pain,
Week after week, nor came the Youth again;
Her Boy was born — no lads nor lasses came
To grace the rite or give the child a name;
Nor grave conceited Nurse of office proud,
Bore the young Christian, roaring through the crowd;
In a small chamber was my office done,
Where blinks through paper'd panes, the setting Sun;
Where noisy sparrows, perch'd on penthouse near,
Chirp tuneless joy and mock the frequent tear;
Bats on their webby wings in darkness move,
And feebly shriek their melancholy love.

No sailor came; the months in terror fled!
Then news arriv'd; He fought, and he was DEAD!

At the lone cottage Lucy lives, and still
Walks, for her weekly pittance to the mill;
A mean seraglio, there her Father keeps,
Whose mirth insults her, as she stands and weeps;
And sees the plenty, while compell'd to stay,
Her Father's pride, become his harlot's prey.

Throughout the lanes, she glides at evening's close,
And softly lulls her infant to repose;
Then sits and gazes, but with viewless look,
As gilds the Moon the rippling of the brook;
And sings her vespers, but in voice so low,
She hears their murmurs as the waters flow;
And she too murmurs and begins to find
The solemn wanderings of a wounded mind;
Visions of terror, views of woe succeed,
The mind's impatience, to the body's need;
By turns to that, by turns to this a prey,
She knows what reason yields, and dreads what madness may.

Next, with their boy, a decent couple came,
And call'd him Robert, 'twas his father's name;
Three girls preceded, all by Time endear'd,
And future births were neither hop'd nor fear'd:
Blest in each other, but to no excess;
Health, quiet, comfort, form'd their happiness;
Love all made up of torture and delight,
Was but mere madness in this couple's sight;
Susan could think, though not without a sigh,
If she were gone, who should her place supply;
And Robert half in earnest, half in jest,
Talk of her spouse when he should be at rest;
Yet strange would either think it to be told,
Their love was cooling or their hearts were cold;
Few were their Acres, — but they, well content,
They were, each pay-day, ready with their rent;
And few their wishes — what their farm denied,
The neighbouring town at trifling cost supplied.
If at the Draper's window Susan cast
A longing look, as with her goods she pass'd,
And with the produce of the wheel and churn,
Bought her a Sunday-robe on her return;
True to her maxim, she would take no rest,
Till care repaid that portion to the chest:
Or if when loitering at the Whitsun-fair,
Her Robert spent some idle shillings there;
Up at the barn, before the break of day,
He made his labour for th' indulgence pay:
Thus both — that waste itself might work in vain—
Wrought double tides, and all was well again.

Yet, though so prudent, there were times of joy,
(The day they wed, the christening of the Boy,)
When to the wealthier farmers there was shown
Welcome unfeign'd, and plenty like their own;
For Susan serv'd the great, and had some pride
Among our topmost people to preside;
Yet in that plenty, in that welcome free,
There was the guiding nice frugality,
That, in the festal as the frugal day,
Has in a different mode, a sovereign sway:
As tides the same attractive influence know
In the least ebb and in their proudest flow:
The wise frugality, that does not give,
A life to saving but that saves to live,
Sparing not pinching, mindful though not mean,
O'er all presiding, yet in nothing seen.—

Recorded next a babe of love I trace!
Of many loves, the mother's fresh disgrace;—
"Again, thou harlot! could not all thy pain,
All my reproof, thy wanton thoughts restrain?"
"Far other thoughts, your Reverence, caus'd the ill,
'Twas pure good-nature, not a wanton will;
They urg'd me, paid me, beg'd me to comply,
Not hard of heart, or slow to yield am I,
But prone to grant, as melting charity.
For wanton wishes, let the frail-ones smart,
But all my failing is a tender heart."

For Rite of Churching soon she made her way,
In dread of scandal, should she miss the day;
Two matrons came! with them she humbly knelt,
Their action copied and their comforts felt,
From that great pain and peril to be free,
Though still in peril of that pain to be;
Alas! what numbers, like this amorous dame,
Are quick to censure, but are dead to shame.

Twin-infants then appear; a girl, a boy,
Th' o'erflowing cup of Gerard Ablett's joy:
Seven have I nam'd, and but six years have past
By him and Judith since I bound them fast;
Well pleas'd, the bridegroom smil'd, to hear — "A vine
Fruitful and spreading round the walls be thine,
And branch-like be thine offspring." — Gerard then
Look'd joyful love, and softly said, "Amen."
Now of that Vine he'd have no more increase,
Those playful branches now disturb his peace;
Them he beholds around his tables spread,
But finds, the more the branch, the less the bread;
And while they run his humble walls about,
They keep the sun-shine of good-humour out.

Cease, man, to grieve! thy master's lot survey,
Whom wife and children, thou and thine obey;
A farmer proud, beyond a farmer's pride,
Of all around, the envy or the guide;
Who trots to market on a steed so fine,
That, when I meet him, I'm ashamed of mine;
Whose board is high up-heap'd with generous fare,
Which five stout sons and three tall daughters share:
Cease, man, to grieve; and listen to his care.

A few years fled, and all thy boys shall be
Lords of a cot, and labourers like thee;
Thy girls unportion'd, neighb'ring youths shall lead
Brides from my church, and thenceforth thou art freed:
But then thy master shall of cares complain,
Care after care, a long connected train;
His sons for farms, shall ask a large supply,
For farmers' sons, each gentle miss shall sigh;
Thy mistress reasoning well of life's decay,
Shall ask a chaise and hardly brook delay;
The smart young Cornet who, with so much grace,
Rode in the ranks and betted at the race,
While the vext parent rails at deed so rash,
Shall d—n his luck, and stretch his hand for cash.
Sad troubles, Gerard! now pertain to thee,
When thy rich Master seems from trouble free;
But 'tis one fate at different times assign'd,
And thou shalt lose the cares that he must find.

"Ah!" quoth our village Grocer, rich and old,
"Would I might one such cause for care behold;"
To whom his Friend, "Mine greater bliss would be,
Would heav'n take those, my spouse assigns to me."

Aged were both, that Dawkins, Ditchem this,
Who much of marriage thought, and much amiss;
Both would delay, the One, till — riches gain'd,
The son he wish'd might be to honour train'd;
His Friend — lest fierce intruding heirs should come,
To waste his hoard and vex his quiet home.

Dawkins, a dealer once on burthen'd back
Bore his whole substance in a pedlar's pack;
To dames discreet, the duties yet unpaid,
His stores of lace and hyson he convey'd:
When thus enrich'd, he chose at home to stop
And fleece his neighbours in a new-built shop;
Then woo'd a Spinster blithe, and hoped, when wed,
For Love's fair favours and a fruitful bed.

Not so his Friend; — on widow fair and staid
He fix'd his eye, but he was much afraid;
Yet woo'd; while, she, his hair of silver hue,
Demurely noticed, and her eye withdrew;
Doubtful he paused — "Ah! were I sure," he cried,
"No craving children would my gains divide;
Fair as she is, I would my widow take,
And live more largely for my partner's sake."

With such their views some thoughtful years the past,
And hoping, dreading, they were bound at last.
And what their fate? Observe them as they go,
Comparing fear with fear and woe with woe.

"Ah! Humphrey! Humphrey! Envy in my breast
Sickens to see thee in thy children blest;
They are thy joys, while I go grieving home
To a sad spouse, and our eternal gloom;
We look Despondency; no infant near,
To bless the eye or win the parent's ear;
Our sudden heats and quarrels to allay,
And soothe the petty sufferings of the day:
Alike our want, yet both the want reprove;
Where are, I cry, these pledges of our love?
When she like Jacob's wife makes fierce reply,
Yet fond — Oh! give me children or I die:
And I return — still childless doom'd to live,
Like the vex'd Patriarch — Are they mine to give?
Ah! much I envy thee, thy boys, who ride
On poplar branch, and canter at thy side;
And girls, whose cheeks thy chin's fierce fondness know,
And with fresh beauty at the contact glow."

"Oh! simple friend," said Humphrey, "would'st thou gain
A father's pleasure, by a husband's pain?
Alas! what pleasure — when some vigorous boy
Should swell thy pride, some rosy girl thy joy;
Is it to doubt, who grafted this sweet flower,
Or whence arose that spirit and that power?

"Four years I've wed; not one has past in vain:
Behold the fifth! Behold, a babe again!
My wife's gay friends th' unwelcome imp admire,
And fill the room with gratulation dire;
While I in silence sate, revolving all!
That influence antient men, or that befall;
A gay pert guest — Heav'n knows his business — came;
A glorious boy, he cried, and what the name?
Angry I growl'd, — my spirit cease to tease,
Name it yourselves, — Cain, Judas, if you please;
His father's give him, — should you that explore,
The Devil's or your's: — I said, and sought the door
My tender partner not a word or sigh
Gives to my wrath, nor to my speech reply;
But takes her comforts, triumphs in my pain,
And looks undaunted for a birth again."—

Heirs thus denied afflict the pining heart,
And thus afforded, jealous pangs impart;
To prove these arrows of the giant's hand,
Are not for man to stay or to command.
Then with their infants three, the parents came,
And each assign'd — 'twas all they had — a name:
Names of no mark or price; of them not one
Shall court our view on the sepulchral stone,
Or stop the Clerk, th' engraven scrolls to spell,
Or keep the Sexton from the sermon-bell.

An orphan girl succeeds: ere she was born
Her father died, her mother on that morn;
The pious mistress of the school sustains,
Her parents' part, nor their affection feigns,
But pitying feels: with due respect and joy,
I trace the matron at her lov'd employ;
What time the striplings, weary'd e'en with play,
Part at the closing of the Summer's day,
And each by different path, returns the well-known way.
Then I behold her at her cottage door,
Frugal of light; — her Bible laid before,
When on her double duty she proceeds,
Of Time as frugal — knitting as she reads:
Her idle neighbours who approach to tell
Of news or nothing, she by looks compel,
To hear reluctant, while the lads who pass,
In pure respect, walk silent on the grass;
Then sinks the day, but not to rest she goes,
Till solemn prayers the daily duties close.

But I digress, and lo! an infant train
Appear, and call me to my task again.

"Why Lonicera wilt thou name thy child?"
I asked the gardener's wife, in accents mild:
"We have a right," replied the sturdy dame;
And Lonicera was the infant's name.
If next a son shall yield our gardener joy,
Then Hyacinthus shall be that fair boy;
And if a girl, they will at length agree,
That Belladonna that fair maid shall be.

High-sounding words our worthy Gardener gets,
And at his club to wondering swains repeats:
He then of Rhus and Rhododendron speaks,
And Allium calls his onions and his leeks;
Nor weeds are now, for whence arose the weed,
Scarce plants, fair herbs, and curious flowers proceed;
Where Cuckoo-pints and Dandelions sprung,
(Gross names had they our plainer sires among,)
There Arums, there Leontodons we view,
And Artemisia grows, where Wormwood grew.

But though no weed exists, his garden round,
From Rumex strong our Gardener frees his ground,
Takes soft Senecio from the yielding land,
And grasps the arm'd Urtica in his hand.

Not DARWIN'S self had more delight to sing
Of floral courtship, in th' awaken'd spring;
Than Peter Pratt, who simpering loves to tell,
How rise the Stamens, as the Pistils swell;
How bend and curl the moist-top to the spouse,
And give and take the vegetable vows;
How those esteem'd of old but tips and chives,
Are tender husbands and obedient wives;
Who live and love within the sacred bower,—
That bridal bed, the vulgar term a Flower.

Hear Peter proudly, to some humble friend,
A wondrous secret, in his science, lend,
"Would you advance the nuptial hour, and bring
The fruit of Autumn, with the flowers of Spring;
View that light frame where Cucumis lies spread,
And trace the husbands in their golden bed,
Three turged Anthers; — then no more delay,
But haste and bear them to their spouse away;
In a like bed, you'll see that spouse reclin'd,
(Oh! haste and bear them, they like love are blind,)
Then by thyself, from prying glance secure,
Twirl the full tip and make the marriage sure;
A long-abiding race the deed shall pay,
Nor one unblest abortion pine away."
T' admire their friend's discourse our swains agree,
And call it science and philosophy.

'Tis good, 'tis pleasant, through th' advancing year,
To see unnumber'd growing forms appear;
What leafy-life from Earth's broad bosom rise!
What insect-myriads seek the summer skies!
What scaly tribes in every streamlet move!
What plumy people sing in every grove!
All with the year awak'd, to life's great duty, Love.
Then names are good, for how, without their aid,
Is knowledge, gain'd by man, to man convey'd?
But from that source, shall all our pleasures flow?
Shall all our knowledge be, those names to know?
Then He with memory blest, shall bear away
The palm from GREW, and MIDDLETON, and RAY;
No! let us rather seek, in grove and field,
What food for wonder, what for use they yield;
Some just remark from Nature's people bring,
And some new source of homage for her King.

Pride lives with all; strange names our Rustics give
To helpless infants, that their own may live;
Pleas'd to be known, some notice they will claim,
And find some by-way to the house of Fame.

The straightest furrow lifts the ploughman's heart,
Or skill allow'd firm in the bruiser's art;
The bowl that beats the greater number down
Of tottering nine-pins, gives to fame the clown;
Or foil'd in these, he opes his ample jaws,
And lets a frog leap down, to gain applause;
Or grins for hours, or tipples for a week,
Or challenges a well-pinch'd pig, to squeak;
Some idle deed, some child's preposterous name,
Shall make him known, and give his folly, fame.

To name an infant, met our village-sires,
Assembl'd all as such event requires;
Frequent and full, the rural sages sate,
And speakers many, urged the long debate,—
Some harden'd knaves, who rov'd the country round,
Had left a babe within the parish-bound,—
First, of the fact they question'd — "Was it true?"
The child was brought — "What then remain'd to do?"
"Was't dead or living?" This was fairly prov'd,
'Twas pinch'd, it roar'd, and every doubt remov'd;
Then by what name th' unwelcome guest to call,
Was long a question, and it pos'd them all;
For he who lent it to a babe unknown,
Censorious men might take it for his own;
They look'd about, they ask'd the name of all,
And not one Richard answer'd to the call;
Next they inquired the day, when, passing by,
Th' unlucky peasant heard the stranger's cry;
This known; how food and raiment they might give,
Was next debated — for the rogue would live;
At last, with all their words and work content,
Back to their homes the prudent Vestry went,
And Richard Monday to the workhouse sent.
There was he pinch'd and pitied, thump'd and fed,
And duly took his beatings and his bread;
Patient in all controul, in all abuse,
He found contempt and kicking have their use:
Sad, silent, supple; bending to the blow,
A slave of slaves, the lowest of the low;
His pliant soul gave way to all things base,
He knew no shame, he dreaded no disgrace;
It seem'd, so well his passions he supprest,
No feeling stirr'd his ever-torpid breast;
Him, might the meanest pauper bruise and cheat,
He was a foot-stool for the beggar's feet;
His were the legs that ran at all commands;
They us'd, on all occasions, Richard's hands;
His very soul was not his own; he stole
As others order'd, and without a dole;
In all disputes, on either part he lied,
And freely pledg'd his oath on either side;
In all rebellions Richard join'd the rest,
In all detections Richard first confest;
Yet, though disgrac'd, he watch'd his time so well,
He rose in favour, when in fame he fell;
Base was his usage, vile his whole employ,
And all despis'd and fed the pliant boy.
At length, "'tis time he should abroad be sent,"
Was whisper'd near him, — and abroad he went;
One morn they call'd him, Richard answer'd not;
They deem'd him hanging, and in time forgot,—
Yet miss'd him long, as each, throughout the clan,
Found he "had better spar'd a better man."

Now Richard's talents for the world were fit,
He'd no small cunning, and had some small wit;
Had that calm look which seem'd to all assent,
And that complacent speech, which nothing meant;
He'd but one care and that he strove to hide,
How best for Richard Monday to provide;
Steel, through opposing plates the Magnet draws,
And steely atoms culls from dust and straws;
And thus our Hero, to his interest true,
Gold through all bars and from each trifle drew;
But still more surely round the world to go,
This Fortune's child, had neither friend nor foe.

Long lost to us, at last our man we trace,
Sir Richard Monday died at Monday-place;
His Lady's worth, his Daughter's we peruse,
And find his Grandsons all as rich as Jews;
He gave reforming Charities a sum,
And bought the blessings of the blind and dumb;
Bequeathed to missions, money from the stocks,
And Bibles issu'd from his private box;
But to his native place, severely just,
He left a pittance bound in rigid trust;
Two paltry pounds, on every quarter's-day,
(At church produced) for forty loaves should pay;
A stinted gift, that to the parish shows
He kept in mind their bounty and their blows!

To farmers three, the year has giv'n a son,
Finch on the Moor, and French, and Middleton;
Twice in this year a female Giles I see,
A Spalding once, and once a Barnaby;
A humble man is he, and, when they meet,
Our farmers find him on a distant seat;
There for their wit he serves a constant theme,
"They praise his Dairy, they extol his Team,
They ask the price of each unrivall'd Steed,
And whence his Sheep, that admirable breed;
His thriving arts they beg he would explain,
And where he puts the money he must gain:—
They have their Daughters, but they fear their friend
Would think his Sons too much would condescend—
They have their Sons who would their fortunes try,
But fear his Daughters will their suit deny."
So runs the joke, while James with sigh profound,
And face of care, keeps looking on the ground;
His cares, his sighs, provoke the insult more,
And point the jest — for Barnaby is poor.

Last in my List, five untaught Lads appear;
Their Father dead, Compassion sent them here:
For still that rustic infidel denied
To have their Names with solemn Rite applied:
His, a lone House, by Dead-man's Dyke-way stood;
And his, a nightly Haunt, in Lonely-wood:
Each Village Inn has heard the Ruffian boast,
That he believed "in neither God nor Ghost;
That when the Sod upon the Sinner press'd,
He, like the Saint, had everlasting Rest;
That never Priest believed his Doctrines true,
But would, for Profit, own himself a Jew,
Or worship Wood and Stone, as honest Heathen do;
That Fools alone on future Worlds rely,
And all who die for Faith, deserve to die."

These Maxims, — part th' Attorney's Clerk profess'd,
His own transcendent Genius found the rest.
Our pious Matrons heard, and, much amaz'd,
Gazed on the Man and trembled as they gazed;
And now his Face explor'd, and now his Feet,
Man's dreaded Foe, in this Bad Man, to meet:
But him our Drunkards as their Champion rais'd,
Their Bishop call'd, and as their Hero prais'd;
Though most, when sober, and the rest, when sick,
Had little question whence his Bishoprick.

But he, triumphant Spirit! all things dar'd,
He poach'd the Wood and on the Warren snar'd;
'Twas his, at Cards each Novice to trepan,
And call the Want of Rogues the Rights of Man;
Wild as the Winds, he let his Offspring rove,
And deem'd the Marriage-Bond the Bane of Love.

What Age and Sickness, for a Man so bold,
Had done, we know not; — none beheld him old:
By Night as Business urg'd, he sought the Wood,
The Ditch was deep, the Rain had caused a Flood;
The Foot-Bridge fail'd, he plung'd beneath the Deep,
And slept, if Truth were his, th' eternal Sleep.

These have we nam'd; on life's rough Sea they sail,
With many a prosperous, many an adverse Gale;
Where Passion soon, like powerful Winds, will rage,
And wearied Prudence with their Strength engage;
Then each, in Aid, shall some Companion ask,
For Help or Comfort in the tedious Task;
And what that Help — what Joys from Union flow,
What Good or Ill, we next prepare to show;
And row, meantime, our weary Bark ashore,
As SPENCER his — but not with SPENCER'S Oar.

[pp. 34-66]