1812 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Tracy.

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

Rev. George Crabbe


A poetical fragment, part in couplets, partly Spenserians. The draft is dated 1 January 1813. The poem was first published in Ward's Crabbe (1905-07).

Norma Dalrymple-Champneys: "The main theme appears to be the love of two friends — Tracy and Julian — for Emely, and the story hinges on a conspiracy by Julian and his sister Julie, who loves Tracy, to make Tracy declare himself in love with her so that Julian may wed Emely, and she, Tracy" Poetical Works (1988) 2:830-31n.

Lord Byron to John Murray: [send] "Any novels of Scott, or poetry of the same. Ditto of Crabbe, Moore, and the Elect; but send none of your damned commonplace trash, — unless something starts up of actual merit, which may very well be, for 'tis time it should" 9 October 1821; Letters and Journals ed. Prothero (1898-1901) 5:391-92.

William Howitt: "Crabbe knew that the true imaginative faculty had a great and comprehensive task, to dive into the depths of the human heart, to fathom the recesses and the springs of the mind, and to display all their movement under the various excitements of various passions, with the hand of a master. He has done this, and done it with unrivalled tact and vigour. Out of the scum and chaos of lowest life, he has evoked the true sublime. He has taught us that men are our proper objects for display, and that the multitude has claims on our sympathies that duty as well as taste demand obedience to. He was the first to dare these desperate and deserted walks of humanity, and prove to us that still it was humanity. At every step he revealed scenes of the truest pathos, of the profoundest interest, and gave instances of the most generous sacrifices, the most patient love, the most heroic duty, in the very abodes of unvisited wretchedness. He made us feel that these beings were men!" Homes and Haunts (1847) 2:7.

George Saintsbury: "With hardly more than one important exception (the alternately rhymed octosyllabics disposed in batches of four, or six, or eight, in his Sir Eustace Grey, The Hall of Justice, Woman, etc.), his work, as known ever since his death, is in the heroic couplet. These octosyllables resemble the work of Mickle and one or two other late eighteenth-century writers who were acquainted with Percy, and to some extent (as Crabbe was certainly) with the Elizabethans; and who get out of the form a narrative medium, rather jingly and cheap, but swift enough and by no means ineffective" History of English Prosody (1906-10) 2:465-66.

Ronald B. Hatch: "His two published 'dream' poems (Sir Eustace Grey, and The World of Dreams) are written in stanzas of eight octosyllabic lines rhyming ababbcbc. In the unfinished poem Tracy, he follows the Spenserian model exactly in several sections while developing a dream vision. The excerpt with the provisional title 'Matilda,' written in an eight-line stanza, contains a similar visionary experience" Spenser Encyclopedia (1990) 200.



The House of Tracy was of all belov'd:
A generous, gentle, valiant, virtuous Race,
Admir'd for Courage and for Arts approv'd,
They shun'd Dishonour and they spurn'd Disgrace.
The Village Mansion was a noble Place,
Whose strong Foundations down a Vale were laid;
Pride of its Lords and of the Country Grace,
Its Towers were o'er the western hill display'd,
And on an Eastern Stream broad cast their Evening Shade.

Twice twenty Steps of Stone, now mossy all,
Led wandering Strangers to the central Door
Of a vast Room, by name the marble Hall,
Whose squares discolour'd form'd the polish'd floor.
Broad were the Stairs and black that rose before
And led to Chambers fair and Galleries wide;
Here Tracys stood, Men fam'd in days of yore;
These Pictures rare, by Taste and Wealth, supply'd
The Pride of Tracy these, and worthy praise the pride.

Th' Improver's Hand was seen in all the place;
But Mercy still was a Companion found,
And spar'd the Statues fair, the Wood to grace,
And Waters clear that fell with murmuring sound
From the green Terrace on the higher Ground,
With Flowers in Knolls on many a sunny Bank,
Where the white flocks o'er velvet Pasture bound;
Where Gold-fish long possess'd their marble Tank,
And steeds with silky Sides the living Water drank.

It was a lovely and a rich domain,
Vex'd by no Debt, no Mortgage, no Decrease;
No Tenant came with unredress'd Complaint
Of Churlish Steward or of rigorous Lease;
In the fair Village dwelt perpetual Peace,
Far as a Patron could his power extend,
Hail'd at his birth and mourn'd at his discease;
Where all, where each, was pleas'd his help to lend
To each, where all might seeking find a friend.

Two furlongs distant from that seat, its Pride,
Was the fair Village plac'd upon a Green,
By wood surrounded save the Eastern Side,
Where the broad, silent, silvery flood was seen.
There stood the peasants' cots, a view serene
On either side a small and central Lake,
That long the scene of rustic Sports had been.
Unenvied People! may ye still partake
Life's honest Joys and pure, and late may ye forsake!

The whiten'd Church and Vicar's low Abode
Are near each other and these Dwellings near;
But, far from Town and from the public Road,
Few Travellers stray, few Strangers travel here;
Where yet an Inn, "The Tracy's Arms," appear,
The Mill, the Shop, and Trades that Peasants need,
But Farmers all; the Soil to all so dear
Gives to the Peasant's Cow a space to feed;
Such was the Tracys' will, and Heav'n approves the Deed.

A numerous Race were these, and Sons were lent
To England's Honour and were great in Arms;
But now the generous Blood seems nearly spent.
One Son one only Son had raised Alarms
For Generations three! nor female Charms
As heretofore had done their Parents Grace;
These Lords had dwelt amid their flocks and farms,
A mild benevolent and virtuous Race,
Whose Lives accorded well with this their favourite Place. . . .

Bound and yet free, they hasten'd to the Shore,
And found their Tent, and all they wish'd to find;
Much was of Bliss without, within was more—
Food for each Sense; amusement for the Mind;
Pictures of pleasant, Books of lively, kind;
And Notes and Instruments, for Music meet;
For one Delight another they resign'd.
Were ever pair transfer'd to happier Seat;
Was ever Youth so blest, was ever Maid so sweet?

Yet, but a moment — and the bliss was lost;
Tents, Treasures, Tracy, and Companions gone;
In black, vile boat, on dreadfull billow tost
On salt-sea Lake, sat Emely alone.
On the dark waters melancholy shone
The clouded Regent of the wintry Sky;
The muddy Shore no feet might rest upon;
Beyond, with haggard Looks and threat'ning Eye,
Walk'd Man she fear'd to see, yet fear'd, unseen, to die.

And, while she fear'd to die and, living, fear'd,
A peril worse than Death she now espied.
On the wild Waves the ruffian men appear'd,
And now approach'd, and now were at her Side;
Her tears they see not and her Cries deride.
Seaz'd in rude Arm, the trembling maid they take;
"Mercy!" her Cry; and, as aloud she cried,
Some unseen form in pitying accents spake:
"Choose first or last thy bliss! now wake, fond maid, awake!"

She woke and wonder'd; then again she slept
And was with Tracy in the meanest Cot,
Wherever Poverty and Terror crept.
Such now appear'd their lamentable Lot;
Dread was on both, as some accursed Plot
Had Cecil for Contriver! and now fled
To the detested and deserted Spot.
With his sad wife! and now in constant dread
And wanting Hope and Health, and needing Peace and Bread.

She wept and, weeping, wonder'd at her Tears;
For every woe and care was put to flight.
Lord of his Land her Cecil now appears,
And She the Lady dearest in his Sight.
Her Views are pleasant and her prospect bright;
And then again the warning Spirit spake:
"Grief follow[s] Joy, succeeds to Woe Delight—
Both thine; which first, fair Dreamer, wilt thou take?
Choose either, but take both! now, Emely awake!"

[3:444-4; 450-51]