1794
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Village. Sunday-Eve.

Sketches in Verse, with Prose Illustrations.

Rev. Richard Polwhele


A burlesque ode in the Dutch manner describing the not overly pious activities of Cornish villagers on a Sunday evening: children dismissed from Sunday-school, a pair of lovers, and a group of tipplers. The Reverend Polwhele discovers but one person engaged in a pious act, a green-spectacled "antique crone" conning her bible. This brief poem is a cento of allusions to Shenstone, Gray, and in the concluding sketch of the old woman, Goldsmith's Deserted Village: "But, perchance, | One only such yet lingers; to recount | With boding sighs her tale of other days, | Frail relic of primeval piety!" p. 47. The poem is dated "May, 1794."

Critical Review: "Of the greater part of these poems, the best commendation that we can fairly give them, is that they are elegantly printed on fine wove paper. There is a pretension to novelty announced by the titles of some of them, as the Highland Ode, the Egyptian Ode, the Arabian Ode; but even these, though they present an assemblage of pleasing and tolerably appropriate images, have little claim to the merit of a finished ode" NS 18 (December 1796) 395.

Analytical Review: "Except a pretty long Ode to the prince of Wales on his intended marriage, of which the loyalty surpasses the poetry, this volume is made up of very short and trivial pieces, which afford little ground for praise on any other account than for a tolerable facility of versification" 24 (January 1796) 60.



Where, on the burnisht panes, beneath thy tower,
O Manathon! mild evening flings its rays,
Behold a thoughtless progeny, let loose
From catechistic lecture, quick pursue
The rolling circle, tho' they look behind
With tremulous apprehension as they run,
Or, at each murmur of the poplar-breeze,
Shrink back in silence from the imagin'd form
Of their stern parson, who might strait unlock
That engine which, in durance vile, detains
The culprit, closing on the imprison'd legs.

But see a graver tribe pace down the hill;
And, where thick hollies shade the lane, survey
That sallow-visag'd girl upon the arm
Of her white-trowser'd paramour repose—
Alas! the pale chlorosis hath consum'd
Her cherry cheek. Meantime, amid the groupe
Of cottages, yon whiten'd walls allure
The eye of passenger, but chief the glare
Of gaudy anchor, too attractive sign!
There shall the loitering rustic hail the dusk,
Heedless of home. And say, within those huts
Clustering around, is there one little nook
That wears a Sabbath aspect — such as, erst,
The simple fathers of the hamlet lov'd?
Perchance, some antique crone, green-spectacled,
May bend her dim eye o'er the unclasped book,
Then stir the brightening embers, and then conn
The holy text, till twilight. But, perchance,
One only such yet lingers; to recount
With boding sighs her tale of other days,
Frail relic of primeval piety!

So, on a Sabbath, sets the village-eve!

[pp. 45-47]