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GEORGE CRABBE, was a native of Aldborough, in Suffolk, and was brought up as an Apothecary, at Woodbridge, but arriving in London, and becoming known to the illustrious Edmund Burke, he was brought into notice at an early age, and the “Library,” and the “ Village," were published under the patronage of that great man. Soon after the Poet took holy orders, and no man perhaps, deserved more, or obtained to a higher degree, the love and veneration of his parishioners. He was Rector of Trowbridge, where he resided many years, merging all the intellectual glories of the poet, into the higher moral ones of the man and the Christian. He died in 1832, and his funeral was attended by a very large proportion of the inhabitants of his parish, anxious to testify their regard for christian worthiness.
Crabbe has been called “Though nature's sternest painter yet her best." If a rigid determination to copy nature as she is, be a proof of superiority in a poet, Crabbe was without question one of the first poets of his age. Truth is without question the principal ingredient in all the poet's writings, and he has laid open the dark places in the human heart, and the rotten parts of our social condition with skill never surpassed, and seldom equalled. In studying his sketches, we do not rise up ennobled, or vitalized with what we have read, but rather tremble and deplore. No man perhaps, has better illustrated the Scriptural passage “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked ;" for this reason, many profess to dislike Crabbe, and charge him with not having given nature her due. There can be, however, little doubt, that all his pictures are the result of an enlarged experience in man, and with men; and that they bear, whatever may be their defects, the sterling stamp of Truth.)
THE ENGLISH PEASANT'S DWELLING.
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 awful 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 shows them and the verse that sings.
Here the last Louis on his throne is seen,
And there he stands imprison'd, and his queen ;
To these the mother takes her child, and shows
What grateful duty to his God he owes ;
Who gives to him a happy home, where he
Lives and enjoys his freedom with the free;
When kings and queens, dethroned, insulted, tried,
Are all these blessings of the poor denied.
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 the 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! in Egypt's coast that hostile fleet,
By nations dreaded and by Nelson beat;
And here shall soon another triumph come,
A deed of glory in a day of gloom;
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 saved,
Has choicest prints by famous hands engraved ;
Has choicest notes by many a famous head,
Such as to doubt have rustic readers led :
Have made them stop to reason why? and how?
And where they once agreed, to cavil now.
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 beguiled,
Drank from her well the waters undefiled;
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 works beside,
Lay humbler works the pedlar's pack supplied ;
Yet these, long since, have all acquired 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 placed ;
His coat of darkness on his loins he braced ;
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 dropp'd headlong, wondering why they fell.
These are the peasant's joy, when, placed at ease, Half his delighted offspring mount his knees.
Turn to the watery world but who to thee
(A wonder yet unviewed) shall paint-the sea.
Various and vast, sublime in all its forms,
When lull’d by zephyrs, or when roused by storms,
Its colours changing, when from clouds and sun
Shades after shades upon the surface run;
Embrown’d and horrid now, and now serene,
In limpid blue, and evanescent green ;
And oft the foggy banks on ocean lie,
Lift the fair sail, and cheat th 'experienced eye.
Be it the summer noon: a sandy space
The ebbing tide has left upon its place :
Then just the hot and stony beach above,
Light twinkling streams in bright confusion move ;
(For heated thus, the warmer air ascends,
And with the cooler in its fall contends),-
Then the broad bosom of the ocean keeps
An equal motion ; swelling as it sleeps,
Then slowly sinking ; curling to the strand, -
Faint, lazy waves o’ercreep the ridgy sand,
Or tap the tarry boat with gentle blow,
And back return in silence, smooth and slow.
Ships in the calm seem anchor'd; for they glide
On the still sea, urged slowly by the tide ;
Art thou not present, this calm scene before,
Where all beside is pebbly length of shore,
And far as eye can reach, it can discern no more?
Yet sometimes comes a ruffling cloud to make The quiet surface of the ocean shake, As an awaken'd giant with a frown Might show his wrath, and then to sleep sink down.
View now the winter-storm! above, one cloud, Black and unbroken, all the skies o'ershroud : Th’ unwieldy porpoise through the day before Had roll'd in view of boding men on shore; And sometimes hid and sometimes show'd his form, Dark as the cloud, and furious as the storm.
All where the eye delights, yet dreads to roam, The breaking billows cast the flying foam Upon the billows rising,—all the deep Is restless change; the waves so swell’d and steep, Breaking and sinking, -and the sunken swells, Nor one, one moment, in its station dwells : But nearer land you may the billows trace, As if contending in their watery chase ; May watch the mightiest till the shoal they reach, Then break and hurry to their utmost stretch ; Curl'd as they come, they strike with furious force, And then, reflowing, take their grating course, Raking the rounded flints, which ages past Roll’d by their rage, and shall to ages last.