George Crabbe

(24 December 1754 - 3 February 1832 / Aldeburgh, Suffulk)

The Village (book 2)


Argument

There are found amid the Evils of a Laborious Life, some Views of Tranquillity and Happiness. - The Repose and Pleasure of a Summer Sabbath: interrupted by Intoxication and Dispute. - Village Detraction. - Complaints of the Squire. - The Evening Riots. - Justice. - Reasons for this unpleasant View of Rustic Life: the Effect it should have upon the Lower Classes; and the Higher. - These last have their peculiar Distresses: Exemplified in the Life and heroic Death of Lord Robert Manners. - Concluding Address to his Grace the Duke of Rutland.


NO longer truth, though shown in verse, disdain,
But own the village life a life of pain;
I too must yield, that oft amid these woes
Are gleams of transient mirth and hours of sweet repose.


Such as you find on yonder sportive Green,
The 'Squire's tall gate and churchway-walk between;
Where loitering stray a little tribe of friends,
On a fair Sunday when the sermon ends:
Then rural beaux their best attire put on,


To win their nymphs, as other nymphs are won;
While those long wed go plain, and by degrees,
Like other husbands, quit their care to please.
Some of the sermon talk, a sober crowd,
And loudly praise, if it were preach'd aloud;


Some on the labours of the week look round,
Feel their own worth, and think their toil renown'd;
While some, whose hopes to no renown extend,
Are only pleas'd to find their labours end.

Thus, as their hours glide on with pleasure fraught,


Their careful masters brood the painful thought;
Much in their mind they murmur and lament,
That one fair day should be so idly spent;
And think that Heaven deals hard, to tythe their store
And tax their time for preachers and the poor.



Yet still, ye humbler friends, enjoy your hour,
This is your portion, yet unclaim'd of power;
This is Heaven's gift to weary men opprest,
And seems the type of their expected rest:
But yours, alas! are joys that soon decay;


Frail joys, begun and ended with the day;
Or yet, while day permits those joys to reign,
The village vices drive them from the plain.

See the stout churl, in drunken fury great,
Strike the bare bosom of his teeming mate!


His naked vices, rude and unrefin'd,
Exert their open empire o'er the mind;
But can we less the senseless rage despise,
Because the savage acts without disguise?

Yet here Disguise, the city's vice, is seen,


And Slander steals along and taints the Green;
At her approach domestic peace is gone,
Domestic broils at her approach come on;
She to the wife the husband's crime conveys,
She tells the husband when his consort strays;


Her busy tongue, through all the little state,
Diffuses doubt, suspicion, and debate;
Peace, tim'rous goddess! quits her old domain,
In sentiment and song content to reign.

Nor are the nymphs that breathe the rural air


So fair as Cynthia's, nor so chaste as fair;
These to the town afford each fresher face,
And the Clown's trull receives the Peer's embrace;
From whom, should chance again convey her down,
The Peer's disease in turn attacks the Clown.



Hear too the 'Squire, or 'squire-like farmer, talk,
How round their regions nightly pilferers walk;
How from their ponds the fish are borne, and all
The rip'ning treasures from their lofty wall;
How meaner rivals in their sports delight,


Just rich enough to claim a doubtful right;
Who take a licence round their fields to stray,
A mongrel race! the Poachers of the day.

And hark! the riots of the Green begin,
That sprang at first from yonder noisy inn;


What time the weekly pay was vanish'd all,
And the slow hostess scor'd the threat'ning wall;
What time they ask'd, their friendly feast to close,
A final cup, and that will make them foes;
When blows ensue that break the arm of Toil,


And rustic battle ends the boobies' broil.
Save when to yonder hall they bend their way,
Where the grave Justice ends the grievous fray;
He who recites, to keep the poor in awe,
The law's vast volume - for he knows the law. -


To him with anger or with shame repair
The injur'd peasant and deluded fair.

Lo! at his throne the silent nymph appears,
Frail by her shape, but modest in her tears;
And while she stands abash'd, with conscious eye,


Some favourite female of her judge glides by;
Who views with scornful glance the strumpet's fate,
And thanks the stars that made her keeper great:
Near her the swain, about to bear for life
One certain evil, doubts 'twixt war and wife;


But, while the faultering damsel takes her oath,
Consents to wed, and so secures them both.
Yet why, you ask, these humble crimes relate,
Why make the poor as guilty as the great?
To show the great, those mightier sons of Pride,


How near in vice the lowest are allied;
Such are their natures, and their passions such,
But these disguise too little, those too much:
So shall the man of power and pleasure see
In his own slave as vile a wretch as he;


In his luxurious lord the servant find
His own low pleasures and degenerate mind;
And each in all the kindred vices trace
Of a poor, blind, bewilder'd, erring race;
Who, a short time in varied fortune past,


Die, and are equal in the dust at last.

And you, ye poor, who still lament your fate,
Forbear to envy those you call the great;
And know, amid those blessings they possess,
They are, like you, the victims of distress;


While Sloth with many a pang torments her slave,
Fear waits on guilt, and Danger shakes the brave.

Oh! if in life one noble chief appears,
Great in his name, while blooming in his years;
Born to enjoy whate'er delights mankind,


And yet to all you feel or fear resign'd;
Who gave up joys and hopes to you unknown,
For pains and dangers greater than your own;
If such there be, then let your murmurs cease,
Think, think of him, and take your lot in peace.



And such there was: - Oh! grief, that checks our pride,
Weeping we say there was, for Manner's died;
Belov'd of Heav'n! these humble lines forgive,
That sing of thee, and thus aspire to live.
As the tall oak, whose vigorous branches form


An ample shade and brave the wildest storm,
High o'er the subject wood is seen to grow,
The guard and glory of the trees below;
Till on its head the fiery bolt descends,
And o'er the plain the shatter'd trunk extends;


Yet then it lies, all wond'rous as before,
And still the glory, though the guard no more.

So Thou, when every virtue, every grace,
Rose in thy soul, or shone within thy face;
When, though the Son of Granby; thou wert known


Less by thy father's glory than thy own;
When Honour lov'd, and gave thee every charm,
Fire to thy eye and vigour to thy arm;
Then from our lofty hopes and longing eyes
Fate and thy virtues call'd thee to the skies;


Yet still we wonder at thy tow'ring fame,
And losing thee, still dwell upon thy name.
Oh! ever honour'd, ever valued! say
What verse can praise thee, or what work repay?
Yet Verse (in all we can) thy worth repays,


Nor trusts the tardy zeal of future days;
Honours for thee thy Country shall prepare,
Thee in their hearts, the Good, the Brave shall bear;
To deeds like thine shall noblest chiefs aspire,
The Muse shall mourn thee, and the world admire.



In future times, when smit with glory's charms,
The untry'd youth first quits a father's arms;
«Oh be like him,» the weeping sire shall say,
«Like Manners walk, who walk'd in honour's way;
In danger foremost, yet in death sedate,


Oh! be like him in all things, but his fate!»
If for that fate such public tears be shed,
That victory seems to die now Thou art dead;
How shall a friend his nearer hope resign,
That friend a brother, and whose soul was thine?


By what bold lines shall we his grief express,
Or by what soothing numbers make it less?

'Tis not, I know, the chiming of a song,
Nor all the powers that to the Muse belong;
Words aptly cull'd, and meanings well exprest,


Can calm the sorrows of a wounded breast:
But Virtue, soother of the fiercest pains,
Shall heal that bosom, Rutland, where she reigns.
Yet hard the task to heal the bleeding heart,
To bid the still-recurring thoughts depart;


Tame the fierce grief, and stem the rising sigh,
And curb rebellious passion with reply;
Calmly to dwell on all that pleas'd before,
And yet to know that all shall please no more,
Oh! glorious labour of the soul, to save


Her captive powers, and bravely mourn the brave!
To such, these thoughts will lasting comfort give:
Life is not measur'd by the time we live;
'Tis not an even course of threescore years,
A life of narrow views and paltry fears;


Grey hairs and wrinkles, and the cares they bring,
That take from death the terrors or the sting:
But 'tis the gen'rous spirit, mounting high
Above the world; that native of the sky;
The noble spirit, that, in dangers brave,


Calmly looks on, or looks beyond the grave.
Such Manners was, so he resign'd his breath!
If in a glorious, then a timely death.
Cease then that grief, and let those tears subside:
If Passion rule us, be that passion Pride;


If Reason, Reason bids us strive to raise
Our fallen hearts, and be like him we praise;
Or if Affection still the soul subdue,
Bring all his virtues, all his worth in view,
And let Affection find its comfort too;


For how can grief so deeply wound the heart,
Where admiration claims so large a part?

Grief is a foe, expel him then thy soul;
Let nobler thoughts the nearer views controul;
Oh! make the age to come thy better care,


See other Rutlands, other Granbys there;
And as thy thoughts through streaming ages glide,
See other heroes die as Manners died;
And from their fate thy race shall nobler grow,
As trees shoot upward that are prun'd below:


Or, as old Thames, borne down with decent pride,
Sees his young streams run warbling at his side;
Though some, by art cut off, no longer run,
And some are lost beneath the summer's sun;
Yet the pure stream moves on, and as it moves,


Its power increases, and its use improves;
While plenty round its spacious waves bestow,
Still it flows on, and shall for ever flow.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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