Hero Poems - Poems For Hero
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Tale I - Poem by George Crabbe
That all men would be cowards if they dare,
Some men we know have courage to declare;
And this the life of many a hero shows,
That, like the tide, man's courage ebbs and flows:
With friends and gay companions round them, then
Men boldly speak and have the hearts of men;
Who, with opponents seated miss the aid
Of kind applauding looks, and grow afraid;
Like timid travelers in the night, they fear
Th' assault of foes, when not a friend is near.
In contest mighty, and of conquest proud,
Was Justice Bolt, impetuous, warm, and loud;
His fame, his prowess all the country knew,
And disputants, with one so fierce, were few:
He was a younger son, for law design'd,
With dauntless look and persevering mind;
While yet a clerk, for disputation famed,
No efforts tired him, and no conflicts tamed.
Scarcely he bade his master's desk adieu,
When both his brothers from the world withdrew.
An ample fortune he from them possessed,
And was with saving care and prudence bless'd.
Now would he go and to the country give
Example how an English 'squire should live;
How bounteous, yet how frugal man may be,
By well-order'd hospitality;
He would the rights of all so well maintain.
That none should idle be, and none complain.
All this and more he purposed--and what man
Could do, he did to realise his plan;
But time convinced him that we cannot keep
A breed of reasoners like a flock of sheep;
For they, so far from following as we lead,
Make that a cause why they will not proceed.
Man will not follow where a rule is shown,
But loves to take a method of his own:
Explain the way with all your care and skill,
This will he quit, if but to prove he will. -
Yet had our Justice honour--and the crowd,
Awed by his presence, their respect avow'd.
In later years he found his heart incline,
More than in youth, to gen'rous food and wine;
But no indulgence check'd the powerful love
He felt to teach, to argue, and reprove.
Meetings, or public calls, he never miss'd -
To dictate often, always to assist.
Oft he the clergy join'd, and not a cause
Pertain'd to them but he could quote the laws;
He upon tithes and residence display'd
A fund of knowledge for the hearer's aid;
And could on glebe and farming, wool and grains
A long discourse, without a pause, maintain.
To his experience and his native sense
He join'd a bold imperious eloquence;
The grave, stern look of men inform'd and wise,
A full command of feature, heart, and eyes,
An awe-compelling frown, and fear-inspiring size.
When at the table, not a guest was seen
With appetite so lingering, or so keen;
But when the outer man no more required,
The inner waked, and he was man inspired.
His subjects then were those, a subject true
Presents in fairest form to public view;
Of church and state, of law, with mighty strength
Of words he spoke, in speech of mighty length:
And now, into the vale of years declined,
He hides too little of the monarch-mind:
He kindles anger by untimely jokes,
And opposition by contempt provokes;
Mirth he suppresses by his awful frown,
And humble spirits, by disdain, keeps down;
Blamed by the mild, approved by the severe,
The prudent fly him, and the valiant fear.
For overbearing is his proud discourse,
And overwhelming of his voice the force;
And overpowering is he when he shows
What floats upon a mind that always overflows.
This ready man at every meeting rose,
Something to hint, determine, or propose;
And grew so fond of teaching, that he taught
Those who instruction needed not or sought:
Happy our hero, when he could excite
Some thoughtless talker to the wordy fight:
Let him a subject at his pleasure choose,
Physic or law, religion or the muse;
On all such themes he was prepared to shine, -
Physician, poet, lawyer, and divine.
Hemm'd in by some tough argument, borne down
By press of language and the awful frown,
In vain for mercy shall the culprit plead;
His crime is past, and sentence must proceed:
Ah! suffering man, have patience, bear thy woes -
For lo! the clock--at ten the Justice goes.
This powerful man, on business, or to please
A curious taste, or weary grown of ease,
On a long journey travelled many a mile
Westward, and halted midway in our isle;
Content to view a city large and fair,
Though none had notice--what a man was there!
Silent two days, he then began to long
Again to try a voice so loud and strong;
To give his favourite topics some new grace,
And gain some glory in such distant place;
To reap some present pleasure, and to sow
Seeds of fair fame, in after-time to grow:
Here will men say, 'We heard, at such an hour,
The best of speakers--wonderful his power.'
Inquiry made, he found that day would meet
A learned club, and in the very street:
Knowledge to gain and give, was the design;
To speak, to hearken, to debate, and dine:
This pleased our traveller, for he felt his force
In either way, to eat or to discourse.
Nothing more easy than to gain access
To men like these, with his polite address:
So he succeeded, and first look'd around,
To view his objects and to take his ground;
And therefore silent chose awhile to sit,
Then enter boldly by some lucky hit;
Some observation keen or stroke severe,
To cause some wonder or excite some fear.
Now, dinner past, no longer he supprest
His strong dislike to be a silent guest;
Subjects and words were now at his command -
When disappointment frown'd on all he plann'd;
For, hark!--he heard amazed, on every side,
His church insulted and her priests belied;
The laws reviled, the ruling power abused,
The land derided, and its foes excused: -
He heard and ponder'd--What, to men so vile,
Should be his language?--For his threat'ning style
They were too many;--if his speech were meek,
They would despise such poor attempts to speak:
At other times with every word at will,
He now sat lost, perplex'd, astonish'd, still.
Here were Socinians, Deists, and indeed
All who, as foes to England's Church, agreed;
But still with creeds unlike, and some without a
Here, too, fierce friends of liberty he saw,
Who own'd no prince and who obey no law;
There were reformers of each different sort,
Foes to the laws, the priesthood, and the court;
Some on their favourite plans alone intent,
Some purely angry and malevolent:
The rash were proud to blame their country's laws;
The vain, to seem supporters of a cause;
One call'd for change, that he would dread to see;
Another sigh'd for Gallic liberty!
And numbers joining with the forward crew,
For no one reason--but that numbers do.
'How,' said the Justice, 'can this trouble rise,
This shame and pain, from creatures I despise?'
And Conscience answer'd--'The prevailing cause
Is thy delight in listening to applause;
Here, thou art seated with a tribe, who spurn
Thy favourite themes, and into laughter turn
Thy fears and wishes: silent and obscure,
Thyself, shalt thou the long harangue endure;
And learn, by feeling, what it is to force
On thy unwilling friends the long discourse:
What though thy thoughts be just, and these, it
Are traitors' projects, idiots' empty schemes;
Yet minds, like bodies, cramm'd, reject their food,
Nor will be forced and tortured for their good!'
At length, a sharp, shrewd, sallow man arose,
And begg'd he briefly might his mind disclose;
'It was his duty, in these worst of times,
T'inform the govern'd of their rulers' crimes:'
This pleasant subject to attend, they each
Prepare to listen, and forbore to teach.
Then voluble and fierce the wordy man
Through a long chain of favourite horrors ran: -
First of the Church, from whose enslaving power
He was deliver'd, and he bless'd the hour;
'Bishops and deans, and prebendaries all,'
He said, 'were cattle fatt'ning in the stall;
Slothful and pursy, insolent and mean,
Were every bishop, prebendary, dean,
And wealthy rector: curates, poorly paid,
Were only dull;--he would not them upbraid.'
From priests he turn'd to canons, creeds, and
Rubrics and rules, and all our Church affairs;
Churches themselves, desk, pulpit, altar, all
The Justice reverenced--and pronounced their fall.
Then from religion Hammond turn'd his view
To give our Rulers the correction due;
Not one wise action had these triflers plann'd;
There was, it seem'd, no wisdom in the land,
Save in this patriot tribe, who meet at times
To show the statesman's errors and his crimes.
Now here was Justice Bolt compell'd to sit,
To hear the deist's scorn, the rebel's wit;
The fact mis-stated, the envenom'd lie,
And, staring spell-bound, made not one reply.
Then were our Laws abused--and with the laws,
All who prepare, defend, or judge a cause:
'We have no lawyer whom a man can trust,'
Proceeded Hammond--'if the laws were just;
But they are evil; 'tis the savage state
Is only good, and ours sophisticate!
See! the free creatures in their woods and plains,
Where without laws each happy monarch reigns,
King of himself--while we a number dread,
By slaves commanded and by dunces led:
Oh, let the name with either state agree -
Savage our own we'll name, and civil theirs shall
The silent Justice still astonish'd sat,
And wonder'd much whom he was gazing at;
Twice he essay'd to speak--but in a cough,
The faint, indignant, dying speech went off:
'But who is this?' thought he--'a demon vile,
With wicked meaning and a vulgar style:
Hammond they call him: they can give the name
Of man to devils.--Why am I so tame?
Why crush I not the viper?'--Fear replied,
Watch him awhile, and let his strength be tried:
He will be foil'd, if man; but if his aid
Be from beneath, 'tis well to be afraid.'
'We are call'd free!' said Hammond--'doleful
When rulers add their insult to their crimes;
For should our scorn expose each powerful vice,
It would be libel, and we pay the price.'
Thus with licentious words the man went on,
Proving that liberty of speech was gone;
That all were slaves--nor had we better chance
For better times, than as allies to France.
Loud groan'd the Stranger--Why, he must relate,
And own'd, 'In sorrow for his country's fate;'
'Nay, she were safe,' the ready man replied,
'Might patriots rule her, and could reasoners
When all to vote, to speak, to teach, are free,
Whate'er their creeds or their opinions be;
When books of statutes are consumed in flames,
And courts and copyholds are empty names:
Then will be times of joy--but ere they come,
Havock, and war, and blood must be our doom.'
The man here paused--then loudly for Reform
He call'd, and hail'd the prospect of the storm:
The wholesome blast, the fertilizing flood -
Peace gain'd by tumult, plenty bought with blood:
Sharp means, he own'd; but when the land's disease
Asks cure complete, no med'cines are like these.
Our Justice now, more led by fear than rage,
Saw it in vain with madness to engage;
With imps of darkness no man seeks to fight,
Knaves to instruct, or set deceivers right:
Then as the daring speech denounced these woes,
Sick at the soul, the grieving Guest arose;
Quick on the board his ready cash he threw,
And from the demons to his closet flew:
There when secured, he pray'd with earnest seal,
That all they wish'd these patriot-souls might
'Let them to France, their darling country, haste,
And all the comforts of a Frenchman taste;
Let them his safety, freedom, pleasure know,
Feel all their rulers on the land bestow;
And be at length dismiss'd by one unerring blow, -
Not hack'd and hew'd by one afraid to strike,
But shorn by that which shears all men alike;
Nor, as in Britain, let them curse delay
Of law, but borne without a form away -
Suspected, tried, condemn'd, and carted in a day;
Oh! let them taste what they so much approve,
These strong fierce freedoms of the land they love
Home came our hero, to forget no more
The fear he felt and ever must deplore:
For though he quickly join'd his friends again,
And could with decent force his themes maintain,
Still it occurr'd that, in a luckless time,
He fail'd to fight with heresy and crime;
It was observed his words were not so strong,
His tones so powerful, his harangues so long,
As in old times--for he would often drop
The lofty look, and of a sudden stop;
When conscience whisper'd, that he once was still,
And let the wicked triumph at their will;
And therefore now, when not a foe was near,
He had no right so valiant to appear.
Some years had pass'd, and he perceived his
Yield to the spirit of his earlier years -
When at a meeting, with his friends beside,
He saw an object that awaked his pride;
His shame, wrath, vengeance, indignation--all
Man's harsher feelings did that sight recall.
For, lo! beneath him fix'd, our Man of Law
That lawless man the Foe of Order saw;
Once fear'd, now scorn'd; once dreaded, now
A wordy man, and evil every word:
Again he gazed--'It is,' said he 'the same
Caught and secure: his master owes him shame;'
So thought our hero, who each instant found
His courage rising, from the numbers round.
As when a felon has escaped and fled,
So long, that law conceives the culprit dead;
And back recall'd her myrmidons, intent
On some new game, and with a stronger scent;
Till she beholds him in a place, where none
Could have conceived the culprit would have gone;
There he sits upright in his seat, secure,
As one whose conscience is correct and pure;
This rouses anger for the old offence,
And scorn for all such seeming and pretence:
So on this Hammond look'd our hero bold,
Rememb'ring well that vile offence of old;
And now he saw the rebel dar'd t'intrude
Among the pure, the loyal, and the good;
The crime provok'd his wrath, the folly stirr'd his
Nor wonder was it, if so strange a sight
Caused joy with vengeance, terror with delight;
Terror like this a tiger might create,
A joy like that to see his captive state,
At once to know his force and then decree his fate.
Hammond, much praised by numerous friends, was
To read his lectures, so admired at home;
Historic lectures, where he loved to mix
His free plain hints on modern politics:
Here, he had heard, that numbers had design,
Their business finish'd, to sit down and dine;
This gave him pleasure, for he judged it right
To show by day that he could speak at night.
Rash the design--for he perceived, too late,
Not one approving friend beside him sate;
The greater number, whom he traced around,
Were men in black, and he conceived they frown'd.
'I will not speak,' he thought; 'no pearls of mine
Shall be presented to this herd of swine;'
Not this avail'd him, when he cast his eye
On Justice Bolt; he could not fight, nor fly:
He saw a man to whom he gave the pain,
Which now he felt must be return'd again;
His conscience told him with what keen delight
He, at that time, enjoy'd a stranger's fright;
That stranger now befriended--he alone,
For all his insult, friendless, to atone;
Now he could feel it cruel that a heart
Should be distress'd, and none to take its part;
'Though one by one,' said Pride, 'I would defy
Much greater men, yet meeting every eye,
I do confess a fear--but he will pass me by.'
Vain hope! the Justice saw the foe's distress,
With exultation he could not suppress;
He felt the fish was hook'd--and so forbore,
In playful spite to draw it to the shore.
Hammond look'd round again; but none were near,
With friendly smile to still his growing fear;
But all above him seem'd a solemn row
Of priests and deacons, so they seem'd below;
He wonder'd who his right-hand man might be -
Vicar of Holt cum Uppingham was he;
And who the man of that dark frown possess'd -
Rector of Bradley and of Barton-west;
'A pluralist,' he growl'd--but check'd the word,
That warfare might not, by his zeal, be stirr'd.
But now began the man above to show
Fierce looks and threat'nings to the man below;
Who had some thoughts his peace by flight to seek -
But how then lecture, if he dar'd not speak! -
Now as the Justice for the war prepared,
He seem'd just then to question if he dared:
'He may resist, although his power be small,
And growing desperate may defy us all;
One dog attack, and he prepares for flight -
Resist another, and he strives to bite;
Nor can I say, if this rebellious cur
Will fly for safety, or will scorn to stir.'
Alarm'd by this, he lash'd his soul to rage,
Burn'd with strong shame, and hurried to engage.
As a male turkey straggling on the green,
When by fierce harriers, terriers, mongrels seen,
He feels the insult of the noisy train
And skulks aside, though moved by much disdain;
But when that turkey, at his own barn-door,
Sees one poor straying puppy and no more,
(A foolish puppy who had left the pack,
Thoughtless what foe was threat'ning at his back)
He moves about, as ship prepared to sail,
He hoists his proud rotundity of tail,
The half-seal'd eyes and changeful neck he shows,
Where, in its quick'ning colours, vengeance glows;
From red to blue the pendent wattles turn,
Blue mix'd with red, as matches when they burn;
And thus th' intruding snarler to oppose,
Urged by enkindling wrath, he gobbling goes.
So look'd our hero in his wrath, his cheeks
Flush'd with fresh fires and glow'd in tingling
His breath by passion's force awhile restrain'd,
Like a stopp'd current greater force regain'd;
So spoke, so look'd he, every eye and ear
Were fix'd to view him, or were turn'd to hear.
'My friends, you know me, you can witness all,
How, urged by passion, I restrain my gall;
And every motive to revenge withstand -
Save when I hear abused my native land.
'Is it not known, agreed, confirm'd, confess'd,
That, of all people, we are govern'd best?
We have the force of monarchies; are free,
As the most proud republicans can be;
And have those prudent counsels that arise
In grave and cautious aristocracies;
And live there those, in such all-glorious state.
Traitors protected in the land they hate?
Rebels, still warring with the laws that give
To them subsistence?--Yes, such wretches live.
'Ours is a Church reformed, and now no more
Is aught for man to mend or to restore;
'Tis pure in doctrines, 'tis correct in creeds,
Has nought redundant, and it nothing needs;
No evil is therein--no wrinkle, spot,
Stain, blame, or blemish: --I affirm there's not.
'All this you know--now mark what once befell,
With grief I bore it, and with shame I tell:
I was entrapp'd--yes, so it came to pass,
'Mid heathen rebels, a tumultuous class;
Each to his country bore a hellish mind,
Each like his neighbour was of cursed kind;
The land that nursed them, they blasphemed; the
Their sovereign's glory, and their country's cause:
And who their mouth, their master-fiend, and who
Rebellion's oracle?--You, catiff, you!'
He spoke, and standing stretch'd his mighty arm,
And fix'd the Man of Words, as by a charm.
'How raved that railer! Sure some hellish power
Restrain'd my tongue in that delirious hour,
Or I had hurl'd the shame and vengeance due
On him, the guide of that infuriate crew;
But to mine eyes, such dreadful looks appear'd,
Such mingled yell of lying words I heard,
That I conceived around were demons all,
And till I fled the house, I fear'd its fall.
'Oh! could our country from our coasts expel
Such foes! to nourish those who wish her well:
This her mild laws forbid, but we may still
From us eject them by our sovereign will;
This let us do.'--He said, and then began
A gentler feeling for the silent man;
E'en in our hero's mighty soul arose
A touch of pity for experienced woes;
But this was transient, and with angry eye
He sternly look'd, and paused for a reply.
'Twas then the Man of many Words would speak -
But, in his trial, had them all to seek:
To find a friend he look'd the circle round,
But joy or scorn in every feature found;
He sipp'd his wine, but in those times of dread
Wine only adds confusion to the head;
In doubt he reason'd with himself--'And how
Harangue at night, if I be silent now?'
From pride and praise received, he sought to draw
Courage to speak, but still remain'd the awe;
One moment rose he with a forced disdain,
And then, abash'd, sunk sadly down again;
While in our hero's glance he seem'd to read,
'Slave and insurgent! what hast thou to plead?'
By desperation urged, he now began:
'I seek no favour--I--the rights of man!
Claim; and I--nay!--but give me leave--and I
Insist--a man--that is--and in reply,
I speak,'--Alas! each new attempt was vain:
Confused he stood, he sate, he rose again;
At length he growl'd defiance, sought the door,
Cursed the whole synod, and was seen no more.
'Laud we,' said Justice Bolt, 'the Powers above:
Thus could our speech the sturdiest foe remove.'
Exulting now, he gain'd new strength of fame,
And lost all feelings of defeat and shame.
'He dared not strive, you witness'd--dared not
His voice, nor drive at his accursed drift:
So all shall tremble, wretches who oppose
Our Church or State--thus be it to our foes.'
He spoke, and, seated with his former air,
Look'd his full self, and fill'd his ample chair;
Took one full bumper to each favourite cause,
And dwelt all night on politics and laws,
With high applauding voice, that gain'd him high
Comments about Tale I by George Crabbe
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