Tale V - Poem by George Crabbe
A Borough-Bailiff, who to law was train'd,
A wife and sons in decent state maintain'd,
He had his way in life's rough ocean steer'd
And many a rock and coast of danger clear'd;
He saw where others fail'd, and care had he,
Others in him should not such feelings see:
His sons in various busy states were placed,
And all began the sweets of gain to taste,
Save John, the younger, who, of sprightly parts,
Felt not a love for money-making arts:
In childhood feeble, he, for country air,
Had long resided with a rustic pair;
All round whose room were doleful ballads, songs,
Of lovers' sufferings and of ladies' wrongs;
Of peevish ghosts who came at dark midnight,
For breach of promise, guilty men to fright;
Love, marriage, murder, were the themes, with
All that on idle, ardent spirits seize;
Robbers at land and pirates on the main,
Enchanters foil'd, spells broken, giants slain;
Legends of love, with tales of halls and bowers,
Choice of rare songs, and garlands of choice
And all the hungry mind without a choice devours.
From village-children kept apart by pride,
With such enjoyments, and without a guide,
Inspired by feelings all such works infused,
John snatch'd a pen, and wrote as he perused:
With the like fancy he could make his knight
Slay half a host, and put the rest to flight;
With the like knowledge he could make him ride
From isle to isle at Parthenissa's side;
And with a heart yet free, no busy brain
Form'd wilder notions of delight and pain,
The raptures smiles create, the anguish of disdain.
Such were the fruits of John's poetic toil -
Weeds, but still proofs of vigour in the soil:
He nothing purposed but with vast delight,
Let Fancy loose, and wonder'd at her flight:
His notions of poetic worth were high,
And of his own still-hoarded poetry; -
These to his father's house he bore with pride,
A miser's treasure, in his room to hide;
Till spurr'd by glory, to a reading friend,
He kindly show'd the sonnets he had penn'd:
With erring judgment, though with heart sincere,
That friend exclaim'd, 'These beauties must appear
In magazines they claim'd their share of fame,
Though undistinguish'd by their author's name;
And with delight the young enthusiast found
The muse of Marcus with applauses crown'd.
This heard the father, and with some alarm;
'The boy,' said he, 'will neither trade nor farm,
He for both law and physic is unfit,
Wit he may have, but cannot live on wit:
Let him his talents then to learning give,
Where verse is honour'd, and where poets live.'
John kept his terms at college unreproved,
Took his degree, and left the life he loved;
Not yet ordain'd, his leisure he employ'd
In the light labours he so much enjoy'd;
His favourite notions and his daring views
Were cherish'd still, and he adored the Muse.
'A little time, and he should burst to light,
And admiration of the world excite;
And every friend, now cool and apt to blame
His fond pursuit, would wonder at his fame.'
When led by fancy, and from view retired,
He call'd before him all his heart desired;
'Fame shall be mine, then wealth shall I possess,
And beauty next an ardent lover bless;
For me the maid shall leave her nobler state,
Happy to raise and share her poet's fate.'
He saw each day his father's frugal board,
With simple fare by cautious prudence stored:
Where each indulgence was foreweigh'd with care,
And the grand maxims were to save and spare:
Yet in his walks, his closet, and his bed,
All frugal cares and prudent counsels fled;
And bounteous Fancy, for his glowing mind,
Wrought various scenes, and all of glorious kind:
Slaves of the ring and lamp! what need of you,
When Fancy's self such magic deeds can do?
Though rapt in visions of no vulgar kind,
To common subjects stoop'd our poet's mind;
And oft when wearied with more ardent flight,
He felt a spur satiric song to write;
A rival burgess his bold Muse attack'd,
And whipp'd severely for a well known fact;
For while he seem'd to all demure and shy,
Our poet gazed at what was passing by;
And e'en his father smiled when playful wit,
From his young bard, some haughty object hit.
From ancient times, the borough where they dwelt
Had mighty contests at elections felt;
Sir Godfrey Ball, 'tis true, had held in pay
Electors many for the trying day;
But in such golden chains to bind them all
Required too much for e'en Sir Godfrey Ball.
A member died, and to supply his place
Two heroes enter'd for th' important race;
Sir Godfrey's friend and Earl Fitzdonnel's son,
Lord Frederick Darner, both prepared to run;
And partial numbers saw with vast delight
Their good young lord oppose the proud old knight.
Our poet's father, at a first request,
Gave the young lord his vote and interest;
And what he could our poet, for he stung
The foe by verse satiric, said and sung.
Lord Frederick heard of all this youthful zeal,
And felt as lords upon a canvass feel;
He read the satire, and he saw the use
That such cool insult, and such keen abuse,
Might on the wavering minds of voting men produce;
Then too his praises were in contrast seen,
'A lord as noble as the knight was mean.'
'I much rejoice,' he cried, 'such worth to find;
To this the world must be no longer blind:
His glory will descend from sire to son,
The Burns of English race, the happier Chatterton.'
Our poet's mind now hurried and elate,
Alarm'd the anxious parent for his fate;
Who saw with sorrow, should their friend succeed,
That much discretion would the poet need.
Their friends succeeded, and repaid the zeal
The Poet felt, and made opposers feel,
By praise (from lords how soothing and how sweet!)
An invitation to his noble seat.
The father ponder'd, doubtful if the brain
Of his proud boy such honour could sustain;
Pleased with the favours offer'd to a son,
But seeing dangers few so ardent shun.
Thus when they parted, to the youthful breast
The father's fears were by his love impress'd:
'There will you find, my son, the courteous ease
That must subdue the soul it means to please;
That soft attention which e'en beauty pays
To wake our passions, or provoke our praise;
There all the eye beholds will give delight,
Where every sense is flatter'd like the sight;
This is your peril; can you from such scene
Of splendour part, and feel your mind serene,
And in the father's humble state resume
The frugal diet and the narrow room?'
To this the youth with cheerful heart replied,
Pleased with the trial, but as yet untried;
And while professing patience, should he fail,
He suffered hope o'er reason to prevail.
Impatient, by the morning mail conveyed,
The happy guest his promised visit paid;
And now arriving at the Hall, he tried
For air composed, serene and satisfied;
As he had practised in his room alone,
And there acquired a free and easy tone:
There he had said, 'Whatever the degree
A man obtains, what more than man is he?'
And when arrived--'This room is but a room;
Can aught we see the steady soul o'ercome?
Let me in all a manly firmness show,
Upheld by talents, and their value know.'
This reason urged; but it surpassed his skill
To be in act as manly as in will:
When he his Lordship and the Lady saw
Brave as he was, he felt oppress'd with awe;
And spite of verse, that so much praise had won,
The poet found he was the Bailiff's son.
But dinner came, and the succeeding hours
Fix'd his weak nerves, and raised his failing
Praised and assured, he ventured once or twice
On some remark, and bravely broke the ice;
So that, at night, reflecting on his words,
He found, in time, he might converse with lords.
Now was the Sister of his Patron seen -
A lovely creature, with majestic mien;
Who, softly smiling, while she looked so fair,
Praised the young poet with such friendly air;
Such winning frankness in her looks express'd,
And such attention to her brother's guest;
That so much beauty, join'd with speech so kind,
Raised strong emotions in the poet's mind;
Till reason fail'd his bosom to defend,
From the sweet power of this enchanting friend. -
Rash boy! what hope thy frantic mind invades?
What love confuses, and what pride persuades?
Awake to truth! shouldst thou deluded feed
On hopes so groundless, thou art mad indeed.
What say'st thou, wise one?--'that all powerful
Can fortune's strong impediments remove;
Nor is it strange that worth should wed to worth,
The pride of genius with the pride of birth.'
While thou art dreaming thus, the Beauty spies
Love in thy tremor, passion in thine eyes;
And with th' amusement pleased, of conquest vain,
She seeks her pleasure, careless of thy pain;
She gives thee praise to humble and confound,
Smiles to ensnare, and flatters thee to wound.
Why has she said that in the lowest state
The noble mind ensures a noble fate?
And why thy daring mind to glory call? -
That thou may'st dare and suffer, soar and fall.
Beauties are tyrants, and if they can reign,
They have no feeling for their subjects' pain:
Their victim's anguish gives their charms applause,
And their chief glory is the woe they cause:
Something of this was felt, in spite of love,
Which hope, in spite of reason, would remove.
Thus lived our youth, with conversation, books,
And Lady Emma's soul-subduing looks:
Lost in delight, astonish'd at his lot,
All prudence banish'd, all advice forgot -
Hopes, fears, and every thought, were fix'd upon
'Twas autumn yet, and many a day must frown
On Brandon-Hall, ere went my Lord to town;
Meantime the father, who had heard his boy
Lived in a round of luxury and joy,
And justly thinking that the youth was one
Who, meeting danger, was unskill'd to shun;
Knowing his temper, virtue, spirit, zeal,
How prone to hope and trust, believe and feel;
These on the parent's soul their weight impress'd,
And thus he wrote the counsels of his breast: -
'John, thou'rt a genius; thou hast some
I think, to wit,--but hast thou sterling sense?
That which, like gold, may through the world go
And always pass for what 'tis truly worth:
Whereas this genius, like a bill must take
Only the value our opinions make.
'Men famed for wit, of dangerous talents vain.
Treat those of common parts with proud disdain;
The powers that wisdom would, improving, hide,
They blaze abroad with inconsid'rate pride;
While yet but mere probationers for fame,
They seize the honour they should then disclaim;
Honour so hurried to the light must fade,
The lasting laurels flourish in the shade.
'Genius is jealous: I have heard of some
Who, if unnoticed, grew perversely dumb;
Nay, different talents would their envy raise;
Poets have sicken'd at a dancer's praise;
And one, the happiest writer of his time,
Grew pale at hearing Reynolds was sublime;
That Rutland's Duchess wore a heavenly smile -
'And I,' said he, 'neglected all the while!'
'A waspish tribe are these, on gilded wings,
Humming their lays, and brandishing their stings:
And thus they move their friends and foes among,
Prepared for soothing or satiric song.
'Hear me, my Boy; thou hast a virtuous mind -
But be thy virtues of the sober kind;
Be not a Quixote, ever up in arms
To give the guilty and the great alarms:
If never heeded, thy attack is vain;
And if they heed thee, they'll attack again;
Then too in striking at that heedless rate,
Thou in an instant may'st decide thy fate.
'Leave admonition--let the vicar give
Rules how the nobles of his flock should live;
Nor take that simple fancy to thy brain,
That thou canst cure the wicked and the vain.
'Our Pope, they say, once entertain'd the whim,
Who fear'd not God should be afraid of him;
But grant they fear'd him, was it further said,
That he reform'd the hearts he made afraid?
Did Chartres mend? Ward, Waters, and a score
Of flagrant felons, with his floggings sore?
Was Cibber silenced? No; with vigour blest,
And brazen front, half earnest, half in jest,
He dared the bard to battle, and was seen
In all his glory match'd with Pope and spleen;
Himself he stripp'd, the harder blow to hit,
Then boldly match'd his ribaldry with wit;
The poet's conquest truth and time proclaim,
But yet the battle hurt his peace and fame.
'Strive not too much for favour; seem at ease.
And rather please thyself, than bent to please:
Upon thy lord with decent care attend,
But not too near; thou canst not be a friend;
And favourite be not, 'tis a dangerous post -
Is gain'd by labour, and by fortune lost:
Talents like thine may make a man approved,
But other talents trusted and beloved.
Look round, my son, and thou wilt early see
The kind of man thou art not form'd to be.
'The real favourites of the great are they
Who to their views and wants attention pay,
And pay it ever; who, with all their skill,
Dive to the heart, and learn the secret will;
If that be vicious, soon can they provide
The favourite ill, and o'er the soul preside,
For vice is weakness, and the artful know
Their power increases as the passions grow;
If indolent the pupil, hard their task;
Such minds will ever for amusement ask;
And great the labour! for a man to choose
Objects for one whom nothing can amuse;
For ere those objects can the soul delight,
They must to joy the soul herself excite;
Therefore it is, this patient, watchful kind
With gentle friction stir the drowsy mind:
Fix'd on their end, with caution they proceed,
And sometimes give, and sometimes take the lead;
Will now a hint convey, and then retire,
And let the spark awake the lingering fire;
Or seek new joys, and livelier pleasures bring
To give the jaded sense a quick'ning spring.
'These arts, indeed, my son must not pursue;
Nor must he quarrel with the tribe that do:
It is not safe another's crimes to know,
Nor is it wise our proper worth to show: -
'My lord,' you say, 'engaged me for that worth;' -
True, and preserve it ready to come forth:
If questioned, fairly answer,--and that done,
Shrink back, be silent, and thy father's son;
For they who doubt thy talents scorn thy boast,
But they who grant them will dislike thee most:
Observe the prudent; they in silence sit,
Display no learning, and affect no wit;
They hazard nothing, nothing they assume,
But know the useful art of acting dumb.
Yet to their eyes each varying look appears,
And every word finds entrance at their ears.
'Thou art Religion's advocate--take heed,
Hurt not the cause, thy pleasure 'tis to plead;
With wine before thee, and with wits beside,
Do not in strength of reasoning powers confide;
What seems to thee convincing, certain, plain,
They will deny, and dare thee to maintain;
And thus will triumph o'er thy eager youth,
While thou wilt grieve for so disgracing truth.
With pain I've seen, these wrangling wits among,
Faith's weak defenders, passionate and young;
Weak thou art not, yet not enough on guard,
Where wit and humour keep their watch and ward:
Men gay and noisy will o'erwhelm thy sense,
Then loudly laugh at truth's and thy expense;
While the kind ladies will do all they can
To check their mirth, and cry, 'The good young man
'Prudence, my Boy, forbids thee to commend
The cause or party of thy noble friend;
What are his praises worth, who must be known,
To take a Patron's maxims for his own?
When ladies sing, or in thy presence play,
Do not, dear John, in rapture melt away;
'Tis not thy part, there will be list'ners round,
To cry Divine! and dote upon the sound;
Remember, too, that though the poor have ears,
They take not in the music of the spheres;
They must not feel the warble and the thrill,
Or be dissolved in ecstasy at will;
Beside, 'tis freedom in a youth like thee
To drop his awe, and deal in ecstasy!
'In silent ease, at least in silence, dine,
Nor one opinion start of food or wine:
Thou knowest that all the science thou can boast,
Is of thy father's simple boil'd or roast;
Nor always these; he sometimes saved his cash,
By interlinear days of frugal hash:
Wine hadst thou seldom; wilt thou be so vain
As to decide on claret or champagne?
Dost thou from me derive this taste sublime,
Who order port the dozen at a time?
When (every glass held precious in our eyes)
We judged the value by the bottle's size:
Then never merit for thy praise assume,
Its worth well knows each servant in the room.
'Hard, Boy, thy task, to steer thy way among
That servile, supple, shrewd, insidious throng;
Who look upon thee as of doubtful race,
An interloper, one who wants a place:
Freedom with these, let thy free soul condemn,
Nor with thy heart's concerns associate them.
'Of all be cautious--but be most afraid
Of the pale charms that grace My Lady's Maid;
Of those sweet dimples, of that fraudful eye,
The frequent glance designed for thee to spy;
The soft bewitching look, the fond bewailing sigh:
Let others frown and envy; she the while
(Insidious syren!) will demurely smile;
And for her gentle purpose, every day
Inquire thy wants, and meet thee in thy way;
She has her blandishments, and, though so weak,
Her person pleases, and her actions speak:
At first her folly may her aim defeat;
But kindness shown, at length will kindness meet:
Have some offended? them will she disdain,
And, for thy sake, contempt and pity feign;
She hates the vulgar, she admires to look
On woods and groves, and dotes upon a book;
Let her once see thee on her features dwell,
And hear one sigh, then liberty farewell.
'But, John, remember we cannot maintain
A poor, proud girl, extravagant and vain.
'Doubt much of friendship: shouldst thou find a
Pleased to advise thee, anxious to commend;
Should he the praises he has heard report,
And confidence (in thee confiding) court;
Much of neglected Patrons should he say,
And then exclaim--'How long must merit stay!'
Then show how high thy modest hopes may stretch,
And point to stations far beyond thy reach;
Let such designer, by thy conduct, see
(Civil and cool) he makes no dupe of thee;
And he will quit thee, as a man too wise
For him to ruin first, and then despise.
'Such are thy dangers: --yet, if thou canst
Past all the perils, all the quicksands clear,
Then may'st thou profit; but if storms prevail,
If foes beset thee, if thy spirits fail, -
No more of winds or waters be the sport,
But in thy father's mansion, find a port.'
Our poet read.--'It is in truth,' said he,
'Correct in part, but what is this to me?
I love a foolish Abigail! in base
And sordid office! fear not such disgrace:
Am I so blind?' 'Or thou wouldst surely see
That lady's fall, if she should stoop to thee!'
'The cases differ.' 'True! for what surprise
Could from thy marriage with the maid arise?
But through the island would the shame be spread,
Should the fair mistress deign with thee to wed.'
John saw not this; and many a week had pass'd,
While the vain beauty held her victim fast;
The Noble Friend still condescension show'd,
And, as before, with praises overflowed;
But his grave Lady took a silent view
Of all that pass'd, and smiling, pitied too.
Cold grew the foggy morn, the day was brief,
Loose on the cherry hung the crimson leaf;
The dew dwelt ever on the herb; the woods
Roar'd with strong blasts, with mighty showers the
All green was vanish'd, save of pine and yew,
That still displayed their melancholy hue;
Save the green holly with its berries red,
And the green moss that o'er the gravel spread.
To public views my Lord must soon attend;
And soon the ladies--would they leave their friend?
The time was fix'd--approach'd--was near--was come;
The trying time that fill'd his soul with gloom:
Thoughtful our poet in the morning rose,
And cried, 'One hour my fortune will disclose;
Terrific hour! from thee have I to date
Life's loftier views, or my degraded state;
For now to be what I have been before
Is so to fall, that I can rise no more.'
The morning meal was past; and all around
The mansion rang with each discordant sound;
Haste was in every foot, and every look
The trav'ller's joy for London-journey spoke:
Not so our youth; whose feelings at the noise
Of preparation, had no touch of joys:
He pensive stood, and saw each carriage drawn,
With lackeys mounted, ready on the lawn:
The ladies came; and John in terror threw
One painful glance, and then his eyes withdrew;
Not with such speed, but he in other eyes
With anguish read--'I pity, but despise -
Unhappy boy!--presumptuous scribbler!--you,
To dream such dreams!--be sober, and adieu!'
Then came the Noble Friend--'And will my Lord
Vouchsafe no comfort; drop no soothing word?
Yes, he must speak;' he speaks, 'My good young
You know my views; upon my care depend;
My hearty thanks to your good father pay,
And be a student.--Harry, drive away.'
Stillness reign'd all around; of late so full
The busy scene, deserted now and dull:
Stern is his nature who forbears to feel
Gloom o'er his spirits on such trials steal;
Most keenly felt our poet as he went
From room to room without a fix'd intent;
'And here,' he thought, 'I was caress'd; admired
Were here my songs; she smiled, and I aspired.
The change how grievous!' As he mused, a dame
Busy and peevish to her duties came;
Aside the tables and the chairs she drew,
And sang and mutter'd in the poet's view: -
'This was her fortune; here they leave the poor;
Enjoy themselves, and think of us no more;
I had a promise'--here his pride and shame
Urged him to fly from this familiar dame;
He gave one farewell look, and by a coach
Reach'd his own mansion at the night's approach.
His father met him with an anxious air,
Heard his sad tale, and check'd what seem'd
Hope was in him corrected, but alive;
My lord would something for a friend contrive;
His word was pledged: our hero's feverish mind
Admitted this, and half his grief resigned:
But, when three months had fled, and every day
Drew from the sickening hopes their strength away,
The youth became abstracted, pensive, dull;
He utter'd nothing, though his heart was full;
Teased by inquiring words and anxious looks,
And all forgetful of his Muse and books;
Awake he mourn'd, but in his sleep perceived
A lovely vision that his pain relieved: -
His soul, transported, hail'd the happy seat,
Where once his pleasure was so pure and sweet;
Where joys departed came in blissful view
Till reason waked, and not a joy he knew.
Questions now vex'd his spirit, most from those
Who are call'd friends, because they are not foes:
'John?' they would say; he, starting, turn'd
'John!' there was something shocking in the sound:
Ill brook'd he then the pert familiar phrase,
The untaught freedom and th' inquiring gaze;
Much was his temper touch'd, his spleen provoked,
When ask'd how ladies talk'd, or walk'd, or look'd?
'What said my Lord of politics! how spent
He there his time? and was he glad he went?'
At length a letter came, both cool and brief,
But still it gave the burden'd heart relief:
Though not inspired by lofty hopes, the youth
Placed much reliance on Lord Frederick's truth;
Summon'd to town, he thought the visit one
Where something fair and friendly would be done;
Although he judged not, as before his fall,
When all was love and promise at the hall.
Arrived in town, he early sought to know
The fate such dubious friendship would bestow;
At a tall building trembling he appear'd,
And his low rap was indistinctly heard;
A well-known servant came--'Awhile,' said he,
'Be pleased to wait; my Lord has company.'
Alone our hero sat; the news in hand,
Which though he read, he could not understand:
Cold was the day; in days so cold as these
There needs a fire, where minds and bodies freeze.
The vast and echoing room, the polish'd grate,
The crimson chairs, the sideboard with its plate;
The splendid sofa, which, though made for rest,
He then had thought it freedom to have press'd;
The shining tables, curiously inlaid,
Were all in comfortless proud style display'd;
And to the troubled feelings terror gave,
That made the once-dear friend the sick'ning slave.
'Was he forgotten?' Thrice upon his ear
Struck the loud clock, yet no relief was near:
Each rattling carriage, and each thundering stroke
On the loud door, the dream of fancy broke;
Oft as a servant chanced the way to come,
'Brings he a message?' no! he passed the room.'
At length 'tis certain; 'Sir, you will attend
At twelve on Thursday!' Thus the day had end.
Vex'd by these tedious hours of needless pain,
John left the noble mansion with disdain;
For there was something in that still, cold place,
That seemed to threaten and portend disgrace.
Punctual again the modest rap declared
The youth attended; then was all prepared:
For the same servant, by his lord's command,
A paper offer'd to his trembling hand:
'No more!' he cried: 'disdains he to afford
One kind expression, one consoling word?'
With troubled spirit he began to read
That 'In the Church my lord could not succeed;'
Who had 'to peers of either kind applied,
And was with dignity and grace denied;
While his own livings were by men possess'd,
Not likely in their chancels yet to rest;
And therefore, all things weigh'd (as he my lord,
Had done maturely, and he pledged his word),
Wisdom it seem'd for John to turn his view
To busier scenes, and bid the Church adieu!'
Here grieved the youth: he felt his father's
Must with his own be shocked and mortified;
But, when he found his future comforts placed
Where he, alas! conceived himself disgraced -
In some appointment on the London quays,
He bade farewell to honour and to ease;
His spirit fell, and from that hour assured
How vain his dreams, he suffer'd and was cured.
Our Poet hurried on, with wish to fly
From all mankind, to be conceal'd, and die.
Alas! what hopes, what high romantic views
Did that one visit to the soul infuse,
Which cherished with such love, 'twas worse than
death to lose.
Still he would strive, though painful was the
To walk in this appointed road of life;
On these low duties duteous he would wait,
And patient bear the anguish of his fate.
Thanks to the Patron, but of coldest kind,
Express'd the sadness of the Poet's mind;
Whose heavy hours were pass'd with busy men,
In the dull practice of th' official pen;
Who to superiors must in time impart;
(The custom this) his progress in their art:
But so had grief on his perception wrought,
That all unheeded were the duties taught;
No answers gave he when his trial came,
Silent he stood, but suffering without shame;
And they observed that words severe or kind
Made no impression on his wounded mind:
For all perceived from whence his failure rose,
Some grief, whose cause he deign'd not to disclose.
A soul averse from scenes and works so new,
Fear ever shrinking from the vulgar crew;
Distaste for each mechanic law and rule.
Thoughts of past honour and a patron cool;
A grieving parent, and a feeling mind,
Timid and ardent, tender and refined:
These all with mighty force the youth assail'd,
Till his soul fainted, and his reason fail'd:
When this was known, and some debate arose,
How they who saw it should the fact disclose,
He found their purpose, and in terror fled
From unseen kindness, with mistaken dread.
Meantime the parent was distress'd to find
His son no longer for a priest design'd;
But still he gain'd some comfort by the news
Of John's promotion, though with humbler views;
For he conceived that in no distant time
The boy would learn to scramble and to climb;
He little thought his son, his hope and pride,
His favour'd boy, was now a home denied:
Yes! while the parent was intent to trace
How men in office climb from place to place,
By day, by night, o'er moor and heath, and hill,
Roved the sad youth, with ever-changing will,
Of every aid bereft, exposed to every ill.
Thus as he sat, absorb'd in all the care
And all the hope that anxious fathers share,
A friend abruptly to his presence brought,
With trembling hand, the subject of his thought;
Whom he had found afflicted and subdued
By hunger, sorrow, cold, and solitude.
Silent he enter'd the forgotten room,
As ghostly forms may be conceived to come;
With sorrow-shrunken face and hair upright,
He look'd dismayed, neglect, despair, affright;
But dead to comfort, and on misery thrown,
His parent's loss he felt not, nor his own.
The good man, struck with horror, cried aloud,
And drew around him an astonish'd crowd;
The sons and servants to the father ran,
To share the feelings of the griev'd old man.
'Our brother, speak!' they all exclam'd 'explain
Thy grief, thy suffering:'--but they ask'd in vain:
The friend told all he knew; and all was known,
Save the sad causes whence the ills had grown;
But, if obscure the cause, they all agreed
From rest and kindness must the cure proceed:
And he was cured; for quiet, love, and care,
Strove with the gloom, and broke on the despair;
Yet slow their progress, and as vapours move
Dense and reluctant from the wintry grove;
All is confusion, till the morning light
Gives the dim scene obscurely to the sight;
More and yet more defined the trunks appear,
Till the wild prospect stands distinct and clear; -
So the dark mind of our young poet grew
Clear and sedate; the dreadful mist withdrew;
And he resembled that bleak wintry scene,
Sad, though unclouded; dismal, though serene.
At times he utter'd, 'What a dream was mine!
And what a prospect! glorious and divine!
Oh! in that room, and on that night to see
Those looks, that sweetness beaming all on me;
That syren-flattery--and to send me then,
Hope-raised and soften'd, to those heartless men;
That dark-brow'd stern Director, pleased to show
Knowledge of subjects I disdain'd to know;
Cold and controlling--but 'tis gone--'tis past;
I had my trial, and have peace at last.'
Now grew the youth resigned: he bade adieu
To all that hope, to all that fancy drew;
His frame was languid, and the hectic heat
Flush'd on his pallid face, and countless beat
The quick'ning pulse, and faint the limbs that bore
The slender form that soon would breathe no more.
Then hope of holy kind the soul sustain'd,
And not a lingering thought of earth remain'd;
Now heaven had all, and he could smile at Love,
And the wild sallies of his youth reprove;
Then could he dwell upon the tempting days,
The proud aspiring thought, the partial praise;
Victorious now, his worldly views were closed,
And on the bed of death the youth reposed.
The father grieved--but as the poet's heart
Was all unfitted for his earthly part;
As, he conceived, some other haughty fair
Would, had he lived, have led him to despair;
As, with this fear, the silent grave shut out
All feverish hope, and all tormenting doubt;
While the strong faith the pious youth possess'd,
His hope enlivening gave his sorrows rest;
Soothed by these thoughts, he felt a mournful joy
For his aspiring and devoted boy.
Meantime the news through various channels
The youth, once favour'd with such praise, was
'Emma,' the lady cried, 'my words attend,
Your syren-smiles have kill'd your humble friend;
The hope you raised can now delude no more,
Nor charms, that once inspired, can now restore.'
Faint was the flush of anger and of shame,
That o'er the cheek of conscious beauty came:
'You censure not,' said she, 'the sun's bright
When fools imprudent dare the dangerous gaze;
And should a stripling look till he were blind,
You would not justly call the light unkind:
But is he dead? and am I to suppose
The power of poison in such looks as those?'
She spoke, and pointing to the mirror, cast
A pleased gay glance, and curtsied as she pass'd.
My Lord, to whom the poet's fate was told,
Was much affected, for a man so cold:
'Dead!' said his lordship, 'run distracted, mad!
Upon my soul I'm sorry for the lad;
And now no doubt th' obliging world will say
That my harsh usage help'd him on his way:
What! I suppose, I should have nursed his muse,
And with champagne have brighten'd up his views;
Then had he made me famed my whole life long,
And stunn'd my ears with gratitude and song.
Still should the father bear that I regret
Our joint misfortune--Yes! I'll not forget.'
Thus they: --the father to his grave convey'd
The son he loved, and his last duties paid.
'There lies my Boy,' he cried, 'of care bereft,
And heaven be praised, I've not a genius left:
No one among ye, sons! is doomed to live
On high-raised hopes of what the Great may give;
None, with exalted views and fortunes mean,
To die in anguish, or to live in spleen:
Your pious brother soon escaped the strife
Of such contention, but it cost his life;
You then, my sons, upon yourselves depend,
And in your own exertions find the friend.'
Comments about Tale V by George Crabbe
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