Tale Viii - Poem by George Crabbe
There was a worthy, but a simple Pair,
Who nursed a Daughter, fairest of the fair:
Sons they had lost, and she alone remain'd,
Heir to the kindness they had all obtain'd,
Heir to the fortune they design'd for all,
Nor had th' allotted portion then been small;
And now, by fate enrich'd with beauty rare,
They watch'd their treasure with peculiar care:
The fairest features they could early trace,
And, blind with love saw merit in her face -
Saw virtue, wisdom, dignity, and grace;
And Dorothea, from her infant years,
Gain'd all her wishes from their pride or fears;
She wrote a billet, and a novel read,
And with her fame her vanity was fed;
Each word, each look, each action was a cause
For flattering wonder and for fond applause;
She rode or danced, and ever glanced around,
Seeking for praise, and smiling when she found,
The yielding pair to her petitions gave
An humble friend to be a civil slave,
Who for a poor support herself resign'd
To the base toil of a dependant mind:
By nature cold, our Heiress stoop'd to art,
To gain the credit of a tender heart.
Hence at her door must suppliant paupers stand,
To bless the bounty of her beauteous hand:
And now, her education all complete,
She talk'd of virtuous love and union sweet;
She was indeed by no soft passion moved,
But wished with all her soul to be beloved.
Here, on the favour'd beauty Fortune smiled;
Her chosen Husband was a man so mild,
So humbly temper'd, so intent to please,
It quite distress'd her to remain at ease,
Without a cause to sigh, without pretence to tease:
She tried his patience on a thousand modes,
And tried it not upon the roughest roads.
Pleasure she sought, and disappointed, sigh'd
For joys, she said, 'to her alone denied;'
And she was sure 'her parents if alive
Would many comforts for their child contrive:'
The gentle Husband bade her name him one;
'No--that,' she answered, 'should for her be done;
How could she say what pleasures were around?
But she was certain many might be found.'
'Would she some seaport, Weymouth, Scarborough,
'He knew she hated every watering-place.'
'The town?'--'What! now 'twas empty, joyless,
'In winter?'--'No; she liked it worse when full.'
She talk'd of building--'Would she plan a room?' -
'No! she could live, as he desired, in gloom.'
'Call then our friends and neighbours.'--'He might
And they might come and fill his ugly hall;
A noisy vulgar set, he knew she scorn'd them all.'
'Then might their two dear girls the time employ,
And their Improvement yield a solid joy.' -
'Solid indeed! and heavy--oh! the bliss
Of teaching letters to a lisping miss!'
'My dear, my gentle Dorothea, say,
Can I oblige you?'--'You may go away.'
Twelve heavy years this patient soul sustain'd
This wasp's attacks, and then her praise obtain'd,
Graved on a marble tomb, where he at peace
Two daughters wept their loss; the one a child
With a plain face, strong sense, and temper mild,
Who keenly felt the Mother's angry taunt,
'Thou art the image of thy pious Aunt:'
Long time had Lucy wept her slighted face,
And then began to smile at her disgrace.
Her father's sister, who the world had seen
Near sixty years when Lucy saw sixteen,
Begg'd the plain girl: the gracious Mother smiled,
And freely gave her grieved but passive child;
And with her elder-born, the beauty bless'd,
This parent rested, if such minds can rest:
No miss her waxen babe could so admire,
Nurse with such care, or with such pride attire;
They were companions meet, with equal mind,
Bless'd with one love, and to one point inclined;
Beauty to keep, adorn, increase, and guard,
Was their sole care, and had its full reward:
In rising splendour with the one it reign'd,
And in the other was by care sustain'd,
The daughter's charms increased, the parent's yet
Leave we these ladies to their daily care,
To see how meekness and discretion fare: -
A village maid, unvex'd by want or love,
Could not with more delight than Lucy move;
The village lark, high mounted in the spring,
Could not with purer joy than Lucy sing;
Her cares all light, her pleasures all sincere,
Her duty joy, and her companion dear;
In tender friendship and in true respect
Lived Aunt and Niece, no flattery, no neglect -
They read, walk'd, visited--together pray'd,
Together slept the matron and the maid:
There was such goodness, such pure nature seen
In Lucy's looks, a manner so serene;
Such harmony in motion, speech, and air,
That without fairness she was more than fair,
Had more than beauty in each speaking grace,
That lent their cloudless glory to the face;
Where mild good sense in placid looks were shown,
And felt in every bosom but her own;
The one presiding feature in her mind
Was the pure meekness of a will resign'd;
A tender spirit, freed from all pretence
Of wit, and pleased in mild benevolence;
Bless'd in protecting fondness she reposed
With every wish indulged though undisclosed;
But love, like zephyr on the limpid lake,
Was now the bosom of the maid to shake,
And in that gentle mind a gentle strife to make.
Among their chosen friends, a favoured few
The aunt and niece a youthful Rector knew;
Who, though a younger brother, might address
A younger sister, fearless of success;
His friends, a lofty race, their native pride
At first display'd, and their assent denied:
But, pleased such virtues and such love to trace,
They own'd she would adorn the loftiest race.
The Aunt, a mother's caution to supply,
Had watch'd the youthful priest with jealous eye;
And, anxious for her charge, had view'd unseen
The cautious life that keeps the conscience clean:
In all she found him all she wish'd to find,
With slight exception of a lofty mind:
A certain manner that express'd desire
To be received as brother to the 'Squire.
Lucy's meek eye had beam'd with many a tear,
Lucy's soft heart had beat with many a fear,
Before he told (although his looks, she thought,
Had oft confess'd) that he her favour sought;
But when he kneel'd, (she wish'd him not to kneel,)
And spoke the fears and hopes that lovers feel;
When too the prudent aunt herself confess'd
Her wishes on the gentle youth would rest;
The maiden's eye with tender passion beam'd,
She dwelt with fondness on the life she schemed;
The household cares, the soft and lasting ties
Of love, with all his binding charities;
Their village taught, consoled, assisted, fed,
Till the young zealot tears of pleasure shed.
But would her Mother? Ah! she fear'd it wrong
To have indulged these forward hopes so long,
Her mother loved, but was not used to grant
Favours so freely as her gentle aunt. -
Her gentle aunt, with smiles that angels wear,
Dispell'd her Lucy's apprehensive tear:
Her prudent foresight the request had made
To one whom none could govern, few persuade;
She doubted much if one in earnest woo'd
A girl with not a single charm endued;
The Sister's nobler views she then declared,
And what small sum for Lucy could be spared;
'If more than this the foolish priest requires,
Tell him,' she wrote,' to check his vain desires.'
At length, with many a cold expression mix'd,
With many a sneer on girls so fondly fix'd,
There came a promise--should they not repent,
But take with grateful minds the portion meant,
And wait the Sister's day--the Mother might
And here, might pitying hope o'er truth prevail,
Or love o'er fortune, we would end our tale;
For who more bless'd than youthful pair removed
From fear of want--by mutual friends approved -
Short time to wait, and in that time to live
With all the pleasures hope and fancy give;
Their equal passion raised on just esteem,
When reason sanctions all that love can dream?
Yes! reason sanctions what stern fate denies:
The early prospect in the glory dies,
As the soft smiles on dying infants play
In their mild features, and then pass away.
The Beauty died ere she could yield her hand
In the high marriage by the Mother plann'd;
Who grieved indeed, but found a vast relief
In a cold heart, that ever warr'd with grief.
Lucy was present when her sister died,
Heiress to duties that she ill supplied:
There were no mutual feelings, sister arts,
No kindred taste, nor intercourse of hearts:
When in the mirror play'd the matron's smile,
The maiden's thoughts were traveling all the while;
And when desired to speak, she sigh'd to find
Her pause offended; 'Envy made her blind:
Tasteless she was, nor had a claim in life
Above the station of a rector's wife;
Yet as an heiress, she must shun disgrace,
Although no heiress to her mother's face:
It is your duty,' said th' imperious dame,
'(Advanced your fortune,) to advance your name,
And with superior rank, superior offers claim:
Your sister's lover, when his sorrows die,
May look upon you, and for favour sigh;
Nor can you offer a reluctant hand;
His birth is noble, and his seat is grand.'
Alarm'd was Lucy, was in tears--'A fool!
Was she a child in love?--a miss at school?
Doubts any mortal, if a change of state
Dissolves all claims and ties of earlier date?'
The Rector doubted, for he came to mourn
A sister dead, and with a wife return:
Lucy with heart unchanged received the youth,
True in herself, confiding in his truth;
But own'd her mother's change; the haughty dame
Pour'd strong contempt upon the youthful flame;
She firmly vow'd her purpose to pursue,
Judged her own cause, and bade the youth adieu!
The lover begg'd, insisted, urged his pain,
His brother wrote to threaten and complain;
Her sister reasoning proved the promise made,
Lucy appealing to a parent pray'd;
But all opposed the event that she design'd,
And all in vain--she never changed her mind;
But coldly answer'd in her wonted way,
That she 'would rule, and Lucy must obey.'
With peevish fear, she saw her health decline,
And cried, 'Oh! monstrous, for a man to pine!
But if your foolish heart must yield to love,
Let him possess it whom I now approve;
This is my pleasure.'--Still the Rector came
With larger offers and with bolder claim;
But the stern lady would attend no more -
She frown'd, and rudely pointed to the door;
Whate'er he wrote, he saw unread return'd,
And he, indignant, the dishonour spurn'd:
Nay, fix'd suspicion where he might confide,
And sacrificed his passion to his pride.
Lucy, meantime, though threaten'd and distress'd,
Against her marriage made a strong protest:
All was domestic war; the Aunt rebell'd
Against the sovereign will, and was expell'd;
And every power was tried, and every art,
To bend to falsehood one determined heart;
Assail'd, in patience it received the shock,
Soft as the wave, unshaken as the rock:
But while th' unconquer'd soul endures the storm
Of angry fate, it preys upon the form;
With conscious virtue she resisted still,
And conscious love gave vigour to her will;
But Lucy's trial was at hand; with joy
The Mother cried--'Behold your constant boy -
Thursday--was married: --take the paper, sweet,
And read the conduct of your reverend cheat;
See with what pomp of coaches, in what crowd
The creature married--of his falsehood proud!
False, did I say?--at least no whining fool;
And thus will hopeless passions ever cool:
But shall his bride your single state reproach?
No! give him crowd for crowd, and coach for coach.
Oh! you retire; reflect then, gentle miss,
And gain some spirit in a cause like this.'
Some spirit Lucy gain'd; a steady soul,
Defying all persuasion, all control:
In vain reproach, derision, threats were tried;
The constant mind all outward force defied,
By vengeance vainly urged, in vain assail'd by
Fix'd in her purpose, perfect in her part,
She felt the courage of a wounded heart;
The world receded from her rising view,
When heaven approach'd as earthly things withdrew;
Not strange before, for in the days of love,
Joy, hope, and pleasure, she had thoughts above,
Pious when most of worldly prospects fond,
When they best pleased her she could look beyond;
Had the young priest a faithful lover died,
Something had been her bosom to divide;
Now heaven had all, for in her holiest views
She saw the matron whom she fear'd to lose;
While from her parent, the dejected maid
Forced the unpleasant thought, or thinking pray'd.
Surprised, the mother saw the languid frame,
And felt indignant, yet forbore to blame;
Once with a frown she cried, 'And do you mean
To die of love--the folly of fifteen?'
But as her anger met with no reply,
She let the gentle girl in quiet die;
And to her sister wrote, impell'd by pain,
'Come quickly, Martha, or you come in vain.'
Lucy meantime profess'd with joy sincere,
That nothing held, employ'd, engaged her here.
'I am an humble actor, doom'd to play
A part obscure, and then to glide away:
Incurious how the great or happy shine,
Or who have parts obscure and sad as mine;
In its best prospect I but wish'd for life,
To be th' assiduous, gentle, useful wife;
That lost, with wearied mind, and spirit poor,
I drop my efforts, and can act no more;
With growing joy I feel my spirits tend
To that last scene where all my duties end.'
Hope, ease, delight, the thoughts of dying gave,
Till Lucy spoke with fondness of the grave;
She smiled with wasted form, but spirit firm,
And said, 'She left but little for the worm:'
As toll'd the bell, 'There's one,' she said, 'hath
Awhile before me to the bed of rest:'
And she beside her with attention spread
The decorations of the maiden dead.
While quickly thus the mortal part declin'd,
The happiest visions fill'd the active mind;
A soft, religious melancholy gain'd
Entire possession, and for ever reign'd:
On Holy Writ her mind reposing dwelt,
She saw the wonders, she the mercies felt;
Till, in a bless'd and glorious reverie,
She seem'd the Saviour as on earth to see,
And, fill'd with love divine, th' attending friend
Or she who trembling, yet confiding, stole
Near to the garment, touch'd it, and was whole;
When, such the intenseness of the working thought,
On her it seem'd the very deed was wrought;
She the glad patient's fear and rapture found,
The holy transport, and the healing wound;
This was so fix'd, so grafted in the heart,
That she adopted, nay became the part:
But one chief scene was present to her sight,
Her Saviour resting in the tomb by night;
Her fever rose, and still her wedded mind
Was to that scene, that hallow'd cave, confin'd -
Where in the shade of death the body laid,
There watch'd the spirit of the wandering maid;
Her looks were fix'd, entranced, illumed, serene,
In the still glory of the midnight scene:
There at her Saviour's feet, in visions bless'd,
Th' enraptured maid a sacred joy possess'd;
In patience waiting for the first-born ray
Of that all-glorious and triumphant day:
To this idea all her soul she gave,
Her mind reposing by the sacred grave;
Then sleep would seal the eye, the vision close,
And steep the solemn thoughts in brief repose.
Then grew the soul serene, and all its powers
Again restored, illumed the dying hours;
But reason dwelt where fancy stray'd before,
And the mind wander'd from its views no more;
Till death approach'd, when every look express'd
A sense of bliss, till every sense had rest.
The mother lives, and has enough to buy
The attentive ear and the submissive eye
Of abject natures--these are daily told,
How triumph'd beauty in the days of old;
How, by her window seated, crowds have cast
Admiring glances, wondering as they pass'd;
How from her carriage as she stepp'd to pray,
Divided ranks would humbly make her way;
And how each voice in the astonish'd throng
Pronounced her peerless as she moved along.
Her picture then the greedy Dame displays;
Touch'd by no shame, she now demands its praise;
In her tall mirror then she shows a face,
Still coldly fair with unaffecting grace;
These she compares: 'It has the form,' she cries,
'But wants the air, the spirit, and the eyes;
This, as a likeness, is correct and true,
But there alone the living grace we view.'
This said, th' applauding voice the Dame requir'd,
And, gazing, slowly from the glass retired.
Comments about Tale Viii by George Crabbe
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