The Borough. Letter Xi: Inns - Poem by George Crabbe
All the comforts of life in a Tavern are known,
'Tis his home who possesses not one of his own;
And to him who has rather too much of that one,
'Tis the house of a friend where he's welcome to
The instant you enter my door you're my Lord,
With whose taste and whose pleasure I'm proud to
And the louder you call, and the longer you stay,
The more I am happy to serve and obey.
To the house of a friend if you're pleased to
You must all things admit, you must all tilings
You must pay with observance the price of your
You must eat what is praised, and must praise what
But here you may come, and no tax we require,
You may loudly condemn what you greatly admire;
You may growl at our wishes and pains to excel,
And may snarl at the rascals who please you so
At your wish we attend, and confess that your
On the nation's affairs might the minister teach;
His views you may blame, and his measures oppose,
There's no Tavern-treason--you're under the Rose;
Should rebellions arise in your own little state,
With me you may safely their consequence wait;
To recruit your lost spirits 'tis prudent to come,
And to fly to a friend when the devil's at home.
That I've faults is confess'd; but it won't be
'Tis my interest the faults of my neighbours to
If I've sometimes lent Scandal occasion to prate,
I've often conceal'd what she lov'd to relate;
If to Justice's bar some have wander'd from mine,
'Twas because the dull rogues wouldn't stay by
And for brawls at my house, well the poet explains,
That men drink shallow draughts, and so madden
MUCH do I need, and therefore will I ask,
A Muse to aid me in my present task;
For then with special cause we beg for aid,
When of our subject we are most afraid:
INNS are this subject--'tis an ill-drawn lot,
So, thou who gravely triflest, fail me not;
Fail not, but haste, and to my memory bring
Scenes yet unsung, which few would choose to sing;
Thou mad'st a Shilling splendid; thou hast thrown
On humble themes the graces all thine own;
By thee the Mistress of a Village-school
Became a queen enthroned upon her stool;
And far beyond the rest thou gav'st to shine
Belinda's Lock--that deathless work was thine.
Come, lend thy cheerful light, and give to
These seats of revelry, these scenes of ease;
Who sings of Inns much danger has to dread,
And needs assistance from the fountain-head.
High in the street, o'erlooking all the place,
The rampant Lion shows his kingly face;
His ample jaws extend from side to side,
His eyes are glaring, and his nostrils wide;
In silver shag the sovereign form is dress'd,
A mane horrific sweeps his ample chest;
Elate with pride, he seems t'assert his reign,
And stands the glory of his wide domain.
Yet nothing dreadful to his friends the sight,
But sign and pledge of welcome and delight.
To him the noblest guest the town detains
Flies for repast, and in his court remains;
Him too the crowd with longing looks admire,
Sigh for his joys, and modestly retire;
Here not a comfort shall to them be lost
Who never ask or never feel the cost.
The ample yards on either side contain
Buildings where order and distinction reign; -
The splendid carriage of the wealthier guest,
The ready chaise and driver smartly dress'd;
Whiskeys and gigs and curricles are there,
And high-fed prancers many a raw-boned pair.
On all without a lordly host sustains
The care of empire, and observant reigns;
The parting guest beholds him at his side,
With pomp obsequious, bending in his pride;
Round all the place his eyes all objects meet,
Attentive, silent, civil, and discreet.
O'er all within the lady-hostess rules,
Her bar she governs, and her kitchen schools;
To every guest th' appropriate speech is made,
And every duty with distinction paid;
Respectful, easy, pleasant, or polite -
'Your honour's servant'--'Mister Smith, good night
Next, but not near, yet honour'd through the
There swing, incongruous pair! the Bear and Crown:
That Crown suspended gems and ribands deck,
A golden chain hangs o'er that furry neck:
Unlike the nobler beast, the Bear is bound,
And with the Crown so near him, scowls uncrown'd;
Less his dominion, but alert are all
Without, within, and ready for the call;
Smart lads and light run nimbly here and there,
Nor for neglected duties mourns the Bear.
To his retreats, on the Election-day,
The losing party found their silent way;
There they partook of each consoling good,
Like him uncrown'd, like him in sullen mood -
Threat'ning, but bound.--Here meet a social kind,
Our various clubs for various cause combined;
Nor has he pride, but thankful takes as gain
The dew-drops shaken from the Lion's mane:
A thriving couple here their skill display,
And share the profits of no vulgar sway.
Third in our Borough's list appears the sign
Of a fair queen--the gracious Caroline;
But in decay--each feature in the face
Has stain of Time, and token of disgrace.
The storm of winter, and the summer-sun,
Have on that form their equal mischief done;
The features now are all disfigured seen,
And not one charm adorns th' insulted queen.
To this poor face was never paint applied,
Th' unseemly work of cruel Time to hide;
Here we may rightly such neglect upbraid,
Paint on such faces is by prudence laid.
Large the domain, but all within combine
To correspond with the dishonoured sign;
And all around dilapidates; you call -
But none replies--they're inattentive all:
At length a ruin'd stable holds your steed,
While you through large and dirty rooms proceed,
Spacious and cold; a proof they once had been
In honour,--now magnificently mean;
Till in some small half-furnish'd room you rest,
Whose dying fire denotes it had a guest.
In those you pass'd, where former splendour
You saw the carpets torn, the paper stain'd;
Squares of discordant glass in windows fix'd,
And paper oil'd in many a space betwixt;
A soil'd and broken sconce, a mirror crack'd,
With table underpropp'd, and chairs new back'd;
A marble side-slab with ten thousand stains,
And all an ancient Tavern's poor remains.
With much entreaty, they your food prepare,
And acid wine afford, with meagre fare;
Heartless you sup; and when a dozen times
You've read the fractured window's senseless
Have been assured that Phoebe Green was fair,
And Peter Jackson took his supper there;
You reach a chilling chamber, where you dread
Damps, hot or cold, from a tremendous bed;
Late comes your sleep, and you are waken'd soon
By rustling tatters of the old festoon.
O'er this large building, thus by time defaced,
A servile couple has its owner placed,
Who not unmindful that its style is large,
To lost magnificence adapt their charge:
Thus an old beauty, who has long declined,
Keeps former dues and dignity in mind;
And wills that all attention should be paid
For graces vanish'd and for charms decay'd.
Few years have pass'd, since brightly 'cross the
Lights from each window shot the lengthen'd ray,
And busy looks in every face were seen,
Through the warm precincts of the reigning Queen;
There fires inviting blazed, and all around
Was heard the tinkling bells' seducing sound;
The nimble waiters to that sound from far
Sprang to the call, then hasteri'd to the bar,
Where a glad priestess of the temple sway'd,
The most obedient, and the most obey'd;
Rosy and round, adorn'd in crimson vest,
And flaming ribands at her ample breast:
She, skill'd like Circe, tried her guests to move,
With looks of welcome and with words of love;
And such her potent charms, that men unwise
Were soon transform'd and fitted for the sties.
Her port in bottles stood, a well-stain'd row,
Drawn for the evening from the pipe below;
Three powerful spirits filled a parted case,
Some cordial bottles stood in secret place;
Fair acid-fruits in nets above were seen,
Her plate was splendid, and her glasses clean;
Basins and bowls were ready on the stand,
And measures clatter'd in her powerful hand.
Inferior Houses now our notice claim,
But who shall deal them their appropriate fame?
Who shall the nice, yet known distinction, tell,
Between the peal complete and single Bell?
Determine ye, who on your shining nags
Wear oil-skin beavers, and bear seal-skin bags;
Or ye, grave topers, who with coy delight
Snugly enjoy the sweetness of the night;
Ye travellers all, superior Inns denied
By moderate purse, the low by decent pride;
Come and determine,--will you take your place
At the full Orb, or half the lunar Face?
With the Black-Boy or Angel will ye dine?
Will ye approve the Fountain or the Vine?
Horses the white or black will ye prefer?
The Silver-Swan or Swan opposed to her -
Rare bird! whose form the raven-plumage decks,
And graceful curve her three alluring necks?
All these a decent entertainment give,
And by their comforts comfortably live.
Shall I pass by the Boar?--there are who cry,
'Beware the Boar,' and pass determined by:
Those dreadful tusks, those little peering eyes
And churning chaps, are tokens to the wise.
There dwells a kind old Aunt, and there you see
Some kind young Nieces in her company;
Poor village nieces, whom the tender dame
Invites to town, and gives their beauty Fame;
The grateful sisters feel th' important aid,
And the good Aunt is flatter'd and repaid.
What, though it may some cool observers strike,
That such fair sisters should be so unlike;
That still another and another comes,
And at the matron's tables smiles and blooms;
That all appear as if they meant to stay
Time undefined, nor name a parting day;
And yet, though all are valued, all are dear,
Causeless, they go, and seldom more appear.
Yet let Suspicion hide her odious head,
And Scandal vengeance from a burgess dread;
A pious friend, who with the ancient dame
At sober cribbage takes an evening game;
His cup beside him, through their play he quaffs,
And oft renews, and innocently laughs;
Or growing serious, to the text resorts,
And from the Sunday-sermon makes reports;
While all, with grateful glee, his wish attend,
A grave protector and a powerful friend:
But Slander says, who indistinctly sees,
Once he was caught with Sylvia on his knees; -
A cautious burgess with a careful wife
To be so caught!--'tis false, upon my life.
Next are a lower kind, yet not so low
But they, among them, their distinctions know;
And when a thriving landlord aims so high,
As to exchange the Chequer for the Pye,
Or from Duke William to the Dog repairs,
He takes a finer coat and fiercer airs.
Pleased with his power, the poor man loves to
What favourite Inn shall share his evening's pay;
Where he shall sit the social hour, and lose
His past day's labours and his next day's views.
Our Seamen too have choice; one takes a trip
In the warm cabin of his favourite Ship;
And on the morrow in the humbler Boat
He rows till fancy feels herself afloat;
Can he the sign--Three Jolly Sailors--pass,
Who hears a fiddle and who sees a lass?
The Anchor too affords the seaman joys,
In small smoked room, all clamour, crowd, and
Where a curved settle half surrounds the fire,
Where fifty voices purl and punch require;
They come for pleasure in their leisure hour,
And they enjoy it to their utmost power;
Standing they drink, they swearing smoke, while all
Call, or make ready for a second call:
There is no time for trifling--'Do ye see?
We drink and drub the French extempore.'
See! round the room, on every beam and balk,
Are mingled scrolls of hieroglyphic chalk;
Yet nothing heeded--would one stroke suffice
To blot out all, here honour is too nice, -
'Let knavish landsmen think such dirty things,
We're British tars, and British tars are kings.'
But the Green-Man shall I pass by unsung,
Which mine own James upon his sign-post hung?
His sign his image,--for he was once seen
A squire's attendant, clad in keeper's green;
Ere yet, with wages more and honour less,
He stood behind me in a graver dress.
James in an evil hour went forth to woo
Young Juliet Hart, and was her Romeo:
They'd seen the play, and thought it vastly sweet
For two young lovers by the moon to meet;
The nymph was gentle, of her favours free,
E'en at a word--no Rosalind was she;
Nor, like that other Juliet, tried his truth
With--'Be thy purpose marriage, gentle youth?'
But him received, and heard his tender tale,
When sang the lark, and when the nightingale;
So in few months the generous lass was seen
I' the way that all the Capulets had been.
Then first repentance seized the amorous man,
And--shame on love!--he reason'd and he ran;
The thoughtful Romeo trembled for his purse,
And the sad sounds, 'for better and for worse.'
Yet could the Lover not so far withdraw,
But he was haunted both by Love and Law;
Now Law dismay'd him as he view'd its fangs,
Now Pity seized him for his Juliet's pangs;
Then thoughts of justice and some dread of jail,
Where all would blame him, and where none might
These drew him back, till Juliet's hut appear'd,
Where love had drawn him when he should have
There sat the father in his wicker throne,
Uttering his curses in tremendous tone:
With foulest names his daughter he reviled,
And look'd a very Herod at the child:
Nor was she patient, but with equal scorn,
Bade him remember when his Joe was born:
Then rose the mother, eager to begin
Her plea for frailty, when the swain came in.
To him she turn'd, and other theme began,
Show'd him his boy, and bade him be a man;
'An honest man, who, when he breaks the laws,
Will make a woman honest if there's cause.'
With lengthen'd speech she proved what came to pass
Was no reflection on a loving lass:
'If she your love as wife and mother claim,
What can it matter which was first the name?
But 'tis most base, 'tis perjury and theft,
When a lost girl is like a widow left;
The rogue who ruins .. ' here the father found
His spouse was treading on forbidden ground.
'That's not the point,' quoth he, 'I don't
My good friend Fletcher to be one of those;
What's done amiss he'll mend in proper time -
I hate to hear of villany and crime:
'Twas my misfortune, in the days of youth,
To find two lasses pleading for my truth;
The case was hard, I would with all my soul
Have wedded both, but law is our control;
So one I took, and when we gain'd a home,
Her friend agreed--what could she more?--to come;
And when she found that I'd a widow'd bed,
Me she desired--what could I less?--to wed.
An easier case is yours: you've not the smart
That two fond pleaders cause in one man's heart.
You've not to wait from year to year distress'd,
Before your conscience can be laid at rest;
There smiles your bride, there sprawls your new-
A ring, a licence, and the thing is done.' -
'My loving James,'--the Lass began her plea,
I'll make thy reason take a part with me;
Had I been froward, skittish, or unkind,
Or to thy person or thy passion blind;
Had I refused, when 'twas thy part to pray,
Or put thee off with promise and delay;
Thou might'st in justice and in conscience fly,
Denying her who taught thee to deny:
But, James, with me thou hadst an easier task,
Bonds and conditions I forbore to ask;
I laid no traps for thee, no plots or plans,
Nor marriage named by licence or by banns;
Nor would I now the parson's aid employ,
But for this cause,'--and up she held her boy.
Motives like these could heart of flesh resist?
James took the infant and in triumph kiss'd;
Then to his mother's arms the child restored,
Made his proud speech and pledged his worthy word.
'Three times at church our banns shall publish'd
Thy health be drunk in bumpers three times three;
And thou shalt grace (bedeck'd in garments gay)
The christening-dinner on the wedding-day.'
James at my door then made his parting bow,
Took the Green-Man, and is a master now.
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