The Borough. Letter Xvii: The Hospital And - Poem by George Crabbe
AN ardent spirit dwells with Christian love,
The eagle's vigour in the pitying dove;
'Tis not enough that we with sorrow sigh,
That we the wants of pleading man supply,
That we in sympathy with sufferers feel,
Nor hear a grief without a wish to heal;
Not these suffice--to sickness, pain, and woe,
The Christian spirit loves with aid to go;
Will not be sought, waits not for want to plead,
But seeks the duty--nay, prevents the need;
Her utmost aid to every ill applies,
And plans relief for coining miseries.
Hence yonder Building rose: on either side
Far stretch'd the wards, all airy, warm, and wide;
And every ward has beds by comfort spread,
And smooth'd for him who suffers on the bed:
There all have kindness, most relief,--for some
Is cure complete,--it is the sufferer's home:
Fevers and chronic ills, corroding pains,
Each accidental mischief man sustains;
Fractures and wounds, and wither'd limbs and lame,
With all that, slow or sudden, vex our frame,
Have here attendance--here the sufferers lie,
(Where love and science every aid apply,)
And heal'd with rapture live, or soothed by comfort
See! one relieved from anguish, and to-day
Allow'd to walk and look an hour away;
Two months confined by fever, frenzy, pain,
He comes abroad and is himself again:
'Twas in the spring, when carried to the place,
The snow fell down and melted in his face.
'Tis summer now; all objects gay and new,
Smiling alike the viewer and the view:
He stops as one unwilling to advance,
Without another and another glance;
With what a pure and simple joy he sees
Those sheep and cattle browsing at their ease;
Easy himself, there's nothing breathes or moves,
But he would cherish--all that lives he loves:
Observing every ward as round he goes,
He thinks what pain, what danger they inclose;
Warm in his wish for all who suffer there,
At every view he meditates a prayer:
No evil counsels in his breast abide,
There joy, and love, and gratitude reside.
The wish that Roman necks in one were found,
That he who form'd the wish might deal the wound,
This man had never heard; but of the kind,
Is that desire which rises in his mind;
He'd have all English hands (for further he
Cannot conceive extends our charity),
All but his own, in one right-hand to grow,
And then what hearty shake would he bestow.
'How rose the Building?'--Piety first laid
A strong foundation, but she wanted aid;
To Wealth unwieldy was her prayer address'd,
Who largely gave, and she the donor bless'd:
Unwieldy Wealth then to his couch withdrew,
And took the sweetest sleep he ever knew.
Then busy Vanity sustained her part,
'And much,' she said, 'it moved her tender heart;
To her all kinds of man's distress were known,
And all her heart adopted as its own.'
Then Science came--his talents he display'd,
And Charity with joy the dome survey'd;
Skill, Wealth, and Vanity, obtain the fame,
And Piety, the joy that makes no claim.
Patrons there are, and Governors, from, whom
The greater aid and guiding orders come;
Who voluntary cares and labours take,
The sufferers' servants for the service' sake;
Of these a, part I give you--but a part, -
Some hearts are hidden, some have not a heart.
First let me praise--for so I best shall paint
That pious moralist, that reasoning saint!
Can I of worth like thine, Eusebius, speak?
The man is willing, but the Muse is weak; -
'Tis thine to wait on woe! to soothe! to heal!
With learning social, and polite with zeal:
In thy pure breast although the passions dwell,
They're train'd by virtue, and no more rebel;
But have so long been active on her side,
That passion now might be itself the guide.
Law, conscience, honour, all obey'd; all give
Th' approving voice, and make it bliss to live;
While faith, when life can nothing more supply,
Shall strengthen hope, and make it bliss to die.
He preaches, speaks, and writes with manly
No weak neglect, no labour'd eloquence;
Goodness and wisdom are in all his ways,
The rude revere him and the wicked praise.
Upon humility his virtues grow,
And tower so high because so fix'd below;
As wider spreads the oak his boughs around,
When deeper with his roots he digs the solid
By him, from ward to ward, is every aid
The sufferer needs, with every care convey'd:
Like the good tree he brings his treasure forth,
And, like the tree, unconscious of his worth:
Meek as the poorest Publican is he,
And strict as lives the straitest Pharisee;
Of both, in him unite the better part,
The blameless conduct and the humble heart.
Yet he escapes not; he, with some, is wise
In carnal things, and loves to moralize:
Others can doubt if all that Christian care
Has not its price--there's something he may share:
But this and ill severer he sustains,
As gold the fire, and as unhurt remains;
When most reviled, although he feels the smart,
It wakes to nobler deeds the wounded heart,
As the rich olive, beaten for its fruit,
Puts forth at every bruise a bearing shoot.
A second friend we have, whose care and zeal
But few can equal--few indeed can feel;
He lived a life obscure, and profits made
In the coarse habits of a vulgar trade.
His brother, master of a hoy, he loved
So well, that he the calling disapproved:
'Alas! poor Tom!' the landman oft would sigh
When the gale freshen'd and the waves ran high;
And when they parted, with a tear he'd say,
'No more adventure!--here in safety stay.'
Nor did he feign; with more than half he had
He would have kept the seaman, and been glad.
Alas! how few resist, when strongly tried -
A rich relation's nearer kinsman died;
He sicken'd, and to him the landman went,
And all his hours with cousin Ephraim spent.
This Thomas heard, and cared not: 'I,' quoth he,
'Have one in port upon the watch for me.'
So Ephraim died, and when the will was shown,
Isaac, the landman, had the whole his own:
Who to his brother sent a moderate purse,
Which he return'd in anger, with his curse;
Then went to sea, and made his grog so strong,
He died before he could forgive the wrong.
The rich man built a house, both large and high,
He enter'd in and set him down to sigh;
He planted ample woods and gardens fair,
And walk'd with anguish and compunction there:
The rich man's pines, to every friend a treat,
He saw with pain, and he refused to eat;
His daintiest food, his richest wines, were all
Turn'd by remorse to vinegar and gall:
The softest down by living body press'd,
The rich man bought, and tried to take his rest;
But care had thorns upon his pillow spread,
And scatter'd sand and nettles in his bed:
Nervous he grew,--would often sigh and groan,
He talk'd but little, and he walk'd alone;
Till by his priest convinced, that from one deed
Of genuine love would joy and health proceed,
He from that time with care and zeal began
To seek and soothe the grievous ills of man;
And as his hands their aid to grief apply,
He learns to smile and he forgets to sigh.
Now he can drink his wine and taste his food,
And feel the blessings Heav'n has dealt are good;
And, since the suffering seek the rich man's door,
He sleeps as soundly as when young and poor.
Here much he gives--is urgent more to gain;
He begs--rich beggars seldom sue in vain:
Preachers most famed he moves, the crowd to move,
And never wearies in the work of love:
He rules all business, settles all affairs;
He makes collections, he directs repairs;
And if he wrong'd one brother,--Heav'n forgive
The man by whom so many brethren live.
Then, 'mid our Signatures, a name appears,
Of one for wisdom famed above his years;
And these were forty: he was from his youth
A patient searcher after useful truth:
To language little of his time he gave,
To science less, nor was the Muse's slave;
Sober and grave, his college sent him down,
A fair example for his native town.
Slowly he speaks, and with such solemn air,
You'd thing a Socrates or Solon there;
For though a Christian, he's disposed to draw
His rules from reason's and from nature's law.
'Know,' he exclaims, 'my fellow mortals, know,
Virtue alone is happiness below;
And what is virtue? prudence first to choose
Life's real good,--the evil to refuse;
Add justice then, the eager hand to hold,
To curb the lust of power and thirst of gold;
Join temp'rance next, that cheerful health ensures.
And fortitude unmoved, that conquers or endures.'
He speaks, and lo!--the very man you see,
Prudent and temperate, just and patient he,
By prudence taught his worldly wealth to keep,
No folly wastes, no avarice swells the heap:
He no man's debtor, no man's patron lives;
Save sound advice, he neither asks nor gives;
By no vain thoughts or erring fancy sway'd,
His words are weighty, or at least are weigh'd;
Temp'rate in every place--abroad, at home,
Thence will applause, and hence will profit come
And health from either--he in time prepares
For sickness, age, and their attendant cares,
But not for fancy's ills;--he never grieves
For love that wounds or friendship that deceives.
His patient soul endures what Heav'n ordains,
But neither feels nor fears ideal pains.
'Is aught then wanted in a man so wise?' -
Alas!--I think he wants infirmities;
He wants the ties that knit us to our kind -
The cheerful, tender, soft, complacent mind.
That would the feelings, which he dreads, excite,
And make the virtues he approves delight;
What dying martyrs, saints, and patriots feel,
The strength of action and the warmth of zeal.
Again attend!--and see a man whose cares
Are nicely placed on either world's affairs, -
Merchant and saint; 'tis doubtful if he knows
To which account he most regard bestows;
Of both he keeps his ledger: --there he reads
Of gainful ventures and of godly deeds;
There all he gets or loses find a place,
A lucky bargain and a lack of grace.
The joys above this prudent man invite
To pay his tax--devotion!--day and night;
The pains of hell his timid bosom awe,
And force obedience to the church's law:
Hence that continual thought,--that solemn air,
Those sad good works, and that laborious prayer.
All these (when conscience, waken'd and afraid,
To think how avarice calls and is obey'd)
He in his journal finds, and for his grief
Obtains the transient opium of relief.
'Sink not, my soul!--my spirit, rise and look
O'er the fair entries of this precious book:
Here are the sins, our debts;--this fairer side
Has what to carnal wish our strenetb denied;
Has those religious duties every day
Paid,--which so few upon the Sabbath pay;
Here too are conquests over frail desires,
Attendance due on all the church requires;
Then alms I give--for I believe the word
Of holy writ, and lend unto the Lord,
And if not all th' importunate demand,
The fear of want restrains my ready hand:
- Behold! what sums I to the poor resign,
Sums placed in Heaven's own book, as well as mine:
Rest then, my spirit!--fastings, prayers, and alms,
Will soon suppress these idly-raised alarms,
And weigh'd against our frailties, set in view
A noble balance in our favour due:
Add that I yearly here affix my name,
Pledge for large payment--not from love of fame,
But to make peace within;--that peace to make,
'What sums I lavish! and what gains forsake!
Cheer up, my heart! let's cast off every doubt,
Pray without dread, and place our money out.'
Such the religion of a mind that steers
Its way to bliss, between its hopes and fears;
Whose passions in due bounds each other keep,
And thus subdued, they murmur till they sleep;
Whose virtues all their certain limits know,
Like well-dried herbs that neither fade nor grow;
Who for success and safety ever tries,
And with both worlds alternately complies.
Such are the Guardians of this bless'd estate,
Whate'er without, they're praised within the gate;
That they are men, and have their faults, is true;
But here their worth alone appears in view:
The Muse indeed, who reads the very breast,
Has something of the secrets there express'd,
But yet in charity;--and when she sees
Such means for joy or comfort, health or ease,
And knows how much united minds effect,
She almost dreads their failings to detect;
But Truth commands: --in man's erroneous kind,
Virtues and frailties mingle in the mind,
Happy!--when fears to public spirit move,
And even vices do the work of love.
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