George Crabbe

(24 December 1754 - 3 February 1832 / Aldeburgh, Suffulk)

The Mourner - Poem by George Crabbe

Yes! there are real mourners - I have seen
A fair, sad girl, mild, suffering, and serene;
Attention (through the day) her duties claim'd,
And to be useful as resign'd she aim'd;
Neatly she dress'd, not vainly seem'd t' expect
Pity for grief, or pardon for neglect;
But when her wearied parents sunk to sleep,
She sought her place to meditate and weep;
Then to her mind was all the past display'd,
That faithful memory brings to sorrow's aid:
For then she thought on one regretted youth,
Her tender trust, and his unquestion'd truth;
In ev'ry place she wander'd, where they'd been,
And sadly-sacred held the parting scene;
Where last for sea he took his leave - that place
With double interest would she nightly trace;
For long the courtship was, and he would say,
Each time he sail'd, - 'This once, and then the day:'
Yet prudence tarried, but when last he went,
He drew from pitying love a full consent.

Happy he sail'd, and great the care she took,
That he could softly sleep, and smartly look;
White was his better linen, and his check
Was made more trim than any on the deck;
And every comfort men at sea can know,
Was hers to buy, to make, and to bestow:
For he to Greenland sail'd, and much she told,
How he should guard against the climate's cold;
Yet saw not danger; dangers he'd withstood,
Nor could she trace the fever in his blood:
His messmates smiled at flushings in his cheek,
And he, too, smiled, but seldom would he speak,
For now he found the danger, felt the pain,
With grievous symptoms he could not explain;
Hope was awaken'd, as for home he sail'd,
But quickly sank, and never more prevail'd.

He call'd his friend, and prefaced with a sigh
A lover's message - 'Thomas, I must die:
Would I could see my Sally, and could rest
My throbbing temples on her faithful breast,
And gazing go! - if not, this trifle take,
And say till death I wore it for her sake;
Yes! I must die - blow on, sweet breeze, blow on
Give me one look, before my life be gone;
Oh! give me that, and let me not despair,
One last fond look - and now repeat the prayer.'

He had his wish, had more; I will not paint
The lovers' meeting: she beheld him faint, -
With tender fears, she took a nearer view,
Her terrors doubling as her hopes withdrew;
He tried to smile, and, half succeeding, said,
'Yes! I must die,' and hope for ever fled.

Still long she nursed him; tender thoughts meantime
Were interchanged, and hopes and views sublime.
To her he came to die, and every day
She took some portion of the dread away;
With him she pray'd, to him his Bible read,
Soothed the faint heart, and held the aching head:
She came with smiles the hour of pain to cheer;
Apart she sigh'd; alone, she shed the tear;
Then, as if breaking from a cloud, she gave
Fresh light, and gilt the prospect of the grave.

One day he lighter seem'd, and they forgot
The care, the dread, the anguish of their lot;
They spoke with cheerfulness, and seem'd to think,
Yet said not so - 'Perhaps he will not sink:'
A sudden brightness in his look appear'd,
A sudden vigour in his voice was heard; -
She had been reading in the book of prayer,
And led him forth, and placed him in his chair;
Lively he seem'd, and spoke of all he knew,
The friendly many, and the favourite few;
Nor one that day did he to mind recall,
But she has treasured, and she loves them all;
When in her way she meets them, they appear
Peculiar people - death has made them dear.
He named his friend, but then his hand she prest,
And fondly whisper'd, 'Thou must go to rest;'
'I go,' he said; but as he spoke, she found
His hand more cold, and fluttering was the sound;
Then gazed affrighten'd; but she caught a last,
A dying look of love, and all was past!

She placed a decent stone his grave above,
Neatly engraved - an offering of her love;
For that she wrought, for that forsook her bed,
Awake alike to duty and the dead;
She would have grieved, had friends presumed to spare
The least assistance - 'twas her proper care.

Here will she come and on the grave will sit,
Folding her arms, in long abstracted fit;
But if observer pass, will take her round,
And careless seem, for she would not be found;
Then go again, and thus her hour employ,
While visions please her, and while woes destroy.


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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 16, 2010



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