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286

CRABBE

HIS GROUP OF SMUGGLERS.

exact view of village life, which could not possibly be accomplished without including those baser varieties. He aims at an important moral effect by this exhibition; and must not be defrauded either of that, or of the praise which is due to the coarser efforts of his pen, out of deference to the sickly delicacy of his more fastidious readers. We admit, however, that there is more carelessness, as well as more quaintness in this poem than in the other; and that he has now and then apparently heaped up circumstances rather to gratify his own taste for detail and accumulation, than to give any additional effect to his description. With this general observation, we beg the reader's attention to the following abstract and citations.

The poem begins with a general view, first of the industrious and contented villager, and then of the profligate and disorderly. The first compartment is not so striking as the last. Mr. Crabbe, it seems, has a set of smugglers among his flock, who inhabit what is called the Street in his village. There is nothing comparable to the following description, but some of the prose sketches of Mandeville:

Here, in cabal, a disputatious crew
Each evening meet; the sot, the cheat, the shrew;
Riots are nightly heard the curse, the cries
Of beaten wife, perverse in her replies :
Boys in their first stol'n rags, to swear begin,
And girls, who know not sex, are skill'd in gin!
Snarers and smugglers here their gains divide,
Ensnaring females here their victims hide;
And here is one, the Sibyl of the Row,
Who knows all secrets, or affects to know.-

“See! on the floor, what frowzy patches rest!
What nauseous fragments on yon fractur'd chest !
What downy-dust beneath yon window-seat !
And round these posts that serve this bed for feet ;
This bed where all those tatter'd garments lie,
Worn by each sex, and now per force thrown by.

“See! as we gaze, an infant lifts it head,
Left by neglect, and burrow'd in that bed;
The mother-gossip has the love supprest,
An infant's cry once waken'd in her breast,' &c. &c.

“ Here are no wheels for either wool or flax,
But packs of cards - made up of sundry packs ;

THE MILLER'S DAUGHTER.

287

Here are no books, but ballads on the wall,
Are some abusive, and indecent all;
Pistols are here, unpair'd; with nets and hooks,
Of every kind, for rivers, ponds, and brooks ;
And ample flask that nightly rovers fill,
With recent poison from the Dutchman's still ;
A box of tools with wires of various size,
Frocks, wigs, and hats, for night or day disguise,
And bludgeons stout to gain or guard a prize.

" Here his poor bird, th' inhuman cocker brings,
Arms his hard heel, and clips his golden wings;
With spicy food th’impatient spirit feeds,
And shouts and curses as the battle bleeds :
Struck through the brain, depriv'd of both his eyes,
The vanquish'd bird•must combat till he dies !
Must faintly peck at his victorious foe,
And reel and stagger at each feeble blow;
When fall'n, the savage grasps his dabbled plumes,
His blood-staind arms, for other deaths assumes ;
And damns the craven-fowl, that lost his stake,
And only bled and perish'd for his sake!"— p. 40–44.

Mr. Crabbe now opens his chronicle; and the first babe that appears on the list is a natural child of the miller's daughter, This damsel fell in love with a sailor; but her father refused his consent, and no priest would unite them without it. The poor girl yielded to her passion; and her lover went to sea, to seek a portion for his bride :

“Then came the days of shame, the grievous night,

The varying look, the wand'ring appetite;
The joy assum'd, while sorrow dimm'd the eyes,
The forc'd sad smiles that follow'd sudden sighs,
And every art, long usd, but us'd in vain,
To hide thy progress, Nature, and thy pain.

“ Day after day were past in grief and pain,
Week after week, nor came the youth again;
Her boy was born :

No lads nor lasses came
To

grace the rite or give the child a name;
Nor
grave

conceited nurse, of office proud,
Bore the young Christian, roaring through the crowd ;
In a small chamber was my office done,
Where blinks, through paper'd panes, the setting sun;
Where noisy sparrows, perch'd on penthouse near,
Chirp tuneless joy, and mock the frequent tear."-

" Throughout the lanes, she glides at evening's close,
There softly lulls her infant to repose;

288 CRABBE'S REGISTER

NECESSITATED MARRIAGES.

Then sits and gazes, but with viewless look,
As gilds the moon the rimpling of the brook ;
Then sings her vespers, but in voice so low,
She hears their murmurs as the waters flow;
And she too murmurs, and begins to find

The solemn wand'rings of a wounded mind!" — p. 47 — 49. We pass the rest of the Baptisms; and proceed to the more interesting chapter of Marriages. The first pair here is an old snug bachelor, who, in the first days of dotage, had married his maid-servant. The reverend Mr. Crabbe is very facetious on this match; and not very scrupulously delicate.

The following picture, though liable in part to the same objection, is perfect, we think, in that style of drawing:

Next at our altar stood a luckless pair,
Brought by strong passions and a warrant there;
By long rent cloak, hung loosely, strove the bride,
From ev'ry eye, what all perceiv'd, to hide ;
While the boy-bridegroom, shuffling in his pace,
Now hid awhile, and then expos'd, his face ;
As shame alternately with anger strove
The brain, confus'd with muddy ale, to move!
In haste and stamm’ring he perform’d his part,
And look'd the rage that rankled in his heart.
Low spake the lass, and lisp'd and minc'd the while;
Look'd on the lad, and faintly tried to smile;
With soft'ned speech and humbled tone she strove
To stir the embers of departed love;
While he a tyrant, frowning walked before,
Felt the poor purse, and sought the public door ;
She sadly following in submission went,
And saw the final shilling foully spent!
Then to her father's hut the pair withdrew,
And bade to love and comfort long adieu !

- p. 74, 75. The next bridal is that of Phæbe Dawson, the most innocent and beautiful of all the village maidens. We give the following pretty description of her courtship:

“Now, through the lane, up hill, and cross the green,

(Seen but by few, and blushing to be seen
Dejected, thoughtful, anxious, and afraid,)
Led by the lover, walked the silent maid:
Slow through the meadows rov'd they, many a mile,
Toy'd by each bank, and trifled at each stile;
Where, as he painted every blissful view,
And highly coloured what he strongly drew,

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The pensive damsel, prone to tender fears,

Dimm'd the fair prospect with prophetic tears." - p. 76, 77. This is the taking side of the picture: At the end of two years, here is the reverse. Nothing can be more touching, we think, than the quiet suffering and solitary hysterics of this ill-fated young woman:

“Lo! now with red rent cloak and bonnet black,

And torn green gown, loose hanging at her back,
One who an infant in her arms sustains,
And seems, with patience, striving with her pains;
Pinch'd are her looks, as one who pines for bread,
Whose cares are growing, and whose hopes are fled !
Pale her parch'd lips, her heavy eyes sunk low,
And tears unnotic'd from their channels flow;
Serene her manner, till some sudden pain
Frets the meek soul, and then she's calm again !
Her broken pitcher to the pool she takes
And every step with cautious terror makes;
For not alone that infant in her arms,
But nearer cause, maternal fear, alarms!
With water burden'd, then she picks her way,
Slowly and cautious, in the clinging clay;
Till in mid-green she trusts a place unsound,
And deeply plunges in th' adhesive ground;
From whence her slender foot with pain she takes,” &c.
And now her path, but not her peace, she gains,
Safe from her task, but shiv'ring with her pains ;
Her home she reaches, open leaves the door,
And placing first her infant on the floor,
She bares her bosom to the wind, and sits,
And sobbing struggles with the rising fits!
In vain !- they come - she feels th' inflaming grief,
That shuts the swelling bosom from relief;
That speaks in feeble cries a soul distrest,
Or the sad laugh that cannot be represt;
The neighbour-matron leaves her wheel, and fies
With all the aid her poverty supplies ;
Unfee'd, the calls of nature she obeys,
Nor led by profit, nor allur'd by praise;
And waiting long, till these contentions cease,

She speaks of comfort, and departs in peace.”- p. 77, 78.
The ardent lover, it seems, turned out a brutal hus-

band:

“ If present, railing, till he saw her pain d;

If absent, spending what their labours gain’d:
Till that fair form in want and sickness pind,

And hope and comfort fled that gentle mind." - p. 78.
VOL. II.

U

290

CRABBE'S REGISTER

ISAAC ASHFORD.

66

It may add to the interest which some readers will take in this simple story, to be told, that it was the last piece of poetry that was read to Mr. Fox during his fatal illness; and that he examined and made some flattering remarks on the manuscript of it a few days before his death.

We are obliged to pass over the rest of the Marriages, though some of them are extremely characteristic and beautiful, and to proceed to the Burials. Here we have a great variety of portraits, — the old drunken innkeeper

- the bustling farmer's wife — the infant — and next the lady of the manor. The following description of her deserted mansion is striking, and in the good old taste of Pope and Dryden:

Forsaken stood the hall,
Worms ate the floors, the tap'stry fled the wall;
No fire the kitchen's cheerless grate display'd ;
No cheerful light the long-clos'd sash convey'd ;
The crawling worm that turns a summer fly,
Here

spun his shroud and laid him up to die
The winter-death ; – upon the bed of state,
The bat, shrill-shrieking, wood his flick 'ring mate:
To empty rooms, the curious came no more,
From empty cellars, turn'd the angry poor,
And surly beggars curs'd the ever-bolted door.
To one small room the steward found his way,

Where tenants follow'd to complain and pay. – p. 104, 105. The old maid follows next to the shades of mortality. The description of her house, furniture, and person, is admirable, and affords a fine specimen of Mr. Crabbe's most minute finishing; but it is too long for extracting. We rather present our readers with a part of the character of Isaac Ashford:

“ Next to these ladies, but in nought allied,

A noble peasant, Isaac Ashford, died.
Noble he was — contemning all things mean,
His truth unquestioned, and his soul serene :
Of no man's presence Isaac felt afraid :
At no man's question Isaac look'd dismay'd :
Shame knew him not, he dreaded no disgrace," &c.
“Were others joyful, he look'd smiling on,
And
gave

allowance where he needed none; Yet far was he from stoic-pride remov'd : He felt, with many, and he warmly lovd:

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