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From these childish and absurd affectation«, we tarn with pleasure to the manly tense and correct picturing of Mr. Crabbe; and, after being dazzled ami made giddy •A-iih the elaborate raptures and obscure originalities of these new artists, it is refreshing to meet again with the spirit and nature of our old masters, in the nervous pages of the author now before us.
The poem that stands first in the volume, is that to which we have already alluded as having been first given to the public upwards 91 twenty years ago. It is so old, and has of late been so scarce, that it is probably new to many of our readers. We shall venture, therefore, to give a few extracts from it аз а specimen of Mr. Crabbe's original style of composition. We have already hinted at the inscription of the Parish Workhouse, and insert it as an example of no common poetry :—
"Theirs is yon house that holds the parish poor,
"Here, too, the sick their final doom receive, Here brought amid the scenes of grief, to grieve; Where the loud groans from some sad chamber Mixt with the clamours of the crowd below, [flow,
"Say ye, opprest by some fantastic woes, Some jarring nerve that baffles your repose; \Vho with sad prayers the weary doctor tease, To name the nameless ever-new disease; How would ye bear in real pain to lie. I'cspis'd, neglected, left alone to die? How would ye bear to draw your latest breath, Where all that'« wretched paves the way for death t
"Such isthat room which one rude beam divides, And naked rafters form the sloping sides; Where the vile bands that bind the tha.'ch are seen, And lath and mud are all that lie between; Sate one dull pane, that, coarsely paich'd, gives To the rude tempest, yet excludes the day: [way litre, on a matted flock, with dust o'erspread, The drooping wretch reclines his languid head; For Kim no hand the cordial cup applies," &c.
The consequential apothecary, who gives an impatient attendance in these abodes of misery, is admirably described; but we pass to the last scene :—
"N'ow to ihe church behold the mourners come,
So close, you'd say that they were bent,
To drag it to ihe ground;
And this it seems, is Nature, and Pathos, and Poetry!
Silent and sad, and gazing, hand in hand;
The bell tolls late, the moping owl flies round,
pp. 16. 17.'
The scope of the poem is to show, that the villagers of real life have no resemblance to the villagers of poetry ; that poverty, in sober truth, is very uncomfortable; and vice by no means confined to the opulent. The following passage is powerfully, and finely written:—
"Or will you deem them amply paid in health,
"There may you see the youth of slender frame
"Yet grant them health, 'tis not for us to tell. Though the head droops not, that the hean is well; Or will you praise that homely, healthy fare, Plenteous and plain, that happy peasants share? Oh! trille not with wants you cannot feel! Nor mock the misery of a stinted meal; Homely not wholesome—plain not plenteous—such As you who praise would never deign to touch!
"Ye gentle souls, who dream of rural ease, Whom the smooth stream and smoother sonnet Go ! if the peaceful cot your praises share, [please; Go look within, and ask if peace be there: If peace be his—that drooping, weary sire, Or theirs, that offspring round their feeble fire! Or hers, that matron pale, whose trembling hand Turns on the wretched hearth th' expiring brand."
We shall only give one other extract from this poem; and we select the following fine description of that peculiar sort of barrenness which prevails along the sandy and thinly inhabited shores of the Channel :—
"Lo! where the heath, with with'ring brake grown o'er, [poor;
Lends the light turf that warms the neighbouring
pp. 5, 6.
The next poem, and the longest in the volume, is now presented for the first time to the public. It ie dedicated, like the former, to the delineation of rural life and characters, and ¡в entitled, "The Village Register ;" and, upon a very simple but singular plan, is divided into three parts, viz. Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials. After an introductory and general view of village manners, the reverend author proceeds to present his readers with an account of all the remarkable baptisms, marriages, and funerals, that appear on hie register for the preceding year: with a sketch of the character and behaviour of the respective parties, and such reflections and exhortations as are suggested by the subject. The poem consists, therefore, of a series of portraits taken from the middling and lower ranks of rustic life, and delineated on occasions at once more common and more interesting, than any other that could well be imagined. They are selected, we think, with great judgment, and drawn with inimitable accuracy and strength of colouring. They are finished with much more minuteness and detail, indeed, than the more general pictures in ''• The Village :" and, on this account, mayappear occasionally deficient in comprehension, or in dignity. They are, no doubt, executed in some instances with too much of a Chinese accuracy; and enter into details which many readers may pronounce tedious and unnecessary. Yet there is a justness and force in the representation which is entitled to something more than indulgence; and though several of the groups are composed of low and disagreeable subjects, still, we think that some allowance is to be made for the author's plan of giving a full and 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 |uaintness 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 Manucvillc:—
"Here, in cabal, a disputn'imi« crew
"See! on the floor, what frowzy patches rest' What nauseous fragments on yon tractor'd che*' What downy-duat beneath yon window-sen! And round these posts that serve this bed for fc-'t Tins bed where all those tatter'd garments be, Worn by each sex, and now perforce thrown by.
"See '. as we gaze, an infant lilt» its head. Left by neglect, and burrow'd in that bed; The mother-gossip has the love euppresi, An infant's cry once waken'd in her breast," ¿c.
"Here are no wheels for either wool or flu. But packs of cards—made up of sundry packs; Here are no books, but ballads on the wall. Are some abusive, and indecent all; Pistole are here, unpair'd; with nete and hooks. Ot everv kind, for rivers, ponds, and brook*; An 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 dmgavt. And bludgeons stout to gain or guard a pme.—
"Here his poor bird, ih' inhuman cocker brinj Arms his hard heel, and clips his golden тли«, Wiih spicy food ih1 impatient spirit feeds. And shouts and curses as (he battle bleeds: Struck through ihe brain, depriv'd of bot h his его. The vanquish'd bird must combat till he diet! Must faintly peck at his victorious foe. And reel and stagger at each feeble blow; When fall'n, ihe savage grasps his dabbled plumHie blood-stain'd arms, tor other deaths a?*un;f*; And damns the craven-fowl, thai lost hi« »lake. And only bled and perish'd for his sake!"
Mr. Crabbe now opens his chronicle; ma1 the first babe that appears on the list ;« i natural child of the miller's daughter. Ihr damsel fell in love with a saiior; bot bei father refused his consent, and no priest would unite them without it. The r.oor girl yielded to her passion ; and her lover wen t :< sea, to seek a portion for his bride :—
"Then came l he days of shame, the grievous nir!:i
"Dny after day were past in grief and pain.
Where noisy sparrows, perch'd on penthouse wir. Chirp tuneless joy, and mock the frequent lear."—
"Throughout the lanes, she glides at ettnirj'i There solily lulls her infant to repoee; (close Then sits and gazes, but with viewless look. Ля gilds the moon the rimpling of the brook; Then sings her vespers, but in voice so low. She hears iheir murmurs as the waters flow; And she too murmurs, and begins to find The solemn wand'rings of a wounded mind'
We pass the rest of the Baptisms: «rid proceed to the more interesting chapter of Marriages. The first pair here i* an old situi bachelor, who, in the first days of dotase. had married his maid-servant. ТЬегетРгпЛ Mr Crabbe is very facetious on this matTM and not very scrupulously delicate.
The following picture, though liable hi pai' to the same objection, is perfect, we think; in that style of drawing :—
“Lo now with red rent cloak and bonnet black,
The ardent lover, it seems, turned out a brutal husband :
“If present, railing, till he saw her pain'd;
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 bustiing 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, woo'd 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.”
pp. 104, 105.
The old maid follows next to the shades of mortality. The description of her house, fur. niture, 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,
The rest of the character is drawn with equal spirit: but we can only make room for the author's final commemoration of him.
“I feel his absence in the hours of prayer,
No more that meek, that suppliant look in prayer,
We then bury the Tillage midwife, superseded in her old age by a volatile doctor: then a surly rustic misanthrope; and last of all, the reverend author's ancient sexton, whose chronicle of his various pastors is given rather at too great length. The poem ends with a simple recapitulation.
We think this the most important of the new pieces in the volume; and have extended our account of it so much, that we can afford to say but little of the others. "The Library1' and l: The Newspaper" are republications. They are written with a good deal of terseness, sarcasm, and beauty; but the subjects are not very interesting, and they will rather be approved, we think, than admired or delighted in. We are not much taken either with i:The Birth of Flattery.11 With many nervous lines and ingenious allusions, it has something of the languor which seems inseparable from an allegory which exceeds the length of an epigram.
"Sir Eustace Grey" is quite unlike any of the preceding compositions. It is written in a sort of lyric measure; and is intended to represent the perturbed fancies of the most terrible insanity settling by degrees into a sort of devotional enthusiasm. The opening stanza, spoken by a visiter in the madhouse, is very striking.
"I'll see no more !—the heart is torn
Long shall I see these tiling» forlorn.
That wan projector's mystic style,
That peevish idler's ceaseless wile,
And that poor mnidcn's hnlf-form'd »mile,
Whilt ttruealing for the full-drawn fiph!
There is great force, both of language and conception, in the wild narrative Sir Eustace gives of his frenzy; thouch we are not sure whether there is not something too elaborate, and too much worked up, in the picture. We give only one imasje, which we think is original. He supposed himself hurried along by two tormenting demons.
"Through lands we fled, o'er sens we flew,
And halted on a boundless plain;
"Upon that boundless plain, below.
The setijng sun's last rays were shed,
Where all were still, asleep, or dead;
Pillars and pediments sublime,
And cloth'd the crumbling spoils of Time.
"There was I fix'd, I know not how,
Condemn'd for untold years to stay;
Endur'd no change of night or day;
Shone softly-solemn and serene, And all that time I gaz'd away, The eetnng sun's sad rays were teen."
"The Hall of Justice," or the etory of Ü» Gipsy Convict, is another experiment of Гиг. Crabbe's. It is very nervous — тегу shoeboig — and very powerfully represented. The woman is accused of stealing, and teile her story in impetuous and lofly language.
"My crime! this sick'ning child to feed,
"But I have griefs of other kind,
Troubles and sorrows more severe;
Give me to ease my tortur'd mind.
And let me — if I may not find
"My mother dead, my father lost,
A common care, a common cost,
With them on want and error forc'd,
"So through the land I wand'ring went,
And little found of grief or joy;
"A sturdy youth he was and tall,
His looks would all his soul declare.
His piercing eyes were deep and small,
And strongly curl'd his raven hair.
"Yes, Aaron had each manly charm.
All in the May of youthful pride;
He scarcely fear d his father's arm,
And every other arm defied. —
(Whom will not love and power divide r
The father felon falls in love with the Ïtrothed of his son. whom he despatch« w some distant errand. The consummation cf his horrid passion is told in these powerful stanzas :—
"The night was dark, the lanes were dtr;.
And one by one they took their war;
Accursed be the love he bore —
So let him of hit God implore
It is painful to follow the story ont. Tfcl son returns, and privately murder? hi« tali;-'. and then marries his widow! The prn;i ir.'f barbarity of the life led by those outcn-'- forcibly expressed by the simple uarratiif e/ the lines that follow :—
"I brought a lovely daughter forth.
His father's child, in Aaron's \>ti'
"'Twas false! We wander'd far sod wide.
We have not room to give the sequel of :ii dreadful ballad. It ceriraly is not
Tkt Borough: a Poem, in Twenty-four Letters. By the Eev. George Crabbe, LL. B. 8vo. pp. 344. London: 1810.
We are very glad to meet with Mr. Crabbe so soon again ; and particularly glad to find, that fais early return has been occasioned, in part, f>y the encouragement he received on his last appearance. This late spring of public favour, we hope, he will yet live to see ripen into mature fame. We scarcely know any poet who deserves it better; and are quite certain there is none who is more secure of keeping with plenty whatever he may win from his contemporaries.
The present poem is precisely of the character of The Village and The Parish Register. It has the same peculiarities, and the same faults and beauties; though a severe critic might perhaps add, that its peculiarities are irmrt? obtrusive, its faults greater, and its beauties less. However that be. both faults and beauties are so plainlv produced by the peculiarity, that it may be worth while, before giving any more particular account of it, to try í we can ascertain in what that consists.
And here we shall very speedily discover, that Mr. Crabbe is distinguished from all other poets, both by the choice of his subjects, and by his manner of treating them. All his peri>ns are taken from the lower ranks of life; and all his scenery from the most ordinary and familiar objects of nature or art. His characters and incidents, too, are as common и the elements out of which they are componnded are humble; and not only hag he
•hmcr prodigious or astonishing in any of his representations, but he has not even attempted to impart any of the ordinary colours •i poetry to those vulgar materials. He has •'""' mnralisins swains or sentimental trades1 cn: and scarcely ever seeks to charm us by ibe artleee graces or lowly virtues of his per4>na!*ps. On the contrary, he has represented his Tilhirers and humble burghers as alto-'••'hfr as dissipated, and more dishonest and 'kcontented, than the profligates of higher ':?: and, instead of conducting us through blooming groves and pastoral meadows, has '<i us along filthy lanes and crowded wharfs, '" hospitals, alms-houses, and gin-shops. In wne of these delineations, he may be consiered as the Satirist of low life—an occupa'»n rafficiently arduous, and, in a great degree, new and original in our language. Bat
i by far the greater part of his poetry is of a different and a higher character; and aims at moving or delighting us by lively, touch¡ ing, and finely contrasted representations of the dispositions, sufferings, and occupations of those ordinary persons who form the far greater part of our fellow-creatures. This, too, he has sought to effect, merely by placing before us the clearest, most brief, and most striking sketches of their external condition— the most sagacious and unexpected strokes of character—and the truest and most pathetic pictures of natural feeling and common suffering. By the mere force of his art. and the novelty of his style, he forces us to attend to objects that are usually neglected, and to enter into feelings from which we are in general but too eager to escape :—and then trusts to nature for the effect of the representation.
It is obvious, at first sight, that this is not a task for an ordinary hand; and that many ingenious writers, who make a very good figure with battles, nymphs, and moonlight landscapes, would find themselves quite helples?, if set down among streets, harbours, and taverns. The difficulty of such subjects, in short, is sufficiently visible—and some of the causes of that difficulty: But they have their advantages also ;—and of these, and their hazards, it seems natural to say a few words, before entering more minutely into th» merits of the work before us.
The first great advantage of such familial subjects is, that every one is necessarily wel' acquainted with the originals; and is therefore sure to feel all that pleasure, from a faithful representation of them, which result» from the perception of a perfect and successful imitation. In the kindred art of painting, we find that this single consideration has been sufficient to stamp a very high value upon accurate and lively delineations of objects, in themselves uninteresting, and even disagreeable; and no very inconsiderable part of the pleasure which may be derived from Mr Crabbe's poetry may probably be referred to its mere truth and fidelity; and to the brevity and clearness with whici; he sets before hi» readers, objects and characters with which they have been all their days familiar.
In his happier passages, however, he has a