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(April, 1808.) Poems. By the Reverend George CRABBE. 8vo. pp. 260. London, 1807.* We receive the proofs of Mr. Crabbe's usurp the attention which he was sure of poetical existence, which are contained in commanding, and allowed himself to be this volume, with the same sort of feeling nearly forgotten by a public, which reckons that would be excited by tidings of an ancient upon being reminded of all the claims which friend, whom we no longer expected to hear the living have on its favour. His former of in this world. We rejoice in his resurrec- publications, though of distinguished merit, tion, both for his sake and for our own: But were perhaps too small in volume to remain we feel also a certain movement of self-con- long the objects of general attention, and demnation, for having been remiss in our in- seem, by some accident, to have been jostled quiries after him, and somewhat too negligent aside in the crowd of more clamorous comof the honours which ought, at any rate, to petitors. have been paid to his memory.
Yet, though the name of Crabbe has not It is now, we are afraid, upwards of twenty hitherto been very common in the mouths of years since we were first struck with the vig- our poetical critics, we believe there are few our, originality, and truth of description of real lovers of poetry to whom some of his “The Village;" and since, we regretted that sentiments and descriptions are not secretly an author, who could write so well, should familiar. There is a truth and a force in many have writien so little. From that time to the of his delineations of rustic life, which is cal. present, we have heard little of Mr. Crabbe; culated to sink deep into the memory; and, and fear that he has been in a great measure being confirmed by daily observation, they lost sight of by the public, as well as by us.' are recalled upon innumerable occasionsWith a singular, and scarcely pardonable in- when the ideal pictures of more fanciful audifference to fame, he has remained, during thors have lost all their interest. For ourthis long interval, in patient or indolent re- selves at least, we profess to be indebted to pose ; and, without making a single move- Mr. Crabbe for many of these strong impresment to maintain or advance the reputation sions; and have known more than one of our he had acquired, has permitted others to unpoetical acquaintances, who declared they
could never pass by a parish work house with. I have given a larger space to Crabbe in this out thinking of the description of it they had republication than to any of his contemporary poets ; read at school in the Poetical Extracts. The not merely because I think more highly of him than of most of them, but also because I fancy that volume before us will renew, we trust, and he has had less justice done him. The nature of extend many such impressions. It contains his subjects was not such as to attract either imira. all the former productions of the author, with tors or admirers, from among the ambitious or fun. about double their bulk of new matter; most ciful lovers of poetry; or, consequently, to get him of it in the same taste and manner of comat the head of a School, or let him surround him. self with the zealots of a Sect: And it must also position with the former; and some of a kind, be admitted, that his claims to distinction depend of which we have had no previous example fully as much on his great powers of observation, in this author. The whole, however, is of no his skill in touching the deeper sympathies of our ordinary merit, and will be found, we have nature, and his power of inculcaring, by their means, little doubt, a sufficient warrant for Mr. Crabbe the most impressive lessons of humanity, as on any to take his place as one of the most original, lineations. I have great faith, however, in the in. nervous, and pathetic poets of the present trinsic worth and ultimate success of those more century, substantial attributes; and have, accordingly, the His characteristic, certainly, is force, and strongest impression that the citations I have here truth of description, joined for the most part given from Crabbe will strike more, and sink deeper to great selection and condensation of expresinto the minds of readers to whom they are new sion ;-that kind of strength and originality (or by whom they may have been partially forgot, which we meet with in Cowper, and that sort ten), than any I have been able to present from other writers. It probably is idle enough (as well of diction and versification which we admire as a little presumpiuous) to suppose that a publica- in "The Deserted Village” of Goldsmith, or tion like this will afford many opportunities of resi. “The Vanity of Human Wishes” of Johnson. ing the truth of this prediction. But, as the ex. If he can be said to have imitated the manner? periment is to be made, there can be no harm in of any author, it is Goldsmith, indeed, who
It is but candid, however, afier all, 10 add, that has been the object of his imitation ; and yet my concern for Mr. Crabbe's reputation would his general train of thinking, and his views scarcely have led me to devote near one hundred of society, are so extremely opposite, that, pages to the estimate of his poetical meri's, had l when “The Village” was first published, it not set some value on the speculations as to the elements of poetical excellence in general, and its
was commonly considered as an antidote or moral bearings and affinities--for the introduction an answer to the more captivating representaof which this estimate seemed to present an occa- tions of “ The Deserted Village. Compared sion, or apology.
with this celebrated author, he will be found,
we think, to have more vigour and less deli- men of the new school, on the other hand, cacy; and while he must be admitted to be scarcely ever condescend to take their subinferior in the fine finish and uniform beauty jects from any description of persons at all of his composition, we cannot help considering known to the common inhabitants of the him as superior, both in the variety and the world; but invent for themselves certain truth of his pictures. Instead of that uniform whimsical and unheard-of beings, to whom tint of pensive tenderness which overspreads they impute some fantastical combination of the whole poetry of Goldsmith, we find in Mr. feelings, and then labour to excite our symCrabbe many gleams of gaiety and humour. pathy for them, either by placing them in inThough his habitual views of life are more credible situations, or by some strained, and gloomy than those of his rival, his poetical exaggerated moralisation of a vague and tratemperament seems far more cheerful; and gical description. Mr. Crabbe, in short, shows when the occasions of sorrow and rebuke are us something which we have all seen, or may gone by, he can collect himself for sarcastic see, in real life; and draws from it such feelpleasantry, or unbend in innocent playfulness. ings and such reflections as every human beHis diction, though generally pure and pow-ing must acknowledge that it is calculated to erful, is sometimes harsh, and sometimes excite. He delights us by the truth, and vivid quaint; and he has occasionally admitted a and picturesque beauty of his representations, couplet or two in a state so unfinished, as to and by the force and pathos of the sensations give a character of inelegance to the passages with which we feel that they are connected. in which they occur. With a taste less dis- Mr. Wordsworth and his associates, on the ciplined and less fastidious than that of Gold- other hand, introduce us to beings whose exsmith, he has, in our apprehension, a keener istence was not previously suspected by the eye for observation, and a readier hand for acutest observers of nature; and excite an the delineation of what he has observed. interest for them—where they do excite any There is less poetical keeping in his whole interest-more by an eloquent and refined performance; but the groups of which it con- analysis of their own capricious feelings, than sists are conceived, we think, with equal by any obvious or intelligible ground of symgenius, and drawn with greater spirit as well pathy in their situation. as far greater fidelity.
Those who are acquainted with the Lyrical It is not quite fair, perhaps, thus to draw a Ballads, or the more recent publications of detailed parallel between a living poet, and Mr. Wordsworth, will scarcely deny the jusone whose reputation has been sealed by tice of this representation; but in order to death, and by the immutable sentence of a vindicate it to such as do not enjoy that adsurviving generation. Yet there are so few vantage, we must beg leave to make a few of his contemporaries to whom Mr. Crabbe hasty references to the former, and by far the bears any resemblance, that we can scarcely least exceptionable of those productions. explain our opinion of his merit, without com- A village schoolmaster, for instance, is a paring him to some of his predecessors. pretty common poetical character. Goldsmith There is one set of writers, indeed, from has drawn him inimitably; so has Shenstone, whose works those of Mr. Crabbe might re. with the slight change of sex; and Mr. Crabbe, ceive all that elucidation which results from in two passages, has followed their footsteps. contrast, and from an entire opposition in all Now, Mr. Wordsworth has a village schoolpoints of taste and opinion. We allude now master also—a personage who makes no small to the Wordsworths, and the Southeys, and figure in three or four of his poems. But by Coleridges, and all that ambitious fraternity, what traits is this worthy old gentleman dethat, with good intentions and extraordinary lineated by the new poet? No pedantry-no talents, are labouring to bring back our poetry innocent vanity of learning-no mixture of to the fantastical oddity and puling childish- indulgence with the pride of power, and of ness of Withers, Quarles, or Marvel. These poverty with the consciousness of rare acgentlemen write a great deal about rustic life, quirements. Every feature which belongs to as well as Mr. Crabbe; and they even agree the situation, or marks the character in comwith him in dwelling much on its discomforts; mon apprehension, is scornfully discarded by but nothing can þe more opposite than the Mr. Wordsworth; who represents his greyviews they take of the subject, or the manner haired rustic pedagogue as a sort of half crazy; in which they exccute their representations of sentimental person, overrun with fine feelthem.
ings, constitutional merriment, and a most Mr. Crabbe exhibits the common people humorous melancholy. Here are the two of England pretty much as they are, and as stanzas in which this consistent and intellithey must appear to every one who will take gible character is pourtrayed. The diction is the trouble of examining into their condition; at least as new as the conception. at the same time that he renders his sketches in a very high degree interesting and beautiful
“The sighs which Mathew heav'd were sighs
Of one tir'd out with fun and madness ; --by selecting what is most fit for descrip
The lears which came io Matthew's eyes tion—by grouping them into such forms as Were tears of light—the oil of gladness. must catch the attention or awake the memory—and by scattering over the whole such
" Yet sometimes, when the secret cup traits of moral sensibility, of sarcasm, and of
Of slill and serious thought went round,
He seem'd as if he drank it up, deep reflection, as every one must feel to be He felt with spirit so profound. natural, and own to be powerful. The gentle- Thou soul of God's best earthly mould," &c.
A frail damsel again is a character common (sary for his readers to keep in view, if they enough in all poems; and one upon which would wish to understand the beauty or promany fine and pathetic lines have been ex- priety of his delineations. pended. Mr. Wordsworth has written more A pathetic tale of guilt or superstition may ihan three hundred on the subject: but, in- be told, we are apt to fancy, by the poet him. stead of new images of tenderness, or deli- self, in his general character of poet, with full cate representation of intelligible feelings, he as much effect as by any other person. An has contrived to tell us nothing whatever of old nurse, at any rate, or a monk or parish the unfortunate fair one, but that her name is clerk, is always at hand to give grace to such Martha Ray; and that she goes up to the top a narration. None of these, however, would of a hill, in a red cloak, and cries "O misery!" satisfy Mr. Wordsworth. He has written a All the rest of the poem is filled with a de- long poem of this sort, in which he thinks it scription of an old thorn and a pond, and of indispensably necessary to apprise the reader, the silly stories which the neighbouring old that he has endeavoured to represent the women told about them.
language and sentiments of a particular charThe sports of childhood, and the untimely acter-of which character, he adds, the death of promising youth, is also a common reader will have a general notion, if he has topic of poetry. Mr. Wordsworth has made ever known a man, a captain of a small trading some blank verse about it; but, instead of vessel, for example, who being past the middle the delightful and picturesque sketches with age of life, has retired upon an annuity, or which so many authors of moderate talents small independent income, to some village or have presented us on this inviting subject, all country, of which he was not a native, or in that he is pleased to communicate of his rustic which he had not been accustomed to live!" child, is, that he used to amuse himself with Now, we must be permitted to doubt. shouting to the owls, and hearing them an- whether, among all the readers of Mr. Words.
To make amends for this brevity, the worth (few or many), there is a single indi. process of his mimicry is most accurately de. vidual who has had the happiness of knowing scribed.
a person of this very peculiar description; or "Wish fingers interwoven, both hands
who is capable of forming any sort of conPress'd closely palm 10 palm, and to his mouth jecture of the particular disposition and turn Uplified, he, as through an instrument,
of thinking which such a combination of atBlew mimic hootings to the silent owls, tributes would be apt to produce. To us, we That they might answer him."'
will confess, the annonce appears as ludicrous This is all we hear of him; and for the and absurd as it would be in the author of an sake of this one accomplishment, we are told, ode or an epic to say, “Of this piece the that the author has frequently stood mute, and reader will necessarily form a very erroneous gazed on his grave for half an hour together! judgment, unless he is apprised, that it was
Love, and the fantasies of lovers, have af- written by a pale man in a green coat-sitting forded an ample theme to poets of all ages. cross-legged on an oaken stool—with a scratch Mr. Wordsworth, however, has thought fit to on his nose, and a spelling dictionary on the compose a piece, illustrating this copious sub- table."* ject by one single thought. A lover trots away to see his mistress one fine evening, * Some of our readers may have a curiosity lo gazing all the way on the moon; when he know in what manner this old annuirant capisin comes to her door,
does actually express himself in the village of his
adoption. For their gratification, we annex the two "O mercy! to myself I cried,
first stanzas of his story; in which, with all the ai. If Lucy should be dead!"
tention we have been able to bestow, we have been
uiterly unable to detect any traits that can be sup. And there the poem ends!
posed to characterise either a seaman, an annuitant, Now, we leave it to any reader of common or a stranger in a country town. It is a style, on candour and discernment to say, whether the contrary, which we should ascribe, without these representations of character and senti- hesitation, io a certain poetical fraternity in the ment are drawn from that eternal and uni- West of England; and which, we verily believe, versal standard of truth and nature, which never was, and never will be, used by any one out
of ihal fraternity. every one is knowing enough to recognise, and no one great enough to depart from with " There is a thorn-it looks so old, impunity; or whether they are not formed,
In truth you'd find it hard to say,
How it could ever have been young! as we have ventured to allege, upon certain
It looks so old and grey. fantastic and affected peculiarities in the Not higher than a two-years' child, mind or fancy of the author, into which it is It slands erect; this aged thorn! most improbable that many of his readers No leaves it has, no thorny points; will enter, and which cannot, in some cases,
It is a mass of knotted joints : be comprehended without much effort and
A wretched thing forlorn,
It stands erect; and like a stone, explanation. Instead of multiplying instances With lichens it is overgrown. of these wide and wilful aberrations from ordinary nature, it may be more satisfactory to
“ Like rock or stone, it is o'ergrown produce the author's own admission of the
With lichens;-10 the very top; narrowness of the plan upon which he writes,
And hung with heavy tufts of moss
A melancholy crop. and of the very extraordinary circumstances Up from the earth these mosses croep, which he himself sometimes thinks it neces. And this poor thorn, they clasp it round
From these childish and absurd affecta- Silent and sad, and gazing, hand in hand; tions, we turn with pleasur
sure to the manly While bending low, their eager eyes explore sense and correct picturing of Mr. Crabbe; 1 The bell rolls late, the moping owl flies round, and, after being dazzled and made giddy Fear marks the fight and magnifies the sound ; with the elaborate raptures and obscure origi- The busy priest, detain'd by weightier care, nalities of these new artists, it is refreshing to Defers his duty till the day of prayer; meet again with the spirit and nature of our And waiting long, the crowd retire distrest, old masters, in the nervous pages of the To think a poor inan's bones should lie unblest." author now before us.
pp. 16, 17. The poem that stands first in the volume,
The scope of the poem is to show, that the is that to which we have already alluded as villagers of real life have no resemblance to having been first given to the public upwards the villagers of poetry ; that poverty, in sober of twenty years ago. It is so old, and has of truth, is very uncomfortable; and vice by no late been so scarce, that it is probably new means confined to the opulent. The following to many of our readers. We shall venture, passage is powerfully, and finely written :therefore, to give a few extracts from it as a specimen of Mr. Crabbe's original style of " Or will you deem them amply paid in health, composition. We have already hinted at the Labour's fair child, that languishes with wealth ? description of the Parish Work house, and in- Through a long course of daily toil to run;
Go then! and see them rising with the sun, sert it as an example of no common poetry :- See them beneath the dog-star's raging heal,
When the knees tremble and the temples beat; "Theirs is yon house that holds the parish poor, Whose walls of mud scarce bear the broken door ; The labour past, and toils to come explore ;
Behold them, leaning on their scythes, look o'er There, where the putrid vapours flagging play,
Through fens and marshy moors their steps pursue, And the dull wheel hums doleful through the day ;
When their warm pores imbibe the evening dew, There children dwell who know no parents' care ; Parents, who know no children's love, dwell there; Contend with weakness, weariness, and shame ;
“ There may you see the youth of slender frame Heart-broken matrons on their joyless bed, Forsaken wives, and mothers never wed;
Yet urg'd along, and proudly loath to yield,
He strives to join his fellows of the field;
Till long-coniending nature droops at last ;
His cheerless spouse the coming danger sees, The moping idiot and the madman gay.
And mutual murmurs urge the slow disease. " Here, too, the sick their final doom receive,
· Yet grant them healih, 'ris not for us to tell, Here brought amid the scenes of grief, to grieve ; Though ihe head droops not, that ibe heart is well; Where the loud groans from some sad chamber Or will you praise that homely, healthy fare, Mixt with the clamours of the crowd below. (flow, Plenteous and plain, that happy peasants share ? "Say ye, opprest by some fantastic woes,
Oh! trifle not with wants you cannot feel !
Homely not wholesome-plain noi plenieous-such
As you who praise would never deign to touch! How would ye bear in real pain to lie,
Ye gentle souls, who dream of rural ease, Despis'd, neglected, left alone to die?
Whom the smooth stream and smoother sonnet How would ye bear to draw your latest breath, Where all that's wretched paves the way for death? Go look within, and ask if peace be there :
Go! if the peaceful coi your praises share, (please ; "Such is that room which one rude beam divides, if peace be bis--that drooping, weary sire, And naked rafters form the sloping sides ;
Or theirs, that offspring round their feeble fire ! Where the vile bands that bind the thatch are seen, Or hers, that matron pale, whose trembling hand And lath and mud are all that lie between; Turns on the wretched hearth th' expiring brand." Save one dull pane, ihat, coarsely patch'd, gives
pp. 8-10. To the rude tempest, yet excludes the day : (way Here, on a matted flock, with dust o'erspread, The drooping wretch reclines his languid head;
We shall only give one other extract from
this For him no hand the cordial cup applies," &c.
Pp. 12–14. description of that peculiar sort of barrenness
which prevails along the sandy and thinly The consequential apothecary, who gives inhabited shores of the Channel: an impatient attendance in these abodes of misery, is admirably described; but we pass" Lo! where the heath, with with’ring brake grown to the last scene :
Lends the light turf that warms the neighbouring "Now to the church behold the mourners come,
From thence a length of burning sand appears, Sedately torpid and devoutly dumb);
Where the thin harvest waves ils wilher'd ears ; The village children now their games suspend, There ihistles stretch their prickly arms afir, To see the bier that bears their ancient friend; And to the ragged infant threaten war ; For he was one in all their idle sport,
There poppies nodding, mock the hope of toil, And like a monarch rul'd their liitle court;
There ihe blue bugloss painıs the sterile soil : The pliant how he form'd, the flying ball,
Hardy and high, above ihe slender sheaf, The bat, the wicket, were his labours all; The slimy mallow waves her silk y leaf; Him now they follow to his grave, and stand, O'er the young shoot the charlock throws a shade,
And clasping lares cling round the sickly blade ; So close, you'd say that they were bent,
With mingled tints the rocky coasts abound,
And a sad splendour vainly shines around."
The next poem, and the longest in the To bury this poor thorn for ever."
volume, is now presented for the first time to And this, it seems, is Nature, and Pathos, and the public. It is dedicated, like the former, Poetry !
to the delineation of rural life and characters,
pp. 5, 6.
and is entitled, “The Village Register;" and, "See ! on the floor, what frowzy patches rest! upon a very simple but singular plan, is divi- What nauseous fragments on yon iraciur'd chest ! ded into three parts, viz. Baptisms, Marriages, and round these posts that serve this bed for feel; and Burials. After an introductory and gen- This bed where all those talter'd garments lie, eral view of village manners, the reverend Worn by each sex, and now perforce thrown by. author proceeds to present his readers with See! as we gaze, an infant lifts its head, an account of all the remarkable baptisms, Left by neglect, and burrow'd in that bed; marriages, and funerals, that appear on his The mother-gossip has the love supprest, register for the preceding year; with a sketch An infant's cry once waken’d in her breast," &c. of the character and behaviour of the respect. But packs of cards-made up of sundry packs;
“ Here are no wheels for either wool or flax, ive parties, and such reflections and exhorta. Here are no books, but ballads on the wall, tions as are suggested by the subject. The Are some abusive, and indecent all; poem consists, therefore, of a series of por- Pistols are here, unpair’d; with nets and hooks, traits taken from the middling and lower of every kind, for rivers, ponds, and brooks ; ranks of rustic life, and delineated on occa
An ample flask that nightly rovers fill, sions at once more common and more inter- A box of tools with wires of various size,
With recent poison from ihe Dutchman's still; esting, than any other that could well be Frocks, wigs, and hats, for night or day disguise, imagined. They are selected, we think, with And bludgeons stout to gain or guard a prize.great judgment, and drawn with inimitable Here his poor bird, ih inhuman cocker brings accuracy and strength of colouring. They Arms his hard heel, and clips his golden wings; are finished with much more minuteness and And shouis and curses as the baule bleeds: detail, indeed, than the more general pictures Struck through the brain, depriv'd of both his eyes. in “ The Village ;" and, on this account, may The vanquishid bird must combat till he dies! appear occasionally deficient in comprehen- Must faintly peck at his victorious foe, sion, or in dignity. They are, no doubt, exe- And reel and stagger at each feeble blow; cuted in some instances with too much of His blood-stain'd arms, for other deaths assumes ;
When fall'n, ihe savage grasps his dabbled plumes. a Chinese accuracy; and enter into details And damns the craven-fowl, that lost his stake, which many readers may pronounce tedious And only bled and perish'd for his sake!" and unnecessary. Yet there is a justness
pp. 40–44. and force in the representation which is
Mr. Crabbe now opens his chronicle; and entitled to something more than indulgence; the first babe that appears on the list is a and though several of the groups are com- natural child of the miller's daughter. This posed of low and disagreeable subjects, still, damsel fell in love with a sailor; but her we think that some allowance is to be made father refused his consent, and no priest for the author's plan of giving a full and exact would unite them without it. The poor girl view of village life, which could not possibly yielded to her passion; and her lover went to be accomplished without including those baser sea, to seek a portion for his bride :varieties. He aims at an important moral effect by this exhibition ; and must not be 'The varying look, the wand’ring appetite;
“ Then came the days of shame, the grievous night, defrauded either of that, or of the praise which | The joy assum'd, while sorrow dimm'd the eyes, is due to the coarser efforts of his pen, out of The forc'd sad smiles that follow'd sudden sighs, deference to the sickly delicacy of his more And every art, long us'd, but us’d in vain, fastidious readers. We admit, however, that To hide thy progress, Nature, and thy pain. there is more carelessness, as well as more
“ Day after day were past in grief and pain, quaintness in this poem than in the other; Her boy was born :- No lads nor lasses came
Week after week, nor came the youth again ; and that he has now and then apparently | To grace the rite or give the child a name; heaped up circumstances rather to gratisy Nor grave conceited nurse, of office proud, his own taste for detail and accumulation, Bore the young Christian, roaring through the than to give any additional effect to his de- In a small chamber was my office done, (crowd ; scription. With this general observation, we
Where blinks, through paper'd panes, the setting beg the reader's attention to the following Where noisy'sparrows, perch'don penthouse near, abstract and citations.
Chirp tuneless joy, and mock ibe frequent tear." The poem begins with a general view, first Throughout ihe lanes, she glides at evening's of the industrious and contented villager, and There sofily lulls her infant to repose; (close. then of the profligate and disorderly: The Then sits and gazes, but with viewless look, first compartment is not so striking as the last. As gilds the moon the rimpling of the brook; Mr. Crabbe, it seems, has a set of smugglers She hears their murmurs as the waters flow;
Then sings her vespers, but in voice so low, among his Hock, who inhabit what is called And she too murmurs, and begins to find the Street in his village. There is nothing The solemn wand'rings of a wounded mind! comparable to the following description, but
pp. 17-19, some of the prose sketches of Mandeville:
We pass the rest of the Baptisms; and “Here, in cabal, a disputatious crew
proceed to the more interesting chapter of Each evening meet; the soi, the cheat
, the shrew; Marriages. The first pair here is an old snug Riots are nightly heard-ihe curse, the cries bachelor, who, in the first days of dotage, Of beaten wife, perverse in her replies:
had married his maid-servant. The reverend Boys in their first stol'n rags, to seal begin,
Mr. Crabbe is very facetious on this maich; And girls, who know not sex, are skill'd in gin! Snarers and smugglers here their gains divide,
and not very scrupulously delicate. Ensnaring females here their victims hide ;
The following picture, ihough liable in part And here is one, the Sibyl of the Row,
to the same objection, is perfect, we think, in Who knows all secrets, or affects to know.- that style of drawing