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This poet was born on the twenty-fourth of December, 1754, at Aldborough, in Suffolk, where his father and grandfather were officers of the customs. At the school where he received his education he gained a prize for one of his poems; and on leaving it he became an apprentice to a surgeon and apothecary in his native village. On the completion of his apprenticeship, abandoning all hope of success in his profession, he went to London to commence a life of authorship. Unknown and unfriended, he endeavoured in vain to induce the booksellers to publish his writings. At length, in 1780, two years after his arrival in the great metropolis, he ventured to print at his own expense a poem entitled “The Candidate,” which was favourably received. He was soon after introduced to EDMUND BURKE, who became his friend and patron, and presented him to Fox and other eminent contemporaries. In 1781 he published “The Library,” and was ordained a deacon. In the following year he became curate of Aldborough, and in 1783 he entered his name at Trinity Hall, Cambridge; but left the University without graduating, though he was subsequently presented with the degree of B. C. L. After residing for a considerable period at Belvoir Castle, as chaplain to the Duke of Rutland, he was introduced to the Lord Chancellor Thurlow, who bestowed upon him successively the living of Frome St. Quintin, in Dorsetshire, and the rectories of Muston and West Allington in the diocese of Lincoln. In 1807 he published a complete edition of his works then written, which was received with general applause. Three years afterward appeared “The Borough;” in
Let me not have this gloomy view
1812, his “Tales;” and in 1819, his “Tales of the Hall.” He died at Trowbridge, in Wiltshire, in February, 1832. As a man, CRAbbe was admired and loved by all who knew him. Lockhart, in describing his person, says “his noble forehead, his bright beaming eye—without any thing of old age about it, though he was then above seventy—his sweet and innocent smile, and the calm, mellow tones of his voice, all are reproduced the moment I open any page of his poetry.” A perfect edition of his poetical writings, with a graceful and sensible memoir by his son, has been issued by MURRAY, since his death. The lovers of homely truth may appeal to CRAbbe in proof that its sternest utterance is dramatic. No poet has ventured to rely more entirely on fact. He paints without delicacy, but his touches are so very literal as to be striking and effective. The poor have found in him their ablest annalist. The most gloomy phases of life are described in his tales with an integrity that has rendered them almost as imposing as a tragedy. The interest awakened by his pictures is often fearful, merely from their appalling truth and touching minuteness. He was a mannerist, and some of the features of his mannerism—his monotonous versification, and minute portraitures of worthless characters, with their rude jests and familiar moralizing—are unpleasing ; but his powerful and graphic delineations of humble life, his occasional touches of deepest tendermess, and the profoundness of his wisdom, mark not less strongly than these blemishes, all that he wrote, and will keep green his reputation while the world we live in is the scene of sin and suffering.
Oh! let the herbs I loved to rear
Let them be placed about my bier,
I'll have my grave beneath a hill,
Where runs the pure pellucid rill
There violets on the borders blow,
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Till, as the morning sunbeams glow, The cold phosphoric fires decay.
That is the grave to Lucy shown,
There will the lark,+the lamb, in sport,
With ribs and skulls I will not sleep,
Say not, it is beneath my care;
Oh! take me from a world I hate,—
My Damon was the first to wake
Buried be all that has been done.
PLACE the white man on Afric's coast,
Is now with mild religious pity moved;
THE WRETCHED MIND.
Th’ unhappy man was found,
The spirit settled, but the reason drown'd;
And now his freedom he attain’d—if free
That gentle maid, whom once the youth had [loved, Kindly she chides his boyish flights, while he Will for a moment fix’d and pensive be ; And as she trembling speaks, his lively eyes Explore her looks, he listens to her sighs; [vade Charm'd by her voice, the harmonious sounds inHis clouded mind, and for a time persuade: Like a pleased infant, who has newly caught, From the maternal glance, a gleam of thought; He stands enrapt, the half-known voice to hear, And starts, half-conscious, at the falling tear !
Rarely from town, nor then unwatch'd, he goes, In darker mood, as if to hide his woes; But, soon returning, with impatience seeks [speaks; His youthful friends, and shouts, and sings, and Speaks a wild speech, with action all as wild— The children's leader, and himself a child; He spins their top, or, at their bidding, bends His back, while o'er it leap his laughing friends; Simple and weak, he acts the boy once more,
And heedless children call him Silly Shore. *
THE DREAM OF THE CONDEMNED.
Whex first I came
Within his view, I fancied there was shame,
Yes! e'en in sleep th’ impressions all remain;
At this his terrors take a sudden flight— He sees his native village with delight; The house, the chamber, where he once array'd His youthful person; where he knelt and pray'd: Then too the comforts he enjoy'd at home, The days of joy; the joys themselves are come;—
The hours of innocence; the timid look
“Yes! all are with him now, and all the while
When all you see through densest fog is seen; When you can hear the fishers near at hand Distinctly speak, yet see not where they stand; Or sometimes them and not their boat discern, Or, half-conceal’d, some figure at the stern; Boys who, on shore, to sea the pebble cast, Will hear it strike against the viewless mast; While the stern boatman growls his fierce disdain, At whom he knows not, whom he threats in vain.
'Tis pleasant then to view the nets float past, Net after net, till you have seen the last; And as you wait till all beyond you slip, A boat comes gliding from an anchor'd ship, Breaking the silence with the dipping oar, And their own tones, as labouring for the shore; Those measured tones with which the scene agree, And give a sadness to serenity.
THE SUDDEN DEATH AND FUNERAL.
The N died lamented, in the strength of life, A valued mother and a faithful wife, Call'd not away, when time had loosed each hold On the fond heart, and each desire grew cold; But when, to all that knit us to our kind, She felt fast bound as charity can bind;— Not when the ills of age, its pain, its care, The drooping spirit for its fate prepare; And, each affection failing, leaves the heart Loosed from life's charm, and willing to depart;But all her ties the strong invader broke, In all their strength, by one tremendous stroke! Sudden and swift the eager pest came on, And terror grew, till every hope was gone: Still those around appear'd for hope to seek : But view'd the sick, and were afraid to speakSlowly they bore, with solemn step, the dead, When grief grew loud and bitter tears were shed: My part began; a crowd drew near the place, Awe in each eye, alarm in every face; So swift the ill, and of so fierce a kind, That fear with pity mingled in each mind; Friends with the husband came their griefs to blend; For good-man Frankford was to all a friend. The last-born boy they held above the bier, He knew not grief, but cries express'd his fear; Each different age and sex reveal’d its pain, In now a louder, now a lower strain; While the meek father, listening to their tones, Swell'd the full cadence of the grief by groans. The elder sister strove her pangs to hide, And soothing words to younger minds applied: “Be still, be patient,” oft she strove to say: But fail'd as oft, and weeping turn'd away. Curious and sad, upon the fresh-dug hill, The village lads stood melancholy still ; And idle children, wandering to and fro, As nature guided, took the tone of wo.
She left her infant on the Sunday morn, A creature doom'd to shame! in sorrow born. She came not home to share our humble meal,— Her father thinking what his child would feel From his hard sentence!—Still she came not home, The night grew dark, and yet she was not come ! The east-wind roar'd, the sea return'd the sound, And the rain fell as if the world were drown'd : There were no lights without, and my good man, To kindness frighten'd, with a groan began To talk of Ruth, and pray ! and then he took The Bible down, and read the holy book:
* Ruth is betrothed—something more than betrothed— to a young sailor, who, on the eve of marriage, is carried relentlessly off by a press-gang, and afterward slain in battle. A canting, hypocritical weaver afterward becomes a suitor of the widowed bride, and her father urges her with severity to wed the missioned suiter. The above extract is from the conclusion of the story, in the “Tales of the Hall.” The heroine has promised to give her answer on Sunday.
For he had learning : and when that was done,
A GROUP OF GIPSIES. A win E And sandy road has banks on either side; Where, lo! a hollow on the left appear'd, And there a gipsy tribe their tent had rear'd ; "Twas open spread, to catch the morning sun, And they had now their early meal begun, When two brown boys just left their grassy seat, The early traveller with their prayers to greet: While yet Orlando held his pence in hand, He saw their sister on her duty stand; Some twelve years old, demure, affected, sly, Prepared the force of early powers to try : Sudden a look of languor he descries, And well-feign'd apprehension in her eyes; Train'd, but yet savage, in her speaking face, He mark'd the features of her vagrant race; When a light laugh and roguish leer express'd The vice implanted in her youthful breast ! Within, the father, who from fences nigh Had brought the fuel for the fire's supply, [by : Watch'd now the feeble blaze, and stood dejected On ragged rug, just borrow'd from the bed, And by the hand of coarse indulgence fed, In dirty patchwork negligently dress'd, Reclined the wife, an infant at her breast; In her wild face some touch of grace remain'd, Of vigour palsied and of beauty stain'd : Her blood-shot eyes on her unheeding mate Were wrathful turn'd, and secm'd her wants to state,
Cursing his tardy aid—her mother there
Youn plan I love not:—with a number you Have placed your poor, your pitiable few ; There, in one house, for all their lives to be, The pauper-palace which they hate to see : That giant building, that high bounding wall, Those bare-worn walks, that lofty thundering hall! That large, loud clock, which tolls each dreaded
| Those gates and locks, and all those signs of power: It is a prison with a milder name,
Which few inhabit without dread or shame.—
They talk, indeed; but who can choose a friend,
Now be their arts display’d, how first they choose A cause and party, as the bard his muse; Inspired by these, with clamorous zeal they cry, And through the town their dreams and omens fly: So the sibylline leaves were blown about, Disjointed scraps of fate involved in doubt; So idle dreams, the journals of the night, Are right and wrong by turns, and mingle wrong
Some, champions for the rights that prop the crown,
Chief to the prosperous side the numbers sail,
Such are our guides: how many a peaceful head, Born to be still, have they to wrangling led ! How many an honest zealot stolen from trade, And factious tools of pious pastors made 1 With clews like these they tread the maze of state, These oracles explore, to learn our fate; Pleased with the guides who can so well deceive, Who cannot lie so fast as they believe.