Графични страници
PDF файл

was something in their sympathy which she had never adventure with less promising prospects. Any sensible seen before, which made her heart beat faster.

adviser would have told bim to prefer starvation in his “Agnes,” said Linda, “I have told Mr. Dane the

native village to starvation in the back lanes of London.

The adviser would, perhaps, have been vexed, but would story of your past — all of it. He knows everything,

not have been confuted by Crabbe's good fortune. We I have kept nothing back. My sin is ever before me

should still recommend a youth not to jump into a river, - I have confessed my fault not to him, but to God. I though, of a thousand who try the experiment one may want to drop all of my burden that I may, day by day, happen to be rescued by a benevolent millionaire, and be as I go on. It is but right that he should know how put in the road to fortune. The chances against Crabbe you have loved and suffered.”

were enormous. Literature, considered as a trade, is a Athel Dane uttered not a word óf sympathy. In

good deal better at the present day than it was towards that one swift, measureless glance his spirit told what

the end of the last century, and yet any one who has an

opportunity of comparing the failures to the successes, no word could express. Mental communion, intellect

| would be more apt to quote Chatterton than Crabbe as a ual companionship, she had shared with him for months

precedent for youthful aspirants. Crabbe, indeed, might now. They had given a new value to her life. But | | say for himself that literature was the only path open to this glance held something more — the recognition in | him. His father was collector of salt duties at Aldborsympathy of an awakening human heart. What had ough, a position, as one may imagine, of no very great not her life measured of weariness, loneliness, sorrow,

emolument. He had, however, given his son the chance since such a glance was hers! Now like dew from

of acquiring a smattering of “ scholarship," in the sense in

which that word is used by the less educated lower classes. heaven it fell upon her soul. When she prayed that

To the slender store of learning acquired in a cheap counnight, she thanked God for it as for a heavenly good. try school, the lad managed to add sucb medical training

The swift glory of the Northern latter May burst in as could be picked up during an apprenticeship in an a single night upon the world. “Agnes," said Linda apothecary's shop. With this provision of knowledge he suddenly, as propped in her arm-chair she looked out tried to obtain practice in his native town. He failed to upon the Pinnacle, a mountain of emerald transfigured

get any patients of the paying variety. Crabbe was clumsy in the gold of the setting sun, “ Agnes, you will see

and absent-minded to the end of his life. He had, more

over, a taste for botany, and the shrewd inhabitants of Cyril sometime, perhaps before very long. I know

Aldborough, with that perverse tendency to draw inferyou will. You are his wife. When you do see him,

ences which is characteristic of people who can't reason, try to tell him how I loved him. Because I loved him argued that as he picked up his samples in the ditches he too much, I grew wicked, cruel. I feel now the mean- | ought to sell the medicines presumably compounded from ing in the Litany of From all inordinate and sinful them for nothing. In one way or other, poor Crabbe had affections, good Lord, deliver us. Inordinate, that ex.

sunk to the verge of distress. Of course, under these cirpresses my love for him. Could I help it? I do not

cumstances, be bad fallen in love and engaged himself at

the age of eighteen to a young lady, apparently as poor as kuow. I do not know how to love him less, even now.

| himself. Of course, too, he called Miss Elmy" Mira," and I am happier because I see him in the face of his child. addressed lier in verses which occasionally appeared in the My heart cries now with the want that he shonld know poet's corner of a certain Wheble's Magazine, My Mira, how much I loved him. He was my all. Tell him, said the young surgeon in a style which must have been Agnes. I am glad I am going. If I lived, I might be rather antiquated even in Aldborough just as wicked to you again. I do not know. I know

My Mira, shepherds, is as fair I love you now. You are sure, quite sure, that you

As sylvan nymphs who haunt the vale ; have forgiven — everything?”

As sylphs who dwell in purest air,

As fays who skim the dusky dale. “ Sure, Linda. You have grown very dear to me." « • Through our Lord, who giveth us the victory.'

Moreover he won a prize for a poem on Hope, and comHow strange, Agnes, that I should understand these

posed an “ Allegorical Fable " and a piece called “The

Atheist Reclaimed ;” and, in short, added plentifully to words through my own heart at last."

the vast rubbish-beap old-world verses, now decayed beVida came and laid her cheek against Linda's. Her

yond the industry of the most persevering of Dryasdust. golden head touched the head of snow.

Nay, he even succeeded by some mysterious means in “My darling, my own darling!”

getting one of his poems published separately. It was The after rays of the sun shot upward as at its ris

called " Inebriety," and was an imitation of Pope. Here ing. Wood, lake, Pinnacle — the new earth in the

is a couplet by way of sample:- . breathing freshness of its teuder bloom, took on a swift Champagne the courtier drinks the spleen to chase, overflowing radiance. Old things had passed away. The colonel Burgundy and Port his Grace. All had become new.

from the satirical the poet diverges into the mock be“ It is morning. How glad I am,” said Linda with roic:a long sigh and with uplifted eyelids, which slowly

See Inebriety! her wand she waves closed in peace.

And lo! her pale, and lo! her purple slaves. “My darling,” said Agnes, drawing the golden bead

The interstices of the box of clothing which went with away with tender awe, “ your Auntie Linda has gone him from Aldborough to London were doubtless crammed home.”

with much waste paper scribbled over with these feeble echoes of Pope's Satires, and with appeals to nymphs,

muses, and shepherds. Crabbe was one of those men who CRABBE'S POETRY.

are born a generation after their natural epoch, and was

as little accessible to the change of fashion in poetry as in BY LESLIE STEPHEN.

costume. When, therefore, he finally resolved to hazard

his own fate and Mira's upon the results of his London It is nearly a century since George Crabbe, then a young adventure, the literary goods at his disposal were already man of five-and-twenty, put three pounds in his pocket somewhat musty in character. The year 1780, in which and started from his native town of Aldborough, with a he reached London, marks the very nadir of English poebox of clothes and a case of surgical instruments, to make try. From the days of Elizabeth to our own there bas bis fortune in London. Fow men have attempted that I never been so absolutely barren a period. People had

become fairly tired of the jingle of Pope's imitators, and / pursued what Chesterfield's correspondent would have the new era had not dawned. Goldsmith and Gray, both Thought the most hopeless of all courses. He wrote to recently dead, serve to illustrate the condition in which Lord North, who was at that moment occupied in contemthe most exquisite polish and refinement of language has plating tbe final results of the ingenious policy by which been developed until there is a danger of sterility. The America was lost to England, and probably consigned “ Elegy” and the “Deserted Village” are inimitable Crabbe's letter to the waste-paper basket. Then he tried poems : but we feel that the intellectual fibre of the poets the effect of a copy of verses, beginning :has become dangerously delicate. The critical faculty

Ah! Shelburne, blest with all that's good or great, could not be stimulated further without destroying all

T'adorn a rich or save a sinking state. spontaneous impulse. The reaction to a more masculine and passionate school was imminent; and if the excellent

He added a letter saying that as Lord North bad not ano Crabbe could have put into his box a few of Burns's lyrics,

swered him, Lord Shelburne would probably be glad to or even a copy of Cowper's “ Task,” one might have

supply the needs of a starving apothecary turned poet. augured better for his prospects. But what chance was Another copy of verses was inclosed, pointing out that there for a man who could still be contentedly invoking

Shelburne's reputed liberality would be repaid in the the muse and stringing together mechanic echoes of Pope's

usual coin :couplets? How could he expect to charm the jaded facul

Then shall my grateful strains his ear rejoice, ties of a generation which was already beginning to heave His name harmonious thrilled on Mira's voice; and stir with a longing for some fresh excitement ? For a Round the reviving bays new sweets shall spring, year the fate which has overtaken so many rash literary And Shelburne's fame through laughing valleys ring! adventurers seemed to be approaching steadily. One tem Nobody can blame North and Shelburne for not acting the porary gleam of good fortune cheered him for a time. He

part of good Samaritans. He, at least, may throw the first persuaded an enterprising publisher to bring out a poem stone who has always taken the trouble to sift the grain called “ The Candidate,” wbich had some faint success, from the chaff amidst all the begging letters which he though ridiculed by the reviewers. Unluckily the pub

has received, and who has never lamented that his benevolisher became bankrupt, and Crabbe was thrown upon his

lence outran his discretion. But there was one man in resources - the poor three pounds and box of surgical England at the time who had the rare union of qualities instruments aforesaid. How he managed to hold out for a

necessary for Crabbe's purpose. Burke is a name never year is a mystery. It was lucky for him, as be intimates,

to be mentioned without reverence; not only because that he had never heard of the fate of Chatterton, who had

| Burke was incomparably the greatest of all English politpoisoned himself just ten years before. A journal which

ical writers, and a standing refutation of the theory which he wrote for Mira is published in his life, and gives an

couples rhetorical excellence with intellectual emptiness, account of bis feelings during three months of his cruel

but also because he was a man whose glowing batred of probation. He applies for a situation as amanuensis | all injustice and sympathy for all suffering never evapooffered in an advertisement, and comforts himself on fail- rated in empty words. His fine literary perception enabled ing with the reflection that the advertiser was probably a bim to detect the genuine excellence which underlay the sharper. He writes piteous letters to publishers and gets, superficial triviality of Crabbe's verses. He discovered of course, the stereotyped reply with which the most amia

the genius where men like North and Shelburne might ble of publishers must damp the ardor of aspiring genius. excusably see nothing but the mendicant versifier; and a The disappointment is not much softened by the pub benevolence still rarer than his critical ability forbade him lisher's statement that “he does not mean by this to insin

to satisfy bis conscience by the sacrifice of a five-pound uate any want of merit in the poem, but rather a want of

note. When, by the one happy thought of his life, Crabbe attention in the public." Bit by bit bis surgical instru

appealed to Burke's sympathy, the poet was desperately ments go to the pawnbroker. When one publisher sends

endeavoring to get a poem through the press. But he his polite refusal poor Crabbe has only sixpence-farthing owed fourteen pounds, and every application to friends as in the world, which, by the purchase of a pint of porter, poor as himself, and to patrons upon whom he had no is reduced to fourpence-balspenny. The exchequer fills

claims, had been unsuccessful. Nothing but ruin was beagain by the disappearance of his wardrobe and his watch;

fore bim. After writing to Burke he spent the night in but ebbs under a new temptation. He buys some odd pacing Westminster Bridge. The letter on which bis fate volumes of Dryden for three-and-sixpence, and on coming hung is the more pathetic because it is free from those bome tears bis only coat, which he manages to patch questionable poetical flourishes which had failed to contolerably with a borrowed needle and thread, pretending,

ciliate bis former patrons. It tells his story frankly and with a pathetic shi't, that they are required to stitch to

forcibly. Burke, however, was not a rich man, and was gether manuscripts instead of broadcloth. And so for a

at one of the most exciting periods of his political career. year the wolf creeps nearer to the door, wbilst Crabbe

His party was at last fighting its way to power by means gallantly keeps up appearances and spirits. And yet he l of the general resentment against the gross mismanagement tries to preserve a show of good spirits in the Journal to of their antagonists. A perfunctory discbarge of the duty Mira, and continues to labor at his verse-making. Perhaps, of charity would have been pardonable ; but from the indeed, it may be regarded as a bad symptom that he is moment when Crabbe addressed Burke the poor man's forreduced to distracting bis mind by making an analysis of a tune was made. Burke's glory rests upon services of much dull sermon. “ There is nothing particular in it,” he ad

more importance to the world at large than even the presmits, but at least it is better, he thinks, to listen to a bad

ervation to the country of a man of genuine power. Yet sermon than to the blasphemous rant of deistical societies. there are few actions on which he could reflect with more Indeed, Crabbe's spirit was totally unlike the desperate unalloyed satisfaction; and the case is not a solitary one in pride of Chatterton. He was of the patient enduring Burke's history. A political triumph may often be only tribe, and comforts bimself by religious meditations, which | bastened a year or two by the efforts of even a great are, perhaps, rather commonplace in expression, but when leader; but the salvage of a genius which would otherwise read by the light of the distresses he was enduring, show a have been hopelessly wrecked in the deep waters of povbrave and unembittered spirit, not to be easily respected erty is so much clear gain to mankind. One circumstance too highly. Starvation seemed to be approaching; or, at

may be added as oddly characteristic of Crabbe. He least, the only alternative was the abandonment of his always spoke of his benefactor with becoming gratitude; ambition, and acceptance, if he could get it, of the post of | and many years afterwards Moore and Rogers thought druggist's assistant. He had but one resource left; and that they might extract some interesting anecdotes of the that not of the most promising kind. Crabbe, amongst bis

great author from the now celebrated poet. Burke, as we other old-fashioned notions, had a strong belief in the tra know, was a man whom you would discover to be remarkditional patron. Johnson might have given him some able if you stood with him for five minutes under a hayhints upon the subject; but luckily, as it turned out, be stack in a shower. Crabbe stayed in his house for months

under circumstances most calculated to be impressive try is excellently hit off in the “ Rejected Addresses," and Burke was at the height of his power and reputation ; be the lines beginning was the first man of any distinction whom the poet had

John Richard William Alexander Dwyer ever seen; the two men had long and intimate conversa

Was footman to Justinian Stubbs, Esquire, tions, and Crabbe, it may be added, was a very keen observer of character. And yet all that Rogers and

are probably more familiar to the present generation than Moore could extract from him was a few “ vague gener

any of the originals. “Pope in worsted stockings " is the alities.” Moore suggests some explanation ; but the fact

title bit off for him by Horace Smith, and has about the same seems to be that Crabbe was one of those simple, homespun

degree of truth as most smart sayings of the kind. The characters whose interests were strictly limited to his own

“ worsted stockings” at least are characteristic. Crabbe's peculiar sphere. Burke, when he pleased, could talk of

son and biographer indicates some of the surroundings of oxen as well as of politics, and doubtlese, adapted his con

his father's early life in a description of the uncle, a Mr. versation to the taste of the young poet. Probably, much

Tovell, with whom the poet's wife, the Mira of bis Journal, more was said about the state of Burke's farm than about

passed her youth. He was a sturdy yeoman, living in an the prospects of the Whig party. Crabbe's powers of vis

old house with a moat, a rookery, and fish-ponds. The ion were as limited as they were keen, and the great

hall was paved with black and white marble, and the stairqualities to which Burke owed his reputation could only

case was of black oak, slippery as ice, with a chiming exhibit themselves in a sphere to which Crabbe never rose.

clock and a barrel-organ on the landing-places. The His attempt to draw a likeness of Burke under the name of

handsome drawing-room and dining-rooms were only used “ Eugenius,” in the “ Borough,” is open to the objection

on grand occasions, such as the visit of a neighboring peer. that it would be nearly as applicable to Wilberforce, How

Mrs. Tovell jealously reserved for herself the duty of scrubard, or Dr. Johnson. It is a mere complimentary daub, in

bing these state apartments, and sent any servant to the which every remarkable feature of the original is blurred

right-about who dared to lay unballowed hands upon or altogether omitted.

them. The family sat habitually in the old-fashioned The inward Crabbe remained to the end of his days

kitchen, by a huge open chimney, where the blaze of a what nature and education had already made him; the

whole pollard sometimes eclipsed the feeble glimmer of outward Crabbe, by the help of Burke, rapidly put on a

the single candle in an iron candlestick, intended to illumore prosperous appearance. His poems were published

minate Mrs. Tovell's labors with the needle. Masters and and achieved success. He took orders and found patrons.

servants, with any travelling tinker or ratcatcher, all dined Thurlow gave him £100, and afterwards presented him to

together, and the nature of their meals has been described two small livings, growling out with an oath that he was

by Crabbe himself:“ as like parson Adams, as twelve to a dozen." The Duke

But when the men beside their station took, of Rutland appointed him chaplain, a position in which he

The maidens with them, and with these the cook; seems to have been singularly out of his element. Further

When one huge wooden bowl before them stood, patronage, however, made him independent, and he mar

Filled with huge balls of farinaceous food; ried bis Mira and lived very happily ever afterwards.

With bacon, mass saline, where never lean Perhaps, with bis old-fashioned ideas, he would not quite

Beneath the brown and bristly rind was seen; have satisfied some clerical critics of the present day. His

When from a single horn the party drew views about non-residence and pluralities seem to have

Their copious draughts of heavy ale and new; 1 been lax for a time; and his hearty dislike for dissent | then, the poet goes on to intimate, squeamish persons might was coupled with a general dislike for enthusiasm of all feel a little uncomfortable. After dinner followed a nap kinds. He liked to ramble about for flowers and fossils, of precisely one bour. Then bottles appeared on the and to hammer away at his poems in a study where chaos | table, and neighboring farmers, with faces rosy with reigned supreme. For twenty-two years after his first ! brandy, drifted in for a chat. One of these heroes never success as an author, he never managed to get a poem into went to bed sober, but scandalized all teetotalers by rea state fit for publication, though periodical conflagrations | taining all his powers and coursing after he was ninety. of masses of manuscript - too vast to be burnt in the Bowl after bowl of punch was emptied, and the conversachimney — testified to his continuous industry. His re- tion took so convivial a character that Crabbe generally appearance seems to bave been caused chiefly by his desire found it expedient to withdraw, though bis son, who reto send a son to the University. His success was repeated, I cords these performances, was held to be too young to be though a new school had arisen which knew not Pope. | injured, and the servants were too familiar for their presThe youth who had been kindly received by Burke, Rey ence to be a restraint. nolds, and Johnson, came back from his country retreat to It was in this household that the poet found bis Mira. be lionized at Holland House, and be petted by Brougham Crabbe's own father was apparently at a lower point of and Moore, and Rogers, and Campbell, and all the rising the social scale ; and during his later years took to drinkluminaries. He paid a visit to Scott contemporaneously ling and to flinging dishes about the room whenever he was with George IV., and pottered about the queer old wynds out of temper. Crabbe always drew from the life; most and closes of Edinburgh, which he preferred to the New l of his characters might have joined in his father's drink. Town, and apparently to Arthur's Seat, with a judicious | ing bouts, or told stories over Mr. Tovell's punch-bowls. caddie following to keep him out of mischief. “A more | Doubtless a social order of the same kind survived till & tangible kind of homage was the receipt of £3000 from 1 later period in various corners of the island. The Tovells Murray for his “ Tales of the Hall,” which so delighted him of to-day get their fashions from London, and their labor. that he insisted on carrying the bills loose in his pocket lers instead of dining with them in their kitchen, have taken till he could show them to his son John" in the country. I to forming unions and making speecbes about their rights. There, no doubt, he was most at home; and his parishioners | If. here and there, in some remote nooks we find an apgradually became attached to their “ parson Adams," in proximation to the coarse, hearty, patriarchal mode of life, spite of his quaintnesses and some manful defiance of their we regard it as a naturalist regards a puny modern reptile, prejudices. All women and children loved him, and he the representative of gigantic lizards of old geological died at a good old age in 1832, having lived into a new epochs. A sketch or two of its peculiarities, sufficiently order in many things, and been as little affected by the softened and idealized to suit modern tastes, forms a pictchange as most men. The words with which he concludes uresque background to a modern picture. Scme of Miss the sketch of the Vicar in his “ Borough " are not inap Bronté's rough Yorkshiremen would have drunk punch propriate to himself:

with Mr. Tovell; and the farmers in the “ Mill on the Nor one so old has left this world of sin

Floss” are representatives of the same race, slightly deMore like the being that he entered in.

generate, in so far as they are just conscious that a new

cause of disturbance is setting into the quiet rural districts. The peculiar homeliness of Crabbe's character and poe- | Dandie Dinmont again is a relation of Crabbe's heroes,


though the fresh air of the Cheviots and the stirring tradi- after he had finished his tale. There is one of these detions of the old border life have conferred upon him a liberately concocted ornaments, intended to explain the more practical coloring. To get a realistic picture of remark that the difference between the character of two country life as Crabbe saw it, we must go back to Squire brothers came out when they were living together Western, or to some of the roughly-hewn masses of flesh quietly :who sat to Hogarth. Perhaps it may be said that Miss

Asfvarious colors in a painted ball, Austen's exquisite pictures of the more polished society,

While it has rest are seen distinctly all ; which took ihe waters at Bath, and occasionally paid a

Till, whirled around by some exterior force, visit to London, implies a background of coarser manners

They all are blended in the rapid course; and more brutal passions, which lay outside her peculiar

So in repose and not by passion swayed province. The question naturally occurs to social pbiloso

We saw the difference by their habits made; phers, whether the improvement in the external decencies

But, tried by strong emotions, they became

Filled with one love, and were in heart the same. of life and the wider intellectual horizon of modern days

The conceit is ingenious enough in one sense, but painfully implies a genuine advance over the rude and homely plenty of an earlier generation. I refer to such problems

ingenious. It requires some thought to catch the likeness only to remark that Crabbe must be consulted by those

suggested, and then it turns out to be purely superficial. who wish to look upon the seamy side of the time

The resemblance of such a writer to Pope obviously does which he describes. He very soon dropped his nymphs

not go deep. Crabbe imitates Pope because everybody and shepherds, and ceased to invoke the idyllic muse. In

imitated him at that day. He adopted Pope's metre be

cause it had come to be almost the only recognized means bis long portrait gallery there are plenty of virtuous people, and some people intended to be refined; but features

of poetical expression. He stuck to it after his contempoindicative of coarse animal passions, brutality, selfishness,

raries had introduced new versification, partly because he and sensuality are drawn to the life, and the development

was old-fashioned to the backbone and partly because of his stories is generally determined by some of the baser

he had none of those lofty inspirations which naturally elements of human nature. “Jesse and Colin" are de

generate new forms of melody. He seldom trusts bimself scribed in one of the Tales; but they are not the Jesse

to be lyrical, and when he does his versification is nearly and Colin of Dresden china. They are such rustics as ate

as monotonous as in bis narrative poetry. We must not fat bacon and drank “heavy ale and new;" not the im

expect to soar with Crabbe into any of the loftier regions ; aginary personages who exchanged amatory civilities in

to see the world “ apparelled in celestial light,” or to dethe old-fashioned pastorals ridiculed by Pope and Gay.

'scry Crabbe's rough style is indicative of his general temper.

Such forms as glitter in the muses' ray, It is in places at least the most slovenly and slipshod that

With orient hues, unborrowed of the sun. was ever adopted by any true poet. The authors of the | We shall find no vehement outbursts of passions, breaking “ Rejected Addresses” had simply to copy, without at | loose from the fetters of sacred convention. Crabbe is tempting the impossible task of caricaturing. One of their perfectly content with the British Constitution, with the familiar couplets, for example, runs thus:

Thirty-nine Articles, and all respectabilities in Church and Emmanuel Jennings brought his youngest boy

State, and therefore he is quite content also with the good Up as a corn-cutter, a safe employ!

old jogtrot of the recognized metres; his language halt

ing unusually, and for the most part clumsy enough, is And here is the original Crabbe :

sufficiently differentiated from prose by the mould into which Swallow, a poor attorney, brought his boy

it is run, and he never wants to kick over the traces with Up at his desk, and gave him his employ.

his more excitable contemporaries. When boy cannot be made to rhyme with employ, Crabbe

The good old rule is very fond of dragging in a hoy. In the Parish Register

Sufficeth him, the simple plan he introduces a narrative about a village grocer and his

that each verse should consist of ten syllables, with an friend in tbese lines :

occasional Alexandrine to accommodate a refractory epithet, Aged were both, that Dawkins, Ditchem this,

and should rhyme peaceably with its neighbor. Who much of marriage thought and much amiss.

From all which it may be too harshly inferred that Or to quote one more opening of a story:

Crabbe is merely a writer in rhyming prose, and deserving

of no attention from the more enlightened adherents of a Counter and Clubb were men in trade, whose pains, later school. The inference, I say, would be hasty, for it Credit, and prudence, brought them constant gains;

is impossible to read Crabbe patiently without receiving a Partners and punctual, every friend agreed

very distinct and original impression. If some pedants of Counter and Clubb were men who must succeed. *

æsthetic philosophy should declare that we ought not to be But of such gems any onel may gather as many as he impressed, because Crabbe breaks all their rules, we can pleases by simply turning over Crabbe's pages. In one only reply that they are mistaking their trade. The true sense, they are rather pleasant than otherwise. They are business of the critic is to discover from observation what so characteristic and put forward with such absolute sim are the conditions under which art appeals to our sympaplicity that they have the same effect as a good old pro thies, and, if he finds an apparent exception to his rules, to vincialism in the mouth of a genuine countryman. It must, admit that he has made an oversight, and not to condemn however, be admitted that Crabbe's careful study of Pope the facts which persist in contradicting his theories. It had not initiated him in some of his master's gecrets. may, indeed, be freely granted that Crabbe has suffered

The worted stockings were uncommonly thick. If Pope's seriously by his slovenly methods and his insensibility to brilliance of style savors too much of affectation, Crabbe the more exquisite and ethereal forms of poetical excelnever manages to hit off an epigram in the whole of his lence. But however he may be classified, be possesses the poetry. The language seldom soars above the style which essential mark of genius, namely, that his pictures, however would be intelligible to the merest clodhopper; and we coarse the workmanship, stamp themselves on our minds can understand how, when in his later years Crabbe was indelibly and instantaneously. His pathos is here and introduced to wits and men of the world, he generally held there clumsy, but it goes straight to the mark. His cbar. his peace, or, at most, let fall some bit of dry quiet humor. acteristic qualities were first distinctly shown in the “ VilAt rare intervals he remembers that a poet ought to in- | lage," which was partly composed under Burke's eye, and dulge in a figure of speech, and laboriously compounds a was more or less touched by Johnson. It was, indeed, a simile which appears in his poetry like a bit of gold lace work after Jobpson's own heart, intended to be a pendant, on a farmer's homespun coat. He confessed as much in | or perhaps a corrective, to Goldsmith's “ Deserted Vil. answer to a shrewd criticism of Jeffery's, saying that belage." It is meant to give the bare blank facts of rural generally thought of such illustrations and inserted them life, stripped of all sentimental gloss. To read the two is

something like hearing a speech from an optimist landlord He gives the plain prosaic facts which impress us because and then listening to the comments of Mr. Arch. Gold. they are in such perfect harmony with the sentiment. smith, indeed, was far too exquisite an artist to indulge in Here, for example, is a fragment from the “ Village," which mere conventionalities about agricultural bliss. If bis is simply a description of the neighborhood of Aldbor“ Auburn" is rather idealized, the most prosaic of critics ough :cannot object to the glow thrown by the memory of the

Lo! where the heath, with withering brake grown o'er, poet over the scene of now ruined happiness, and, more

Lends the light turf that warms the neighboring poor ; over, Goldsmith's delicate humor guards him instinctively

From thence a length of burning sand appears, from laying on his rose-color too thickly. Crabbe, how Where the thin harvest waves its withered ears ; ever, will bave nothing to do with rose-color, thick or thin. Rank weeds, that every art and care defy, There is one explicit reference in the poem to his predeces Reign o'er the land, and rob the blighted rye ; sor's work, and it is significant. Everybody remembers, or There thistles stretch their prickly arms afar, ought to remember, Goldsmith's charming pastor, to whom

And to the ragged infant threaten war; it can only be objected that he has not the fear of political

There poppies nodding, mock the hope of toil; economists before his eyes. This is Crabbe's retor t, after

There ihe blue bugloss paints the sterile soil ;

Hardy and high, above the slender sheaf, describing a dying pauper in need of spiritual consol ation.

The slimy mallow waves her silky leaf; And does not he, the pious man, appear,

O'er the young shoot the charlock throws a shade, He, “passing rich with forty pounds a year?

And clasping tares cling round the sickly blade. Ah! no; a shepherd of a different stock,

The writer is too obviously a botanist; but the picture And far unlike him, feeds this little flock; A jovial youth, who thinks his Sunday's task

always remains with us as the only conceivable background As much as God or man can fairly ask ;

for the poverty-stricken population whom he is about to deThe rest he gives to loves and labors light,

scribe. . The actors in the “ Borough " are presented to us To fields the morning, and to feasts the night.

in a similar setting; and it may be well to put a sea-piece None better skilled the noisy pack to guide,

beside this bit of barren common. Crabbe's range of deTo urge their chase, to cheer them, or to chide ;

scriptive power is pretty well confined within the limits so A sportsman keen, he shoots through half the day,

defined. He is scarcely at home beyond the tide-marks : And skilled at whist, devotes the night to play.

Be it the summer noon; a sandy space This fox-bunting parson (of whom Cowper has described a

The ebbing tide has lett upon its place ; duplicate) lets the pauper die as he pleases; and after

Then just the hot and stony beech above, wards allows him to be buried without attending, perform

Light twinkling streams in bright confusion move; ing the funerals, it seems, in a lump, upon Sundays.

· · · · · · · · · · Crabbe admits in a note that such negligence was uncommon, but adds that it is not unknown. The flock is, on the There the broad bosom of the ocean keeps whole, worthy of the shepherd. The old village sports

An equal motion; swelling as it sleeps, have died out in favor of smuggling and wrecking. The

Then slowly sinking; curling to the strand,

Faint lazy waves o'ercreep the ridgy sand, poor are not, as rich men fancy, healthy and well fed.

Or tap the tarry boat with gentle blow, Their work makes them premature victims to ague and

And back return in silence, smooth and slow. rheumatism ; their food is

Ships in the calm seem anchored : for they glide Homely, not wholesome, plain, not plenteous, such

On the still sea, urged slowly by the tide : As you who praise would never deign to touch.

Art thou not present, this calm scene before

Where all beside is pebbly length of shore, The ultimate fate of the worn-out laborer is the poorhouse, And far as eye can reach, it can discern no more? described in lines, of which it is enough to say that Scott

| I have omitted a couplet which verges on the scientific; and Wordsworth learnt them by heart, and the melancholy death-bed already noticed. Are we reading a poem or a

for Crabbe is unpleasantly anxious to leave nothing unexBlue Book done into rhyme ? may possibly be the question

plained. Tbe effect is, in its way, perfect. Any one who of some readers. · The answer should perhaps be that a

pleases may compare it with Wordsworth's calm in the

verses upon Peele Castle, where the sentiment is given good many Blue Books contain an essence which only requires to be properly extracted and refined to become gen

without ihe minute statement of facts, and where, too, we

bave the inevitable quotation about the “ light that never uine poetry. If Crabbe's verses retain rather too much of

was on sea or land," and is pretty nearly as rare in the earthly elements, he is capable of transmuting bis min

Crabbe's poetry. What he sees, we can all see, though not erals into genuine gold, as well as of simply collecting

so intensely ; and his art consists in selecting the precise them. Nothing, for example, is more characteristic than the mode in which the occasional descriptions of nature are

elements that tell most forcibly towards bringing us into

the required frame of mind. To enjoy Crabbe fully, we harmoniously blended with the human life in his poetry. Crabbe is an ardent lover of a certain type of scenery, to

ought perbaps to be acclimatized on the coast of the Eastwhich justice has not often been done. We are told how,

ern counties; we should become sensitive to the plaintive

music of the scenery, which is now generally drowned by after a long absence from Suffolk, he rode sixty miles from his house to bave a dip in the sea. Some of his poems ap

the discordant sounds of modern watering places, and would pear to be positively impregnated with a briny, or rather

seem insipid to a generation which values excitement in

scenery as in fiction. Readers, who measure the beauty of perhaps a tarry odor. The sea which he loved was by no

a district by its average height above the sea-level, and means a Byronic sea. It has no grandeur of storm, and still less has it the Mediterranean blue. It is the sluggish

who cannot appreciate the charm of a “waste enormous muddy element which washes the shores of his beloved Suf.

marsh,” may find Crabbe uncongenial.

The human character is determined, as Mr. Buckle and folk. He likes even the shelving beach, with fishermen's boats and decaying nets and remnants of stale fish. He

| other pbilosophers have assured us, by the climate and the loves the dreary estuary, where the slow tide sways back

soil. A little ingenuity, such as those philosophers display

in accommodating facts to theory, might discover a parallel wards and forwards, and whence

between the type of Crabbe's personages and the fauna and High o'er the restless deep, above the reach

flora of his native district. Declining a task which might Of gunner's hope, vast flocks of wildfowl stretch.

lead to fanciful conclusions, I may assume that the East The coming generation of poets took to the mountains; but Anglian character is sufficiently familiar, whatever the Crabbe remained faithful to the dismal and yet, in his causes by which it has been determined. To define hands, the impressive scenery of his native salt-marshes. Crabbe's poetry we have simply to imagine ourselves listenHis method of description suits the country. His verses i ing to the stories of his parishioners, told by a clergyman never become melodramatic, nor does he ever seem to in- brought up amongst the lower rank of the middle classes, vest nature with the mystic life of Wordsworth's poetry. scarcely elevated above their prejudices, and not willingly

« ПредишнаНапред »