Page images

In every village mark'd with little spire,
Embower'd in trees, and hardly known to fame,
There dwells, in lowly shed, and mean attire,
A matron old, whom we school-mistress name;
Who boasts unruly brats with birch to tame;
They grieven sore, in piteous durance pent,
Aw'd by the pow'r of this relentless dame;
And oft-times, on vagaries idly bent,

For unkempt hair, or task unconn'd, are sorely shent.

And all in sight doth rise a birchen trec,

Which learning near her little dome did stow;
Whilom a twig of small regard to see,
Though now so wide its waving branches flow;
And work the simple vassals mickle woe;
For not a wind might curl the leaves that blew,
But their limbs shudder'd and their pulse beat low;
And as they look'd, they found their horror grew,
And shaped it into rods, and tingled at the view.

So have I seen, (who has not, may conceive,)
A lifeless phantom near a garden placed;
So doth it wanton birds of peace bereave,

Of sport, of song, of pleasure, of repast;

They start, they stare, they wheel, they look aghast;
Sad servitude! such comfortless annoy

May no bold Briton's riper age e'er taste!
Ne superstition clog his dance of joy,

Ne vision empty, vain, his native bliss destroy.

Near to this dome is found a patch so green,
On which the tribe their gambols do display;
And at the door impris'ning board is seen,
Lest weakly wights of smaller size should stray;
Eager, perdie, to bask in sunny day!

The noises intermix'd, which thence resound,
Do learning's little tenement betray:
Where sits the dame, disguised in look profound,
eyes her fairy throng, and turns her wheel around.

Her cap, far whiter than the driven snow, Emblem right meet of decency docs yield; Her apron dy'd in grain, as blue, I trow, As is the hare-bell that adorns the field: And in her hand, for sceptre, she does wield Tway birchen sprays; with anxious fear entwin'd, With dark distrust, and sad repentance fill'd; And stedfast hate, and sharp affliction join'd, And fury uncontroll'd, and chastisement unkind.

Few but have ken'd, in semblance meet portray'd,
The childish faces of old Eol's train;

Libs, Notus, Auster: these in frowns array'd,
How then would fare or carth, or sky, or main,

Were the stern god to give his slaves the rein?
And were not she rebellious breasts to quell,
And were not she her statutes to maintain,
The cot no more, I ween, were deem'd the cell,
Where comely peace of mind, and decent order dwell.
A russet stole was o'er her shoulders thrown;
A russet kirtle fenced the nipping air;
'Twas simple russet, but it was her own;
"Twas her own country bred the flock so fair;
"Twas her own labour did the fleece prepare ;
And, sooth to say, her pupils, rang'd around,
Through pious awe, did term it passing rare;
For they in gaping wonderment abound,

And think, no doubt, she been the greatest wight on ground.

Albeit ne flattery did corrupt her truth,

Ne pompous title did debauch her ear;

Goody, good woman, gossip, n' aunt, forsooth,

Or dame, the sole additions she did hear;

Yet these she challenged, these she held right dear:

Ne would esteem him act as mought behove,
Who should not honour'd eld with these revere:
For never title yet so mean could prove,

But there was eke a mind which did that title love.
One ancient hen she took delight to feed,
The plodding pattern of the busy dame;
Which, ever and anon, impell'd by need,
Into her school, begirt with chickens, came;
Such favour did her past deportment claim:
And, if neglect had lavish'd on the ground
Fragment of bread, she would collect the same;
For well she knew, and quaintly could expound,
What sin it were to waste the smallest crumb she found.
Herbs too she knew, and well of each could speak
That in her garden sipp'd the silv'ry dew;
Where no vain flow'r disclos'd a gaudy streak;
But herbs for use, and physic, not a few,
Of gray renown, within those borders grew:
The tufted basil, pun-provoking thyme,
Fresh balm, and mary-gold of cheerful hue;
The lowly gill, that never dares to climb;
And more I fain would sing, disdaining here to rhyme.
Yet euphrasy may not be left unsung,

That gives dim eyes to wander leagues around;
And pungent radish, biting infant's tongue;

And plantain ribb'd, that heals the reaper's wound;
And marj'ram sweet, in shepherd's posie found;
And lavender, whose spikes of azure bloom
Shall be ere-while in arid bundles bound,
To lurk amidst the labours of her loom,

And crown her kerchiefs clean, with mickle rare perfume.

And here trim rosemarine, that whilom crown'd
The daintiest garden of the proudest peer;
Ere, driven from its envy'd site, it found
A sacred shelter for its branches here;

Where edged with gold its glitt'ring skirts appear.
Oh, wassel days! Oh, customs meet and well!
Ere this was banish'd from its lofty sphere:
Simplicity then sought this humble cell,

Nor ever would she more with thane and lordling dwell.

Here oft the dame, on Sabbath's decent eve,
Hymned such psalms as Sternhold forth did mete;
If winter 'twere, she to her hearth did cleave,
But in her garden found a summer-seat:
Sweet melody! to hear her then repeat
How Israel's sons, beneath a foreign king,
While taunting foemen did a song entreat,
All, for the nonce, untuning ev'ry string,

Uphung their useless lyres-small heart had they to sing.
For she was just, and friend to virtuous lore,
And pass'd much time in truly virtuous deed;
And, in those elfins' ears, would oft deplore
The times, when truth by popish rage did bleed;
And tortuous death was true devotion's meed;
And simple faith in iron chains did mourn,
That nould on wooden image place her creed;
And lawny saints in smould'ring flames did burn:
Ah! dearest Lord, forefend thilk days should e'er return.

In elbow-chair, like that of Scottish stem,
By the sharp tooth of cank'ring eld defaced,
In which, when he receives his diadem,
Our sov'reign prince and liefest liege is placed,
The matron sate; and some with rank she grac'd
(The source of children's and of courtier's pride !)
Redress'd affronts, for vile affronts there pass'd;
And warn'd them not the fretful to deride,
But love each other dear, whatever them betide.

Right well she knew each temper to descry;
To thwart the proud, and the submiss to raise ;
Some with vile copper-prize exalt on high,
And some entice with pittance small of praise;
And other some with baleful sprig she 'frays :
Ev'n absent, she the reins of power doth hold,
While with quaint arts the giddy crowd she sways;
Forewarn'd, if little bird their pranks behold,
"Twill whisper in her ear, and all the scene unfold.

Lo now with state she utters the command!
Eftsoons the urchins to their tasks repair;
Their books of stature small they take in hand,
Which with pellucid horn secured are;

To save from fingers wet the letters fair:
The work so gay, that on their back is seen,
St. George's high achievements does declare;
On which thilk wight that has y-gazing been,
Kens the forth-coming rod, unpleasing sight, I ween!
Ah, luckless he, and born beneath the beam
Of evil star! it irks me whilst I write !
As erst the bard by Mulla's silver stream,
Oft, as he told of deadly dolorous plight,
Sigh'd as he sung, and did in tears indite.
For brandishing the rod, she doth begin
To loose the brogues, the stripling's late delight!
And down they drop; appears his dainty skin,
Fair as the furry coat of whitest ermilin.

Oh, ruthful scene! when from a nook obscure
His little sister doth his peril see,
All playful as she sate, she grows demure ;
She finds full soon her wonted spirits flee;
She meditates a pray'r to set him free:
Nor gentle pardon could this dame deny
(If gentle pardon could with dames agree)
To her sad grief that swells in either eye,
And wrings her so that all for pity she could die.
No longer can she now her shrieks command;
And hardly she forbears, through awful fear
To rushen forth, and, with presumptuous hand,
To stay harsh justice in its mid career.
On thec she calls, on thee her parent dear!
(Ah! too remote to ward the shameful blow !)
She sees no kind domestic visage near,
And soon a flood of tears begins to flow;

And gives a loose at last to unavailing woe.

But, ah! what pen his piteous plight may trace?
Or what device his loud laments explain?
The form uncouth of his disguised face?

The pallid hue that dyes his looks amain?

The plenteous show'r that does his check distain ?
When he, in abject-wise, implores the dame,
Ne hopeth ought of sweet reprieve to gain;
Or when from high she levels well her aim,

And, through the thatch, his cries each falling stroke proclaim.
The other tribe aghast, with sore dismay,

Attend and con their tasks with mickle care:
By turns, astonied, ev'ry twig survey,
And, from their fellow's hateful wounds, beware;
Knowing, I wist, how each the same may share;
Till fear has taught them a performance meet,
And to the well-known chest the dame repair;
Whence oft with sugar'd cates she doth 'em greet,
And ginger-bread y-rare; now, certes, doubly sweet!

See to their seats they hie with merry glee,
And in beseemly order sitten there;


All but the wight of bum y-gallèd, he
Abhorreth bench, and stool, and form, and chair
(This hand in mouth y-fix'd, that rends his hair ;)
And eke with snubs profound, and heaving breast,
Convulsions intermitting! does declare

His grievous wrongs; his dame's unjust behest,
And scorns her offer'd love, and shuns to be caress'd.

His eye besprent with liquid crystal shines,
His blooming face that seems a purple flow'r
Which low to earth its drooping head declines,
All smear'd and sully'd by a vernal show'r.
Oh, the hard bosoms of despotic pow'r !
All, all, but she, the author of his shame,

All, all, but she, regret this mournful hour:

Yet hence the youth, and hence the flow'r, shall claim, If so I deem aright, transcending worth and fame.

Behind some door, in melancholy thought,
Mindless of food, he, dreary caitiff! pines;
Ne for his fellow's joyaunce careth aught,
But to the wind all merriment resigns;
And deems it shame, if he to peace inclines;
And many a sullen look askance is sent,
Which for his dame's annoyance he designs;
And still the more to pleasure him she's bent,
The more doth he, perverse, her haviour past resent.

Ah, me! how much I fear lest pride it be !
But if that pride it be, which thus inspires,
Beware, ye dames, with nice discernment see
Ye quench not too the sparks of nobler fires:
Ah! better far than all the muse's lyres,
All coward arts, is valour's gen'rous heat;
The firm fixt breast which fit and right requires,
Like Vernon's patriot soul; more justly great
Than craft that pimps for ill, or flow'ry false deceit.

Yet, nursed with skill, what dazzling fruits appear!
Ev'n now sagacious foresight points to show

A little bench of heedless bishops here,

And there a chancellor in embryo,

Or bard sublime, if bard may e'er be so,

As Milton, Shakspere, names that ne'er shall die!
Though now he crawl along the ground so low,
Nor weeting how the muse should soar on high,

Wisheth, poor starv'ling elf! his paper kite may fly.
And this perhaps, who, censuring the design,
Low lays the house which that of cards doth build,
Shall Dennis be! if rigid fate incline,

And many an epic to his rage shall yield;

« PreviousContinue »