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Poems, 1799
by Robert Southey
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Ista itaque quae retuli incredibilia non erunt, si legatur beati Gregorii dialogus, in quo refert, hominem in ecclesia sepultam, a daemonibus foras ejectum. Et apud Francos Carolus Martellus insignis vir fortudinis, qui Saracenos Galliam ingressos, Hispaniam redire compulit, exactis vitae suae diebus, in Ecclesia beati Dionysii legitur fuisse sepultus. Sed quia patrimonia, cum decimis omnium fere ecclesiarum Galliae, pro stipendio commilitonum suorum mutilaverat, miserabiliter a malignis spiritibus de sepulchro corporaliter avulsus, usque in hodiernum diem nusquam comparuit.

Matthew of Westminster.

This story is also related by Olaus Magnus, and in the Nuremberg Chronicle, from which the wooden cut is taken.



A BALLAD,

SHEWING HOW AN OLD WOMAN RODE DOUBLE, AND WHO RODE BEFORE HER.

The Raven croak'd as she sate at her meal, And the Old Woman knew what he said, And she grew pale at the Raven's tale, And sicken'd and went to her bed.

Now fetch me my children, and fetch them with speed, The Old Woman of Berkeley said, The monk my son, and my daughter the nun Bid them hasten or I shall be dead.

The monk her son, and her daughter the nun, Their way to Berkeley went, And they have brought with pious thought The holy sacrament.

The old Woman shriek'd as they entered her door, 'Twas fearful her shrieks to hear, Now take the sacrament away For mercy, my children dear!

Her lip it trembled with agony, The sweat ran down her brow, I have tortures in store for evermore, Oh! spare me my children now!

Away they sent the sacrament, The fit it left her weak, She look'd at her children with ghastly eyes And faintly struggled to speak.

All kind of sin I have rioted in And the judgment now must be, But I secured my childrens souls, Oh! pray my children for me.

I have suck'd the breath of sleeping babes, The fiends have been my slaves, I have nointed myself with infants fat, And feasted on rifled graves.

And the fiend will fetch me now in fire My witchcrafts to atone, And I who have rifled the dead man's grave Shall never have rest in my own.

Bless I intreat my winding sheet My children I beg of you! And with holy water sprinkle my shroud And sprinkle my coffin too.

And let me be chain'd in my coffin of stone And fasten it strong I implore With iron bars, and let it be chain'd With three chains to the church floor.

And bless the chains and sprinkle them, And let fifty priests stand round, Who night and day the mass may say Where I lie on the ground.

And let fifty choristers be there The funeral dirge to sing, Who day and night by the taper's light Their aid to me may bring.

Let the church bells all both great and small Be toll'd by night and day, To drive from thence the fiends who come To bear my corpse away.

And ever have the church door barr'd After the even song, And I beseech you children dear Let the bars and bolts be strong.

And let this be three days and nights My wretched corpse to save, Preserve me so long from the fiendish throng And then I may rest in my grave.

The Old Woman of Berkeley laid her down And her eyes grew deadly dim, Short came her breath and the struggle of death Did loosen every limb.

They blest the old woman's winding sheet With rites and prayers as due, With holy water they sprinkled her shroud And they sprinkled her coffin too.

And they chain'd her in her coffin of stone And with iron barr'd it down, And in the church with three strong chains They chain'd it to the ground.

And they blest the chains and sprinkled them, And fifty priests stood round, By night and day the mass to say Where she lay on the ground.

And fifty choristers were there To sing the funeral song, And a hallowed taper blazed in the hand Of all the sacred throng.

To see the priests and choristers It was a goodly sight, Each holding, as it were a staff, A taper burning bright.

And the church bells all both great and small Did toll so loud and long, And they have barr'd the church door hard After the even song.

And the first night the taper's light Burnt steadily and clear. But they without a hideous rout Of angry fiends could hear;

A hideous roar at the church door Like a long thunder peal, And the priests they pray'd and the choristers sung Louder in fearful zeal.

Loud toll'd the bell, the priests pray'd well, The tapers they burnt bright, The monk her son, and her daughter the nun They told their beads all night.

The cock he crew, away they flew The fiends from the herald of day, And undisturb'd the choristers sing And the fifty priests they pray.

The second night the taper's light Burnt dismally and blue, And every one saw his neighbour's face Like a dead man's face to view.

And yells and cries without arise That the stoutest heart might shock, And a deafening roaring like a cataract pouring Over a mountain rock.

The monk and nun they told their beads As fast as they could tell, And aye as louder grew the noise The faster went the bell.

Louder and louder the choristers sung As they trembled more and more, And the fifty priests prayed to heaven for aid, They never had prayed so before.

The cock he crew, away they flew The fiends from the herald of day, And undisturb'd the choristers sing And the fifty priests they pray.

The third night came and the tapers flame A hideous stench did make, And they burnt as though they had been dipt In the burning brimstone lake.

And the loud commotion, like the rushing of ocean, Grew momently more and more, And strokes as of a battering ram Did shake the strong church door.

The bellmen they for very fear Could toll the bell no longer, And still as louder grew the strokes Their fear it grew the stronger.

The monk and nun forgot their beads, They fell on the ground dismay'd, There was not a single saint in heaven Whom they did not call to aid.

And the choristers song that late was so strong Grew a quaver of consternation, For the church did rock as an earthquake shock Uplifted its foundation.

And a sound was heard like the trumpet's blast That shall one day wake the dead, The strong church door could bear no more And the bolts and the bars they fled.

And the taper's light was extinguish'd quite, And the choristers faintly sung, And the priests dismay'd, panted and prayed Till fear froze every tongue.

And in He came with eyes of flame The Fiend to fetch the dead, And all the church with his presence glowed Like a fiery furnace red.

He laid his hand on the iron chains And like flax they moulder'd asunder, And the coffin lid that was barr'd so firm He burst with his voice of thunder.

And he bade the Old Woman of Berkeley rise And come with her master away, And the cold sweat stood on the cold cold corpse, At the voice she was forced to obey.

She rose on her feet in her winding sheet, Her dead flesh quivered with fear, And a groan like that which the Old Woman gave Never did mortal hear.

She followed the fiend to the church door, There stood a black horse there, His breath was red like furnace smoke, His eyes like a meteor's glare.

The fiendish force flung her on the horse And he leapt up before, And away like the lightning's speed they went And she was seen no more.

They saw her no more, but her cries and shrieks For four miles round they could hear, And children at rest at their mother's breast, Started and screamed with fear.



The Surgeon's Warning.

The subject of this parody was given me by a friend, to whom also I am indebted for some of the stanzas.

Respecting the patent coffins herein mentioned, after the manner of Catholic Poets, who confess the actions they attribute to their Saints and Deity to be but fiction, I hereby declare that it is by no means my design to depreciate that useful invention; and all persons to whom this Ballad shall come are requested to take notice, that nothing here asserted concerning the aforesaid Coffins is true, except that the maker and patentee lives by St. Martin's Lane.

THE SURGEONS' WARNING.

The Doctor whispered to the Nurse And the Surgeon knew what he said, And he grew pale at the Doctor's tale And trembled in his sick bed.

Now fetch me my brethren and fetch them with speed The Surgeon affrighted said, The Parson and the Undertaker, Let them hasten or I shall be dead.

The Parson and the Undertaker They hastily came complying, And the Surgeon's Prentices ran up stairs When they heard that their master was dying.

The Prentices all they entered the room By one, by two, by three, With a sly grin came Joseph in, First of the company.

The Surgeon swore as they enter'd his door, 'Twas fearful his oaths to hear,— Now send these scoundrels to the Devil, For God's sake my brethren dear.

He foam'd at the mouth with the rage he felt And he wrinkled his black eye-brow, That rascal Joe would be at me I know, But zounds let him spare me now.

Then out they sent the Prentices, The fit it left him weak, He look'd at his brothers with ghastly eyes, And faintly struggled to speak.

All kinds of carcasses I have cut up, And the judgment now must be— But brothers I took care of you, So pray take care of me!

I have made candles of infants fat The Sextons have been my slaves, I have bottled babes unborn, and dried Hearts and livers from rifled graves.

And my Prentices now will surely come And carve me bone from bone, And I who have rifled the dead man's grave Shall never have rest in my own.

Bury me in lead when I am dead, My brethren I intreat, And see the coffin weigh'd I beg Lest the Plumber should be a cheat.

And let it be solder'd closely down Strong as strong can be I implore, And put it in a patent coffin, That I may rise no more.

If they carry me off in the patent coffin Their labour will be in vain, Let the Undertaker see it bought of the maker Who lives by St. Martin's lane.

And bury me in my brother's church For that will safer be, And I implore lock the church door And pray take care of the key.

And all night long let three stout men The vestry watch within, To each man give a gallon of beer And a keg of Holland's gin;

Powder and ball and blunder-buss To save me if he can, And eke five guineas if he shoot A resurrection man.

And let them watch me for three weeks My wretched corpse to save, For then I think that I may stink Enough to rest in my grave.

The Surgeon laid him down in his bed, His eyes grew deadly dim, Short came his breath and the struggle of death Distorted every limb.

They put him in lead when he was dead And shrouded up so neat, And they the leaden coffin weigh Lest the Plumber should be a cheat.

They had it solder'd closely down And examined it o'er and o'er, And they put it in a patent coffin That he might rise no more.

For to carry him off in a patent coffin Would they thought be but labour in vain, So the Undertaker saw it bought of the maker Who lives by St. Martin's lane.

In his brother's church they buried him That safer he might be, They lock'd the door and would not trust The Sexton with the key.

And three men in the vestry watch To save him if they can, And should he come there to shoot they swear A resurrection man.

And the first night by lanthorn light Thro' the church-yard as they went, A guinea of gold the sexton shewed That Mister Joseph sent.

But conscience was tough, it was not enough And their honesty never swerved, And they bade him go with Mister Joe To the Devil as he deserved.

So all night long by the vestry fire They quaff'd their gin and ale, And they did drink as you may think And told full many a tale.

The second night by lanthorn light Thro' the church-yard as they went, He whisper'd anew and shew'd them two That Mister Joseph sent.

The guineas were bright and attracted their sight They look'd so heavy and new, And their fingers itch'd as they were bewitch'd And they knew not what to do.

But they waver'd not long for conscience was strong And they thought they might get more, And they refused the gold, but not So rudely as before.

So all night long by the vestry fire They quaff'd their gin and ale, And they did drink as you may think And told full many a tale.

The third night as by lanthorn light Thro' the church-yard they went, He bade them see and shew'd them three That Mister Joseph sent.

They look'd askance with eager glance, The guineas they shone bright, For the Sexton on the yellow gold Let fall his lanthorn light.

And he look'd sly with his roguish eye And gave a well-tim'd wink, And they could not stand the sound in his hand For he made the guineas chink.

And conscience late that had such weight, All in a moment fails, For well they knew that it was true A dead man told no tales,

And they gave all their powder and ball And took the gold so bright, And they drank their beer and made good cheer, Till now it was midnight.

Then, tho' the key of the church door Was left with the Parson his brother, It opened at the Sexton's touch— Because he had another.

And in they go with that villain Joe To fetch the body by night, And all the church look'd dismally By his dark lanthorn light.

They laid the pick-axe to the stones And they moved them soon asunder. They shovell'd away the hard-prest clay And came to the coffin under.

They burst the patent coffin first And they cut thro' the lead, And they laugh'd aloud when they saw the shroud Because they had got at the dead.

And they allowed the Sexton the shroud And they put the coffin back, And nose and knees they then did squeeze The Surgeon in a sack.

The watchmen as they past along Full four yards off could smell, And a curse bestowed upon the load So disagreeable.

So they carried the sack a-pick-a-back And they carv'd him bone from bone, But what became of the Surgeon's soul Was never to mortal known.



THE VICTORY.

Hark—how the church-bells thundering harmony Stuns the glad ear! tidings of joy have come, Good tidings of great joy! two gallant ships Met on the element,—they met, they fought A desperate fight!—good tidings of great joy! Old England triumphed! yet another day Of glory for the ruler of the waves! For those who fell, 'twas in their country's cause, They have their passing paragraphs of praise And are forgotten. There was one who died In that day's glory, whose obscurer name No proud historian's page will chronicle. Peace to his honest soul! I read his name, 'Twas in the list of slaughter, and blest God The sound was not familiar to mine ear. But it was told me after that this man Was one whom lawful violence [1] had forced From his own home and wife and little ones, Who by his labour lived; that he was one Whose uncorrupted heart could keenly feel A husband's love, a father's anxiousness, That from the wages of his toil he fed The distant dear ones, and would talk of them At midnight when he trod the silent deck With him he valued, talk of them, of joys That he had known—oh God! and of the hour When they should meet again, till his full heart His manly heart at last would overflow Even like a child's with very tenderness. Peace to his honest spirit! suddenly It came, and merciful the ball of death, For it came suddenly and shattered him, And left no moment's agonizing thought On those he loved so well. He ocean deep Now lies at rest. Be Thou her comforter Who art the widow's friend! Man does not know What a cold sickness made her blood run back When first she heard the tidings of the fight; Man does not know with what a dreadful hope She listened to the names of those who died, Man does not know, or knowing will not heed, With what an agony of tenderness She gazed upon her children, and beheld His image who was gone. Oh God! be thou Her comforter who art the widow's friend!

[Footnote 1: The person alluded to was pressed into the service.]



HENRY THE HERMIT.

It was a little island where he dwelt, Or rather a lone rock, barren and bleak, Short scanty herbage spotting with dark spots Its gray stone surface. Never mariner Approach'd that rude and uninviting coast, Nor ever fisherman his lonely bark Anchored beside its shore. It was a place Befitting well a rigid anchoret, Dead to the hopes, and vanities, and joys And purposes of life; and he had dwelt Many long years upon that lonely isle, For in ripe manhood he abandoned arms, Honours and friends and country and the world, And had grown old in solitude. That isle Some solitary man in other times Had made his dwelling-place; and Henry found The little chapel that his toil had built Now by the storms unroofed, his bed of leaves Wind-scattered, and his grave o'ergrown with grass, And thistles, whose white seeds winged in vain Withered on rocks, or in the waves were lost. So he repaired the chapel's ruined roof, Clear'd the grey lichens from the altar-stone, And underneath a rock that shelter'd him From the sea blasts, he built his hermitage.

The peasants from the shore would bring him food And beg his prayers; but human converse else He knew not in that utter solitude, Nor ever visited the haunts of men Save when some sinful wretch on a sick bed Implored his blessing and his aid in death. That summons he delayed not to obey, Tho' the night tempest or autumnal wind. Maddened the waves, and tho' the mariner, Albeit relying on his saintly load, Grew pale to see the peril. So he lived A most austere and self-denying man, Till abstinence, and age, and watchfulness Exhausted him, and it was pain at last To rise at midnight from his bed of leaves And bend his knees in prayer. Yet not the less Tho' with reluctance of infirmity, He rose at midnight from his bed of leaves And bent his knees in prayer; but with more zeal More self-condemning fervour rais'd his voice For pardon for that sin, 'till that the sin Repented was a joy like a good deed.

One night upon the shore his chapel bell Was heard; the air was calm, and its far sounds Over the water came distinct and loud. Alarmed at that unusual hour to hear Its toll irregular, a monk arose. The boatmen bore him willingly across For well the hermit Henry was beloved. He hastened to the chapel, on a stone Henry was sitting there, cold, stiff and dead, The bell-rope in his band, and at his feet The lamp that stream'd a long unsteady light

[Footnote 1: This story is related in the English Martyrology, 1608.]



English Eclogues.

The following Eclogues I believe, bear no resemblance to any poems in our language. This species of composition has become popular in Germany, and I was induced to attempt by an account of the German Idylls given me in conversation. They cannot properly be stiled imitations, as I am ignorant of that language at present, and have never seen any translations or specimens in this kind.

With bad Eclogues I am sufficiently acquainted, from ??tyrus [1] and Corydon down to our English Strephons and Thirsises. No kind of poetry can boast of more illustrious names or is more distinguished by the servile dulness of imitated nonsense. Pastoral writers "more silly than their sheep" have like their sheep gone on in the same track one after another. Gay stumbled into a new path. His eclogues were the only ones that interested me when I was a boy, and did not know they were burlesque. The subject would furnish matter for a long essay, but this is not the place for it.

How far poems requiring almost a colloquial plainness of language may accord with the public taste I am doubtful. They have been subjected to able criticism and revised with care. I have endeavoured to make them true to nature.

[Footnote 1: The letters of this name are illegible (worn away?) in the original text; from the remaining bits I have guessed all but the first two, which are not visible under any magnification. text Ed.]



ECLOGUE I.

THE OLD MANSION-HOUSE.



STRANGER. Old friend! why you seem bent on parish duty, Breaking the highway stones,—and 'tis a task Somewhat too hard methinks for age like yours.

OLD MAN. Why yes! for one with such a weight of years Upon his back. I've lived here, man and boy, In this same parish, near the age of man For I am hard upon threescore and ten. I can remember sixty years ago The beautifying of this mansion here When my late Lady's father, the old Squire Came to the estate.

STRANGER. Why then you have outlasted All his improvements, for you see they're making Great alterations here.

OLD MAN. Aye-great indeed! And if my poor old Lady could rise up— God rest her soul! 'twould grieve her to behold The wicked work is here.

STRANGER. They've set about it In right good earnest. All the front is gone, Here's to be turf they tell me, and a road Round to the door. There were some yew trees too Stood in the court.

OLD MAN. Aye Master! fine old trees! My grandfather could just remember back When they were planted there. It was my task To keep them trimm'd, and 'twas a pleasure to me! All strait and smooth, and like a great green wall! My poor old Lady many a time would come And tell me where to shear, for she had played In childhood under them, and 'twas her pride To keep them in their beauty. Plague I say On their new-fangled whimsies! we shall have A modern shrubbery here stuck full of firs And your pert poplar trees;—I could as soon Have plough'd my father's grave as cut them down!

STRANGER. But 'twill be lighter and more chearful now, A fine smooth turf, and with a gravel road Round for the carriage,—now it suits my taste. I like a shrubbery too, it looks so fresh, And then there's some variety about it. In spring the lilac and the gueldres rose, And the laburnum with its golden flowers Waving in the wind. And when the autumn comes The bright red berries of the mountain ash, With firs enough in winter to look green, And show that something lives. Sure this is better Than a great hedge of yew that makes it look All the year round like winter, and for ever Dropping its poisonous leaves from the under boughs So dry and bare!

OLD MAN. Ah! so the new Squire thinks And pretty work he makes of it! what 'tis To have a stranger come to an old house!

STRANGER.

It seems you know him not?

OLD MAN. No Sir, not I. They tell me he's expected daily now, But in my Lady's time he never came But once, for they were very distant kin. If he had played about here when a child In that fore court, and eat the yew-berries, And sat in the porch threading the jessamine flowers, That fell so thick, he had not had the heart To mar all thus.

STRANGER. Come—come! all a not wrong. Those old dark windows—

OLD MAN. They're demolish'd too— As if he could not see thro' casement glass! The very red-breasts that so regular Came to my Lady for her morning crumbs, Won't know the window now!

STRANGER. Nay they were high And then so darken'd up with jessamine, Harbouring the vermine;—that was a fine tree However. Did it not grow in and line The porch?

OLD MAN. All over it: it did one good To pass within ten yards when 'twas in blossom. There was a sweet-briar too that grew beside. My Lady loved at evening to sit there And knit; and her old dog lay at her feet And slept in the sun; 'twas an old favourite dog She did not love him less that he was old And feeble, and he always had a place By the fire-side, and when he died at last She made me dig a grave in the garden for him. Ah I she was good to all! a woful day 'Twas for the poor when to her grave she went!

STRANGER. They lost a friend then?

OLD MAN. You're a stranger here Or would not ask that question. Were they sick? She had rare cordial waters, and for herbs She could have taught the Doctors. Then at winter When weekly she distributed the bread In the poor old porch, to see her and to hear The blessings on her! and I warrant them They were a blessing to her when her wealth Had been no comfort else. At Christmas, Sir! It would have warm'd your heart if you had seen Her Christmas kitchen,—how the blazing fire Made her fine pewter shine, and holly boughs So chearful red,—and as for misseltoe, The finest bough that grew in the country round Was mark'd for Madam. Then her old ale went So bountiful about! a Christmas cask, And 'twas a noble one! God help me Sir! But I shall never see such days again.

STRANGER. Things may be better yet than you suppose And you should hope the best.

OLD MAN. It don't look well These alterations Sir! I'm an old man And love the good old fashions; we don't find Old bounty in new houses. They've destroyed All that my Lady loved; her favourite walk Grubb'd up, and they do say that the great row Of elms behind the house, that meet a-top They must fall too. Well! well! I did not think To live to see all this, and 'tis perhaps A comfort I shan't live to see it long.

STRANGER. But sure all changes are not needs for the worse My friend.

OLD MAN. May-hap they mayn't Sir;—for all that I like what I've been us'd to. I remember All this from a child up, and now to lose it, 'Tis losing an old friend. There's nothing left As 'twas;—I go abroad and only meet With men whose fathers I remember boys; The brook that used to run before my door That's gone to the great pond; the trees I learnt To climb are down; and I see nothing now That tells me of old times, except the stones In the church-yard. You are young Sir and I hope Have many years in store,—but pray to God You mayn't be left the last of all your friends.

STRANGER. Well! well! you've one friend more than you're aware of. If the Squire's taste don't suit with your's, I warrant That's all you'll quarrel with: walk in and taste His beer, old friend! and see if your old Lady E'er broached a better cask. You did not know me, But we're acquainted now. 'Twould not be easy To make you like the outside; but within— That is not changed my friend! you'll always find The same old bounty and old welcome there.



ECLOGUE II.

THE GRANDMOTHERS TALE.



JANE. Harry! I'm tired of playing. We'll draw round The fire, and Grandmamma perhaps will tell us One of her stories.

HARRY. Aye—dear Grandmamma! A pretty story! something dismal now; A bloody murder.

JANE. Or about a ghost.

GRANDMOTHER. Nay, nay, I should but frighten you. You know The other night when I was telling you About the light in the church-yard, how you trembled Because the screech-owl hooted at the window, And would not go to bed.

JANE. Why Grandmamma You said yourself you did not like to hear him. Pray now! we wo'nt be frightened.

GRANDMOTHER. Well, well, children! But you've heard all my stories. Let me see,— Did I never tell you how the smuggler murdered The woman down at Pill?

HARRY. No—never! never!

GRANDMOTHER. Not how he cut her head off in the stable?

HARRY. Oh—now! do tell us that!

GRANDMOTHER. You must have heard Your Mother, children! often tell of her. She used to weed in the garden here, and worm Your uncle's dogs [1], and serve the house with coal; And glad enough she was in winter time To drive her asses here! it was cold work To follow the slow beasts thro' sleet and snow, And here she found a comfortable meal And a brave fire to thaw her, for poor Moll Was always welcome.

HARRY. Oh—'twas blear-eyed Moll The collier woman,—a great ugly woman, I've heard of her.

GRANDMOTHER. Ugly enough poor soul! At ten yards distance you could hardly tell If it were man or woman, for her voice Was rough as our old mastiff's, and she wore A man's old coat and hat,—and then her face! There was a merry story told of her, How when the press-gang came to take her husband As they were both in bed, she heard them coming, Drest John up in her night-cap, and herself Put on his clothes and went before the Captain.

JANE. And so they prest a woman!

GRANDMOTHER. 'Twas a trick She dearly loved to tell, and all the country Soon knew the jest, for she was used to travel For miles around. All weathers and all hours She crossed the hill, as hardy as her beasts, Bearing the wind and rain and winter frosts, And if she did not reach her home at night She laid her down in the stable with her asses And slept as sound as they did.

HARRY. With her asses!

GRANDMOTHER. Yes, and she loved her beasts. For tho' poor wretch She was a terrible reprobate and swore Like any trooper, she was always good To the dumb creatures, never loaded them Beyond their strength, and rather I believe Would stint herself than let the poor beasts want, Because, she said, they could not ask for food. I never saw her stick fall heavier on them Than just with its own weight. She little thought This tender-heartedness would be her death! There was a fellow who had oftentimes, As if he took delight in cruelty. Ill-used her Asses. He was one who lived By smuggling, and, for she had often met him Crossing the down at night, she threatened him, If he tormented them again, to inform Of his unlawful ways. Well—so it was— 'Twas what they both were born to, he provoked her, She laid an information, and one morn They found her in the stable, her throat cut From ear to ear,'till the head only hung Just by a bit of skin.

JANE. Oh dear! oh dear!

HARRY. I hope they hung the man!

GRANDMOTHER. They took him up; There was no proof, no one had seen the deed, And he was set at liberty. But God Whoss eye beholdeth all things, he had seen The murder, and the murderer knew that God Was witness to his crime. He fled the place, But nowhere could he fly the avenging hand Of heaven, but nowhere could the murderer rest, A guilty conscience haunted him, by day, By night, in company, in solitude, Restless and wretched, did he bear upon him The weight of blood; her cries were in his ears, Her stifled groans as when he knelt upon her Always he heard; always he saw her stand Before his eyes; even in the dead of night Distinctly seen as tho' in the broad sun, She stood beside the murderer's bed and yawn'd Her ghastly wound; till life itself became A punishment at last he could not bear, And he confess'd [2] it all, and gave himself To death, so terrible, he said, it was To have a guilty conscience!

HARRY. Was he hung then?

GRANDMOTHER. Hung and anatomized. Poor wretched man, Your uncles went to see him on his trial, He was so pale, so thin, so hollow-eyed, And such a horror in his meagre face, They said he look'd like one who never slept. He begg'd the prayers of all who saw his end And met his death with fears that well might warn From guilt, tho' not without a hope in Christ.

[Footnote 1: I know not whether this cruel and stupid custom is common in other parts of England. It is supposed to prevent the dogs from doing any mischief should they afterwards become mad.]

[Footnote 2: There must be many persons living who remember these circumstances. They happened two or three and twenty years ago, in the neighbourhood of Bristol. The woman's name was Bees. The stratagem by which she preserved her husband from the press-gang, is also true.]



ECLOGUE III.

THE FUNERAL.



The coffin [1] as I past across the lane Came sudden on my view. It was not here, A sight of every day, as in the streets Of the great city, and we paus'd and ask'd Who to the grave was going. It was one, A village girl, they told us, who had borne An eighteen months strange illness, and had pined With such slow wasting that the hour of death Came welcome to her. We pursued our way To the house of mirth, and with that idle talk That passes o'er the mind and is forgot, We wore away the time. But it was eve When homewardly I went, and in the air Was that cool freshness, that discolouring shade That makes the eye turn inward. Then I heard Over the vale the heavy toll of death Sound slow; it made me think upon the dead, I questioned more and learnt her sorrowful tale. She bore unhusbanded a mother's name, And he who should have cherished her, far off Sail'd on the seas, self-exil'd from his home, For he was poor. Left thus, a wretched one, Scorn made a mock of her, and evil tongues Were busy with her name. She had one ill Heavier, neglect, forgetfulness from him Whom she had loved so dearly. Once he wrote, But only once that drop of comfort came To mingle with her cup of wretchedness; And when his parents had some tidings from him, There was no mention of poor Hannah there, Or 'twas the cold enquiry, bitterer Than silence. So she pined and pined away And for herself and baby toil'd and toil'd, Nor did she, even on her death bed, rest From labour, knitting with her outstretch'd arms Till she sunk with very weakness. Her old mother Omitted no kind office, and she work'd Hard, and with hardest working barely earn'd Enough to make life struggle and prolong The pains of grief and sickness. Thus she lay On the sick bed of poverty, so worn With her long suffering and that painful thought That at her heart lay rankling, and so weak, That she could make no effort to express Affection for her infant; and the child, Whose lisping love perhaps had solaced her With a strange infantine ingratitude Shunn'd her as one indifferent. She was past That anguish, for she felt her hour draw on, And 'twas her only comfoft now to think Upon the grave. "Poor girl!" her mother said, "Thou hast suffered much!" "aye mother! there is none "Can tell what I have suffered!" she replied, "But I shall soon be where the weary rest." And she did rest her soon, for it pleased God To take her to his mercy.

[Footnote 1: It is proper to remark that the story related in this Eclogue is strictly true. I met the funeral, and learnt the circumstances in a village in Hampshire. The indifference of the child was mentioned to me; indeed no addition whatever has been made to the story. I should have thought it wrong to have weakened the effect of a faithful narrative by adding any thing.]



ECLOGUE IV.

THE SAILOR'S MOTHER.



WOMAN. Sir for the love of God some small relief To a poor woman!

TRAVELLER. Whither are you bound? 'Tis a late hour to travel o'er these downs, No house for miles around us, and the way Dreary and wild. The evening wind already Makes one's teeth chatter, and the very Sun, Setting so pale behind those thin white clouds, Looks cold. 'Twill be a bitter night!

WOMAN. Aye Sir 'Tis cutting keen! I smart at every breath, Heaven knows how I shall reach my journey's end, For the way is long before me, and my feet, God help me! sore with travelling. I would gladly, If it pleased God, lie down at once and die.

TRAVELLER. Nay nay cheer up! a little food and rest Will comfort you; and then your journey's end Will make amends for all. You shake your head, And weep. Is it some evil business then That leads you from your home?

WOMAN. Sir I am going To see my son at Plymouth, sadly hurt In the late action, and in the hospital Dying, I fear me, now.

TRAVELLER. Perhaps your fears Make evil worse. Even if a limb be lost There may be still enough for comfort left An arm or leg shot off, there's yet the heart To keep life warm, and he may live to talk With pleasure of the glorious fight that maim'd him, Proud of his loss. Old England's gratitude Makes the maim'd sailor happy.

WOMAN. 'Tis not that— An arm or leg—I could have borne with that. 'Twas not a ball, it was some cursed thing That bursts [1] and burns that hurt him. Something Sir They do not use on board our English ships It is so wicked!

TRAVELLER. Rascals! a mean art Of cruel cowardice, yet all in vain!

WOMAN. Yes Sir! and they should show no mercy to them For making use of such unchristian arms. I had a letter from the hospital, He got some friend to write it, and he tells me That my poor boy has lost his precious eyes, Burnt out. Alas! that I should ever live To see this wretched day!—they tell me Sir There is no cure for wounds like his. Indeed 'Tis a hard journey that I go upon To such a dismal end!

TRAVELLER. He yet may live. But if the worst should chance, why you must bear The will of heaven with patience. Were it not Some comfort to reflect your son has fallen Fighting his country's cause? and for yourself You will not in unpitied poverty Be left to mourn his loss. Your grateful country Amid the triumph of her victory Remember those who paid its price of blood, And with a noble charity relieves The widow and the orphan.

WOMAN. God reward them! God bless them, it will help me in my age But Sir! it will not pay me for my child!

TRAVELLER. Was he your only child?

WOMAN. My only one, The stay and comfort of my widowhood, A dear good boy!—when first he went to sea I felt what it would come to,—something told me I should be childless soon. But tell me Sir If it be true that for a hurt like his There is no cure? please God to spare his life Tho' he be blind, yet I should be so thankful! I can remember there was a blind man Lived in our village, one from his youth up Quite dark, and yet he was a merry man, And he had none to tend on him so well As I would tend my boy!

TRAVELLER. Of this be sure His hurts are look'd to well, and the best help The place affords, as rightly is his due, Ever at hand. How happened it he left you? Was a seafaring life his early choice?

WOMAN. No Sir! poor fellow—he was wise enough To be content at home, and 'twas a home As comfortable Sir I even tho' I say it, As any in the country. He was left A little boy when his poor father died, Just old enough to totter by himself And call his mother's name. We two were all, And as we were not left quite destitute We bore up well. In the summer time I worked Sometimes a-field. Then I was famed for knitting, And in long winter nights my spinning wheel Seldom stood still. We had kind neighbours too And never felt distress. So he grew up A comely lad and wonderous well disposed; I taught him well; there was not in the parish A child who said his prayers more regular, Or answered readier thro' his catechism. If I had foreseen this! but 'tis a blessing We do'nt know what we're born to!

TRAVELLER. But how came it He chose to be a Sailor?

WOMAN. You shall hear Sir; As he grew up he used to watch the birds In the corn, child's work you know, and easily done. 'Tis an idle sort of task, so he built up A little hut of wicker-work and clay Under the hedge, to shelter him in rain. And then he took for very idleness To making traps to catch the plunderers, All sorts of cunning traps that boys can make— Propping a stone to fall and shut them in, Or crush them with its weight, or else a springe Swung on a bough. He made them cleverly— And I, poor foolish woman! I was pleased To see the boy so handy. You may guess What followed Sir from this unlucky skill. He did what he should not when he was older: I warn'd him oft enough; but he was caught In wiring hares at last, and had his choice The prison or the ship.

TRAVELLER. The choice at least Was kindly left him, and for broken laws This was methinks no heavy punishment.

WOMAN. So I was told Sir. And I tried to think so, But 'twas a sad blow to me! I was used To sleep at nights soundly and undisturb'd— Now if the wind blew rough, it made me start And think of my poor boy tossing about Upon the roaring seas. And then I seem'd To feel that it was hard to take him from me For such a little fault. But he was wrong Oh very wrong—a murrain on his traps! See what they've brought him too!

TRAVELLER. Well! well! take comfort He will be taken care of if he lives; And should you lose your child, this is a country Where the brave sailor never leaves a parent To weep for him in want.

WOMAN. Sir I shall want No succour long. In the common course of years I soon must be at rest, and 'tis a comfort When grief is hard upon me to reflect It only leads me to that rest the sooner.

[Footnote 1: The stink-pots used on board the French ships. In the engagement between the Mars and L'Hercule, some of our sailors were shockingly mangled by them: One in particular, as described in the Eclogue, lost both his eyes. It would be policy and humanity to employ means of destruction, could they be discovered, powerful enough to destroy fleets and armies, but to use any thing that only inflicts additional torture upon the victims of our war systems, is cruel and wicked.]



ECLOGUE V.

THE WITCH.



NATHANIEL. Father! here father! I have found a horse-shoe! Faith it was just in time, for t'other night I laid two straws across at Margery's door, And afterwards I fear'd that she might do me A mischief for't. There was the Miller's boy Who set his dog at that black cat of hers, I met him upon crutches, and he told me 'Twas all her evil eye.

FATHER. 'Tis rare good luck; I would have gladly given a crown for one If t'would have done as well. But where did'st find it?

NATHANIEL. Down on the Common; I was going a-field And neighbour Saunders pass'd me on his mare; He had hardly said "good day," before I saw The shoe drop off; 'twas just upon my tongue To call him back,—it makes no difference, does it. Because I know whose 'twas?

FATHER. Why no, it can't. The shoe's the same you know, and you 'did find' it.

NATHANIEL. That mare of his has got a plaguey road To travel, father, and if he should lame her, For she is but tender-footed,—

FATHER. Aye, indeed— I should not like to see her limping back Poor beast! but charity begins at home, And Nat, there's our own horse in such a way This morning!

NATHANIEL. Why he ha'nt been rid again! Last night I hung a pebble by the manger With a hole thro', and every body says That 'tis a special charm against the hags.

FATHER. It could not be a proper natural hole then, Or 'twas not a right pebble,—for I found him Smoking with sweat, quaking in every limb, And panting so! God knows where he had been When we were all asleep, thro' bush and brake Up-hill and down-hill all alike, full stretch At such a deadly rate!—

NATHANIEL. By land and water, Over the sea perhaps!—I have heard tell That 'tis some thousand miles, almost at the end Of the world, where witches go to meet the Devil. They used to ride on broomsticks, and to smear Some ointment over them and then away Out of the window! but 'tis worse than all To worry the poor beasts so. Shame upon it That in a Christian country they should let Such creatures live!

FATHER. And when there's such plain proof! I did but threaten her because she robb'd Our hedge, and the next night there came a wind That made me shake to hear it in my bed! How came it that that storm unroofed my barn, And only mine in the parish? look at her And that's enough; she has it in her face— A pair of large dead eyes, rank in her head, Just like a corpse, and purs'd with wrinkles round, A nose and chin that scarce leave room between For her lean fingers to squeeze in the snuff, And when she speaks! I'd sooner hear a raven Croak at my door! she sits there, nose and knees Smoak-dried and shrivell'd over a starved fire, With that black cat beside her, whose great eyes Shine like old Beelzebub's, and to be sure It must be one of his imps!—aye, nail it hard.

NATHANIEL. I wish old Margery heard the hammer go! She'd curse the music.

FATHER. Here's the Curate coming, He ought to rid the parish of such vermin; In the old times they used to hunt them out And hang them without mercy, but Lord bless us! The world is grown so wicked!

CURATE. Good day Farmer! Nathaniel what art nailing to the threshold?

NATHANIEL. A horse-shoe Sir, 'tis good to keep off witchcraft, And we're afraid of Margery.

CURATE. Poor old woman! What can you fear from her?

FATHER. What can we fear? Who lamed the Miller's boy? who rais'd the wind That blew my old barn's roof down? who d'ye think Rides my poor horse a'nights? who mocks the hounds? But let me catch her at that trick again, And I've a silver bullet ready for her, One that shall lame her, double how she will.

NATHANIEL. What makes her sit there moping by herself, With no soul near her but that great black cat? And do but look at her!

CURATE. Poor wretch! half blind And crooked with her years, without a child Or friend in her old age, 'tis hard indeed To have her very miseries made her crimes! I met her but last week in that hard frost That made my young limbs ache, and when I ask'd What brought her out in the snow, the poor old woman Told me that she was forced to crawl abroad And pick the hedges, just to keep herself From perishing with cold, because no neighbour Had pity on her age; and then she cried, And said the children pelted her with snow-balls, And wish'd that she were dead.

FATHER. I wish she was! She has plagued the parish long enough!

CURATE. Shame farmer! Is that the charity your bible teaches?

FATHER. My bible does not teach me to love witches. I know what's charity; who pays his tithes And poor-rates readier?

CURATE. Who can better do it? You've been a prudent and industrious man, And God has blest your labour.

FATHER. Why, thank God Sir, I've had no reason to complain of fortune.

CURATE. Complain! why you are wealthy. All the parish Look up to you.

FATHER. Perhaps Sir, I could tell Guinea for guinea with the warmest of them.

CURATE. You can afford a little to the poor, And then what's better still, you have the heart To give from your abundance.

FATHER. God forbid I should want charity!

CURATE. Oh! 'tis a comfort To think at last of riches well employ'd! I have been by a death-bed, and know the worth Of a good deed at that most awful hour When riches profit not. Farmer, I'm going To visit Margery. She is sick I hear— Old, poor, and sick! a miserable lot, And death will be a blessing. You might send her Some little matter, something comfortable, That she may go down easier to the grave And bless you when she dies.

FATHER. What! is she going! Well God forgive her then! if she has dealt In the black art. I'll tell my dame of it, And she shall send her something.

CURATE. So I'll say; And take my thanks for her's. ['goes']

FATHER. That's a good man That Curate, Nat, of ours, to go and visit The poor in sickness; but he don't believe In witchcraft, and that is not like a christian.

NATHANIEL. And so old Margery's dying!

FATHER. But you know She may recover; so drive t'other nail in!



ECLOGUE VI.

THE RUINED COTTAGE.



Aye Charles! I knew that this would fix thine eye, This woodbine wreathing round the broken porch, Its leaves just withering, yet one autumn flower Still fresh and fragrant; and yon holly-hock That thro' the creeping weeds and nettles tall Peers taller, and uplifts its column'd stem Bright with the broad rose-blossoms. I have seen Many a fallen convent reverend in decay, And many a time have trod the castle courts And grass-green halls, yet never did they strike Home to the heart such melancholy thoughts As this poor cottage. Look, its little hatch Fleeced with that grey and wintry moss; the roof Part mouldered in, the rest o'ergrown with weeds, House-leek and long thin grass and greener moss; So Nature wars with all the works of man. And, like himself, reduces back to earth His perishable piles. I led thee here Charles, not without design; for this hath been My favourite walk even since I was a boy; And I remember Charles, this ruin here, The neatest comfortable dwelling place! That when I read in those dear books that first Woke in my heart the love of poesy, How with the villagers Erminia dwelt, And Calidore for a fair shepherdess Forgot his quest to learn the shepherd's lore; My fancy drew from, this the little hut Where that poor princess wept her hopeless love, Or where the gentle Calidore at eve Led Pastorella home. There was not then A weed where all these nettles overtop The garden wall; but sweet-briar, scenting sweet The morning air, rosemary and marjoram, All wholesome herbs; and then, that woodbine wreath'd So lavishly around the pillared porch Its fragrant flowers, that when I past this way, After a truant absence hastening home, I could not chuse but pass with slacken'd speed By that delightful fragrance. Sadly changed Is this poor cottage! and its dwellers, Charles!— Theirs is a simple melancholy tale, There's scarce a village but can fellow it, And yet methinks it will not weary thee, And should not be untold. A widow woman Dwelt with her daughter here; just above want, She lived on some small pittance that sufficed, In better times, the needful calls of life, Not without comfort. I remember her Sitting at evening in that open door way And spinning in the sun; methinks I see her Raising her eyes and dark-rimm'd spectacles To see the passer by, yet ceasing not To twirl her lengthening thread. Or in the garden On some dry summer evening, walking round To view her flowers, and pointing, as she lean'd Upon the ivory handle of her stick, To some carnation whose o'erheavy head Needed support, while with the watering-pot Joanna followed, and refresh'd and trimm'd The drooping plant; Joanna, her dear child, As lovely and as happy then as youth And innocence could make her. Charles! it seems As tho' I were a boy again, and all The mediate years with their vicissitudes A half-forgotten dream. I see the Maid So comely in her Sunday dress! her hair, Her bright brown hair, wreath'd in contracting curls, And then her cheek! it was a red and white That made the delicate hues of art look loathsome, The countrymen who on their way to church Were leaning o'er the bridge, loitering to hear The bell's last summons, and in idleness Watching the stream below, would all look up When she pass'd by. And her old Mother, Charles! When I have beard some erring infidel Speak of our faith as of a gloomy creed, Inspiring fear and boding wretchedness. Her figure has recurr'd; for she did love The sabbath-day, and many a time has cross'd These fields in rain and thro' the winter snows. When I, a graceless boy, wishing myself By the fire-side, have wondered why 'she' came Who might have sate at home. One only care Hung on her aged spirit. For herself, Her path was plain before her, and the close Of her long journey near. But then her child Soon to be left alone in this bad world,— That was a thought that many a winter night Had kept her sleepless: and when prudent love In something better than a servant's slate Had placed her well at last, it was a pang Like parting life to part with her dear girl.

One summer, Charles, when at the holydays Return'd from school, I visited again My old accustomed walks, and found in them. A joy almost like meeting an old friend, I saw the cottage empty, and the weeds Already crowding the neglected flowers. Joanna by a villain's wiles seduced Had played the wanton, and that blow had reach'd Her mother's heart. She did not suffer long, Her age was feeble, and the heavy blow Brought her grey hairs with sorrow to the grave.

I pass this ruin'd dwelling oftentimes And think of other days. It wakes in me A transient sadness, but the feelings Charles That ever with these recollections rise, I trust in God they will not pass away.



THE END.

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