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- The Borough - 5/45 -


Oft he amused with riddles and charades. Mild were his doctrines, and not one discourse But gain'd in softness what it lost in force: Kind his opinions; he would not receive An ill report, nor evil act believe; "If true, 'twas wrong; but blemish great or small Have all mankind; yea, sinners are we all." If ever fretful thought disturb'd his breast, If aught of gloom that cheerful mind oppress'd, It sprang from innovation; it was then He spake of mischief made by restless men: Not by new doctrines: never in his life Would he attend to controversial strife; For sects he cared not; " They are not of us, Nor need we, brethren, their concerns discuss; But 'tis the change, the schism at home I feel; Ills few perceive, and none have skill to heal: Not at the altar our young brethren read (Facing their flock) the decalogue and creed; But at their duty, in their desks they stand, With naked surplice, lacking hood and band: Churches are now of holy song bereft, And half our ancient customs changed or left; Few sprigs of ivy are at Christmas seen, Nor crimson berry tips the holly's green; Mistaken choirs refuse the solemn strain Of ancient Sternhold, which from ours amain Comes flying forth from aisle to aisle about, Sweet links of harmony and long drawn out." These were to him essentials; all things new He deemed superfluous, useless, or untrue: To all beside indifferent, easy, cold, Here the fire kindled, and the woe was told. Habit with him was all the test of truth: "It must be right: I've done it from my youth." Questions he answer'd in as brief a way: "It must be wrong--it was of yesterday." Though mild benevolence our Priest possess'd, 'Twas but by wishes or by words expressed. Circles in water, as they wider flow, The less conspicuous in their progress grow, And when at last they touch upon the shore, Distinction ceases, and they're view'd no more. His love, like that last circle, all embraced, But with effect that never could be traced. Now rests our Vicar. They who knew him best, Proclaim his life t'have been entirely rest; Free from all evils which disturb his mind Whom studies vex and controversies blind. The rich approved,--of them in awe he stood; The poor admired,--they all believed him good; The old and serious of his habits spoke; The frank and youthful loved his pleasant joke; Mothers approved a safe contented guest, And daughters one who back'd each small request; In him his flock found nothing to condemn; Him sectaries liked,--he never troubled them: No trifles fail'd his yielding mind to please, And all his passions sunk in early ease; Nor one so old has left this world of sin, More like the being that he entered in.

THE CURATE.

ASK you what lands our Pastor tithes?--Alas! But few our acres, and but short our grass: In some fat pastures of the rich, indeed, May roll the single cow or favourite steed; Who, stable-fed, is here for pleasure seen, His sleek sides bathing in the dewy green; But these, our hilly heath and common wide Yield a slight portion for the parish-guide; No crops luxuriant in our borders stand, For here we plough the ocean, not the land; Still reason wills that we our Pastor pay, And custom does it on a certain day: Much is the duty, small the legal due, And this with grateful minds we keep in view; Each makes his off'ring, some by habit led, Some by the thought that all men must be fed; Duty and love, and piety and pride, Have each their force, and for the Priest provide. Not thus our Curate, one whom all believe Pious and just, and for whose fate they grieve; All see him poor, but e'en the vulgar know He merits love, and their respect bestow. A man so learn'd you shall but seldom see, Nor one so honour'd, so aggrieved as he; - Not grieved by years alone; though his appear Dark and more dark; severer on severe: Not in his need,--and yet we all must grant How painful 'tis for feeling Age to want: Nor in his body's sufferings; yet we know Where Time has ploughed, there Misery loves to sow; But in the wearied mind, that all in vain Wars with distress, and struggles with its pain. His father saw his powers--"I give," quoth he, "My first-born learning; 'twill a portion be:" Unhappy gift! a portion for a son! But all he had: --he learn'd, and was undone! Better, apprenticed to an humble trade, Had he the cassock for the priesthood made, Or thrown the shuttle, or the saddle shaped, And all these pangs of feeling souls escaped. He once had hope--Hope, ardent, lively, light; His feelings pleasant, and his prospects bright: Eager of fame, he read, he thought, he wrote, Weigh'd the Greek page, and added note on note. At morn, at evening, at his work was he, And dream'd what his Euripides would be. Then care began: --he loved, he woo'd, he wed; Hope cheer'd him still, and Hymen bless'd his bed - A curate's bed ! then came the woeful years; The husband's terrors, and the father's tears; A wife grown feeble, mourning, pining, vex'd With wants and woes--by daily cares perplex'd; No more a help, a smiling, soothing aid, But boding, drooping, sickly, and afraid. A kind physician, and without a fee, Gave his opinion--"Send her to the sea." "Alas!" the good man answer'd, "can I send A friendless woman? Can I find a friend? No; I must with her, in her need, repair To that new place; the poor lie everywhere; - Some priest will pay me for my pious pains:" - He said, he came, and here he yet remains. Behold his dwelling! this poor hut he hires, Where he from view, though not from want, retires; Where four fair daughters, and five sorrowing sons, Partake his sufferings, and dismiss his duns; All join their efforts, and in patience learn To want the comforts they aspire to earn; For the sick mother something they'd obtain, To soothe her grief and mitigate her pain; For the sad father something they'd procure To ease the burden they themselves endure. Virtues like these at once delight and press On the fond father with a proud distress; On all around he looks with care and love, Grieved to behold, but happy to approve. Then from his care, his love, his grief, he steals, And by himself an Author's pleasure feels: Each line detains him; he omits not one, And all the sorrows of his state are gone. - Alas! even then, in that delicious hour, He feels his fortune, and laments its power. Some Tradesman's bill his wandering eyes engage, Some scrawl for payment thrust 'twixt page and page; Some bold, loud rapping at his humble door, Some surly message he has heard before, Awake, alarm, and tell him he is poor. An angry Dealer, vulgar, rich, and proud, Thinks of his bill, and, passing, raps aloud; The elder daughter meekly makes him way - "I want my money, and I cannot stay: My mill is stopp'd; what, Miss! I cannot grind; Go tell your father he must raise the wind:" Still trembling, troubled, the dejected maid Says, "Sir! my father!"--and then stops afraid: E'en his hard heart is soften'd, and he hears Her voice with pity; he respects her tears; His stubborn features half admit a smile, And his tone softens--"Well! I'll wait awhile." Pity! a man so good, so mild, so meek, At such an age, should have his bread to seek; And all those rude and fierce attacks to dread. That are more harrowing than the want of bread; Ah! who shall whisper to that misery peace! And say that want and insolence shall cease? "But why not publish?"--those who know too well, Dealers in Greek, are fearful 'twill not sell; Then he himself is timid, troubled, slow, Nor likes his labours nor his griefs to show; The hope of fame may in his heart have place, But he has dread and horror of disgrace; Nor has he that confiding, easy way, That might his learning and himself display; But to his work he from the world retreats, And frets and glories o'er the favourite sheets. But see! the Man himself; and sure I trace Signs of new joy exulting in that face O'er care that sleeps--we err, or we discern Life in thy looks--the reason may we learn? "Yes," he replied, "I'm happy, I confess, To learn that some are pleased with happiness Which others feel--there are who now combine The worthiest natures in the best design, To aid the letter'd poor, and soothe such ills as mine. We who more keenly feel the world's contempt, And from its miseries are the least exempt; Now Hope shall whisper to the wounded breast And Grief, in soothing expectation, rest. "Yes, I am taught that men who think, who feel, Unite the pains of thoughtful men to heal; Not with disdainful pride, whose bounties make The needy curse the benefits they take; Not with the idle vanity that knows Only a selfish joy when it bestows; Not with o'erbearing wealth, that, in disdain, Hurls the superfluous bliss at groaning pain;


The Borough - 5/45

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