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- The Parish Register - 1/13 -


Transcribed by Mark Sherwood, e-mail: mark.sherwood@btinternet.com

"THE PARISH REGISTER", by GEORGE CRABBE (1754-1832) {1} IN THREE PARTS.

PART I.

Tum porro puer (ut saevis projectus ab undis, Navita) nudus humi jacet infans indigus omni Vitali auxilio, - Vagituque locum lugubri complet, ut aequum est, Cui tantum in vita restat transire malorum. LUCRETIUS, De Rerum Natura, lib.5

THE ARGUMENT.

The Village Register considered, as containing principally the Annals of the Poor--State of the Peasantry as meliorated by Frugality and Industry--The Cottage of an industrious Peasant; its Ornaments--Prints and Books--The Garden; its Satisfactions--The State of the Poor, when improvident and vicious--The Row or Street, and its Inhabitants--The Dwellings of one of these--A Public House-- Garden and its Appendages--Gamesters; rustic Sharpers &c.-- Conclusion of the Introductory Part.

BAPTISMS.

The Child of the Miller's Daughter, and Relation of her Misfortune-- A frugal Couple; their Kind of Frugality--Plea of the Mother of a natural Child; her Churching--Large Family of Gerard Ablett: his apprehensions: Comparison between his state and that of the wealthy Farmer his Master: his Consolation--An Old Man's Anxiety for an Heir: the Jealousy of another on having many--Characters of the Grocer Dawkins and his Friend; their different Kinds of Disappointment--Three Infants named--An Orphan Girl and Village School-mistress--Gardener's Child: Pedantry and Conceit of the Father: his botanical Discourse: Method of fixing the Embryo-fruit of Cucumbers--Absurd Effects of Rustic Vanity: observed in the names of their Children--Relation of the Vestry Debate on a Foundling: Sir Richard Monday--Children of various Inhabitants--The poor Farmer--Children of a Profligate: his Character and Fate-- Conclusion.

The year revolves, and I again explore The simple Annals of my Parish poor; What Infant-members in my flock appear, What Pairs I bless'd in the departed year; And who, of Old or Young, or Nymphs or Swains, Are lost to Life, its pleasures and its pains. No Muse I ask, before my view to bring The humble actions of the swains I sing. - How pass'd the youthful, how the old their days; Who sank in sloth, and who aspired to praise; Their tempers, manners, morals, customs, arts, What parts they had, and how they 'mploy'd their parts; By what elated, soothed, seduced, depress'd, Full well I know-these Records give the rest. Is there a place, save one the poet sees, A land of love, of liberty, and ease; Where labour wearies not, nor cares suppress Th' eternal flow of rustic happiness; Where no proud mansion frowns in awful state, Or keeps the sunshine from the cottage-gate; Where young and old, intent on pleasure, throng, And half man's life is holiday and song? Vain search for scenes like these! no view appears, By sighs unruffled or unstain'd by tears; Since vice the world subdued and waters drown'd, Auburn and Eden can no more be found. Hence good and evil mixed, but man has skill And power to part them, when he feels the will! Toil, care, and patience bless th' abstemious few, Fear, shame, and want the thoughtless herd pursue. Behold the Cot! where thrives th' industrious swain, Source of his pride, his pleasure, and his gain; Screen'd from the winter's wind, the sun's last ray Smiles on the window and prolongs the day; Projecting thatch the woodbine's branches stop, And turn their blossoms to the casement's top: All need requires is in that cot contain'd, And much that taste untaught and unrestrain'd Surveys delighted; there she loves to trace, In one gay picture, all the royal race; Around the walls are heroes, lovers, kings; The print that shows them and the verse that sings. Here the last Louis on his throne is seen, And there he stands imprison'd, and his Queen; To these the mother takes her child, and shows What grateful duty to his God he owes; Who gives to him a happy home, where he Lives and enjoys his freedom with the free; When kings and queens, dethroned, insulted, tried, Are all these blessings of the poor denied. There is King Charles, and all his Golden Rules, Who proved Misfortune's was the best of schools: And there his Son, who, tried by years of pain, Proved that misfortunes may be sent in vain. The Magic-mill that grinds the gran'nams young, Close at the side of kind Godiva hung; She, of her favourite place the pride and joy, Of charms at once most lavish and most coy, By wanton act the purest fame could raise, And give the boldest deed the chastest praise. There stands the stoutest Ox in England fed; There fights the boldest Jew, Whitechapel bred; And here Saint Monday's worthy votaries live, In all the joys that ale and skittles give. Now, lo! on Egypt's coast that hostile fleet, By nations dreaded and by NELSON beat; And here shall soon another triumph come, A deed of glory in a deed of gloom; Distressing glory! grievous boon of fate! The proudest conquest at the dearest rate. On shelf of deal beside the cuckoo-clock, Of cottage reading rests the chosen stock; Learning we lack, not books, but have a kind For all our wants, a meat for every mind. The tale for wonder and the joke for whim, The half-sung sermon and the half-groan'd hymn. No need of classing; each within its place, The feeling finger in the dark can trace; "First from the corner, farthest from the wall," Such all the rules, and they suffice for all. There pious works for Sunday's use are found; Companions for that Bible newly bound; That Bible, bought by sixpence weekly saved, Has choicest prints by famous hands engraved; Has choicest notes by many a famous head, Such as to doubt have rustic readers led; Have made them stop to reason WHY? and HOW? And, where they once agreed, to cavil now. Oh! rather give me commentators plain, Who with no deep researches vex the brain; Who from the dark and doubtful love to run, And hold their glimmering tapers to the sun; Who simple truth with nine-fold reasons back, And guard the point no enemies attack. Bunyan's famed Pilgrim rests that shelf upon; A genius rare but rude was honest John; Not one who, early by the Muse beguiled, Drank from her well the waters undefiled; Not one who slowly gained the hill sublime, Then often sipp'd and little at a time; But one who dabbled in the sacred springs, And drank them muddy, mix'd with baser things. Here to interpret dreams we read the rules, Science our own! and never taught in schools; In moles and specks we Fortune's gifts discern, And Fate's fix'd will from Nature's wanderings learn. Of Hermit Quarll we read, in island rare, Far from mankind and seeming far from care; Safe from all want, and sound in every limb; Yes! there was he, and there was care with him. Unbound and heap'd, these valued tomes beside, Lay humbler works, the pedlar's pack supplied; Yet these, long since, have all acquired a name: The Wandering Jew has found his way to fame; And fame, denied to many a labour'd song, Crowns Thumb the Great, and Hickathrift the strong. There too is he, by wizard-power upheld, Jack, by whose arm the giant-brood were quell'd: His shoes of swiftness on his feet he placed; His coat of darkness on his loins he braced; His sword of sharpness in his hand he took, And off the heads of doughty giants stroke: Their glaring eyes beheld no mortal near; No sound of feet alarm'd the drowsy ear; No English blood their Pagan sense could smell, But heads dropt headlong, wondering why they fell. These are the Peasant's joy, when, placed at ease, Half his delighted offspring mount his knees. To every cot the lord's indulgent mind Has a small space for garden-ground assign'd; Here--till return of morn dismiss'd the farm - The careful peasant plies the sinewy arm, Warm'd as he works, and casts his look around On every foot of that improving ground : It is his own he sees; his master's eye Peers not about, some secret fault to spy; Nor voice severe is there, nor censure known; - Hope, profit, pleasure,--they are all his own. Here grow the humble cives, and, hard by them, The leek with crown globose and reedy stem; High climb his pulse in many an even row, Deep strike the ponderous roots in soil below; And herbs of potent smell and pungent taste, Give a warm relish to the night's repast. Apples and cherries grafted by his hand,


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