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- The Parish Register - 10/13 -


Tragedians all, and well-arranged in black! Who nature, feeling, force, expression lack; Who cause no tear, but gloomily pass by, And shake their sables in the wearied eye, That turns disgusted from the pompous scene, Proud without grandeur, with profusion, mean The tear for kindness past affection owes; For worth deceased the sigh from reason flows E'en well feign'd passion for our sorrows call, And real tears for mimic miseries fall: But this poor farce has neither truth nor art, To please the fancy or to touch the heart; Unlike the darkness of the sky, that pours On the dry ground its fertilizing showers; Unlike to that which strikes the soul with dread, When thunders roar and forky fires are shed; Dark but not awful, dismal but yet mean, With anxious bustle moves the cumbrous scene; Presents no objects tender or profound, But spreads its cold unmeaning gloom around. When woes are feign'd, how ill such forms appear, And oh! how needless, when the woe's sincere. Slow to the vault they come, with heavy tread, Bending beneath the Lady and her lead; A case of elm surrounds that ponderous chest, Close on that case the crimson velvet's press'd; Ungenerous this, that to the worm denies, With niggard-caution, his appointed prize; For now, ere yet he works his tedious way, Through cloth and wood and metal to his prey, That prey dissolving shall a mass remain, That fancy loathes and worms themselves disdain. But see! the master-mourner makes his way, To end his office for the coffin'd clay; Pleased that our rustic men and maids behold His plate like silver, and his studs like gold, As they approach to spell the age, the name, And all the titles of the illustrious dame.- This as (my duty done) some scholar read, A Village-father look'd disdain and said: "Away, my friends! why take such pains to know What some brave marble soon in church shall show? Where not alone her gracious name shall stand, But how she lived--the blessing of the land; How much we all deplored the noble dead, What groans we utter'd and what tears we shed; Tears, true as those which in the sleepy eyes Of weeping cherubs on the stone shall rise; Tears, true as those which, ere she found her grave, The noble Lady to our sorrows gave." Down by the church-way walk, and where the brook Winds round the chancel like a shepherd's crook; In that small house, with those green pales before, Where jasmine trails on either side the door; Where those dark shrubs, that now grow wild at will, Were clipped in form and tantalised with skill; Where cockles blanch'd and pebbles neatly spread, Form'd shining borders for the larkspurs' bed; There lived a Lady, wise, austere, and nice, Who show'd her virtue by her scorn of vice; In the dear fashions of her youth she dress'd, A pea-green Joseph was her favourite vest; Erect she stood, she walk'd with stately mien, Tight was her length of stays, and she was tall and lean. There long she lived in maiden-state immured, From looks of love and treacherous man secured; Though evil fame--(but that was long before) Had blown her dubious blast at Catherine's door: A Captain thither, rich from India came, And though a cousin call'd, it touch'd her fame: Her annual stipend rose from his behest, And all the long-prized treasures she possess'd:- If aught like joy awhile appear'd to stay In that stern face, and chase those frowns away, 'Twas when her treasures she disposed for view And heard the praises to their splendour due; Silks beyond price, so rich, they'd stand alone, And diamonds blazing on the buckled zone; Rows of rare pearls by curious workmen set, And bracelets fair in box of glossy jet; Bright polish'd amber precious from its size, Or forms the fairest fancy could devise: Her drawers of cedar, shut with secret springs, Conceal'd the watch of gold and rubied rings; Letters, long proofs of love, and verses fine Round the pink'd rims of crisped Valentine. Her china-closet, cause of daily care, For woman's wonder held her pencill'd ware; That pictured wealth of China and Japan, Like its cold mistress, shunn'd the eye of man. Her neat small room, adorn'd with maiden-taste, A clipp'd French puppy, first of favourites, graced: A parrot next, but dead and stuff'd with art; (For Poll, when living, lost the Lady's heart, And then his life; for he was heard to speak Such frightful words as tinged his Lady's cheek:) Unhappy bird! who had no power to prove, Save by such speech, his gratitude and love. A gray old cat his whiskers lick'd beside; A type of sadness in the house of pride. The polish'd surface of an India chest, A glassy globe, in frame of ivory, press'd; Where swam two finny creatures; one of gold, Of silver one; both beauteous to behold:- All these were form'd the guiding taste to suit; The beast well-manner'd and the fishes mute. A widow'd Aunt was there, compell'd by need The nymph to flatter and her tribe to feed; Who veiling well her scorn, endured the clog, Mute as the fish and fawning as the dog. As years increased, these treasures, her delight, Arose in value in their owner's sight: A miser knows that, view it as he will, A guinea kept is but a guinea still; And so he puts it to its proper use, That something more this guinea may produce; But silks and rings, in the possessor's eyes, The oft'ner seen, the more in value rise, And thus are wisely hoarded to bestow The kind of pleasure that with years will grow. But what avail'd their worth--if worth had they - In the sad summer of her slow decay? Then we beheld her turn an anxious look From trunks and chests, and fix it on her book, - A rich-bound Book of Prayer the Captain gave, (Some Princess had it, or was said to have;) And then once more on all her stores look round, And draw a sigh so piteous and profound, That told, "Alas! how hard from these to part, And for new hopes and habits form the heart! What shall I do (she cried,) my peace of mind To gain in dying, and to die resign'd?" "Hear," we return'd;--"these baubles cast aside, Nor give thy God a rival in thy pride; Thy closets shut, and ope thy kitchen's door; There own thy failings, here invite the poor; A friend of Mammon let thy bounty make; For widows' prayers, thy vanities forsake; And let the hungry of thy pride partake: Then shall thy inward eye with joy survey The angel Mercy tempering Death's delay!" Alas! 'twas hard; the treasures still had charms, Hope still its flattery, sickness its alarms; Still was the same unsettled, clouded view, And the same plaintive cry, "What shall I do?" Nor change appear'd; for when her race was run, Doubtful we all exclaim'd, "What has been done?" Apart she lived, and still she lies alone; Yon earthy heap awaits the flattering stone On which invention shall be long employ'd, To show the various worth of Catherine Lloyd. Next to these ladies, but in nought allied, A noble Peasant, Isaac Ashford, died. Noble he was, contemning all things mean, His truth unquestion'd and his soul serene: Of no man's presence Isaac felt afraid; At no man's question Isaac looked dismay'd: Shame knew him not, he dreaded no disgrace; Truth, simple truth, was written in his face: Yet while the serious thought his soul approved, Cheerful he seem'd, and gentleness he loved; To bliss domestic he his heart resign'd, And with the firmest had the fondest mind; Were others joyful, he look'd smiling on, And gave allowance where he needed none; Good he refused with future ill to buy, Nor knew a joy that caused reflection's sigh; A friend to virtue, his unclouded breast No envy stung, no jealousy distress'd; (Bane of the poor! it wounds their weaker mind, To miss one favour, which their neighbours find:) Yet far was he from stoic pride removed; He felt humanely, and he warmly loved: I mark'd his action, when his infant died, And his old neighbour for offence was tried; The still tears, stealing down that furrow'd cheek, Spoke pity, plainer than the tongue can speak. If pride were his, 'twas not their vulgar pride, Who, in their base contempt, the great deride; Nor pride in learning,--though my Clerk agreed, If fate should call him, Ashford might succeed; Nor pride in rustic skill, although we knew None his superior, and his equals few:- But if that spirit in his soul had place, It was the jealous pride that shuns disgrace; A pride in honest fame, by virtue gain'd, In sturdy boys to virtuous labours train'd; Pride in the power that guards his country's coast, And all that Englishmen enjoy and boast; Pride in a life that slander's tongue defied, - In fact a noble passion, misnamed Pride. He had no party's rage, no sect'ry's whim; Christian and countrymen was all with him: True to his church he came; no Sunday-shower Kept him at home in that important hour; Nor his firm feet could one persuading sect, By the strong glare of their new light direct:- "On hope, in mine own sober light, I gaze, But should be blind, and lose it, in your blaze." In times severe, when many a sturdy swain


The Parish Register - 10/13

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