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- The Parish Register - 3/13 -


Till the fond damsel, pleased with lad so trim, Awed by her parent, and enticed by him, Her lovely form from savage power to save, Gave--not her hand--but ALL she could she gave. Then came the day of shame, the grievous night, The varying look, the wandering appetite; The joy assumed, while sorrow dimm'd the eyes, The forced sad smiles that follow'd sudden sighs; And every art, long used, but used in vain, To hide thy progress, Nature, and thy pain. Too eager caution shows some danger's near, The bully's bluster proves the coward's fear; His sober step the drunkard vainly tries, And nymphs expose the failings they disguise. First, whispering gossips were in parties seen, Then louder Scandal walk'd the village--green; Next babbling Folly told the growing ill, And busy Malice dropp'd it at the mill. "Go! to thy curse and mine," the Father said, "Strife and confusion stalk around thy bed; Want and a wailing brat thy portion be, Plague to thy fondness, as thy fault to me; - Where skulks the villain?" - "On the ocean wide My William seeks a portion for his bride." - "Vain be his search; but, till the traitor come, The higgler's cottage be thy future home; There with his ancient shrew and care abide, And hide thy head,--thy shame thou canst not hide." Day after day was pass'd in pains and grief; Week follow'd week,--and still was no relief: Her boy was born--no lads nor lasses came To grace the rite or give the child a name; Nor grave conceited nurse, of office proud, Bore the young Christian roaring through the crowd: In a small chamber was my office done, Where blinks through paper'd panes the setting sun; Where noisy sparrows, perch'd on penthouse near, Chirp tuneless joy, and mock the frequent tear; Bats on their webby wings in darkness move, And feebly shriek their melancholy love. No Sailor came; the months in terror fled! Then news arrived--He fought, and he was DEAD! At the lone cottage Lucy lives, and still Walks for her weekly pittance to the mill; A mean seraglio there her father keeps, Whose mirth insults her, as she stands and weeps; And sees the plenty, while compell'd to stay, Her father's pride, become his harlot's prey. Throughout the lanes she glides, at evening's close, And softly lulls her infant to repose; Then sits and gazes, but with viewless look, As gilds the moon the rippling of the brook; And sings her vespers, but in voice so low, She hears their murmurs as the waters flow: And she too murmurs, and begins to find The solemn wanderings of a wounded mind. Visions of terror, views of woe succeed, The mind's impatience, to the body's need; By turns to that, by turns to this a prey, She knows what reason yields, and dreads what madness may. Next, with their boy, a decent couple came, And call'd him Robert, 'twas his father's name; Three girls preceded, all by time endear'd, And future births were neither hoped nor fear'd: Blest in each other, but to no excess, Health, quiet, comfort, form'd their happiness; Love all made up of torture and delight, Was but mere madness in this couple's sight: Susan could think, though not without a sigh, If she were gone, who should her place supply; And Robert, half in earnest, half in jest, Talk of her spouse when he should be at rest: Yet strange would either think it to be told, Their love was cooling or their hearts were cold. Few were their acres,--but, with these content, They were, each pay-day, ready with their rent: And few their wishes--what their farm denied, The neighbouring town, at trifling cost, supplied. If at the draper's window Susan cast A longing look, as with her goods she pass'd, And, with the produce of the wheel and churn, Bought her a Sunday--robe on her return; True to her maxim, she would take no rest, Till care repaid that portion to the chest: Or if, when loitering at the Whitsun-fair, Her Robert spent some idle shillings there; Up at the barn, before the break of day, He made his labour for th' indulgence pay: Thus both--that waste itself might work in vain - Wrought double tides, and all was well again. Yet, though so prudent, there were times of joy, (The day they wed, the christening of the boy.) When to the wealthier farmers there was shown Welcome unfeign'd, and plenty like their own; For Susan served the great, and had some pride Among our topmost people to preside: Yet in that plenty, in that welcome free, There was the guiding nice frugality, That, in the festal as the frugal day, Has, in a different mode, a sovereign sway; As tides the same attractive influence know, In the least ebb and in their proudest flow; The wise frugality, that does not give A life to saving, but that saves to live; Sparing, not pinching, mindful though not mean, O'er all presiding, yet in nothing seen. Recorded next a babe of love I trace! Of many loves, the mother's fresh disgrace. - "Again, thou harlot! could not all thy pain, All my reproof, thy wanton thoughts restrain?" "Alas! your reverence, wanton thoughts, I grant, Were once my motive, now the thoughts of want; Women, like me, as ducks in a decoy, Swim down a stream, and seem to swim in joy. Your sex pursue us, and our own disdain; Return is dreadful, and escape is vain. Would men forsake us, and would women strive To help the fall'n, their virtue might revive." For rite of churching soon she made her way, In dread of scandal, should she miss the day: - Two matrons came! with them she humbly knelt, Their action copied and their comforts felt, From that great pain and peril to be free, Though still in peril of that pain to be; Alas! what numbers, like this amorous dame, Are quick to censure, but are dead to shame! Twin-infants then appear; a girl, a boy, Th' overflowing cup of Gerard Ablett's joy: One had I named in every year that passed Since Gerard wed! and twins behold at last! Well pleased, the bridegroom smiled to hear--"A vine Fruitful and spreading round the walls be thine, And branch-like be thine offspring!"--Gerard then Look'd joyful love, and softly said "Amen." Now of that vine he'd have no more increase, Those playful branches now disturb his peace: Them he beholds around his tables spread, But finds, the more the branch, the less the bread; And while they run his humble walls about, They keep the sunshine of good humour out. Cease, man, to grieve! thy master's lot survey, Whom wife and children, thou and thine obey; A farmer proud, beyond a farmer's pride, Of all around the envy or the guide; Who trots to market on a steed so fine, That when I meet him, I'm ashamed of mine; Whose board is high upheaved with generous fare, Which five stout sons and three tall daughters share. Cease, man, to grieve, and listen to his care. A few years fled, and all thy boys shall be Lords of a cot, and labourers like thee: Thy girls unportion'd neighb'ring youths shall lead Brides from my church, and thenceforth thou art freed: But then thy master shall of cares complain, Care after care, a long connected train; His sons for farms shall ask a large supply, For farmers' sons each gentle miss shall sigh; Thy mistress, reasoning well of life's decay, Shall ask a chaise, and hardly brook delay; The smart young cornet, who with so much grace Rode in the ranks and betted at the race, While the vex'd parent rails at deed so rash, Shall d**n his luck, and stretch his hand for cash. Sad troubles, Gerard! now pertain to thee, When thy rich master seems from trouble free; But 'tis one fate at different times assign'd, And thou shalt lose the cares that he must find. "Ah!" quoth our village Grocer, rich and old, "Would I might one such cause for care behold!" To whom his Friend, "Mine greater bliss would be, Would Heav'n take those my spouse assigns to me." Aged were both, that Dawkins, Ditchem this, Who much of marriage thought, and much amiss; Both would delay, the one, till--riches gain'd, The son he wish'd might be to honour train'd; His Friend--lest fierce intruding heirs should come, To waste his hoard and vex his quiet home. Dawkins, a dealer once, on burthen'd back Bore his whole substance in a pedlar's pack; To dames discreet, the duties yet unpaid, His stores of lace and hyson he convey'd: When thus enriched, he chose at home to stop, And fleece his neighbours in a new-built shop; Then woo'd a spinster blithe, and hoped, when wed, For love's fair favours and a fruitful bed. Not so his Friend;--on widow fair and staid He fix'd his eye, but he was much afraid; Yet woo'd; while she his hair of silver hue Demurely noticed, and her eye withdrew: Doubtful he paused--"Ah! were I sure," he cried, No craving children would my gains divide; Fair as she is, I would my widow take, And live more largely for my partner's sake." With such their views some thoughtful years they pass'd, And hoping, dreading, they were bound at last. And what their fate? Observe them as they go, Comparing fear with fear and woe with woe. "Humphrey!" said Dawkins, "envy in my breast Sickens to see thee in thy children blest:


The Parish Register - 3/13

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