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- The Parish Register - 4/13 -


They are thy joys, while I go grieving home To a sad spouse, and our eternal gloom: We look despondency; no infant near, To bless the eye or win the parent's ear; Our sudden heats and quarrels to allay, And soothe the petty sufferings of the day: Alike our want, yet both the want reprove; Where are, I cry, these pledges of our love? When she, like Jacob's wife, makes fierce reply, Yet fond--Oh! give me children, or I die: And I return--still childless doom'd to live, Like the vex'd patriarch--Are they mine to give? Ah! much I envy thee thy boys, who ride On poplar branch, and canter at thy side; And girls, whose cheeks thy chin's fierce fondness know, And with fresh beauty at the contact glow." "Oh! simple friend," said Ditchem, "wouldst thou gain A father's pleasure by a husband's pain? Alas! what pleasure--when some vig'rous boy Should swell thy pride, some rosy girl thy joy; Is it to doubt who grafted this sweet flower, Or whence arose that spirit and that power? "Four years I've wed; not one has passed in vain; Behold the fifth! behold a babe again! My wife's gay friends th' unwelcome imp admire, And fill the room with gratulation dire: While I in silence sate, revolving all That influence ancient men, or that befall; A gay pert guest--Heav'n knows his business--came; A glorious boy! he cried, and what the name? Angry I growl'd,--My spirit cease to tease, Name it yourselves,--Cain, Judas, if you please; His father's give him,--should you that explore, The devil's or yours: --I said, and sought the door. My tender partner not a word or sigh Gives to my wrath, nor to my speech reply; But takes her comforts, triumphs in my pain, And looks undaunted for a birth again." Heirs thus denied afflict the pining heart, And thus afforded, jealous pangs impart; Let, therefore, none avoid, and none demand These arrows number'd for the giant's hand. Then with their infants three, the parents came, And each assign'd--'twas all they had--a name; Names of no mark or price; of them not one Shall court our view on the sepulchral stone, Or stop the clerk, th' engraven scrolls to spell, Or keep the sexton from the sermon bell. An orphan-girl succeeds: ere she was born Her father died, her mother on that morn: The pious mistress of the school sustains Her parents' part, nor their affection feigns, But pitying feels: with due respect and joy, I trace the matron at her loved employ; What time the striplings, wearied e'en with play, Part at the closing of the summer's day, And each by different path returns the well-known way Then I behold her at her cottage-door, Frugal of light;--her Bible laid before, When on her double duty she proceeds, Of time as frugal--knitting as she reads: Her idle neighbours, who approach to tell Some trifling tale, her serious looks compel To hear reluctant,--while the lads who pass, In pure respect, walk silent on the grass: Then sinks the day, but not to rest she goes, Till solemn prayers the daily duties close. But I digress, and lo! an infant train Appear, and call me to my task again. "Why Lonicera wilt thou name thy child?" I ask the Gardener's wife, in accents mild: "We have a right," replied the sturdy dame; - And Lonicera was the infant's name. If next a son shall yield our Gardener joy, Then Hyacinthus shall be that fair boy; And if a girl, they will at length agree That Belladonna that fair maid shall be. High-sounding words our worthy Gardener gets, And at his club to wondering swains repeats; He then of Rhus and Rhododendron speaks, And Allium calls his onions and his leeks; Nor weeds are now, for whence arose the weed, Scarce plants, fair herbs, and curious flowers proceed, Where Cuckoo-pints and Dandelions sprung (Gross names had they our plainer sires among), There Arums, there Leontodons we view, And Artemisia grows where wormwood grew. But though no weed exists his garden round, From Rumex strong our Gardener frees his ground, Takes soft Senecio from the yielding land, And grasps the arm'd Urtica in his hand. Not Darwin's self had more delight to sing Of floral courtship, in th' awaken'd Spring, Than Peter Pratt, who simpering loves to tell How rise the Stamens, as the Pistils swell; How bend and curl the moist-top to the spouse, And give and take the vegetable vows; How those esteem'd of old but tips and chives, Are tender husbands and obedient wives; Who live and love within the sacred bower, - That bridal bed, the vulgar term a flower. Hear Peter proudly, to some humble friend, A wondrous secret, in his science, lend: - "Would you advance the nuptial hour and bring The fruit of Autumn with the flowers of Spring; View that light frame where Cucumis lies spread, And trace the husbands in their golden bed, Three powder'd Anthers;--then no more delay, But to the stigma's tip their dust convey; Then by thyself, from prying glance secure, Twirl the full tip and make your purpose sure; A long-abiding race the deed shall pay, Nor one unblest abortion pine away." T'admire their Mend's discourse our swains agree, And call it science and philosophy. "'Tis good, 'tis pleasant, through th' advancing year, To see unnumbered growing forms appear; What leafy-life from Earth's broad bosom rise! What insect myriads seek the summer skies! What scaly tribes in every streamlet move; What plumy people sing in every grove! All with the year awaked to life, delight, and love. Then names are good; for how, without their aid, Is knowledge, gain'd by man, to man convey'd? But from that source shall all our pleasures flow? Shall all our knowledge be those names to know? Then he, with memory blest, shall bear away The palm from Grew, and Middleton, and Ray: No! let us rather seek, in grove and field, What food for wonder, what for use they yield; Some just remark from Nature's people bring, And some new source of homage for her King. Pride lives with all; strange names our rustics give To helpless infants, that their own may live; Pleased to be known, they'll some attention claim, And find some by-way to the house of fame. The straightest furrow lifts the ploughman's art, The hat he gained has warmth for head and heart; The bowl that beats the greater number down Of tottering nine-pins, gives to fame the clown; Or, foil'd in these, he opes his ample jaws, And lets a frog leap down, to gain applause; Or grins for hours, or tipples for a week, Or challenges a well-pinch'd pig to squeak: Some idle deed, some child's preposterous name, Shall make him known, and give his folly fame. To name an infant meet our village sires, Assembled all as such event requires; Frequent and full, the rural sages sate, And speakers many urged the long debate, - Some harden'd knaves, who roved the country round, Had left a babe within the parish bound. - First, of the fact they question'd--"Was it true?" The child was brought--"What then remained to do?" "Was't dead or living?" This was fairly proved, - 'Twas pinched, it roar'd, and every doubt removed. Then by what name th' unwelcome guest to call Was long a question, and it posed them all; For he who lent it to a babe unknown, Censorious men might take it for his own: They look'd about, they gravely spoke to all, And not one Richard answer'd to the call. Next they inquired the day, when, passing by, Th' unlucky peasant heard the stranger's cry: This known,--how food and raiment they might give Was next debated--for the rogue would live; At last, with all their words and work content, Back to their homes the prudent vestry went, And Richard Monday to the workhouse sent. There was he pinched and pitied, thump'd and fed, And duly took his beatings and his bread; Patient in all control, in all abuse, He found contempt and kicking have their use: Sad, silent, supple; bending to the blow, A slave of slaves, the lowest of the low; His pliant soul gave way to all things base, He knew no shame, he dreaded no disgrace. It seem'd, so well his passions he suppress'd, No feeling stirr'd his ever-torpid breast; Him might the meanest pauper bruise and cheat, He was a footstool for the beggar's feet; His were the legs that ran at all commands; They used on all occasions Richard's hands: His very soul was not his own; he stole As others order'd, and without a dole; In all disputes, on either part he lied, And freely pledged his oath on either side; In all rebellions Richard joined the rest, In all detections Richard first confess'd; Yet, though disgraced, he watched his time so well, He rose in favour when in fame he fell; Base was his usage, vile his whole employ, And all despised and fed the pliant boy. At length "'Tis time he should abroad be sent," Was whispered near him,--and abroad he went; One morn they call'd him, Richard answer'd not; They deem'd him hanging, and in time forgot, - Yet miss'd him long, as each throughout the clan Found he "had better spared a better man." Now Richard's talents for the world were fit,


The Parish Register - 4/13

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