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- Tales - 1/52 -

Transcribed by Mark Sherwood, e-mail:

"TALES", by GEORGE CRABBE (1754-1832) {1}



With fair round belly, with good capon lined, With eyes severe - Full of wise saws and modern instances. SHAKESPEARE, As You Like It.

Deep shame hath struck me dumb. King John.

He gives the bastinado with his tongue; Our ears are cudgell'd. King John.

. . . . . . . Let's kill all the lawyers; Now show yourselves men; 'tis for liberty: We will not leave one lord or gentleman. 2 Henry VI.

And thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges. Twelfth Night.


That all men would be cowards if they dare, Some men we know have courage to declare; And this the life of many a hero shows, That, like the tide, man's courage ebbs and flows: With friends and gay companions round them, then Men boldly speak and have the hearts of men; Who, with opponents seated miss the aid Of kind applauding looks, and grow afraid; Like timid travelers in the night, they fear Th' assault of foes, when not a friend is near. In contest mighty, and of conquest proud, Was Justice Bolt, impetuous, warm, and loud; His fame, his prowess all the country knew, And disputants, with one so fierce, were few: He was a younger son, for law design'd, With dauntless look and persevering mind; While yet a clerk, for disputation famed, No efforts tired him, and no conflicts tamed. Scarcely he bade his master's desk adieu, When both his brothers from the world withdrew. An ample fortune he from them possessed, And was with saving care and prudence bless'd. Now would he go and to the country give Example how an English 'squire should live; How bounteous, yet how frugal man may be, By well-order'd hospitality; He would the rights of all so well maintain. That none should idle be, and none complain. All this and more he purposed--and what man Could do, he did to realise his plan; But time convinced him that we cannot keep A breed of reasoners like a flock of sheep; For they, so far from following as we lead, Make that a cause why they will not proceed. Man will not follow where a rule is shown, But loves to take a method of his own: Explain the way with all your care and skill, This will he quit, if but to prove he will. - Yet had our Justice honour--and the crowd, Awed by his presence, their respect avow'd. In later years he found his heart incline, More than in youth, to gen'rous food and wine; But no indulgence check'd the powerful love He felt to teach, to argue, and reprove. Meetings, or public calls, he never miss'd - To dictate often, always to assist. Oft he the clergy join'd, and not a cause Pertain'd to them but he could quote the laws; He upon tithes and residence display'd A fund of knowledge for the hearer's aid; And could on glebe and farming, wool and grains A long discourse, without a pause, maintain. To his experience and his native sense He join'd a bold imperious eloquence; The grave, stern look of men inform'd and wise, A full command of feature, heart, and eyes, An awe-compelling frown, and fear-inspiring size. When at the table, not a guest was seen With appetite so lingering, or so keen; But when the outer man no more required, The inner waked, and he was man inspired. His subjects then were those, a subject true Presents in fairest form to public view; Of church and state, of law, with mighty strength Of words he spoke, in speech of mighty length: And now, into the vale of years declined, He hides too little of the monarch-mind: He kindles anger by untimely jokes, And opposition by contempt provokes; Mirth he suppresses by his awful frown, And humble spirits, by disdain, keeps down; Blamed by the mild, approved by the severe, The prudent fly him, and the valiant fear. For overbearing is his proud discourse, And overwhelming of his voice the force; And overpowering is he when he shows What floats upon a mind that always overflows. This ready man at every meeting rose, Something to hint, determine, or propose; And grew so fond of teaching, that he taught Those who instruction needed not or sought: Happy our hero, when he could excite Some thoughtless talker to the wordy fight: Let him a subject at his pleasure choose, Physic or law, religion or the muse; On all such themes he was prepared to shine, - Physician, poet, lawyer, and divine. Hemm'd in by some tough argument, borne down By press of language and the awful frown, In vain for mercy shall the culprit plead; His crime is past, and sentence must proceed: Ah! suffering man, have patience, bear thy woes - For lo! the clock--at ten the Justice goes. This powerful man, on business, or to please A curious taste, or weary grown of ease, On a long journey travelled many a mile Westward, and halted midway in our isle; Content to view a city large and fair, Though none had notice--what a man was there! Silent two days, he then began to long Again to try a voice so loud and strong; To give his favourite topics some new grace, And gain some glory in such distant place; To reap some present pleasure, and to sow Seeds of fair fame, in after-time to grow: Here will men say, "We heard, at such an hour, The best of speakers--wonderful his power." Inquiry made, he found that day would meet A learned club, and in the very street: Knowledge to gain and give, was the design; To speak, to hearken, to debate, and dine: This pleased our traveller, for he felt his force In either way, to eat or to discourse. Nothing more easy than to gain access To men like these, with his polite address: So he succeeded, and first look'd around, To view his objects and to take his ground; And therefore silent chose awhile to sit, Then enter boldly by some lucky hit; Some observation keen or stroke severe, To cause some wonder or excite some fear. Now, dinner past, no longer he supprest His strong dislike to be a silent guest; Subjects and words were now at his command - When disappointment frown'd on all he plann'd; For, hark!--he heard amazed, on every side, His church insulted and her priests belied; The laws reviled, the ruling power abused, The land derided, and its foes excused: - He heard and ponder'd--What, to men so vile, Should be his language?--For his threat'ning style They were too many;--if his speech were meek, They would despise such poor attempts to speak: At other times with every word at will, He now sat lost, perplex'd, astonish'd, still. Here were Socinians, Deists, and indeed All who, as foes to England's Church, agreed; But still with creeds unlike, and some without a creed: Here, too, fierce friends of liberty he saw, Who own'd no prince and who obey no law; There were reformers of each different sort, Foes to the laws, the priesthood, and the court; Some on their favourite plans alone intent, Some purely angry and malevolent: The rash were proud to blame their country's laws; The vain, to seem supporters of a cause; One call'd for change, that he would dread to see; Another sigh'd for Gallic liberty! And numbers joining with the forward crew, For no one reason--but that numbers do. "How," said the Justice, "can this trouble rise, This shame and pain, from creatures I despise?" And Conscience answer'd--"The prevailing cause Is thy delight in listening to applause; Here, thou art seated with a tribe, who spurn Thy favourite themes, and into laughter turn Thy fears and wishes: silent and obscure, Thyself, shalt thou the long harangue endure;

Tales - 1/52

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