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366

CRABBE

SIR OWEN DALE.

I took my dog and gun, but saw the brute
Was disappointed that I did not shoot;
My morning walks I now could bear to lose,
And bless'd the shower that gave me not to choose :
In fact, I felt a languor stealing on;
The active arm, the agile hand were gone;
Small daily actions into habits grew,
And new dislike to forms and fashions new ;
I lov'd my trees in order to dispose,
I number'd peaches, look'd how stocks arose,
Told the same story oft — in short, began to prose."-

vol. i. p. 200, 261. “ The Maid's Story” is rather long — though it has many passages that must be favourites with Mr. Crabbe's admirers. “Sir Owen Dale” is too long also; but it is one of the best in the collection, and must not be discussed so shortly. Sir Owen, a proud, handsome man, is left a widower at forty-three, and is soon after jilted by a young lady of twenty; who, after amusing herself by encouraging his assiduities, at last meets his longexpected declaration with a very innocent surprise at finding her familiarity with “such an old friend of her father's” so strangely misconstrued! The knight, of course, is furious; - and, to revenge himself, looks out for a handsome young nephew, whom he engages to lay siege to her, and, after having won her affections, to leave her, - as he had been left. The lad rashly engages in the adventure; but soon finds his pretended passion turning into a real one – and entreats his uncle, on whom he is dependent, to release him from the unworthy part of his vow. Sir Owen, still mad for vengeance, rages at the proposal; and, to confirm his relentless

purpose, makes a visit to one, who had better cause, and had formerly expressed equal thirst for revenge. This was one of the higher class of his tenantry - an intelligent, manly, good-humoured farmer, who had married the vicar's pretty niece, and lived in great comfort and comparative elegance, till an idle youth seduced her from his arms, and left him in rage and misery. It is here that the interesting part of the story begins; and few things can be more powerful or striking than the scenes that ensue. Sir Owen inquires whether

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he had found the objects of his just indignation.

He at first evades the question; but at length opens his heart, and tells him all. We can afford to give but a small part of the dialogue.

" Twice the year came round -
Years hateful now

ere I my victims found :
But I did find them, in the dungeon's gloom
Of a small garret — a precarious home;
The roof, unceil'd in patches, gave the snow
Entrance within, and there were heaps below;
I pass'd a narrow region dark and cold,
The strait of stairs to that infectious hold;
And, when I enter'd, misery met my view
In every shape she wears, in every hue,
And the bleak icy blast across the dungeon flew.
There frown'd the ruin'd walls that once were white;
There gleam'd the panes that once admitted light;
There lay unsavoury scraps of wretched food;
And there a measure, void of fuel, stood.
But who shall, part by part, describe the state
Of these, thus follow'd by relentless fate ?
All, too, in winter, when the icy air
Breathed its black venom on the guilty pair.
And could you know the miseries they endur'd,
The poor, uncertain pittance they procurd ;
When, laid aside the needle and the pen,
Their sickness won the neighbours of their den,
Poor as they are, and they are passing poor,
To lend some aid to those who needed more!
Then, too, an ague with the winter came,
And in this state that wife I cannot name!
Brought forth a famish'd child of suffering and of shame!
“This had you known, and traced them to this scene,

Where all was desolate, defiled, unclean,
A fireless room, and, where a fire had place,
The blast loud howling down the empty space,
You must have felt a part of the distress,

Forgot your wrongs, and made their suffering less !"
“In that vile garret -- which I cannot paint
The sight was loathsome, and the smell was faint;
And there that wife, whom I had lov'd so well,
And thought so happy! was condemn’d to dwell ;
The gay, the grateful wife, whom I was glad
To see in dress beyond our station clad,
And to behold among our neighbours, fine,
More than perhaps became a wife of mine :

368

CRABBE

UTTER WRETCHEDNESS EXPIATES.

And now among her neighbours to explore,
And see her poorest of the very poor !
There she reclin'd unmov'd, her bosom bare
To her companion's unimpassion'd stare,
And my wild wonder: Seat of virtue! chasto
As lovely once ! 0! how wert thou disgrac'd !
Upon that breast, by sordid rags defild,
Lay the wan features of a famish'd child;
That sin-born babe in utter misery laid,
Too feebly wretched even to cry for aid ;
The ragged sheeting, o'er her person drawn,

Serv'd for the dress that hunger placed in pawn.
" • At the bed's feet the man reclin'd his frame:

Their chairs had perish'd to support the flame
That warm'd his agued limbs; and, sad to see,
That shook him fiercely as he gaz'd on me, &c.
She had not food, nor aught a mother needs,
Who for another life, and dearer, feeds :
I saw her speechless; on her wither'd breast
The wither'd child extended, but not prest,
Who sought, with moving lip and feeble cry,

Vain instinct! for the fount without supply.
“. Sure it was all a grievous, odious scene,

Where all was dismal, melancholy, mean,
Foul with compelld neglect, unwholesome, and unclean;
That arm

that eye — the cold, the sunken cheekSpoke all ! — Sir Owen — fiercely miseries speak !

'
And
you reliev'd ?'

“ If hell's seducing crew
Had seen that sight, they must have pitied too,
". Revenge was thine — thou hadst the power --- the right;

To give it up was Heav'n's own act to slight.'
« • Tell me not, Sir, of rights, and wrongs, or powers !

I felt it written Vengeance is not ours !
". Then did you freely from your soul forgive ?'-
“Sure as I hope before my Judge to live,

Sure as I trust his mercy to receive,
Sure as his word I honour and believe,
Sure as the Saviour died upon the tree
For all who sin – for that dear wretch, and me
Whom, never more on earth, will I forsake

or see! “Sir Owen softly to his bed adjourn'd!

Sir Owen quickly to his home return'd ;
And all the way he meditating dwelt
On what this man in his affliction felt;

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PENALTIES OF WEAK INCONSTANCY.

369

How he, resenting first, forbore, forgave ;
His passion's lord, and not his anger's slave.”

vol. ii.

p.

36-46. We always quote too much of Mr. Crabbe :- perhaps because the pattern of his arabesque is so large, that there is no getting a fair specimen of it with taking in a good space. But we must take warning this time, and forbear - or at least pick out but a few little morsels as we pass hastily along. One of the best managed of all the tales is that entitled “ Delay has Danger;" which contains a very full, true, and particular account of the way in which a weakish, but well meaning young man, engaged on his own suit to a very amiable girl, may be seduced, during her unlucky absence, to entangle himself with a far inferior person, whose chief seduction is her apparent humility and devotion to him.

We cannot give any part of the long and finely converging_details by which the catastrophe is brought about: But we are tempted to venture on the catastrophe itself

, for the sake chiefly of the right English, melancholy, autumnal landscape, with which it concludes:

“In that weak moment, when disdain and pride,
And fear and fondness, drew the man aside,
In that weak moment . Wilt thou,' he began,
* Be mine!' and joy o'er all her features ran ;
'I will !' she softly whisperd; but the roar
Of cannon would not strike his spirit more!
Ev'n as his lips the lawless contract seald
He felt that conscience lost her seven-fold shield,
And honour fled; but still he spoke of love ;
And all was joy in the consenting dove !
" That evening all in fond discourse was spent ;
Till the sad lover to his chamber went,
To think on what had past, - to grieve and to repent!
Early he rose, and look'd with many a sigh
On the red light that fill’d the eastern sky;
Oft had be stood before, alert and gay,
To hail the glories of the new-born day:
But now dejected, languid, listless, low,
He saw the wind upon the water blow,
And the cold stream curl d onward, as the gale
From the pine hill blew harshly down the dale;
VOL. II.

в в

370

CRABBE

- DULL AUTUMNAL LANDSCAPE.

On the right side the youth a wood survey'd,
With all its dark intensity of shade ;
Where the rough wind alone was heard to move,
In this, the pause of nature and of love ;
When now the young are reard, and when the old,
Lost to the tie, grow negligent and cold,
Far to the left he saw the huts of men,
Half hid in mist, that hung upon the fen;
Before him swallows, gathering for the sea,
Took their short flights, and twitter'd on the lea ;
And near, the bean-sheaf stood, the harvest done,
And slowly blackend in the sickly sun !
All these were sad in nature; or they took
Sadness from him, the likeness of his look,
And of his mind — he ponder'd for a while,

Then met his Fanny with a borrow'd smile.” — vol. ii. p. 84, 85. The moral autumn is quite as gloomy, and far more hopeless.

The Natural Death of Love” is perhaps the best written of all the pieces before us.

It consists of a very spirited dialogue between a married pair, upon the causes of the difference between the days of marriage and those of courtship ; - in which the errors and faults of both parties, and the petulence, impatience, and provoking acuteness of the lady, with the more reasonable and reflecting, but somewhat insulting manner of the gentleman, are all exhibited to the life, and with more uniform delicacy and finesse than is usual with the author.

Lady Barbara, or the Ghost,” is a long story, and not very pleasing. A fair widow had been warned, or supposed she had been warned, by the ghost of a beloved brother, that she would be miserable if she contracted a second marriage and then, some fifteen years after, she is courted by the son of a reverend priest, to whose house she had retired — and upon whom, during all the years of his childhood, she had lavished the cares of a mother. She long resists his unnatural passion; but is at length subdued by his urgency and youthful beauty, and gives him her hand. There is something rather disgusting, we think, in this fiction - and certainly the worthy lady could have taken no way so likely to save the ghost's credit, as by entering into such a marriage – and she confessed as much, it seems, on her death-bed.

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