Page images
PDF
EPUB

Modern times exhibit most discordant phænomena. Notwithstanding our admired and vaunted improvements in agriculture, commerce, and the arts, burdens accumulate on the great mass of the people, and the sphere of indigence is every where enlarged. Bills of inclosure are multiplied, waste lands are brought into cultivation, forests are cut down and floated on the ocean ; the East and the West, the North and the South, are laid under contribution to supply our real and imaginary wants; yet Bread has been scarce, the Poor labour under hardships hitherto unknown, and an unprecedented portion of the community is fed from the reservoirs of paro. chial charity. The inclosing system has not obviated the necessity of importation : the Poor-Rates have increased with the growing opulence of Farmers : labour, which once conferred on the industrious peasant a humble independance, has been insufficient to secure him from absolute want; and that Bread, which honest Poverty once enjoyed in the lowly cottage, must now be sollicited within the walls of a Work-house.

These circumstances, which we here mention not to excite discontent but to awaken reflection, indicate the existence of some radical evil. " To scatter Plenty o'er a smiling land” is the object of every enlightened politician; who will estimate the wisdom of public systems from their operation on the whole mass of society, and will pronounce that nation to be under the influence of delusion, which can be elated by the partial diffusion of wealth and splendour, while every day adds to the classes of squalid mendicity.

It may be said that Mr. Pratt has made the Poor a rich and interesting subject, in its relation to the pressure of the times; and his work, (the composition of which is said to have beguiled the moments of a dangerous illness,) though far from being polished to that degree of elegance which true poetry requires, has many passages indicative of the author's feeling and genius, It thus opens :

• I sing the Poor! for them invite the lyre,

For them alone I ask the poet's fire ;
For them, at lours forbade to touch the string,
Late from the grave escap'd, I yearn to sing.

• And thou blest muse of Sympathy! again
Inspire and patronize a kindred strain.
No idle plumage pluck'd from fancy's wing,
No playful bubbles from the fabled spring,
Thy bard pow seeks. Ah no! far other themes
Than verdant meads, or fiction's fairy dreams,
Now prompt the numbers : Truths, that may impart
A touch of mercy to the hardest heart;
X 4

Teach

[ocr errors]

Teach avarice to feel the social sigh,
And bathe his cheek in dews of charity;
Such dews, as falling on compassion's shrine,
Gush from the smitten rock in drops divine:
The cause your own then, ev'ry muse attend,

For every muse should be the poor man's friend.? The picture of the Poor in former times, and particularly of the Cottager's return from labour to his little home, is too good to be witholden from our exhibition:

Ah lead me back, ye muses, to the bower,
Just as the swain, return'd at evening hour,
Felt the soft dew descending on his head,
When twilight's mantle o'er his cot was spread:
And tho' perchance, soft mists obscur'd the place,
The home-way path, the rustic's heart could trace,
Clear thro' a thousand vapours of the night,
Affection saw it, and still view'd it bright,
A leading star it glow'd within his breast,
Shone on his hearth, and beam'd upon his rest.

• Then was the poor man rich, and fondly smild,
As in the varied forms of wife and child,
His cultur'd orchard, and his little field,
His tenfold joys, and treasures, were reveal’d.
The day shut in, he own'd a lord no more,
Freedom began, and servitude was o'er;
At 'night enfranchis’d, he resum’d his throne,
And reign'd o'er hearts as happy as his own;
There sat the harmless monarch of his shed,
Peace crown'd his slumbers, and love blest his bed,
And tho', at morn's return,' no monarch he,
A while laid by his little sov'reignty,
Again at early eve he gently sway'd,

Alternate rul'd, was govern’d and obey’d.' Many other sketches of simple rural life occur; some of which are executed in the pastoral style, and may please those who can excuse little negligencies. With the pictures of old times, those of the new are contrasted, not much to the advantage of the latter : but here, in defiance of the poet's resolution, Imagination will assist in the drawing :

• Not such I sing ! ah, no! a different race,
Grief at their hearts, and famine in their face ; ;'
A meagre, lifeless, melancholy clar),
Robb'd of each right that Gol bestows on man;
Of every shrub despoil'd, and every flower,
The wretched paupers of the present hour!

• No petted lamb is theirs to sport around,
No fruitful orchard, and no smiling ground;

Nor balmy-breathing cow, nor swine appear,
Nor profitable poultry, clucking near ;
Nor e'en the family musician sweet,
Who gives the cottager a tuneful treat
All the long year, tho' oft his noiseless song
Is lost amidst the summer's blended throng,
Domestic Redbreast! who, at eve and morn,
As meek he sits upon the naked thorn,
A neighbour sweet, and welcome to the poor;
Ev'n he, lorn bird! can gain his crumb no more;
That crumb the hungry babes were wont to spare,
Till left themselves to comfortless despair;
Nor houshold dog, the cottage now can boast,
The poor man's last, best friend in need, is lost! '
But luxuries these, and these the poor may spare,
And oh, that these were all they had to bear!

• Behold the hamlets, where unroof'd they stand,
Fit habitations for a starving band;
What tho' around them scenes of plenty rise,
And fair above expand benignant skies,
Tho' to their thresholds Ceres leads her train,
And o'er their windows waves th' aspiring grain,
Tho'all they wish, and all they want, be near,
Ah fruits forbidden! view'd thro' many a tear;
Tho' bounties seem around their cot to wait,
Behold a gorgon frowns at every gate,
A more than fiery dragon guards the store,

To seize the hard-earn'd morsel of the poor.' After having thus depicted the miserable state of the Poor, Mr. Pratt adverts to what he deems the cause of such wretchedness, Here, perhaps, he has not inquired so deeply as a politician may do, but has taken the popular racher than the philosophic view of the subject. --Farmers, and farmers' wives, converted into Birmingham Gentlemen and Ladies, are subjects of the Poet's ridicule : but, in his attempt to delineate Vulgarity affecting Refinement, he seems to have forgotten that he was writing a work which, in its denomination, aspired to the praise of harmony and elegance. Within the space of two pages, these lines occur :

- To all but to himself and her, a fright.
With friend--as much the gentleman as her

Really unpleasant ! and that scarcely heard." Towards the conclusion of the poem, Mr. Pratt offers the following advice:

O give the heirs of poverty their cots,
Attach them fondly to their native spots ;

Amidst their thorny paths entwine a flower-
Theirs, soft submission,-thine, attemper'd power ;
Force them no more like banish'd men to roam,
Bút give to each that balm of life-a Home!
A Home, tho'rocking on the mountain's brow,
Or plac'd obscure in woodland vales below;
If loving.kindness smiling steps between,
A guardian visitant! to chear the scene;
If pity's boon the dreary hearth illumes,
And fashion drops one feather from her plumes,
One useless golden feather as she flies,
Compassion's tax on superfluities-
Labour, and Liberty, and radiant Health,
Shall fill the country with a country's wealth.
As the swain views his speck of property,
In the rude hut a palace shall he see;
Near it shall raise his flow'rs, and nurse his field,
And smile, tho' tempests rage, on what they yield;
From peace-crown'd dwellings of an lıumbler size,
Shall pleased behold more lofty mansions rise;
Shall gaze, unenvying, on the rich domain,
Yet of his own a fonder sense retain ;
For ah! it stands on consecrated ground,
A charmed circle, tho' a narrow round!
Where, if he finds in kind benevolence,
Against the beating storm, a generous fence,
In glad return for all thy bounty shewn,

The grateful rustic's hand and heart thy own.'
Though this work is conceived with boldness, and executed
jn general with spirit, it contains too many flat, hobbling, and
prosaic lines; terminated by bad rhimes. Mr. Pratt deals also too
extensively in Alases! and often ekes out his verse with the article
of the infinitive mode. He displays, however, some beautiful
thoughts; e. g. • The LITTLE CARES preserving their magic
power;'Want digging his cavern in the poor man's eye ;' and
Health described as the Goddess of the golden mein;' are
happy strokes of the poetic pencil.

The Notes are added to justify the writer's representations : but we apprehend that the anecdotes of the farmers at Stratford on Avon will induce Mr. Pratt's readers to observe that, if occasionally he be prosaic in his poetry, he sometimes compensates by being poetical in his prose.

An account of Mr. Prate's last volumes of Gleanings was given in our 36th vol. p. 421.

Mo-y. Art.

ART. XV. The Income Tax scrutinized, and some Amendments pro

posed to render it more agreeable to the British Constitution. By

John Gray, LL.D. 8vo. 25. Symonds. 1802. VARIOUS objections may be and have been alleged against the

tax on income. Of all our imposts, indeed, it is the most irritating; and, in addition to its numerous disagreeable effects, it may be questioned whether it be established on a right principle. During the pressure of war, however, when the great majority of the people were convinced of the importance of sustaining the contest with firmness, this tax, under all its hardships, was paid without much murmuring : but it is not likely that it will be cheerfully sustained on the return of peace, unless it receives considerable modifications; and, indeed, it was originally imposed as a war-tax. Government, we understand at the moment of writing this, are disposed to re-consider the subject; and in the mean time the hints of wise and judicious men should be gratefully received. In this view, the reflections and suggestions of Dr. Gray, in the pamphlet before us, are intitled to no small share of consideration; since his general principles are not only excellent in themselves, but are calculated to detect and place in a true light those false though splendid estimates of national wealth, with which the public have lately been amused.

We agree with the Doctor in a leading position, that one of the great sources of the political, and it may be added of the moral evils, which have afflicted the world for more than one hundred years, is the miscalculation of statesmen, in regard to the comparative importance of the Income from Agriculture and the Income from Foreign Commerce. By preventing false reckonings on these subjects, and by discrimi. nating between the true and factitious sources of national wealth, we are inclined io hope that some good might be effected. It is the object of Dr. Gray to ascertain what is properly National Income, and to expose those fallacies which great authorities have sanctioned. He denies that either the interest of Funds, or the profit of home trade, forms any part of this income: observing that the receipts of individuals, in their mutual dealings in society, are only portions of the original annual supply, and afford no gain to one individual without a proportionate loss to another; and as to the Funds, they no more enrich the community than private debts enrich the individual who owes them. The Territorial Income and the National Income are said to be nearly synonimous ; and the Doctor pronounces it to be an impossibility to obtain any tax, in fact, except from this income. He estimates the National

« PreviousContinue »