Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE VILLAGE SCHOOL OF FORMER DAYS.

113

That while they mercy from their judge implore,
He fears himself a knocking at the door ;
And feels the burden as his neighbour states
His humble portion to the parish-rates.

They sit th' allotted hours, then eager run,
Rushing to pleasure when the duty's done;
His hour of leisure is of different kind,
Then cares domestic rush upon his mind,
And half the ease and comfort he enjoys
Is when surrounded by slates, books, and boys.

Poor Reuben Dixon has the noisiest school
Of ragged lads who ever bow'd to rule ;
Low in his price, the men who heave our coals,
And clean our causeways, send him boys in shoals.
To see poor Reuben with his fry beside,-
Their half-check'd rudeness and his half-scorn'd pride,
Their room, the sty in which th' assembly meet,
In the close lane behind the Northgate Street, —
T observe his vain attempts to keep the peace,
Till tolls the bell, and strife and trouble cease,-
Calls for our praise ; his labour praise deserves,
But not our pity; Reuben has no nerves :
'Mid noise and dirt, and stench, and play, and prate,
He calmly cuts the pen or views the slate.

But Leonard ! yes, for Leonard's fate I grieve,
Who loathes the station which he dares not leave;
He cannot dig, he will not beg his bread,
All his dependence rests upon his head;
And deeply skill'd in sciences and arts,
On vulgar lads he wastes superior parts.

Alas! what grief that feeling mind sustains,
In guiding hands and stirring torpid brains ;
He whose proud mind from pole to pole will move,
And view the wonders of the worlds above;
Who thinks and reasons strongly ;-hard his fate,
Confined for ever to the pen and slate :

I

True, he submits, and when the long dull day
Has slowly pass'd in weary tasks away,
To other worlds with cheerful view he looks,
And parts the night between repose and books.

Amid his labours, he has sometimes tried
To turn a little from his cares aside;
Pope, Milton, Dryden, with delight bas seized,
His soul engaged, and of his troubled eased :
When, with a heavy eye and ill-done sum,
No part conceived, a stupid boy will come;
Then Leonard first subdues the rising frown,
And bids the blockhead lay his blunders down;
O’er which disgusted he will turn his eye,
To his sad duty his sound mind apply,
And, vex'd in spirit, throws his pleasures by.

An English Peasant.

From the Parish Register. To pomp and pageantry in nought allied, A noble peasant Isaac Ashford died. Noble he was, contemning all things mean, His truth unquestioned, and his soul serene: Of no man's presence Isaac felt afraid, At no man's question Isaac looked dismayed; Shame knew him not, he dreaded no disgrace ; Truth, simple truth, was written in his face; Yet while the serious thought his soul approved, Cheerful he seemed, and gentleness he loved : To bliss domestic he his heart resigned, And, with the firmest, had the fondest mind. Were others joyful, he looked smiling on, And gave

allowance where he needed none : Good he refused with future ill to buy, Nor knew a joy that caused reflection's sigh A friend to virtue, his unclouded breast No envy stung, no jealousy distressed (Bane of the poor! it wounds their weaker mind, To miss one favour which their neighbours find) :

AN ENGLISH PEASANT.

115

Yet far was he from stoic pride removed ;
He felt humanely, and he warmly loved.
I marked his action when his infant died,
And his old neighbour for offence was tried :
The still tears stealing down that furrowed cheek
Spoke pity plainer than the tongue can speak.
If pride were his, 'twas not their vulgar pride,
Who, in their base contempt, the great deride ;
Nor pride in learning, though my clerk agreed,
If fate should call him, Ashford might succeed;
Nor pride in rustic skill, although we knew
None his superior, and his equals few :
But if that spirit in his soul had place,
It was the jealous pride that shuns disgrace ;
A pride in honest fame, by virtue gained,
In sturdy boys to virtuous labours trained;
Pride in the power that guards his country's coast,
And all that Englishmen enjoy and boast;
Pride in a life that slander's tongue defied;
In fact, a noble passion, misnamed pride.

He had no party's rage, no sect'ry's whim ;
Christian and countryman was all with him :
True to his church he came ; no Sunday shower
Kept him at home in that important hour;
Nor his firm feet could one persuading sect
By the strong glare of their new light direct :
“On hope in mine own sober light I gaze,
But should be blind and lose it in your blaze."

In times severe, when many a sturdy swain
Felt it his pride, his comfort to complain;
Isaac their wants would soothe, his own would hide,
And feel in that his comfort and his pride.
I feel his absence in the hours of prayer,
And view his seat, and sigh for Isaac there;
I see no more those white locks thinly spread
Round the bald polish of that honoured head;
No more that awful glance on playful wight,
Compelled to kneel and tremble at the sight,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

To fold his fingers all in dread the while,
Till Master Ashford softened to a smile ;
No more that meek and suppliant look in prayer,
Nor the pure faith (to give it force), are there ;
But he is blessed, and I lament no more,
A wise good man, contented to be poor.

The Cottage Garden.
To every cot the lord's indulgent mind
Has a small space for garden-ground assign'd;
Here-till return of morn dismiss'd the farm-
The careful peasant plies the sinewy arm,
Warm’d as he works, and casts his look around
On every foot of that improving ground;
It is his own he sees ; his master's eye
Peers not about some secret fault to spy;
Nor voice severe is there, nor censure known ;-
Hope, profit, pleasure-they are all his own.
Here

grow the humble chives, and hard by them,
The leek with crown globose and reedy stem;
High climb his pulse in many an even row ;
Deep strike the ponderous roots in soil below;
And herbs of potent smell and pungent taste
Give a warm relish to the night's repast;
Apples and cherries grafted by his hand,
And cluster'd nuts for neighbouring markets stand.

Nor thus concludes his labour ; near the cot
The reed-fence rises round some fav’rite spot;
Where rich carnations, pinks with purple eyes,
Proud hyacinths, the least some florist's prize,
Tulips tall-stemm'd, and pounc'd auriculas rise.

Here on a Sunday-eve, when service ends,
Meet and rejoice a family of friends ;
All speak aloud, are happy and are free,
And glad they seem, and gaily they agree.
What though fastidious

ears may shun the speech,
Where all are talkers, and where none can teach ;,
Where still the welcome and the words are old,
And the same stories are for ever told;

[blocks in formation]

Yet there is joy, that, bursting from the heart,
Prompts the glad tongue these nothings to impart;
That forms these tones of gladness we despise,
That lifts their steps, that sparkles in their eyes ;
That talks or laughs or runs or shouts or plays,
And speaks in all their looks and all their ways.

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH.

Born A.D. 1770, died A.D. 1850.

Laodamia. “With sacrifice before the rising morn,

Vows have I made, by fruitless hope inspired ;
And from the infernal gods, mid shades forlorn

Of night my slaughtered lord have I required :
Celestial pity I again implore;
Restore him to my sight-great Jove, restore !"
So speaking, and by fervent love endowed

With faith, the suppliant heavenward lifts her hands; While, like the sun emerging from a cloud,

Her countenance brightens, and her eye expands ;
Her bosom heaves and spreads, her stature grows;
And she expects the issue in repose.
O terror! what hath she perceived ? O joy!

What doth she look on? whom doth she behold ?
Her hero slain upon the beach of Troy ?

His vital presence, his corporeal mould ? It is, if sense deceive her not,—'tis he! And a god leads him—winged Mercury !2

1 The wife of Protesilaus, a prince of Thessaly, one of the leaders of the Grecian army against Troy. It had been foretold that the first Greek who stepped on the Trojan shore would be killed ; Protesilaus leapt from his ship directly it touched the land, and was slain by Hector, the leader of the Trojans.

2 Mercurius was supposed to be the deity who conducted the spirits of the dead to the shades below.

« PreviousContinue »