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HIS GIPSY CONVICT.
represented. The woman is accused of stealing, and tells her story in impetuous and lofty language.
“ My crime! this sick’ning child to feed,
I seized the food your witness saw;
But yielded to a stronger law!"
“ But I have griefs of other kind,
Troubles and sorrows more severe ;
Lend to my woes a patient ear ;
A friend to help -- find one to hear.
“My mother dead, my father lost,
I wanderd with a vagrant crew;
Their sorrows and their sins I knew;
Like them, I base and guilty grew!
“So through the land I wand'ring went,
And little found of grief or joy;
When first I loved the gypsy boy.
“ A sturdy youth he was and tall,
His looks would all his soul declare,
And strongly curl'd his raven hair.
“Yes, Aaron had each manly charm,
All in the May of youthful pride ;
And every other arm defied.-
(Whom will not love and power divide ?)
Not yet in sinful combat tried.”—p. 240—242. The father felon falls in love with the betrothed of his son, whom he despatches on some distant errand. The consummation of his horrid passion is told in these powerful stanzas :
“ The night was dark, the lanes were deep,
And one by one they took their way;
I only wept, and wish'd for day.
CRABBE —HIS GREAT POWERS.
Accursed be the love he bore
Accursed was the force he used —
For mercy! — and be so refused !” -- p. 243. It is painful to follow the story out. The son returns, and privately murders his father; and then marries his widow! The profligate barbarity of the life led by those outcasts is forcibly expressed by the simple narrative of the lines that follow:
“I brought a lovely daughter forth,
His father's child, in Aaron's bed!
Where is my child?'— Thy child is dead,'
Through town and country, field and fen,
And I became a wife again."— p. 248. We have not room to give the sequel of this dreadful ballad. It certainly is not pleasing reading; but it is written with very unusual power of language, and shows Mr. Crabbe to have great mastery over the tragic passions of pity and horror. The volume closes with some verses of no great value in praise of Women.
We part with regret from Mr. Crabbe ; but we hope to meet with him again. If his muse, to be sure, is prolific only once in twenty-four years, we can scarcely expect to live long enough to pass judgment on her future projeny: But we trust, that a larger portion of public favour than has hitherto been dealt to him will encourage him to greater efforts; and that he will soon appear again among the worthy supporters of the old poetical establishment, and come in time to surpass the revolutionists in fast firing, as well as in weight of metal.
(APRIL, 1810.) The Borough ; a Poem, in Twenty-four Letters. By the Rev.
GEORGE CRABBE, LL.B. 8vo. pp. 344. London: 1810.
We are very glad to meet with Mr. Crabbe so soon again; and particularly glad to find, that his early return has been occasioned, in part, by the encouragement he received on his last appearance. This late spring of public favour, we hope, he will yet live to see ripen into mature fame. We scarcely know any poet who deserves it better; and are quite certain there is none who is more secure of keeping with posterity whatever he may win from his contemporaries.
The present poem is precisely of the character of “ The Village” and the “ Parish Register.” It has the same peculiarities, and the same faults and beauties; though a severe critic might perhaps add, that its peculiarities are more obtrusive, its faults greater, and its beauties less. However that be, both faults and beauties are so plainly produced by the peculiarity, that it may be worth while, before giving any more particular account of it, to try if we can ascertain in what that consists.
And here we shall very speedily discover, that Mr. Crabbe is distinguished from all other poets, both by the choice of his subjects, and by his manner of treating them. All his perons are taken from the lower ranks of life; and all his scenery from the most ordinary and familiar objects of nature or art. His characters and incidents, too, are as common as the elements out of which they are compounded are humble; and not only has he nothing prodigious or astonishing in any of his representations, but he has not even attempted to impart any of the ordinary colours of poetry to those vulgar materials. He has no moralising swains or sentimental tradesmen; and scarcely ever seeks to charm us by the
296 CRABBE'S BOROUGH — PECULIAR CHOICE OF SUBJECTS.
artless graces or lowly virtues of his personages. On the contrary, he has represented his villagers and humble burghers as altogether as dissipated, and more dishonest and discontented, than the profligates of higher life; and, instead of conducting us through blooming groves and pastoral meadows, has led us along filthy lanes and crowded wharfs, to hospitals, alms-houses, and gin-shops. In some of these delineations, he may be considered as the Satirist of low life-an occupation sufficiently arduous, and, in a great degree, new and original in our language. But by far the greater part of his poetry is of a different and a higher character; and aims at moving or delighting us by lively, touching, and finely contrasted representations of the dispositions, sufferings, and occupations of those ordinary persons, who form the far greater part of our fellow-creatures. This, too, he has sought to effect, merely by placing before us the clearest, most brief, and most striking sketches of their external condition, the most sagacious and unexpected strokes of character—and the truest and most pathetic pictures of natural feeling and common suffering. By the mere force of his art, and the novelty of his style, he forces us to attend to objects that are usually neglected, and to enter into feelings from which we are in general but too eager to escape ; —and then trusts to nature for the effect of the representation.
It is obvious, at first sight, that this is not a task for an ordinary hand; and that many ingenious writers, who make a very good figure with battles, nymphs, and moonlight landscapes, would find themselves quite helpless, if set down among streets, harbours, and taverns. The difficulty of such subjects, in short, is sufficiently visible—and some of the causes of that difficulty: But they have their advantages also ;- and of these, and their hazards, it seems natural to say a few words, before entering more minutely into the merits of the work before us.
The first great advantage of such familiar subjects is, that every one is necesarily well acquainted with the
ADVANTAGES OF LOWLY THEMES FOR POETRY. 297
originals ; and is therefore sure to feel all that pleasure, from a faithful representation of them, which results from the perception of a perfect and successful imitation. In the kindred art of painting, we find that this single consideration has been sufficient to stamp a very high value upon accurate and lively delineations of objects, in themselves uninteresting, and even disagreeable; and no very inconsiderable part of the pleasure which may be derived from Mr. Crabbe's poetry may probably be referred to its mere truth and fidelity; and to the brevity and clearness with which he sets before his readers objects and characters with which they have been all their days familiar,
In his happier passages, however, he has a higher merit, and imparts a far higher gratification. The chief delight of poetry consists, not so much in what it directly supplies to the imagination, as in what it enables it to supply to itself ;-- not in warming the heart by its passing brightness, but in kindling its own latent stores of light and heat;— not in hurrying the fancy along by a foreign and accidental impulse, but in setting it agoing, by touching its internal springs and principles of activity. Now, this highest and most delightful effect can only be produced by the poet's striking a note to which the heart and the affections naturally vibrate in unison ;-by rousing one of a large family of kindred impressions ;— by dropping the rich seed of his fancy upon the fertile and sheltered places of the imagination. But it is evident, that the emotions connected with common and familiar objects—with objects which fill every man's memory, and are necessarily associated with all that he has ever really felt or fancied, are of all others the most likely to answer this description, and to produce, where they can be raised to a sufficient height, this great effect in its utmost perfection. It is for this reason that the images and affections that belong to our universal nature, are always, if tolerably represented, infinitely more captivating, in spite of their apparent commonness and simplicity, than those that are peculiar to certain situations, however they may come recom