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archness, its humour, its agreeable description, and the writer's thoughtful humanity.
H me! full sorely is my heart forlorn,
To think how modest worth neglected lies,
While partial Fame doth with her blasts adorn
Such deeds alone, as pride and pomp disguise;
Deeds of ill sort, and mischievous emprize :
Lend me thy clarion, goddess ! let me try
To sound the praise of merit,.ere it dies;
Such as I oft have chaunced to espy,
Lost in the dreary shades of dull obscurity.
In every village mark'd with little spire,
Embower'd in trees, and hardly known to fame,
There dwells, in lowly shed and mean attire,
A matron old, whom we Schoolmistress name:
Who boasts unruly brats with birch to tame;
They grieven sore in piteous durance pent,
Aw'd by the power of this relentless dame;
And oft-times, on vagarics idly bent,
For unkempt hair, or task unconn'd, are sorely shent.
And all in sight doth rise a birchen tree,
Which Learning near her little dome did stowe;
Whilom a twig of small regard to see,
Though now so wide its waving branches flow
And work the simple vassals mickle woe;
For not a wind might curl the leaves that blew,
But their limbs shudder'd, and their pulse beat low,
And as they look'd, they found their horror grew,
And shap'd it into rods, and tingled at the view.
So I have seen (who has not, may conceive)
A lifeless phantom near a garden plac'd;
So doth it wanton birds of peace bereave,
Of sport, of song, of pleasure, of repast;
They start, they stare, they wheel, they look aghast;
Sad servitude ! such comfortless annoy
May no bold Briton's riper age e'er tasto!
Ne superstition clog his chance of joy,
Ne vision empty, vain, his native bliss destroy.
Near to this dome is found a patch so green,
On which the tribe their gambols do display;
And at the door imprisoning board is seen,
Lest weakly wights of smaller size should stray,
Eager, perdie, to bask in sunny day!
The noises intermix'd, which thence resound,
Do learning's little tenement betray;
Where sits the dame, disguis'd in look profound,
And eyes her fairy throng, and turns her wheel around.
far whiter than the driven snow,
Emblem right meet of decency does yield :
Her apron, dy'd in grain, is blue, I trowe,
As is the harebell that adorns the field :
And in her hand, for sceptre, she does wield
Tway birchen sprays with anxious fear entwin'd,
With dark distrust, and sad repentance fillid,
And sted fast hate, and sharp affliction join'd,
And fury uncontroul'd, and chastisement unkind.*
Few but have ken’d, in semblance meet pourtray'd,
The childish faces of old Eol's trair,
Libs, Notus, Auster ;f these in frowns array'd,
* A memorial of the tremendous ingredients that composed the thundarbolts of Jupiter.
+ The winds, in the likeness of children, puffing and blowing in the corners of old maps.
How then would fare or earth, or sky, or main,
Were the stern god to give his flaws the rein ?
And were not she rebellious breasts to quell,
And were not she her statutes to maintain,
The cot no more, I ween, were deem'd the cell,
Where comely peace of mind and decent order dwell.
A russet stole was o'er her shoulders thrown;
A russet kirtle fenc'd the nipping air;
’T was simple russet, but it was her own;
’T was her own country bred the flock so fair;
'T was her own labour did the fleece prepare;
And, sooth to say, her pupils, rang’d around,
Through pious awe did term it passing rare :
For they in gaping wonderment abound,
And think, no doubt, she been the greatest wight on ground.
Albeit ne flattery did corrupt her truth,
Ne pompous title did debauch her ear;
Goody, good-woman, gossip, n'aunt, forsooth,
Or dame, the sole additions she did hear;
Yet these she challeng'd, these she held right dear;
Ne would esteem him act as mought behove,
Who should not honour'd eld with these revere;
For never title yet so mean could prove,
But there was eke a mind which did that title love.
One ancient hen she took delight to feed,
The plodding pattern of the busy dame;
Which, ever and anon, impell’d by need,
Into her school, begirt with chickens, came;
Such favour did her past deportment claim;
And if neglect had lavish'd on the ground
Fragment of bread, she would collect the same;
For well she knew, and quaintly could expound, What sin it were to waste the smallest crumb she found.
Herbs, too, she knew, and well of each could speak,
That in her garden sipp'd the silvery dew;
Where no vain flower disclos'd a gaudy streak;
But herbs for use and physic not a few,
Of grey renown, within those borders grew;
The tufted basil, pun-provoking thyme,
Fresh baum, and marygold of cheerful hue :
The lowly gill,* that never dares to climb;
And more I fain would sing, disdaining here to rhyme.
Yet euphrasy may not be left unsung,
That gives dim eyes to wander leagues around ;
And pungent radish, biting infant's tongue ;
And plaintain ribb'd, that heals the reaper's wound;
And marjoram sweet, in shepherd's posie found;
And lavender, whose spikes of azure bloom
Shall be ere-while in arid bundles bound,
To lurk amidst the labours of her loom,
And crown her kerchiefs clean with mickle rare perfume ;
And here trim rosemarine, that whilom crown'd
The daintiest garden of the proudest peer,
Ere, driven from its envy'd site, it found
A sacred shelter for its branches here,
Where edg'd with gold its glittering skirts appear.
Oh wassel days! O customs meet and well,
Ere this was banish'd from its lofty sphere !
Simplicity then sought this humble cell, Nor ever would she more with thane and lordling dwell.*
Here oft the dame, on Sabbath's decent eve,
Hymned such psalms as Sternhold forth did mete;
If winter 't were, she to her hearth did cleave,
But in her garden found a summer-seat :
Sweet melody! to hear her then repeat
How Israel's sons, beneath a foreign king,
While taunting foemen did a song entreat,
All for the nonce, untuning every string,
Uphung their useless lyres—small heart had they to sing.
For she was just, and friend to virtuous lore,
And pass'd much time in truly virtuous deed;
And in those elfins' ears would oft deplore
The times when Truth by Popish rage did bleed,
And tortuous death was true devotion's meed,
And simple faith in iron chains did mourn,
That nould on wooden image place her creed ;
And lawny saints in smouldering flames did burn:
Ah! dearest lord, forefend, thilk days should e'er return.
In elbow chair, like that of Scottish stem
By the sharp tooth of cankering eld defac'd,
In which, when he receives his diadem,
Our sovereign prince and liefest liege is plac'd,
The matron sate; and some with rank she grac'd,
(The source of children's and of courtiers' pride !)
Redress'd affronts (for vile affronts there pass’d)
+ Rosemary was in great request as a flavourer of wine and ale, and hence it is associated by the poet with the wassail-bowl of old times.