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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,
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,
Hymnèd 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-bowļ of old times,
And warn’d them not the fretful to deride, But love each other dear, whatever them betide.
Right well she knew each temper to descry,
To thwart the proud, and the submiss to raise ;
Some with vile copper-prize exalt on high,
And some entice with pittance small of praise ;
And other some with baleful sprig she frays;
Ev'n absent, she the reins of power doth hold,
While with quaint arts the giddy crowd she sways;
Forewarn'd if little bird their pranks behold, ’T will whisper in her ear, and all the scene unfold.
Lo! now with state she utters the command;
Eftsoons the urchins to their tasks repair ;
Their books of stature small they take in hand,
Which with pellucid horn securèd are,
To save from finger wet the letters fair;
The work so gay, that on their back is seen,
St. George's high atchievements does declare;
On which thilk wight that has y-gazing been,
Kens the forthcoming rod ;-unpleasing sight, I ween.
Ah luckless he, and born beneath the beam
Of evil star! it irks me whilst I write !
As erst the bard by Mulla's silver stream,*
Oft as he told of deadly dolorous plight,
Sigh’d as he sung, and did in tears indite.
For, brandishing the rod, she doth begin
To loose the brogues, the stripling's late delight!
And down they drop. Appears his dainty skin,
Fair as the furry coat of whitest ermilin.
O ruthful scene! when from a nook obscure
His little sister doth his peril see:
All playful as she sate, she grows
She finds all soon her wonted spirits flee;
She meditates a prayer to set him free;
Nor gentle pardon could this dame deny
(If gentle pardon did with dames agree)
To her sad grief, which swells in either eye, And wrings her so that all for pity she could die.
No longer can she now her shrieks command,
And hardly she forbears, through awful fear,
To rushen forth, and with presumptuous hand,
To stay harsh justice in his mid-career.
On thee she calls, on thee, her parent dear!
(Ah! too remote to ward the shameful blow !)
She sees no kind domestic visage near,
And soon a flood of tears begins to flow,
And gives a loose at last to unavailing woe.
But ah! what pen his piteous plight may trace ?
Or what device his loud laments explain ?
The form uncouth of his disguised face?
The pallid hue that dyes his looks amain ?
The plenteous shower that does his cheek distain?
When he in abject wise implores the dame,
Ne hopeth aught of sweet reprieve to gain ;
Or when from high she levels well her aim,
And through the thatch his cries each falling stroke pro-
The other tribe, aghast, with sore dismay,
Attend and con their tasks with mickle care ;