George Crabbe

Here you will find the Long Poem The Village (book 2) of poet George Crabbe

The Village (book 2)


There are found amid the Evils of a Laborious Life, some Views of Tranquillity and Happiness. - The Repose and Pleasure of a Summer Sabbath: interrupted by Intoxication and Dispute. - Village Detraction. - Complaints of the Squire. - The Evening Riots. - Justice. - Reasons for this unpleasant View of Rustic Life: the Effect it should have upon the Lower Classes; and the Higher. - These last have their peculiar Distresses: Exemplified in the Life and heroic Death of Lord Robert Manners. - Concluding Address to his Grace the Duke of Rutland.

NO longer truth, though shown in verse, disdain, 
But own the village life a life of pain; 
I too must yield, that oft amid these woes 
Are gleams of transient mirth and hours of sweet repose. 

Such as you find on yonder sportive Green, 
The 'Squire's tall gate and churchway-walk between; 
Where loitering stray a little tribe of friends, 
On a fair Sunday when the sermon ends: 
Then rural beaux their best attire put on, 

To win their nymphs, as other nymphs are won; 
While those long wed go plain, and by degrees, 
Like other husbands, quit their care to please. 
Some of the sermon talk, a sober crowd, 
And loudly praise, if it were preach'd aloud; 

Some on the labours of the week look round, 
Feel their own worth, and think their toil renown'd; 
While some, whose hopes to no renown extend, 
Are only pleas'd to find their labours end.

Thus, as their hours glide on with pleasure fraught, 

Their careful masters brood the painful thought; 
Much in their mind they murmur and lament, 
That one fair day should be so idly spent; 
And think that Heaven deals hard, to tythe their store 
And tax their time for preachers and the poor.

Yet still, ye humbler friends, enjoy your hour, 
This is your portion, yet unclaim'd of power;
This is Heaven's gift to weary men opprest, 
And seems the type of their expected rest: 
But yours, alas! are joys that soon decay; 

Frail joys, begun and ended with the day; 
Or yet, while day permits those joys to reign, 
The village vices drive them from the plain.

See the stout churl, in drunken fury great, 
Strike the bare bosom of his teeming mate! 

His naked vices, rude and unrefin'd, 
Exert their open empire o'er the mind; 
But can we less the senseless rage despise, 
Because the savage acts without disguise?

Yet here Disguise, the city's vice, is seen, 

And Slander steals along and taints the Green; 
At her approach domestic peace is gone, 
Domestic broils at her approach come on; 
She to the wife the husband's crime conveys, 
She tells the husband when his consort strays; 

Her busy tongue, through all the little state, 
Diffuses doubt, suspicion, and debate; 
Peace, tim'rous goddess! quits her old domain,
In sentiment and song content to reign.

Nor are the nymphs that breathe the rural air 

So fair as Cynthia's, nor so chaste as fair; 
These to the town afford each fresher face, 
And the Clown's trull receives the Peer's embrace; 
From whom, should chance again convey her down, 
The Peer's disease in turn attacks the Clown.

Hear too the 'Squire, or 'squire-like farmer, talk, 
How round their regions nightly pilferers walk; 
How from their ponds the fish are borne, and all 
The rip'ning treasures from their lofty wall; 
How meaner rivals in their sports delight, 

Just rich enough to claim a doubtful right;
Who take a licence round their fields to stray, 
A mongrel race! the Poachers of the day.

And hark! the riots of the Green begin, 
That sprang at first from yonder noisy inn; 

What time the weekly pay was vanish'd all, 
And the slow hostess scor'd the threat'ning wall; 
What time they ask'd, their friendly feast to close, 
A final cup, and that will make them foes; 
When blows ensue that break the arm of Toil, 

And rustic battle ends the boobies' broil. 
Save when to yonder hall they bend their way, 
Where the grave Justice ends the grievous fray; 
He who recites, to keep the poor in awe, 
The law's vast volume - for he knows the law. - 

To him with anger or with shame repair 
The injur'd peasant and deluded fair.

Lo! at his throne the silent nymph appears, 
Frail by her shape, but modest in her tears; 
And while she stands abash'd, with conscious eye, 

Some favourite female of her judge glides by; 
Who views with scornful glance the strumpet's fate, 
And thanks the stars that made her keeper great: 
Near her the swain, about to bear for life 
One certain evil, doubts 'twixt war and wife; 

But, while the faultering damsel takes her oath, 
Consents to wed, and so secures them both. 
Yet why, you ask, thes