George Crabbe Poems >>
The Borough. Letter VIII: Trades
OF manufactures, trade, inventions rare,
Steam-towers and looms, you'd know our Borough's
'Tis small: we boast not these rich subjects here,
Who hazard thrice ten thousand pounds a-year;
We've no huge buildings, where incessant noise
Is made by springs and spindles, girls and boys;
Where, 'mid such thundering sounds, the maiden's
Is "Harmony in Uproar" all day long.
Still common minds with us in common trade,
Have gain'd more wealth than ever student made;
And yet a merchant, when he gives his son
His college-learning, thinks his duty done;
A way to wealth he leaves his boy to find,
Just when he's made for the discovery blind.
Jones and his wife perceived their elder boy
Took to his learning, and it gave them joy;
This they encouraged, and were bless'd to see
Their son a fellow with a high degree;
A living fell, he married, and his sire
Declared 'twas all a father could require;
Children then bless'd them, and when letters came,
The parents proudly told each grandchild's name.
Meantime the sons at home in trade were placed,
Money their object--just the father's taste;
Saving he lived and long, and when he died,
He gave them all his fortune to divide:
"Martin," said he, "at vast expense was taught;
He gain'd his wish, and has the ease he sought."
Thus the good priest (the Christian scholar!)
"What estimate is made by vulgar minds;
He sees his brothers, who had every gift
Of thriving, now assisted in their thrift;
While he, whom learning, habits, all prevent,
Is largely mulct for each impediment.
Yet let us own that Trade has much of chance,
Not all the careful by their care advance;
With the same parts and prospects, one a seat
Builds for himself; one finds it in the Fleet.
Then to the wealthy you will see denied
Comforts and joys that with the poor abide:
There are who labour through the year, and yet
No more have gain'd than--not to be in debt:
Who still maintain the same laborious course,
Yet pleasure hails them from some favourite source,
And health, amusements, children, wife, or friend,
With life's dull views their consolations blend.
Nor these alone possess the lenient power
Of soothing life in the desponding hour;
Some favourite studies, some delightful care,
The mind with trouble and distresses share;
And by a coin, a flower, a verse, a boat,
The stagnant spirits have been set afloat;
They pleased at first, and then the habit grew,
Till the fond heart no higher pleasure knew;
Till, from all cares and other comforts freed,
Th' important nothing took in life the lead.
With all his phlegm, it broke a Dutchman's
At a vast price, with one loved root to part;
And toys like these fill many a British mind,
Although their hearts are found of firmer kind.
Oft have I smiled the happy pride to see
Of humble tradesmen, in their evening glee;
When of some pleasing fancied good possess'd,
Each grew alert, was busy, and was bless'd:
Whether the call-bird yield the hour's delight,
Or, magnified in microscope the mite;
Or whether tumblers, croppers, carriers seize
The gentle mind, they rule it and they please.
There is my friend the Weaver: strong desires
Reign in his breast; 'tis beauty he admires:
See! to the shady grove he wings his way,
And feels in hope the raptures of the day -
Eager he looks: and soon, to glad his eyes,
From the sweet bower, by nature form'd, arise
Bright troops of virgin moths and fresh-born
Who broke that morning from their half-year's
To fly o'er flowers where they were wont to creep.
Above the sovereign oak, a sovereign skims,
The purple Emp'ror, strong in wing and limbs:
There fair Camilla takes her flight serene,
Adonis blue, and Paphia silver-queen;
With every filmy fly from mead or bower,
And hungry Sphinx who threads the honey'd flower;
She o'er the Larkspur's bed, where sweets abound.
Views ev'ry bell, and hums th' approving sound;
Poised on her busy plumes, with feeling nice
She draws from every flower, nor tries a floret
He fears no bailiff's wrath, no baron's blame,
His is untax'd and undisputed game:
Nor less the place of curious plant he knows;
He both his Flora and his Fauna shows;
For him is blooming in its rich array
The glorious flower which bore the palm away;
In vain a rival tried his utmost art,
His was the prize, and joy o'erflow'd his heart.
"This, this! is beauty; cast, I pray, your eyes
On this my glory! see the grace! the size!
Was ever stem so tall, so stout, so strong,
Exact in breadth, in just proportion long?
These brilliant hues are all distinct and clean,
No kindred tint, no blending streaks between:
This is no shaded, run-off, pin-eyed thing;
A king of flowers, a flower for England's king:
I own my pride, and thank the favouring star
Which shed such beauty on my fair Bizarre."
Thus may the poor the cheap indulgence seize,
While the most wealthy pine and pray for ease;
Content not always waits upon success,
And more may he enjoy who profits less.
Walter and William took (their father dead)
Jointly the trade to which they both were bred;
When fix'd, they married, and they quickly found
With due success their honest labours crown'd;
Few were their losses, but although a few,
Walter was vex'd and somewhat peevish grew:
"You put your trust in every pleading fool,"
Said he to William, and grew strange and cool.
"Brother forbear," he answer'd; "take your due,
Nor let my lack of caution injure you:"
Half friends they parted,--better so to close,
Than longer wait to part entirely foes.
Walter had knowledge, prudence, jealous care;
He let no idle views his bosom share;
He never thought nor felt for other men -
"Let one mind one, and all are minded then."
Friends he respected, and believed them just,
But they were men, and he would no man trust;
He tried and watch'd his people day and night, -
The good it harm'd not; for the bad 'twas right:
He could their humours bear, nay disrespect,
But he could yield no pardon to neglect;
That all about him were of him afraid
"Was right," he said--"so should we be obey'd."
These merchant-maxims, much good fortune too,
And ever keeping one grand point in view,
To vast amount his once small portion drew.
William was kind and easy; he complied
With all requests, or grieved when he denied;
To please his wife he made a costly trip,
To please his child he let a bargain slip;
Prone to compassion, mild with the distress'd,
He bore with all who poverty profess'd,
And some would he assist, nor one would he arrest.
He had some loss at sea, bad debts at land,
His clerk absconded with some bills in hand,
And plans so often fail'd, that he no longer
To a small house (his brother's) he withdrew,
At easy rent--the man was not a Jew;
And there his losses and his cares he bore,
Nor found that want of wealth could make him poor.
No, he in fact was rich! nor could he move,
But he was follow'd by the looks of love;
All he had suffer'd, every former grief,
Made those around more studious in relief;
He saw a cheerful smile in every face,
And lost all thoughts of error and disgrace.
Pleasant it was to see them in their walk
Round their small garden, and to hear them talk;
Free are their children, but their love refrains
From all offence--none murmurs, none complains;
Whether a book amused them, speech or play,
Their looks were lively, and their hearts were gay;
There no forced efforts for delight were made,
Joy came with prudence, and without parade;
Their common comforts they had all in view,
Light were their troubles, and their wishes few:
Thrift made them easy for the coming day,
Religion took the dread of death away;
A cheerful spirit still ensured content,
And love smiled round them wheresoe'er they went.
Walter, meantime, with all his wealth's
Gain'd many points, but could not purchase peace;
When he withdrew from business for an hour,
Some fled his presence, all confess'd his power;
He sought affection, but received instead
Fear undisguised, and love-repelling dread;
He look'd around him--"Harriet, dost thou love?"
"I do my duty," said the timid dove;
"Good Heav'n, your duty! prithee, tell me now -
To love and honour--was not that your vow?
Come, my good Harriet, I would gladly seek
Your inmost thought--Why can't the woman speak?
Have you not all things?"--"Sir, do I complain?" -
"No, that's my part, which I perform in vain;
I want a simple answer, and direct -
But you evade; yes! 'tis as I suspect.
Come then, my children! Watt! upon your knees
Vow that you love me."--"Yes, sir, if you please."
"Again! By Heav'n, it mads me; I require
Love, and they'll do whatever I desire:
Thus too my people shun me; I would spend
A thousand pounds to get a single friend;
I would be happy--I have means to pay
For love and friendship, and you run away:
Ungrateful creatures! why, you seem to dread
My very looks; I know you wish me dead.
Come hither, Nancy! you must hold me dear;
Hither, I say; why! what have you to fear?
You see I'm gentle--Come, you trifler, come:
My God! she trembles!--Idiot, leave the room!
Madam; your children hate me; I suppose
They know their cue; you make them all my foes:
I've not a friend in all the world--not one:
I'd be a bankrupt sooner; nay, 'tis done;
In every better hope of life I fail,
You're all tormentors, and my house a jail.
Out of my sight! I'll sit and make my will -
What, glad to go? stay, devils, and be still;
'Tis to your Uncle's cot you wish to run,
To learn to live at ease and be undone;
Him you can love, who lost his whole estate,
And I, who gain you fortunes, have your hate;
'Tis in my absence you yourselves enjoy:
Tom! are you glad to lose me? tell me, boy:
Yes! does he answer?--Yes! upon my soul;
No awe, no fear, no duty, no control!
Away! away! ten thousand devils seize
All I possess, and plunder where they please!
What's wealth to me?--yes, yes! it gives me sway,
And you shall feel it--Go! begone, I say."
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