Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

SHENSTONE.

FROM THE SCHOOL-MISTRESS.

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 School-mistress 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 vagaries 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,

The character of the man and the Poet has been drawn by two faithful friendsDodsley and Graves. His person was above the middle stature, largely and rather elegantly formed; his face seemed plain till you conversed with him, and then it grew very pleasing. In his disposition he was easy, generous and indolent; of a melancholy temperament, yet, at times, humorous and sprightly. One of the warmest eulogists of his planted Paradise has likened it to his mind-simple, elegant, and amiable.

As a Poet, his merit has been long established. His productions, if they are deficient in vigour and variety, are full of simplicity, delicacy, and pathos. “ The Schoolmistress" is, perhaps, the most popular; but among his Pastorals there are many of exceeding elegance; and although they have been often “mocked at” as simple almost to absurdity, they speak to the heart and the affections, and are dear to both. We have abundant proof that the emotions of Shenstone, as we find them in his verse, were real; besides his own assertion, that he "felt very sensibly the affections he communicates," they bear the stamp of truth; and some passages of his life are the witnesses of it. He wooed and might have won; but prudence-unhappily, for it left him without an object of excitement to industry and exertion--forbade his allying to " poetry and poverty" the woman who had gained his heart. This unfortunate resolve not only left him without a comforter in his time of trouble, a counsellor in his moments of doubt and indecision, a companion in his hours of solitude and thought, a friend in his moments of higher aspirations or deeper despondencies,-it tinged all his feelings with repining melancholy-produced a longing after fame which he lacked the resolution to achieve ;--and the beauties he had called into 'existence out of a barren waste lost more than half their attractions, because he was without the one to talk with of their beauty, and by whom to hear their beauty praised. He created a paradise--and beheld from it the prospect of a jail. Dr. Johnson emphatically says of him--" he was a lamp that spent its oil in blazing"--and he adds a melancholy comment—" If he had lived a little longer, he would have been SHENSTONE.

[graphic]

FROM THE SCHOOL-MISTRESS. 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 School-mistress 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 vagaries 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,

And work the simple vassals mickle woe;
For not a wind might curl the leaves that blew,
But heir limbs shudder'd, and their pulse beat low ;

And as they look'd they found their horrour grew, And shap'd it into rods, and tingled at the view.

So have I 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 taste !

Ne superstition clog his dance 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 intermixed, 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. Her сар,

far whiter than the driven snow, Emblem right meet of decency does yield : Her apron dy'd in grain, as blue, I trowe, As is the hare-bell 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 fill'd ;

And stedfast hate, and sharp affliction join'd, And fury uncontroul'd, and chastisement unkind.

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,

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 challenged, 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.

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;

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:
E'en 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 secured are,
To save from finger wet the letters fair:
The work so gay that on their back is seen,
St. George's high achievements does declare;

On which thilk wight that has y-gazing been,
Kens the forth-coming rod, unpleasing sight, I ween!

But now Dan Phæbus gains the middle skie,
And Liberty unbars her prison-door;
And like a rushing torrent out they fly,

« ZurückWeiter »