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When earth's affections nearly o'er
Thy lustrous soul,—then harp and hymn,
GEORGE CRABBE was born on the 24th of December, 1754, at Aldborough, in Suffolk, where his father was an officer of the customs. He was originally apprenticed to a surgeon-apothecary; but disliking the profession, and encouraged by the praise accorded to some early attempts at composition, he ventured to London, and had the good fortune to meet a friend in the illustrious Edmund Burke; under whose auspices, in 1781, "the Library" was published. "The Village" soon followed; and both received the praise of Dr. Johnson. The Poet, however, had no ambition to become an author by profession: he took holy orders, and obtained the rectory of Trowbridge, in Wiltshire; here-away from the busy world-in calm and contented tranquillity, the remainder of his long life was passed. In 1807, he published a collection of "Poems;" in 1810, "the Borough ;" in 1812, the "Tales ;" and in 1819, the "Tales of the Hall." The whole of his works have been recently collected, with the addition of several posthumous poems, and published by his son.*
The character of Mr. Crabbe forms a singular contrast to his writings he was amiable, benevolent, and conciliatory to a degree. All who knew him loved him;
"In every family
Alike, in every generation dear,
The children's favourite, and the grandsire's friend,
"To him it was recommendation enough to be poor and wretched." We quote this passage from the "Life,” by his son, which preface the edition of his works. It is a gracefully and sensibly written biography; and altogether worthy of the memory of the admirable Poet and estimable man. His conversation was easy, fluent, and abundant in correct information; but distinguished chiefly by good sense and good feeling. "Kindness, meekness, and comfort were in his tongue." He died on the 3d of February, 1832. Mr. Lockhart thus describes his person :-" His noble forehead, his bright beaming eye, without any thing of old age about it-though he was
* The Poetical Works of the Rev. George Crabbe; 6 vols. London. Murray.
then, I presume, above seventy-his sweet, and, I would say, innocent, smile, and the calm, mellow tones of his voice,-all are reproduced the moment I open any page of his poetry." A high contemporary authority characterizes Crabbe as
"Nature's sternest painter-yet the best."
It is certain that those who read his poems derive from them greater pain than pleasure; and while admitting the general truth of his pictures, and the accuracy of his portraits, turn from them with a feeling of dissatisfaction approaching to disgust. It may be that "The fault was not in him—but in mankind;"
there can be, however, no doubt that the Poet wilfully exaggerated in his descriptions of human vice, and details of human suffering; and that he himself neither believed nor imagined his fellowbeings so odious and depraved as he describes them. His desire to be original led him into this large error,—to reject the garb in which poetry had for ages been wont to array the works of the creation; and to clothe them in a dress quite as unnatural and equally opposed to reality. The rustic population of our country are neither so wretched nor so degraded as they are, with few exceptions, made to appear. The poor, as well as the rich, have their vices-but their virtues also. It is not only while writing of men and women that Crabbe "looks askance :" he can perceive in the people who surround him little that is good, and less that is gracious; but he has neither eye nor ear for the beautiful sights and delicious sounds of inanimate nature. To him, the breeze is ever harsh and unmusical,—seldom moving except to produce wrecks; and hill, and stream, and valley, are barren, muddy, and unprofitable. He contemplates all things, animate and inanimate, "through a glass, darkly." The consequence has naturally been, that Crabbe never was a popular Poet. Yet the rough energy of his descriptions, the vigorous and manly style of his versification, the deep though oppressive interest of his stories, and his stern maxims of morality,—with a little more of a kindly leaning towards humanity-must have secured for him universal admiration.
TURN to the watery world!-but who to thee
Be it the summer noon: a sandy space The ebbing tide has left upon its place; Then just the hot and stony beach above, Light twinkling streams in bright confusion move; (For heated thus, the warmer air ascends, And with the cooler in its fall contends),— Then the broad bosom of the ocean keeps An equal motion; swelling as it sleeps, Then slowly sinking; curling to the strand,— Faint, lazy waves o'ercreep the ridgy sand, Or tap the tarry boat with gentle blow, And back return in silence, smooth and slow. Ships in the calm seem anchor'd; for they glide On the still sea, urged solely by the tide; Art thou not present, this calm scene before, Where all beside is pebbly length of shore, And far as eye can reach, it can discern no more?
Yet sometimes comes a ruffling cloud to make
The quiet surface of the ocean shake;
As an awaken'd giant with a frown
View now the winter storm! above, one cloud,
All where the eye delights, yet dreads to roam,
But nearer land you may the billows trace,
Now to his grave was Roger Cuff convey'd,