Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, FLIRTATION; A DIALOGUE, by GEORGE CRABBE



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FLIRTATION; A DIALOGUE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: From her own room, in summer's softest eve
Last Line: Married at guernsey!!!' -- oh! The villain, dear!
Subject(s): Flirtation; Love - Complaints


FROM her own room, in summer's softest eve,
Stept Celia forth her Delia to receive, --
Joy in her looks, that half her tale declared.
C. War and the waves my fav'rite Youth have spared;
Faithful and fond, through many a painful year,
My Charles will come ---- Do give me joy, my dear.
D. I give you joy, and so may he; but still,
'Tis right to question, if 'tis sure he will;
A sailor's open honest heart we prize,
But honest sailors have their ears and eyes.
C. Oh! but he surely will on me depend,
Nor dare to doubt the firmness of his friend.
D. Be not secure; the very best have foes,
And facts they would not to the world expose;
And these he may be told, if he converse with those.
C. Speak you in friendship? -- let it be sincere
And naked truth, -- and what have I to fear?
D. I speak in friendship; and I do confess,
If I were you, the Truth should wear a dress:
If Charles should doubt, as lovers do, though blind,
Would you to him present the naked mind?
If it were clear as crystal, yet it checks
One's joy to think that he may fancy specks;
And now, in five long years, we scarcely know
How the mind gets them, and how large they grow.
Let woman be as rigid as a nun,
She cannot censures and surmises shun.
Wonder not, then, at tales that Scandal tells --
Your father's rooms were not like sisters' cells;
Nor pious monks came there, nor prosing friars,
But well-dress'd captains, and approving squires.
C. What these to me, admit th' account be true?
D. Nay, that yourself describe -- they came to you!
C. Well! to my friend I may the truth confess,
Poor Captain Glimmer loved me to excess;
Flintham, the young solicitor, that wrote
Those pretty verses, he began to dote;
That Youth from Oxford, when I used to stop
A moment with him, at my feet would drop;
Nor less your Brother, whom, for your dear sake,
I to my favour often used to take:
And was, vile world! my character at stake?
If such reports my Sailor's ear should reach,
What jealous thoughts and fancies may they teach.
If without cause ill-judging men suspect,
What may not all these harmless Truths effect?
And what, my Delia, if our virtues fail,
What must we fear if conscious we are frail;
And well you know, my friend, nor fear t' impart,
The tender frailties of the yielding heart.
D. Speak for yourself, fair lady! speak with care;
I, not your frailties, but your suffering share.
You may my counsel, if you will, refuse;
But pray beware, how you my name accuse.
C. Accuse you! No! there is no need of One,
To do what long the public voice has done.
What misses then at school, forget the fall
Of Ensign Bloomer, when he leapt the wall?
That was a first exploit, and we were witness all;
And that sad night, upon my faithful breast,
We wept together, till we sank to rest;
You own'd your love ----
D. A girl, a chit, a child!
Am I for this, and by a friend reviled?
C. Then lay your hand, fair creature! on your heart,
And say how many there have had a part:
Six I remember; and if Fame be true,
The handsome Serjeant had his portion too.
D. A Serjeant! Madam, if I might advise,
Do use some small discretion in such lies:
A Serjeant, Celia? ----
C. Handsome, smart, and clean.
Yes! and the fellow had a noble mien,
That might excuse you had you giv'n your hand, --
But this your father could not understand.
D. Mercy! how pert and flippant are you grown,
As if you'd not a secret of your own;
Yet would you tremble should your Sailor know,
What I, or my small cabinet, could show:
He might suspect a heart with many a wound
Shallow and deep, could never more be sound;
That of one pierced so oft, so largely bled,
The feeling ceases, and the love is dead;
But sense exists, and passion serves instead.
C. Injurious Delia! cold, reproachful maid!
Is thus my confidential faith repaid?
Is this the counsel that we two have held,
When duty trembled, and desire rebell'd;
The sister-vows we made, through many a night,
To aid each other in the arduous fight
With the harsh-minded powers who never think
What nature needs, nor will at weakness wink:
And now, thou cruel girl! is all forgot,
The wish oft whisper'd, the imagined lot,
The secret Hymen, the sequester'd cot?
And will you thus our bond of friendship rend,
And join the world in censure of your friend?
Oh! 'tis not right! as all with scorn must see,
Although the certain mischief falls on me.
D. Nay, never weep! but let this kiss restore,
And make our friendship perfect as before;
Do not our wiser selves, ourselves condemn,
And yet we dearly love their faults and them?
So our reproofs to tender minds are shown,
We treat their wanderings as we treat our own;
We are each other's conscience, and we tell
Our friend her fault, because we wish her well;
We judge, nay prejudge, what may be her case,
Fore-arm the soul, and shield her from disgrace.
Creatures in prison, ere the trying day,
Their answers practise, and their powers essay.
By means like these they guard against surprise,
And all the puzzling questions that may rise.
'Guilty or not?' His lawyer thus address'd
A wealthy rogue -- 'Not guilty, I protest --'
'Why, then, my friend, we've nothing here to say,
But you're in danger! prithee heed your way:
You know your truth, I where your error lies;
From your 'Not guilty' will your danger rise.'
'Oh! but I am, and I have here the gain
Of wicked craft: ' -- ' Then let it here remain;
For we must guard it by a sure defence,
And not professions of your innocence;
For that's the way, whatever you suppose,
To slip your neck within the ready noose.'
Thus, my beloved friend! a girl, if wise,
Upon her Prudence, not her Truth, relies;
It is confess'd, that not the good and pure
Are in this world of calumny secure --
And therefore never let a lass rely
Upon her goodness and her chastity;
Her very virtue makes her heedless: youth
Reveals imprudent, nay injurious, truth;
Whereas, if conscious that she merit blame,
She grows discreet, and well defends her fame;
And thus, offending, better makes her way --
As Joseph Surface argues in the play --
Than when in virtue's strength she proudly stood,
So wrongly right, and so absurdly good.
Now, when your Charles shall be your judge, and try
His own dear damsel -- questioning how and why --
Let her be ready, arm'd with prompt reply;
No hesitation let the man discern,
But answer boldly, then accuse in turn;
Some trifling points with candid speech confess'd,
You gain a monstrous credit for the rest.
Then may you wear the Injured Lady frown,
And with your anger keep his malice down;
Accuse, condemn, and make him glad at heart
To sue for pardon when you come to part;
But let him have it; let him go in peace,
And all inquiries of themselves will cease;
To touch him nearer, and to hold him fast,
Have a few tears in petto at the last;
But, this with care! for 'tis a point of doubt,
If you should end with weeping or without.
'Tis true you much affect him by your pain,
But he may want to prove his power again;
And, then, it spoils the look, and hurts the eyes --
A girl is never handsome when she cries.
Take it for granted, in a general way,
The more you weep for men, the more you may.
Save your resources; for though now you cry
With good effect, you may not by and by.
It is a knack; and there are those that weep
Without emotion that a man may sleep;
Others disgust -- 'tis genius, not advice,
that will avail us in a thing so nice.
If you should love him, you have greater need
Of all your care, and may not then succeed: --
For that's our bane -- we should be conquerors all
With hearts untouch'd -- our feelings cause our fall.
But your experience aids you: you can hide
Your real weakness in your borrow'd pride.
But to the point -- should so the Charge be laid,
That nought against it fairly can be said --
How would you act? You would not then confess?
C. Oh! never! no! -- nor even my Truth profess!
To mute contempt I would alone resort
For the Reporters, and for their Report.
If he profess'd forgiveness, I would cry --
'Forgive such faithlessness! so would not I!
Such errors pardon! he that so would act
Would, I am sure, be guilty of the fact;
Charles, if I thought your spirit was so mean,
I would not longer in your walks be seen:
Could you such woman for a moment prize?
You might forgive her, but you must despise.'
D. Bravo, my girl! 'tis then our sex command,
When we can seize the weapon in their hand,
When we their charge so manage, that 'tis found
To save the credit it was meant to wound.
Those who by reasons their acquittal seek,
Make the whole sex contemptible and weak;
This, too, observe -- that men of sense in love
Dupes more complete than fools and blockheads prove;
For all that knowledge lent them as a guide,
Goes off entirely to the lady's side;
Whereas the blockhead rather sees the more,
And gains perception that he lack'd before.
His honest passion blinds the man of sense,
While want of feeling is the fool's defence;
Arm'd with insensibility he comes,
When more repell'd he but the more assumes,
And thus succeeds where fails the man of wit;
For where we cannot conquer we submit.
But come, my love! let us examine now
These Charges all; -- say, what shall we avow,
Admit, deny; and which defend, and how?
That old affair between your friend and you,
When your fond Sailor bade his home adieu,
May be forgotten; yet we should prepare
For all events: and are you guarded there?
C. Oh! 'tis long since -- I might the whole deny --
'So poor, and so contemptible a lie!
Charles, if 'tis pleasant to abuse your friend,
Let there be something that she may defend;
This is too silly --'
D. Well you may appear
With so much spirit -- not a witness near;
Time puzzles judgment, and, when none explain,
You may assume the airs of high disdain;
But for my Brother -- night and morn were you
Together found, th' inseparable two,
Far from the haunts of vulgar prying men --
In the old abbey -- in the lonely glen --
In the beech-wood -- within the quarry made
By hands long dead -- within the silent glade,
Where the moon gleams upon the spring that flows
By the grey willows as they stand in rows --
Shall I proceed? there's not a quiet spot
In all the parish where the pair were not,
Oft watch'd, oft seen. You must not so despise
This weighty charge -- Now, what will you devise?
C. 'Her brother! What, Sir? jealous of a child!
A friend's relation! Why, the man is wild --
A boy not yet at college! Come, this proves
Some truth in you! This is a freak of Love's:
I must forgive it, though I know not how
A thing so very simple to allow.
Pray, if I meet my cousin's little boy,
And take a kiss, would that your peace annoy?
But I remember Delia -- yet to give
A thought to this is folly, as I live --
But I remember Delia made her prayer
That I would try and give the Boy an air;
Yet awkward he, for all the pains we took --
A bookish boy, his pleasure is his book;
And since the lad is grown to man's estate,
We never speak -- Your bookish youth I hate.'
D. Right! and he cannot tell, with all his art,
Our father's will compell'd you both to part.
C. Nay, this is needless --
D. Oh! when you are tried,
And taught for trial, must I feed your pride?
Oh! that's the vice of which I still complain:
Men could not triumph were not women vain.
But now proceed -- say boyhood in this case
(The last obscure one) shields you from disgrace.
But what of Shelley? all your foes can prove,
And all your friends, that here indeed was love.
For three long months you met as lovers meet,
And half the town has seen him at your feet;
Then, on the evil day that saw you part,
Your ashy looks betray'd your aching heart.
With this against you ----
C. This, my watchful friend,
Confess I cannot; therefore must defend.
'Shelley! dear Charles, how enter'd he your mind?
Well may they say that jealousy is blind!
Of all the men who talk'd with me of love,
His were the offers I could least approve;
My father's choice -- and, Charles, you must agree
That my good father seldom thinks with me --
Or his had been the grief, while thou wert tost at sea!
It was so odious -- when that man was near,
My father never could himself appear;
Had I received his fav'rite with a frown,
Upon my word he would have knock'd me down.'
D. Well! grant you durst not frown -- but people say
That you were dying when he went away: --
Yes! you were ill! of that no doubts remain;
And how explain it? --
C. Oh! I'll soon explain: --
'I sicken'd, say you, when the man was gone --
Could I be well, if sickness would come on?
Fact follows fact: but is't of Nature's laws
That one of course must be the other's cause?
Just as her husband tried his fav'rite gun,
My cousin brought him forth his first-born son --
The birth might either flash or fright succeed,
But neither, sure, were causes of the deed.
That Shelley left us, it is very true --
That sickness found me, I confess it too;
But that the one was cause, and one effect,
Is a conceit I utterly reject.
You may, my Friend, demonstrate, if you please,
That disappointment will bring on disease;
But, if it should, I would be glad to know
If 'tis a quinsy that such griefs bestow?
A heart may suffer, if a lady doat;
But will she feel her anguish in the throat?
I've heard of pangs that tender folks endure,
But not that linctuses and blisters cure.'
Your thoughts, my Delia! --
D. What I think of this?
Why! if he smile, it is not much amiss;
But there are humours; and, by them possess'd,
A lover will not hearken to a jest.
Well, let this pass! -- but, for the next affair,
We know your father was indignant there;
He hated Miller. Say! if Charles should press
For explanation, what would you confess?
You cannot there on his commands presume;
Besides, you fainted in a public room;
There own'd your flame, and, like heroic maid,
The sovereign impulse of your will obey'd.
What, to your thinking, was the world's disdain?
You could retort its insolence again:
Your boundless passion boldly you avow'd,
And spoke the purpose of your soul aloud;
Associates, servants, friends, alike can prove
The world-defying force of Celia's love.
Did she not wish, nay vow, to poison her
Whom, some durst whisper, Damon could prefer?
And then that frantic quarrel at the ball --
It must be known, and he will hear it all.
Nay! never frown, but cast about, in time,
How best to answer what he thinks a crime:
For what he thinks might have but little weight,
If you could answer --
C. Then I'll answer straight --
Not without Truth; for who would vainly tell
A wretched lie, when Truth might serve as well?
Had I not fever? is not that the bane
Of human wisdom? was I not insane?
'Oh! Charles, no more! would you recall the day
When it pleased Fate to take my wits away?
How can I answer for a thousand things
That this disorder to the sufferer brings?
Is it not known, the men whom you dislike
Are those who now the erring fancy strike?
Nor would it much surprise me, if 'twere true,
That in those days of dread I slighted you:
When the poor mind, illumined by no spark
Of reason's light, was wandering in the dark,
You must not wonder, if the vilest train
Of evil thoughts were printed on the brain;
Nor if the loyal and the faithful prove
False to their king, and faithless to their love.'
Your thoughts on this?
D. With some you may succeed
By such bold strokes; but they must love indeed.
C. Doubt you his passion? --
D. But, in five long years
The passion settles -- then the reason clears:
Turbid is love, and to ferment inclined,
But by and by grows sober and refined,
And peers for facts; but if one can't rely
On truth, one takes one's chance -- you can but try.
Yet once again I must attention ask
To a new Charge, and then resign my task.
I would not hurt you; but confess at least
That you were partial to that handsome Priest;
Say what they will of his religious mind,
He was warm-hearted, and to ladies kind:
Now, with his reverence you were daily seen,
When it was winter and the weather keen,
Traced to the mountains when the winds were strong,
And roughly bore you, arm in arm, along --
That wintry wind, inspired by love or zeal,
You were too faithful or too fond to feel.
Shielded from inward and from outward harm
By the strong spirit, and the fleshly arm --
The winter-garden you could both admire,
And leave his sisters at the parlour fire;
You trusted not your speech these dames among --
Better the teeth should chatter, than the tongue!
Did not your father stop the pure delight
Of this perambulating Love at night?
It is reported, that his craft contrived
To get the Priest with expedition wived,
And sent away; for fathers will suspect
Her inward worth, whose ways are incorrect --
Patience, my dear! your Lover will appear;
At this new tale, then, what will be your cheer?
'I hear,' says he, -- and he will look as grim
As if he heard his lass accusing him --
'I hear, my Celia, your alluring looks
Kept the young Curate from his holy books:
Parsons, we know, advise their flocks to pray;
But 'tis their duty -- not the better they;
'Tis done for policy, for praise, for pay:
Or let the very best be understood,
They're men, you know, and men are flesh and blood.
Now, they do say -- but let me not offend --
You were too often with this pious friend,
And spent your time ----'
C. 'As people ought to spend.
And, sir, if you of some divine would ask
Aid in your doubts, it were a happy task;
But you, alas! the while, are not perplex'd
By the dark meaning of a threat'ning text;
You rather censure her who spends her time
In search of Truth, as if it were a crime!
Could I your dread of vulgar scandal feel,
To whom should I, in my distress, appeal?
A time there may be, Charles, indeed there must,
When you will need a faithful Priest to trust,
In conscience tender, but in counsel just.
Charles, for my Fame I would in prudence strive,
And, if I could, would keep your Love alive;
But there are things that our attention claim,
More near than Love, and more desired than Fame!'
D. 'But why in secret?' he will ask you --
C. 'Why?
Oh! Charles, could you the doubting spirit spy,
Had you such fears, all hearers you would shun;
What one confesses should be heard by one.
Your mind is gross, and you have dwelt so long
With such companions, that you will be wrong:
We fill our minds from those with whom we live,
And as your fears are Nature's, I forgive;
But learn your peace and my good name to prize,
And fears of fancy let us both despise.'
D. Enough, my friend! Now let the man advance --
You are prepared, and nothing leave to chance:
'Tis not sufficient that we're pure and just;
The wise to nothing but their wisdom trust.
Will he himself appear, or will he send,
Duteous as warm! and not alarm my friend?
We need not ask -- behold! his servant comes:
His father's livery! no fond heart presumes:
Thus he prepares you -- kindly gives you space
To arm your mind, and rectify your face.
Now, read your Letter -- while my faithful heart
Feels all that his can dictate or impart.
Nay! bless you, love! what melancholy tale
Conveys that paper? Why so deadly pale?
It is his sister's writing, but the seal
Is red: he lives. What is it that you feel?
C. O! my dear friend! let us from man retreat,
Or never trust him if we chance to meet --
The fickle wretch! that from our presence flies
To any flirt that any place supplies,
And laughs at vows! -- but see the Letter! -- here --
'Married at Guernsey!!!' -- Oh! the Villain, dear!





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