Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, POSTHUMOUS TALES: TALE 9. JANE, by GEORGE CRABBE



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POSTHUMOUS TALES: TALE 9. JANE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Known but of late, I yet am loath to leave
Last Line: Till every rising morn the happier prospect brings.


I

KNOWN but of late, I yet am loth to leave
The gentle JANE, and wonder why I grieve --
Not for her wants, for she has no distress,
She has no suffering that her looks express,
Her air or manner -- hers the mild good sense
That wins its way by making no pretence.
When yet a child, her dying mother knew
What, left by her, the widow'd man would do,
And gave her Jane, for she had power, enough
To live in ease -- of love and care a proof.
Enabled thus, the mind is kind to all --
Is pious too, and that without a call.
Not that she doubts of calls that Heav'n has sent --
Calls to believe, or warnings to repent;
But that she rests upon the Word divine,
Without presuming on a dubious sign;
A sudden light, the momentary zeal
Of those who rashly hope, and warmly feel;
These she rejects not, nor on these relies,
And neither feels the influence nor denies.
Upon the sure and written Word she trusts,
And by the Law Divine her life adjusts;
She blames not her who other creed prefers,
And all she asks is charity for hers.
Her great example is her gracious Lord,
Her hope his promise, and her guide his Word;
Her quiet alms are known to God alone,
Her left hand knows not what her right has done;
Her talents, not the few, she well improves,
And puts to use in labour that she loves.
Pensive, though good, I leave thee, gentle maid --
In thee confiding, of thy peace afraid,
In a strange world to act a trying part,
With a soft temper, and a yielding heart!

II

P. How fares my gentle Jane, with spirit meek,
Whose fate with some foreboding care I seek;
Her whom I pitied in my pride, while she,
For many a cause more weighty, pitied me;
For she has wonder'd how the idle boy
His head or hands would usefully employ --
At least for thee his grateful spirit pray'd,
And now to ask thy fortune is afraid. --
-- -- How fares the gentle Jane? --
F. Know first, she fares
As one who bade adieu to earthly cares;
As one by virtue guided, and who, tried
By man's deceit, has never lost her guide.
Her age I knew not, but it seem'd the age
When Love is wont a serious war to wage
In female hearts, -- when hopes and fears are strong,
And 'tis a fatal step to place them wrong;
For childish fancies now have ta'en their flight,
And love's impressions are no longer light.
Just at this time -- what time I do not tell --
There came a Stranger in the place to dwell;
He seem'd as one who sacred truth reveres,
And like her own his sentiments and years;
His person manly, with engaging mien,
His spirit quiet, and his looks serene.
He kept from all disgraceful deeds aloof,
Severely tried, and found temptation-proof:
This was by most unquestion'd, and the few
Who made inquiry said report was true.
His very choice of our neglected place
Endear'd him to us -- 'twas an act of grace;
And soon to Jane, our unobtrusive maid,
In still respect was his attention paid;
Each in the other found what both approved,
Good sense and quiet manners: these they loved.
So came regard, and then esteem, and then
The kind of friendship women have with men:
At length t'was love, but candid, open, fair,
Such as became their years and character.
In their discourse, religion had its place,
When he of doctrines talked, and she of grace.
He knew the different sects, the varying creeds,
While she, less learned, spoke of virtuous deeds;
He dwelt on errors into which we fall,
She on the gracious remedy for all;
So between both, his knowledge and her own,
Was the whole Christian to perfection shown.
Though neither quite approved the other's part --
Hers without learning, his without a heart --
Still to each other they were dear, were good,
And all these matters kindly understood;
For Jane was liberal, and her friend could trust, --
'He thinks not with me! but is fair and just.'
Her prudent lover to her man of law,
Show'd how he lived: it seem'd without a flaw;
She saw their moderate means -- content with what she saw.
Jane had no doubts -- with so much to admire,
She judged it insult farther to inquire.
The lover sought -- what lover brooks delay? --
For full assent, and for an early day --
And he would construe well the soft consenting Nay!
The day was near, and Jane, with book in hand,
Sat down to read -- perhaps might understand:
For what prevented? -- say, she seem'd to read;
When one there came, her own sad cause to plead;
A stranger she, who fearless named that cause,
A breach in love's and honour's sacred laws.
'In a far country, Lady, bleak and wild,
Report has reach'd me! how art thou beguiled!
Or dared he tell thee that for ten sad years
He saw me struggling with fond hopes and fears?
'From my dear home he won me, blest and free!
To be his victim.' -- -- 'Madam, who is he?'
'Not yet thy husband, Lady: no! not yet;
For he has first to pay a mighty debt.'
'Speaks he not of religion?' -- 'So he speaks,
When he the ruin of his victim seeks.
How smooth and gracious were his words, how sweet --
The fiend his master prompting his deceit!
Me he with kind instruction led to trust
In one who seem'd so grave, so kind, so just.
Books to amuse me, and inform, he brought,
Like that old serpent with temptation fraught;
His like the precepts of the wise appear'd,
Till I imbibed the vice I had not fear'd.
By pleasant tales and dissertations gay,
He wiled the lessons of my youth away.
'Of moral duties he would talk, and prove
They gave a sanction, and commanded love;
His sober smile at forms and rites was shown,
To make my mind depraved, and like his own.
'But wilt thou take him? wilt thou ruin take,
With a grave robber, a religious rake?
'Tis not to serve thee, Lady, that I came --
'Tis not to claim him, 'tis not to reclaim --
But 'tis that he may for my wrongs be paid,
And feel the vengeance of the wretch he made.
'Not for myself I thy attention claim:
My children dare not take their father's name;
They know no parent's love -- love will not dwell with shame.
What law would force, he not without it gives,
And hates each living wretch, because it lives!
Yet, with these sinful stains, the man is mine:
How will he curse me for this rash design!
Yes -- I will bear his curse, but him will not resign.
'I see thee grieved; but, Lady, what thy grief?
It may be pungent, but it must be brief.
Pious thou art; but what will profit thee,
Match'd with a demon, woman's piety?
Not for thy sake my wrongs and wrath I tell,
Revenge I seek! but yet, I wish thee well.
And now I leave thee! Thou art warn'd by one,
The rock on which her peace was wreck'd to shun.'
The Lover heard; but not in time to stay
A woman's vengeance in its headlong way:
Yet he essay'd, with no unpractised skill,
To warp the judgment, or at least the will;
To raise such tumults in the poor weak heart,
That Jane, believing all -- yet should not dare to part.
But there was Virtue in her mind that strove
With all his eloquence, and all her love;
He told what hope and frailty dared to tell,
And all was answered by a stern Farewell!
Home with his consort he return'd once more;
And they resumed the life they led before.
Not so our maiden. She, before resign'd,
Had now the anguish of a wounded mind --
And felt the languid grief that the deserted find;
On him she had reposed each worldly view,
And when he fail'd, the world itself withdrew,
With all its prospects. Nothing could restore
To life its value; hope would live no more:
Pensive by nature, she can not sustain
The sneer of pity that the heartless feign;
But to the pressure of her griefs gives way,
A quiet victim, and a patient prey:
The one bright view that she had cherish'd dies,
And other hope must from the future rise.
She still extends to grief and want her aid,
And by the comfort she imparts, is paid:
Death is her soul's relief: to him she flies
For consolation that this world denies.
No more to life's false promises she clings,
She longs to change this troubled state of things,
Till every rising morn the happier prospect brings.





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