Tale XV

ADVICE; OR THE 'SQUIRE AND THE PRIEST.

A wealthy Lord of far-extended land
Had all that pleased him placed at his command;
Widow'd of late, but finding much relief
In the world's comforts, he dismiss'd his grief;
He was by marriage of his daughters eased,
And knew his sons could marry if they pleased;
Meantime in travel he indulged the boys,
And kept no spy nor partner of his joys.
These joys, indeed, were of the grosser kind,
That fed the cravings of an earthly mind;
A mind that, conscious of its own excess,
Felt the reproach his neighbours would express.
Long at th' indulgent board he loved to sit,
Where joy was laughter, and profaneness wit;
And such the guest and manners of the hall,
No wedded lady on the 'Squire would call:
Here reign'd a Favourite, and her triumph gain'd
O'er other favourites who before had reign'd;
Reserved and modest seemed the nymph to be,
Knowing her lord was charm'd with modesty;
For he, a sportsman keen, the more enjoy'd,
The greater value had the thing destroyed.
Our 'Squire declared, that from a wife released,
He would no more give trouble to a Priest;
Seem'd it not, then, ungrateful and unkind
That he should trouble from the priesthood find?
The Church he honour'd, and he gave the due
And full respect to every son he knew;
But envied those who had the luck to meet
A gentle pastor, civil and discreet;
Who never bold and hostile sermon penned,
To wound a sinner, or to shame a friend;
One whom no being either shunn'd or fear'd:
Such must be loved wherever they appear'd.
Not such the stern old Rector of the time,
Who soothed no culprit, and who spared no crime;
Who would his fears and his contempt express
For irreligion and licentiousness;
Of him our Village Lord, his guests among,
By speech vindictive proved his feelings stung.
'Were he a bigot,' said the 'Squire, 'whose zeal
Condemn'd us all, I should disdain to feel:
But when a man of parts, in college train'd,
Prates of our conduct, who would not be pain'd?
While he declaims (where no one dares reply)
On men abandon'd, grov'ling in the sty
(Like beasts in human shape) of shameless luxury.
Yet with a patriot's zeal I stand the shock
Of vile rebuke, example to his flock:
But let this Rector, thus severe and proud,
Change his wide surplice for a narrow shroud,
And I will place within his seat a youth,
Train'd by the Graces to explain the Truth;
Then shall the flock with gentle hand be led,
By wisdom won, and by compassion fed.'
This purposed Teacher was a sister's son,
Who of her children gave the priesthood one;
And she had early train'd for this employ
The pliant talents of her college-boy:
At various times her letters painted all
Her brother's views--the manners of the Hall;
The rector's harshness, and the mischief made
By chiding those whom preachers should persuade:
This led the youth to views of easy life,
A friendly patron, an obliging wife;
His tithe, his glebe, the garden, and the steed,
With books as many as he wish'd to read.
All this accorded with the Uncle's will:
He loved a priest compliant, easy, still;
Sums he had often to his favourite sent,
'To be,' he wrote, 'in manly freedom spent;
For well it pleased his spirit to assist
An honest lad, who scorn'd a Methodist.'
His mother, too, in her maternal care,
Bade him of canting hypocrites beware:
Who from his duties would his heart seduce,
And make his talents of no earthly use.
Soon must a trial of his worth be made -
The ancient priest is to the tomb convey'd;
And the Youth summon'd from a serious friend,
His guide and host, new duties to attend.
Three months before, the nephew and the 'Squire
Saw mutual worth to praise and to admire;
And though the one too early left his wine,
The other still exclaim'd--'My boy will shine:
Yes, I perceive that he will soon improve,
And I shall form the very guide I love;
Decent abroad, he will my name defend,
And when at home, be social and unbend.'
The plan was specious, for the mind of James
Accorded duly with his uncle's schemes;
He then aspired not to a higher name
Than sober clerks of moderate talents claim;
Gravely to pray, and rev'rendly to preach,
Was all he saw, good youth! within his reach:
Thus may a mass of sulphur long abide,
Cold and inert, but, to the flame applied,
Kindling it blazes, and consuming turns
To smoke and poison, as it boils and burns.
James, leaving college, to a Preacher stray'd;
What call'd he knew not--but the call obey'd;
Mild, idle, pensive, ever led by those
Who could some specious nov
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George Crabbe

George Crabbe was an English poet, surgeon, and clergyman. more…

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"Tale XV" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 27 May 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/14869/tale-xv>.

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