Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. III. Addison to Blake
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. III. The Eighteenth Century: Addison to Blake
 
The Village As It Is (from The Village)
By George Crabbe (1754–1832)
 
[From Book I.]

FLED are those times, when in harmonious strains,
The rustic poet praised his native plains:
No shepherds now, in smooth alternate verse,
Their country’s beauty, or their nymph’s rehearse;
Yet still for these we frame the tender strain,        5
Still in our lays fond Corydons complain,
And shepherds’ boys their amorous pains reveal,
The only pains, alas! they never feel.
  On Mincio’s banks, in Cæsar’s bounteous reign,
If Tityrus found the golden age again,        10
Must sleepy bards the flattering dream prolong,
Mechanic echoes of the Mantuan song?
From Truth and Nature shall we widely stray,
Where Virgil, not where fancy, leads the way?
*        *        *        *        *
No; cast by fortune on a frowning coast,        15
Which neither groves nor happy valleys boast;
Where other cares than those the Muse relates,
And other shepherds dwell with other mates;
By such examples taught, I paint the cot,
As Truth will paint it and as bards will not:        20
Nor you, ye poor, of lettered scorn complain,
To you the smoothest song is smooth in vain;
O’ercome by labour, and bowed down by time,
Feel you the barren flattery of a rhyme?
Can poets soothe you, when you pine for bread,        25
By winding myrtles round your ruin’d shed?—
Can their light tales your weighty griefs o’erpower,
Or glad with airy mirth the toilsome hour?
Lo! where the heath, with withering brake grown o’er,
Lends the light turf that warms the neighbouring poor;        30
From thence a length of burning sand appears,
Where the thin harvest waves its withered ears;
Rank weeds, that every art and care defy,
Reign o’er the land and rob the blighted rye:
There thistles stretch their prickly arms afar,        35
And to the ragged infant threaten war;
There poppies nodding, mock the hope of toil;
There the blue bugloss paints the sterile soil;
Hardy and high, above the slender sheaf,
The slimy mallow waves her silky leaf;        40
O’er the young shoot the charlock throws a shade,
And clasping tares cling round the sickly blade;
With mingled tints the rocky coasts abound,
And a sad splendour vainly shines around.
 
 
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