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
 
Extracts from The Borough: The Convict’s Dream
By George Crabbe (1754–1832)
 
[From Letter xxiii.]

  YES! e’en in sleep the impressions all remain,
He hears the sentence and he feels the chain:
He sees the judge and jury—when he shakes,
And loudly cries ‘Not guilty!’ and awakes:
Then chilling tremblings o’er his body creep,        5
Till worn-out nature is compelled to sleep.
  Now comes the dream again: it shows each scene
With each small circumstance that comes between,
The call to suffering, and the very deed—
There crowds go with him, follow, and precede;        10
Some heartless shout, some pity, all condemn,
While he in fancied envy looks at them:
He seems the place for that sad act to see,
And dreams the very thirst which then will be:
A priest attends—it seems the one he knew        15
In his best days, beneath whose care he grew.
  At this his terrors take a sudden flight,
He sees his native village with delight;
The home, the chamber, where he once arrayed
His youthful person; where he knelt and prayed:        20
Then too the comfort he enjoyed at home,
The days of joy; the joys themselves are come;—
The hours of innocence; the timid look
Of his loved maid, when first her hand he took,
And told his hope; her trembling joy appears,        25
Her forced reserve and his retreating fears.
  All now is present; ’tis a moment’s gleam,
Of former sunshine—stay delightful dream!
Let them within his pleasant garden walk,
Give him her arm, of blessings let them talk.        30
  Yes! all are with him now, and all the while
Life’s early prospects and his Fanny’s smile:
Then come his sister and his village friend,
And he will now the sweetest moments spend
Life has to yield;—No! never will he find        35
Again on earth such pleasure in his mind:
He goes through shrubby walks these friends among,
Love in their looks and honour on the tongue:
Nay, there ’s a charm beyond what nature shows,
The bloom is softer and more sweetly glows.        40
Pierced by no crime and urged by no desire
For more than true and honest hearts require,
They feel the calm delight, and thus proceed
Through the green lane—then linger in the mead;
Stray o’er the heath in all its purple bloom,        45
And pluck the blossoms where the wild bees hum;
Then through the broomy bound with ease they pass,
And press the sandy sheep-walk’s slender grass,
Where dwarfish flowers among the gorse are spread,
And the lamb browses by the linnet’s bed;        50
Then ’cross the bounding brook they make their way
O’er its rough bridge—and there behold the bay!
The ocean smiling to the fervid sun—
The waves that faintly fall and slowly run—
The ships at distance and the boats at hand;        55
And now they walk upon the seaside sand,
Counting the number and what kind they be,
Ships softly sinking in the sleepy sea;
Now arm in arm, now parted, they behold
The glittering waters on the shingles rolled;        60
The timid girls, half dreading their design,
Dip the small foot in the retarded brine,
And search for crimson weeds, which spreading flow,
Or lie like pictures on the sand below;
With all those bright red pebbles, that the sun        65
Through the small waves so softly shines upon.
And those live lucid jellies which the eye
Delights to trace as they swim glittering by:
Pearl shells and rubied star-fish they admire,
And will arrange above the parlour fire—        70
Tokens of bliss! Oh! horrible! a wave
Roars as it rises—Save me, Edward! save!
She cries:—Alas! the watchman on his way
Calls, and lets in—truth, terror, and the day!
 
 
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