Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

the seeds of jealousy and emulation as early as possible) that you have a fine little brother

come to put your nose out of joint ?" There will be nothing to be done then but to be mighty good; and prove what, believe me, admits of very little dispute (though it has occasioned abundance), that we girls, however people give themselves airs of being disappointed, are by no means to be despised. The men unenvied shine in public; but it is we must make their homes delightful to them—and, if they provoke us, no less uncomfortable. I do not expect you to answer this letter yet awhile; but, as I dare say you have the greatest interest with your papa, will beg you to prevail upon him that we may know by a line (before his time is engrossed by another secret committee) that you and your mamma are well. In the meantime, I will only assure you that all here rejoice in your existence extremely; and that I am, my very young correspondent, most affectionately yours, &c.

The Schoulmistrrss.

BY SHENSTONE.

The Schoolmistress is one of those poems (delightful, to our thinking) which are to be read with a smile on the face, and thoughtfulness at heart:—the smile, for the assumption of dignity in its tone; the thoughtfulness, for the human interest of the subject. It is Shenstone's masterpiece. Its playful imitation of the manner of Spenser saved him from that inferior artificial style of the day, which injured the natural feeling of most of his other poems; and the manliness at the heart of its gentle wisdom ought to have saved the writer from the fears which he condescended to entertain, lest undiscerning critics should take it for something as dull as themselves. The poem has the pungent sweetness and balminess of the herbs described in its cottage garden. We never think of it without seeming to inhale their fragrance.

The good dame, the heroine of the poem, was the schoolmistress of Shenstone's own infancy. He was the offspring of a race now almost extinct, the small uneducated country-gentleman, farming his own estate; and he was sent to the first nurse-like teacher that presented herself in the neighbourhood. Her name was Sarah Lloyd. Let this be known, for the glory and encouragement of all such educers of infant “bards sublime,” or future “Chancellors in embryo.” The birchtree is not in so much request as it was in her days. The “little bench of heedless bishops” may now look at it without “shaping it into rods," "and tingling at the view.” The change is better for all parties, considering that a proper amount of healthy vigour, reflection, and 81periority to petty pains is to be secured by better means. It is not for its mode of infant training that the poem is here reprinted; but for its

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

archness, its humour, its agreeable description, and the writer's thoughtful humanity.

H me! full sorely is my heart forlorn,

To think how modest worth neglected lies,
While partial Fame doth with her blasts adorn
Such deeds alone, as pride and pomp disguise ;
Deeds of ill sort, and mischievous emprize :
Lend me thy clarion, goddess ! let me try
To sound the praise of merit, ere it dies;

Such as I oft have chaunced to espy,
Lost in the dreary shades of dull obscurity.

In every village mark'd with little spire,
Embower'd in trees, and hardly known to fame,
There dwells, in lowly shed and mean attire,
A matron old, whom we Schoolmistress name:
Who boasts unruly brats with birch to tame;
They grieven sore in piteous durance pent,
Aw'd by the power of this relentless dame;

And oft-times, on vagarics idly bent,
For unkempt hair, or task unconn'd, are sorely shent.

And all in sight doth rise a birchen tree,
Which Learning near her little dome did stowe;
Whilom a twig of small regard to see,
Though now so wide its waving branches flow
And work the simple vassals mickle woe;
For not a wind might curl the leaves that blew,
But their limbs shudder'd, and their pulse beat low,

And as they look'd, they found their horror grew,
And shap'd it into rods, and tingled at the view.

So I have seen (who has not, may conceive)
A lifeless phantom near a garden plac'd;

bereave,

So doth it wanton birds of peace
Of sport, of song, of pleasure, of repast;
They start, they stare, they wheel, they look aghast;
Sad servitude ! such comfortless annoy
May no bold Briton's riper age e'er taste!

Ne superstition clog his chance of joy,
Ne vision empty, vain, his native bliss destroy.

Near to this dome is found a patch so green,
On which the tribe their gambols do display;
And at the door imprisoning board is seen,
Lest weakly wights of smaller size should stray,
Eager, perdie, to bask in sunny day!
The noises intermix'd, which thence resound,
Do learning's little tenement betray ;

Where sits the dame, disguis'd in look profound,
And eyes her fairy throng, and turns her wheel around.

Her
сар,

far whiter than the driven snow,
Emblem right meet of decency does yield :
Her apron, dy'd in grain, is blue, I trowe,
As is the harebell that adorns the field :
And in her hand, for sceptre, she does wield
Tway birchen sprays with anxious fear entwin'd,
With dark distrust, and sad repentance fill'd,

And stedfast hate, and sharp affliction join'd,
And fury uncontrould, and chastisement unkind.*

Few but have ken’d, in semblance meet pourtray'd,
The childish faces of old Eol's traix,
Libs, Notus, Auster ;t these in frowns array'd,

* A memorial of the tremendous ingredients that composed the thunderbolts of Jupiter.

+ The winds, in the likeness of children, puffing and blowing in the corners of old maps.

How then would fare or earth, or sky, or main,
Were the stern god to give his flaws the rein ?
And were not she rebellious breasts to quell,
And were not she her statutes to maintain,

The cot no more, I ween, were deenı'd the cell,
Where comely peace of mind and decent order dwell.

A russet stole was o'er her shoulders thrown;
A russet kirtle fenc'd the nipping air;
’T was simple russet, but it was her own;
'T was her own country bred the flock so fair;
'T was her own labour did the fleece prepare ;
And, sooth to say, her pupils, rang'd around,
Through pious awe did term it passing rare :

For they in gaping wonderment abound,
And think, no doubt, she been the greatest wight on ground.

Albeit ne flattery did corrupt her truth,
Ne pompous title did debauch her ear;
Goody, good-woman, gossip, n'aunt, forsooth,
Or dame, the sole additions she did hear;
Yet these she challeng'd, these she held right dear;
Ne would esteem him act as mought behove,
Who should not honour'd eld with these revere;

For never title yet so mean could prove,
But there was eke a mind which did that title love.

One ancient hen she took delight to feed,
The plodding pattern of the busy dame;
Which, ever and anon, impell'd by need,
Into her school, begirt with chickens, came;
Such favour did her past deportment claim ;
And if neglect had lavish'd on the ground

« ZurückWeiter »