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William Shenstone (Уильям Шенстон)

The School-Mistress

Auditae voces, vagitus et ingens,
Infantunque animae flentes in limine primo. ~ Virg.
And mingled sounds and infant plaints we hear,
That pierce the entrance shrill, and wound the tender ear.

What Particulars in Spenser were imagined most
Proper for the Author's Imitation on this Occasion
Are his Language, his Simplicity, his Manner of
Description, and a peculiar Tenderness of Sentiment
Remarkable throughout His Works.

Ah 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 ev'ry village mark'd with little spire,
Embow'r'd in trees, and hardly known to fame,
There dwells, in lowly shed, and mean attire,
A matron old, whom we school-mistress name;
Who boasts unruly brats with birch to tame;
They grieven sore, in piteous durance pent,
Aw'd by the pow'r of this relentless dame;
And oft-times, on vagaries 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,
Tho' 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 have I seen (who has not, may conceive,)
A lifeless phantom near a garden plac'd;
So doth it wanton birds of peace bereave,
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 dance 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 impris'ning 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 cap, far whiter than the driven snow,
Emblem right meet of decency does yield:
Her apron dy'd in grain, as blue, I trowe,
As is the hare-bell that adorns the field:
And in her hand, for scepter, 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 uncontroul'd, and chastisement unkind.

Few but have kenn'd, in semblance meet pourtray'd,
The childish faces of old Eol's train;
Libs, Notus, Auster: these in frowns array'd,
How then would fare or earth, or sky, or main,
Were the stern god to give his slaves the rein?
And were not she rebellious breasts to quell,
And were not she her statutes to maintain,
The cott no more, I ween, were deem'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;
'Twas simple russet, but it was her own;
'Twas her own country bred the flock so fair;
'Twas her own labour did the fleece prepare;
And, sooth to say, her pupils, rang'd around,
Thro' 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 flatt'ry 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
Fragment of bread, she would collect the same;
For well she knew, and quaintly could expound,
What sin it were to waste the smallest crumb she found.

Herbs, too, she knew, and well of each could speak,
That in her garden sipp'd the silv'ry dew,
Wher no vain flower disclosed a gaudy streak;
But herbs for use, and physic, not a few,
Of grey renown, within those borders grew;
The tufted basil, pun-provoking thyme,
Fresh balm, and marygold of cheerful hue;
The lowly gill, that never dares to climb;
And more I fain would sing, disdaining here to rhyme.

Yet euphrasy may not be left unsung,
That gives dim eyes to wander leagues around;
And pungent radish, biting infant's tongue;
And plantain ribb'd, that heals the reaper's wound;
And marjoram sweet, in shepherd's posie found;
And lavender, whose pikes of azure bloom
Shall be, erewhile, in arid bundles bound,
To lurk amidst the labours of her loom,
And crown her kerchiefs clean with mickle rare perfume.

And here trim rosemarine, that whilom crown'd
The daintiest garden of the proudest peer;
Ere, driven from its envied site, it found
A sacred shelter for its branches here;
Where edged with gold its glittering skirts appear.
O wassel days! O customs meet and well!
Ere this was banish'd from its lofty sphere;
Simplicity then sought this humble cell,
Nor ever would she more with thane and lordling dwell.

Here oft the dame, on Sabbath's decent eve,
Hymned such psalms as Sternhold forth did mete;
If winter 'twere, she to her hearth did cleave,
But in her garden found a summer-seat:
Sweet melody! to hear her then repeat
How Israel's sons, beneath a foreign king,
While taunting foemen did a song entreat,
All for the nonce untuning every string,
Uphung their useless lyres—small heart had they to sing.

For she was just, and friend to virtuous lore,
And pass'd much time in truly virtuous deed;
And, in those elfins' ears, would oft deplore,
The times when Truth by Popish rage did bleed,
And tortious death was true Devotion's meed;
And simple Faith in iron chains did mourn,
That nould on wooden image place her creed;
And lawny saints in smouldering flames did burn:
Ah! dearest Lord! forfend thilk days should e'er return.

In elbow-chair, like that of Scottish stem
By the sharp tooth of cankering Eld defaced,
In which, when he receives his diadem,
Our sovereign prince and liefest liege is placed,
The matron sate; and some with rank she graced,
(The source of children's and of courtiers' pride!)
Redress'd affronts, for vile affronts there pass'd,
And warn'd them not the fretful to deride,
But love each other dear, whatever them betide.

Right well she knew each temper to descry,
To thwart the proud, and the submiss to raise;
Some with vile copper prize exalt on high,
And some entice with pittance small of praise;
And other some with baleful sprig she 'frays:
Even absent, she the reins of power doth hold,
While with quaint arts the giddy crowd she sways;
Forewarn'd, if little bird their pranks behold,
'Twill whisper in her ear, and all the scene unfold.

Lo! now with state she utters the command;
Eftsoons the urchins to their tasks repair;
Their books, of stature small, they take in hand,
Which with pellucid horn secured are,
To save from finger wet the letters fair;
The work so gay, that on their back is seen,
St George's high achievements does declare,
On which thilk wight that has y-gazing been
Kens the forthcoming rod, unpleasing sight, I ween!

Ah! luckless he, and born beneath the beam
Of evil star! it irks me whilst I write!
As erst the bard by Mulla's silver stream,
Oft as he told of deadly dolorous plight,
Sigh'd as he sung, and did in tears indite;
For brandishing the rod, she doth begin
To loose the brogues, the stripling's late delight!
And down they drop, appears his dainty skin,
Fair as the furry coat of whitest ermilin.

O ruthful scene! when from a nook obscure
His little sister doth his peril see;
All playful as she sate she grows demure,
She finds full soon her wonted spirits flee;
She meditates a prayer to set him free;
Nor gentle pardon could this dame deny,
(If gentle pardon could with dames agree)
To her sad grief that swells in either eye,
And wrings her so that all for pity she could die.

No longer can she now her shrieks command,
And hardly she forbears, through awful fear,
To rushen forth, and, with presumptuous hand,
To stay harsh justice in its mid career.
On thee she calls, on thee, her parent dear!
(Ah! too remote to ward the shameful blow!)
She sees no kind domestic visage near,
And soon a flood of tears begins to flow,
And gives a loose at last to unavailing woe.

But, ah! what pen his piteous plight may trace?
Or what device his loud laments explain?
The form uncouth of his disguised face?
The pallid hue that dyes his looks amain?
The plenteous shower that does his cheek distain?
When he, in abject wise, implores the dame,
Ne hopeth aught of sweet reprieve to gain;
Or when from high she levels well her aim,
And, through the thatch, his cries each falling stroke proclaim

The other tribe, aghast, with sore dismay,
Attend, and conn their tasks with mickle care;
By turns, astony'd, every twig survey,
And from their fellows' hateful wounds beware,
Knowing, I wist, how each the same may share;
Till fear has taught them a performance meet,
And to the well-known chest the dame repair,
Whence oft with sugar cates she doth them greet,
And gingerbread y-rare; now, certes, doubly sweet!

See to their seats they hye with merry glee,
And in beseemly order sitten there;
All but the wight of bum y-galled, he
Abhorreth bench, and stool, and fourm, and chair,
(This hand in mouth y-fix'd, that rends his hair),
And eke with snubs profound, and heaving breast,
Convulsions intermitting! does declare
His grievous wrong, his dame's unjust behest,
And scorns her offer'd love, and shuns to be caress'd.

His face besprent with liquid crystal shines,
His blooming face, that seems a purple flower,
Which low to earth its drooping head declines,
All smear'd and sully'd by a vernal shower.
O the hard bosoms of despotic Power!
All, all, but she, the author of his shame,
All, all, but she, regret this mournful hour;
Yet hence the youth, and hence the flower shall claim,
If so I deem aright, transcending worth and fame.

Behind some door in melancholy thought,
Mindless of food, he, dreary caitiff! pines;
Ne for his fellows' joyaunce careth aught,
But to the wind all merriment resigns,
And deems it shame if he to peace inclines;
And many a sullen look askaunce is sent,
Which for his dame's annoyance he designs;
And still the more to pleasure him she's bent,
The more doth he, perverse, her 'haviour past resent.

Ah me! how much I fear lest pride it be!
But if that pride it be, which thus inspires,
Beware, ye dames! with nice discernment see
Ye quench not, too, the sparks of nobler fires:
Ah! better far than all the Muses' lyres,
All coward arts, is valour's generous heat;
The firm fixt breast which fit and right requires,
Like Vernon's patriot soul! more justly great
Than craft that pimps for ill, or flowery false deceit.

Yet nursed with skill, what dazzling fruits appear!
Even now sagacious foresight points to show
A little bench of heedless bishops here,
And there a chancellour in embryo,
Or bard sublime, if bard may e'er be so,
As Milton, Shakspeare, names that ne'er shall die!
Though now he crawl along the ground so low,
Nor weeting how the Muse should soar on high,
Wisheth, poor starveling elf! his paper kite may fly.
And this, perhaps, who, censuring the design,
Low lays the house which that of cards doth build,
Shall Dennis be! if rigid Fate incline,
And many an epic to his rage shall yield,
And many a poet quit the Aonian field;
And, sour'd by age, profound he shall appear,
As he who now with 'sdainful fury thrill'd
Surveys mine work, and levels many a sneer,
And furls his wrinkly front, and cries, "What stuff is here!"

But now Dan Phoebus gains the middle sky,
And Liberty unbars her prison door,
And like a rushing torrent out they fly,
And now the grassy cirque han cover'd o'er
With boisterous revel rout and wild uproar;
A thousand ways in wanton rings they run,
Heaven shield their shortlived pastimes, I implore!
For well may Freedom, erst so dearly won,
Appear to British elf more gladsome than the sun.

Enjoy, poor imps! enjoy your sportive trade,
And chase gay flies, and cull the fairest flowers,
For when my bones in grass-green sods are laid,
For never may ye taste more careless hours
In knightly castles or in ladies' bowers.
O vain to seek delight in earthly thing!
But most in courts, where proud Ambition towers;
Deluded wight! who weens fair peace can spring
Beneath the pompous dome of kesar or of king.

See in each sprite some various bent appear!
These rudely carol most incondite lay:
Those sauntering on the green, with jocund leer
Salute the stranger passing on his way;
Some builden fragile tenements of clay;
Some to the standing lake their courses bend,
With pebbles smooth at duck and drake to play;
Thilk to the huxter's savoury cottage tend,
In pastry kings and queens the allotted mite to spend.

Here, as each season yields a different store,
Each season's stores in order ranged been;
Apples with cabbage-net y-cover'd o'er,
Galling full sore the unmoneyed wight, are seen,
And gooseb'rie, clad in livery red or green;
And here of lovely dye the Catharine pear,
Fine pear! as lovely for thy juice I ween;
O may no wight e'er pennyless come there,
Lest smit with ardent love he pine with hopeless care!

See! cherries here, ere cherries yet abound,
With thread so white in tempting posies ty'd,
Scattering like blooming maid their glances round,
With pamper'd look draw little eyes aside,
And must be bought, though penury betide;
The plum all azure, and the nut all brown;
And here each season do those cakes abide,
Whose honour'd names the inventive city own,
Rendering through Britain's isle Salopia's praises known.

Admired Salopia! that with venial pride
Eyes her bright form in Severn's ambient wave,
Famed for her loyal cares in perils try'd,
Her daughters lovely, and her striplings brave;
Ah! midst the rest, may flowers adorn his grave
Whose art did first these dulcet cates display!
A motive fair to Learning's imps he gave,
Who cheerless o'er her darkling region stray,
Till Reason's morn arise, and light them on their way.

William Shenstone's other poems:
  1. Impromptu to Miss Utrecia Smith
  2. The Attribute of Venus
  3. Hint from Voiture
  4. Charms of Precedence
  5. An Irregular Ode, After Sickness

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