صور الصفحة
PDF

THE SCHOOLMISTRESS.

IN IMITATION OF SPENSER.

Au 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,
Awed by the power 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,
Though now so wide its waving branches flow;
And work the simple vassals mickle wo;
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 shaped it into rods, and tingled at the view.

So have I seen (who has not may conceive),
A lifeless phantom near a garden placed ;
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 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, disguised in look pro

found, 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 dyed in grain, as blue, I trowe,
As is the hare-bell that adorns the field :
And in her hand, for sceptre, she does wield

Tway birchen sprays ; with anxious fear en

twined, With dark distrust, and sad repentance fill'd ;

And steadfast hate, and sharp affliction join'd, And fury uncontroll'd, and chastisement unkind.

A russet stole was o'er her shoulders thrown : A russet kirtle fenced 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, ranged 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 challenged, these she held right

dear: Ne would esteem him act as mought behove, Who would not honour'd eld with these re

vere: 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 ex-

pound, 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 silvery dew;
Where 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 baum, 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 marj’ram sweet, in shepherd's posie

found ; And lavender, whose spikes 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. Oh 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 ;

« السابقةمتابعة »