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Tale XVI

George Crabbe 1754 (Aldborough) – 1832 (Trowbridge)



THE CONFIDANT.

Anna was young and lovely--in her eye
The glance of beauty, in her cheek the dye:
Her shape was slender, and her features small,
But graceful, easy, unaffected all:
The liveliest tints her youthful face disclosed;
There beauty sparkled, and there health reposed;
For the pure blood that flush'd that rosy cheek
Spoke what the heart forbade the tongue to speak,
And told the feelings of that heart as well,
Nay, with more candour than the tongue could tell.
Though this fair lass had with the wealthy dwelt,
Yet like the damsel of the cot she felt;
And, at the distant hint or dark surmise,
The blood into the mantling cheek would rise.
Now Anna's station frequent terrors wrought,
In one whose looks were with such meaning fraught,
For on a Lady, as an humble friend,
It was her painful office to attend.
Her duties here were of the usual kind -
And some the body harass'd, some the mind:
Billets she wrote, and tender stories read,
To make the Lady sleepy in her bed;
She play'd at whist, but with inferior skill,
And heard the summons as a call to drill;
Music was ever pleasant till she play'd
At a request that no request convey'd;
The Lady's tales with anxious looks she heard,
For she must witness what her Friend averr'd;
The Lady's taste she must in all approve,
Hate whom she hated, whom she lov'd must love;
These, with the various duties of her place,
With care she studied, and perform'd with grace:
She veil'd her troubles in a mask of ease,
And show'd her pleasure was a power to please.
Such were the damsel's duties: she was poor -
Above a servant, but with service more:
Men on her face with careless freedom gaz'd,
Nor thought how painful was the glow they raised.
A wealthy few to gain her favour tried,
But not the favour of a grateful bride;
They spoke their purpose with an easy air,
That shamed and frighten'd the dependent fair;
Past time she view'd, the passing time to cheat,
But nothing found to make the present sweet:
With pensive soul she read life's future page,
And saw dependent, poor, repining age.
But who shall dare t'assert what years may

bring,
When wonders from the passing hour may spring?
There dwelt a Yeoman in the place, whose mind
Was gentle, generous, cultivated, kind;
For thirty years he labour'd; fortune then
Placed the mild rustic with superior men:
A richer Stafford who had liv'd to save,
What he had treasured to the poorer gave;
Who with a sober mind that treasure view'd,
And the slight studies of his youth renew'd:
He not profoundly, but discreetly read,
And a fair mind with useful culture fed;
Then thought of marriage--'But the great,' said he
'I shall not suit, nor will the meaner me.'
Anna, he saw, admired her modest air;
He thought her virtuous, and he knew her fair;
Love raised his pity for her humble state,
And prompted wishes for her happier fate;
No pride in money would his feelings wound,
Nor vulgar manners hurt him and confound:
He then the Lady at the Hall address'd,
Sought her consent, and his regard expressed:
Yet if some cause his earnest wish denied,
He begg'd to know it, and he bow'd and sigh'd.
The Lady own'd that she was loth to part,
But praised the damsel for her gentle heart,
Her pleasing person, and her blooming health,
But ended thus, 'Her virtue is her wealth.'
'Then is she rich!' he cried with lively air;
'But whence, so please you, came a lass so fair?'
'A placeman's child was Anna, one who died
And left a widow by afflictions tried;
She to support her infant daughter strove,
But early left the object of her love:
Her youth, her beauty, and her orphan state
Gave a kind countess interest in her fate:
With her she dwelt and still might dwelling be,
When the earl's folly caused the lass to flee;
A second friend was she compell'd to shun,
By the rude offers of an uncheek'd son;
I found her then, and with a mother's love
Regard the gentle girl whom you approve;
Yet e'en with me protection is not peace,
Nor man's designs nor beauty's trials cease:
Like sordid boys by costly fruit they feel -
They will not purchase, but they try to steal.'
Now this good Lady, like a witness true,
Told but the truth, and all the truth she knew;
And 'tis our duty and our pain to show
Truth this good lady had not means to know.
Yes, there was lock'd within the damsel's breast
A fact important to be now confess'd;
Gently, my muse, th' afflicting tale relate,
And have some feeling for a sister's fate.
Where Anna dwelt, a conquering hero came, -
An Irish captain, S
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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George Crabbe

George Crabbe was an English poet, surgeon, and clergyman. more…

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