Printed for Vernor Hood and Sharpe Poultry;
and Longman Hurst Rees and Orme Paternoster-Row.
WRIGHT Printer No. 32 St. John's Square Clerkenwall.
A man of the first eminence in whose day (fortunately perhaps for me) I
was not destined to appear before the public or to abide the Herculean
crab-tree of his criticism Dr. Johnson has said in his preface to
Shakspeare that--"Nothing can please many and please long but just
representations of general nature." My representations of nature whatever
may be said of their _justness_ are not _general_ unless we admit what
I suspect to be the case that nature in a village is very much like
nature every where else. It will be observed that all my pictures are from
humble life and most of my heroines servant maids. Such I would have
them: being fully persuaded that in no other way would my endeavours
either to please or to instruct have an equal chance of success.
The path I have thus taken from necessity as well as from choice is
well understood and approved by hundreds who are capable of ranging in
the higher walks of literature.--But with due deference to their superior
claim I confess that no recompense has been half so grateful or half so
agreeable to me as female approbation. To be readily and generally
understood to have my simple Tales almost instinctively relished by those
who have so decided an influence over the lives hearts and manners of us
all is the utmost stretch of my ambition.
I here venture before the public eye a selection from the various pieces
which have been the source of much pleasure and the solace of my leisure
hours during the last four years and since the publication of the "Rural
Tales." Perhaps in some of them more of mirth is intermingled than many
who know me would expect or than the severe will be inclined to approve.
But surely what I can say or can be expected to say on subjects of
country life would gain little by the seriousness of a preacher or by
exhibiting fallacious representations of what has long been termed _Rural
The Poem of "Good Tidings" is partially known to the world but as it
was originally intended to assume its present appearance and size I have
gladly availed myself of an endeavour to improve it; and from its present
extended circulation I trust it will be new to thousands.
I anticipate some approbation from such readers as have been pleased with
the "Rural Tales;" yet though I will not falsify my own feelings by
assuming a diffidence which I do not conceive to be either manly or
becoming the conviction that some reputation is hazarded in "a third
attempt" is impressed deeply on my mind.
With such sentiments and with a lively sense of the high honour and a
hope of the bright recompence of applause from the good when heightened
by the self-approving voice of my own conscience I commit the book to its
TO MY ONLY SON.
MY DEAR BOY
In thus addressing myself to you and in expressing my regard for your
person my anxiety for your health and my devotion to your welfare I
enjoy an advantage over those dedicators who indulge in adulation;--I
shall at least be believed.
Should you arrive at that period when reason shall be mature and
affection or curiosity induce you to look back on your father's
poetical progress through life you may conclude that he had many to boast
as friends whose names in a dedication would have honoured both him and
his children; but you must also reflect that to particularize such
friends was a point of peculiar delicacy. The earliest patron of my
unprotected strains has the warm thanks which are his due for the
introduction of blessings which have been diffused through our whole
family and nothing will ever change this sentiment. But amidst a general
feeling of gratitude which those who know me will never dispute I feel
for you Charles what none but parents can conceive; and on your account
my dear boy there can be no harm in telling the world that I hope these
"Wild Flowers" will be productive of sweets of the worldly kind; for your
unfortunate lameness (should it never be removed) may preclude you from
the means of procuring comforts and advantages which might otherwise have
fallen to your share.
What a lasting what an unspeakable satisfaction would it be to know that
the Ballads the Plowman Stories and the "Broken Crutch" of your father
would eventually contribute to lighten your steps to manhood and make
your own crutch through life rather a memorial of affection than an
object of sorrow.
With a parent's feelings and a parent's cares and hopes
I am Charles yours
Abner and the Widow Jones a Familiar Ballad
To My Old Oak Table
The Horkey a Provincial Ballad
The Broken Crutch a Tale
A Visit to Ranelagh
Love of the Country
The Woodland Hallo
Mary's Evening Sigh
Good Tidings; or News from the Farm
ABNER AND THE WIDOW JONES
A Familiar Ballad.
Well! I'm determin'd; that's enough:--
Gee Bayard! move your poor old bones
I'll take to-morrow smooth or rough
To go and court the Widow Jones.
Our master talks of stable-room
And younger horses on his grounds;
'Tis easy to foresee thy doom
Bayard thou'lt go to feed the hounds.
The first Determination.
But could I win the widow's hand
I'd make a truce 'twixt death and thee;
For thou upon the best of land
Should'st feed and live and die with me.
And must the pole-axe lay thee low?
And will they pick thy poor old bones?
No--hang me if it shall be so--
If I can win the Widow Jones.
Twirl went his stick; his curly pate
A bran-new hat uplifted bore;
And Abner as he leapt the gate
Had never look'd so gay before.
Old Love revived.
And every spark of love reviv'd
That had perplex'd him long ago
When busy folks and fools contriv'd
To make his Mary answer--_no_.
But whether freed from recent vows
_Her_ heart had back to Abner flown
And mark'd him for a second spouse
In truth is not exactly known.
Howbeit as he came in sight
She turn'd her from the garden stile
And downward look'd with pure delight
With half a sigh and half a smile.
She heard his sounding step behind
The blush of joy crept up her cheek
As cheerly floated on the wind
"Hoi! Mary Jones--what wont you speak?"
Then with a look that ne'er deceives
She turn'd but found her courage fled;
And scolding sparrows from the eaves
Peep'd forth upon the stranger's head.
Down Abner sat with glowing heart
Resolv'd whatever might betide
To speak his mind no other art
He ever knew or ever tried.
[Illustration: a couple.]
A clear Question.
And gently twitching Mary's hand
The bench had ample room for two
His first word made her understand
The plowman's errand was to woo.
"My Mary--may I call thee so?
For many a happy day we've seen
And if not mine aye years ago
Whose was the fault? you might have been!
"All that's gone by: but I've been musing
And vow'd and hope to keep it true
That she shall be my own heart's choosing
Whom I call wife.--Hey what say you?
Past Thoughts stated.
"And as I drove my plough along
And felt the strength that's in my arm
Ten years thought I amidst my song
I've been head-man at Harewood farm.
"And now my own dear Mary's free
Whom I have lov'd this many a day
Who knows but she may think on _me?_
I'll go hear what she has to say.
"Perhaps that little stock of land
She holds but knows not how to till
Will suffer in the widow's hand
And make poor Mary poorer still
"That scrap of land with one like her
How we might live! and be so blest!
And who should Mary Jones prefer?
Why surely him who loves her best!
"Therefore I'm come to-night sweet wench
I would not idly thus intrude"--
Mary look'd downward on the bench
O'erpower'd by love and gratitude.
And lean'd her head against the vine
With quick'ning sobs of silent bliss
Till Abner cried "You must be mine
You must"--and seal'd it with a kiss.
The Interest of an old Horse asserted.
She talk'd of shame and wip'd her check
But what had shame with them to do
Who nothing meant but truth to speak
And downright honour to pursue?
His eloquence improv'd apace
As manly pity fill'd his mind;
"You know poor Bayard; here's the case--
He's past his labour old and blind:
"If you and I should but agree
To settle here for good and all
Could you give all your heart to me
And grudge that poor old rogue a stall?
"I'll buy him for the dogs shall never
Set tooth upon a friend so true;
He'll not live long but I for ever
Shall know I gave the beast his due.
"'Mongst all I've known of plows and carts
And ever since I learn'd to drive
He was not match'd in all these parts;
There was not such a horse alive!
"Ready as birds to meet the morn
Were all his efforts at the plough;
Then the mill-brook with hay or corn
Good creature! how he'd spatter through!
"He was a horse of mighty pow'r
Compact in frame and strong of limb;
Went with a chirp from hour to hour;
Whip-cord! 'twas never made for him.
"I left him in the shafts behind
His fellows all unhook'd and gone
He neigh'd and deem'd the thing unkind.
Then starting drew the load alone!
"But I might talk till pitch-dark night
And then have something left to say;
But Mary am I wrong or right
Or do I throw my words away?
Something like Consent.
"Leave me or take me and my horse;
I've told thee truth and all I know:
Truth _should_ breed truth; that comes of course;
If I sow wheat why wheat will grow."
"Yes Abner but thus soon to yield
Neighbours would fleer and look behind 'em;
Though with a husband in the field
Perhaps indeed I should not mind 'em.
"I've known your generous nature well
My first denial cost me dear;
How this may end we cannot tell
But as for Bayard bring him here."
Parting of the Lovers.--Sad News.
"Bless thee for that" the plowman cried
At once both starting from the seat
He stood a guardian by her side
But talk'd of home--'twas growing late.
Then step for step within his arm
She cheer'd him down the dewy way;
And no two birds upon the farm
E'er prated with more joy than they.
What news at home? The smile he wore
One little sentence turn'd to sorrow;
An order met him at the door.
"Take Bayard to the dogs to-morrow."
The Journey renewed.
Yes yes thought he; and heav'd a sigh
Die when he will he's not your debtor:
I must obey and he must die--
That's if I can't contrive it better.
He left his Mary late at night
And had succeeded in the main
No sooner peep'd the morning light
But he was on the road again!
Suppose she should refuse her hand?
Such thoughts will come I know not why;
Shall I without a wife or land
Want an old horse? then wherefore buy?
From bush to bush from stile to stile
Perplex'd he trod the fallow ground
And told his money all the while
And weigh'd the matter round and round.
"I'll borrow" that's the best thought yet;
Mary shall save the horse's life.--
Kind-hearted wench! what run in debt
Before I know she'll be my wife?
These women wo'nt speak plain and free.--
Well well I'll keep my service still;
She has not _said_ she'd marry me
But yet I dare to say she will.
A fresh Thought--Turns back.
But while I take this shay brain'd course
And like a fool run to and fro
Master perhaps may sell the horse!
Therefore this instant home I'll go.
The nightly rains had drench'd the grove
He plung'd right on with headlong pace;
A man but half as much in love
Perhaps had found a cleaner place.
The day rose fair; with team a-field
He watch'd the farmer's cheerful brow;
And in a lucky hour reveal'd
His secret at his post the plough.
Coming to the Point--Generosity
And there without a whine began
"Master you'll give me your advice;
I'm going to marry--if I can--
And want old Bayard; what's his price!
"For Mary Jones last night agreed
Or near upon't to be my wife:
The horse's value I don't heed
I only want to save his life."
"Buy him hey! Abner! trust me I
Have not the thought of gain in view;
Bayard's best days we've seen go by;
He shall be cheap enough to you."
Symptoms of good Feelings.
The wages paid the horse brought out
The hour of separation come;
The farmer turn'd his chair about
"Good fellow take him take him home.
"You're welcome Abner to the beast
For you're a faithful servant been;
They'll thrive I doubt not in the least
Who know what work and service mean."
The maids at parting one and all
From different windows different tones;
Bade him farewel with many a bawl
And sent their love to Mary Jones.
He wav'd his hat and turn'd away
When loud the cry of children rose;
"Abner good bye!" they stopt their play;
"There goes poor Bayard! there he goes!"
Half choak'd with joy with love and pride
He now with dainty clover fed him
Now took a short triumphant ride
And then again got down and led him.
And hobbling onward up the hill
The widow's house was full in sight
He pull'd the bridle harder still
"Come on we shan't be there to-night."
She met them with a smile so sweet
The stable-door was open thrown;
The blind horse lifted high his feet
And loudly snorting laid him down.
O Victory! from that stock of laurels
You keep so snug for camps and thrones
Spare us _one twig_ from all their quarrels