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« Oh, bless'd, who drinks the bliss that Hymen yields,
The second book of this poem opens finely with an apostrophe to the faithful, conjugal love, and domestic bliss of virtuous Poverty. It is so amiable, and the lesson so nobly Radical, that we cannot resist this passage.
“Oh, faithful Love, by Poverty embraced !
Hear Hope's sweet accents in a grandchild's voice !
The story of the blind-struck bride, is full of interest and subdued pathos, and knowledge of that most wayward thing, a human heart, which, though not naturally either cruel or bad, is yet not under the guidance of steady principle, and the influence of early-formed good habits.
But it is in the Village Patriarch that the opinions and tendencies of Elliott are first distinctly evolved. He feels like a true and reflecting Englishman the gradual debasement, and rapid impoverishment of the people, from the combined operation of the Poor Laws, the Game Laws, and that hydra-curse the Corn Law, which has given activity to all the misery resulting from the Poor Laws, and made them more injurious to the morals and condition of the people, from the end of the American war till now, or in fifty years, than in all the centuries which have intervened since their institution. The Bread Tax, which, he emphatically says, speaks to him from the trenchers of his ten children, Elliott considers the tap-root of all the evils under which the country is labouring. The scrimped trencher is, indeed, quickening, powerful inspiration. The beer flaggon of himself and his neighbours, drained dry by excessive taxation, is equal to the poet's Helicon, with the minstrel whose only muse is Useful Truth, The account Mr. Elliott has given of the origin of his political poetry, sets the matter in the true light. Nor is it to the philosopher the least valuable section of his writings.
“My poem may be a weed, but it has sprung, unforced, out of existing things. It may not suit the circulating libraries for adult babies ; but it is the earnest product of experience, a retrospect of the past, and an evidence of the present a sign of the times a symptom, terrible, or otherwise, which our state doctors will do well to observe with the profoundest shake of the head; for it affords a prognostic, if not a proof, that Smith and Macculloch must soon be as familiar as Dilworth to school. boys. And is it of no importance what a man of the middle class_hardly raised above the lowest-thinks, when the lowest are beginning to think ? Believing as I do, that the Corn Laws have a direct and rapid tendency to ruin my ten children and their country, with all its venerable and venerated institutions, where is the wonder if I hate the perpetrators of such insane atrocities? Their ancestors, I believe, were good men. The Savilles and the Rockinghams, were not palaced almoners, nor are their successors like the Shelleys and the Lauderdales. But when suicidal anti-profit laws speak to my heart from my children's trenchers; when statutes for restricting the industry of a population, which is only superabundant because it is oppressed, threaten to send me to the treadmill, for the crime of inflicted want; when, in a word, my feelings are hammered till they are cold-short;' habit can no longer bend them to courtesy ; they snap, and fly off in sarcasm. Is it strange that my language is fervent as a welding heat, when my thoughts are passions, that rush burning from my mind, like white-hot bolts of steel? You do not seem to be sufficiently aware of the importance of these low matters of trade ; you do not seem to suspect, that, if the Corn Laws continue much longer, the death-struggle of competition will termivate suddenly !”
Like every other powerful thinker, who looks abroad with his eyes open, and whose vision is neither rendered purblind by “ interest-begotten prejudices," nor disturbed by an attempt to accommodate facts to theories, Elliott believes the condition of the great mass of the people to be much worse, than it was even thirty years back; and that the accumulation of capital has been the scattering of well-being, owing to bad government, bad institutions, and unskilful legislation. To prove this may be assumed as the leading moral object of the Village Patriarch.
Enoch Wray, the venerable ruin of an English handicraftsman of the good olden time, has seen a century of years, is blind and povertystricken, but still maintains his independence of character, and his place as the patriarch of the hamlet. He is full of shrewd and sagacious thought, and of ennobling feelings and recollections. The poem opens with a striking description of a day of severe settled frost, and the old blind man groping his way abroad.
“ How lone is he, who, blind and near his end,
And friends, more hard and cold than trees and stones.”
poor blind father” is elbowed in his way by
“ Men whose harsh steps have language, cruel tones
• Some natural tears he drops, but wipes them soon,
You, too, proud dame, whose eye so keenly scans
Ye both are journeying to the same abode.” But we cannot follow the logical deductions of the lady, nor yet advert to, the beautifully descriptive lines which follow, blended with the recollections of the patriarch. This account of changed manners, and city life, is, if less pleasing, more to our purpose.
" But much he dreads the town's distracting maze,
On swill'd Saint Monday, with his cronies vile,
Though master bilketh dun, and is in haste.”
“When Locksley o'er the hills of Hallam chased
The wide-horned stag,” is more poetical but less characteristic of Elliott; and we turn to the city-pent widow, who
“ Still tries to make her little garden bloom,
To them, alas! no second spring shall come !"
“ Pale, dwindled lad, that on her slated shop
Who then shall bend above thy early bier." We must not follow the widow and her boy farther. Yet more deeply pathetic, in the same strain, is this little incidental notice of the poor women in the Sheffield Factories, soothing toils, which nothing can cheer, by chanting hymns.
“ Hark! music still is here! How wildly sweet,
While with the rattling fly her shrill voice blends,
Such is the pathetic power, the moral pathetic of this Radical poet. We can remember many picturesque incidents of this nature in the elder poets and romance writers. The peasant chanting the old ballad of the Roncesvalles fight,—the milk-maid's song, so finely introduced by honest Isaac Walton,-and poor Ophelia's snatches of old ballads—but nothing so deeply moving as the minstrelsy of these poor Sheffield tasked workwomen.
The blind patriarch on his ramble, visits an old friend, also blind and bed-ridden. But we cannot go farther into the history of his friend, or of the interview, than to extract a few lines from the prayer which Enoch breathes by the bed-side of Charles. Let us first notice that the patriarch's useful life had been spent in the labours of a stonemason,-almost an architect,—the constructor of country mills, and stanch, enduring, old-fashioned mountain bridges. Charles had been his fellow-labourer, and now Enoch,
6 with hands uplifted reverently,
That, dying, he may shew what good men are.'”
“ Thee, we bless, that he can proudly say
Are all the children of the human race,”We break off again abruptly ; leaving the reader to follow out this passage.
The old man, seated in the sunshine of a bright winter's day, gives the poet opportunity for a hasty retrospection of the great public events of the last century; ending with the first French Revolution. This closes with a comparison between Washington and Napoleon, which it rejoices us to see a Radical make; as the name of the latter hero has often proved a meteor that has dazzled and misled too many professing the political faith of Elliott, but with much less knowledge of its fundamental principles.
Some complimentary lines to “ cloud-rolling” Sheffield, and her skilled and independent artisans, free, on the return of the Sabbath, to emerge from the forge, and from the darkness of their six days' toil, lead to this splendid passage :