« PreviousContinue »
And with the sun doth folde againe ;
Then jogging home betime,
Or sings some merrie ryme :
Nor lackes he gleeful tales to tell,
Whil'st round the bole doth trot;
Till he to bed hath got.
Theare sleeps he soundly all the night,
Forgetting morrow cares,
Nor uttering of his wares,
Or stormes by seas, or stirres on land,
Or cracke of credite lost,
Shall still defray the cost.
Wel wot I, sooth they say that say:
More quiet nightes and daies
Whose cattel he doth graize.”
66 As a contrast to this picture of the shepherd lad, let me read to you his companion, from Bishop Earle's work, which I have already quoted.”
THE CLOWN. “ The plain country fellow is one that manures his ground well, but lets himself lye fallow and untilled. He has reason enough to do his business, and not enough to be idle or melancholy. He seems to have the punishment of Nebuchadnezzar, for his conversation is among beasts, and his tallons none of the shortest, only he eats not grass, because he loves not sallets. His hand guides the plough, and the plough his thoughts, and his ditch and land-mark is the very mound of his meditations. He expostulates with his oxen very understandingly, and speaks gee, and ree, better than English. His mind is not much distracted with objects ; but if a good fat cow come in his way, he stands dumb and astonished, and though his haste be never so great, will fix here half an hour's contemplation. His habitation is some poor thatched roof, distinguished from his barn by the loopholes that let out smoak, which the rain had long since washed through, but for the double ceiling of bacon on the inside, which has hung there from his grandsire's time, and is yet to make rashers for posterity. His dinner is his other work, for he sweats at it as much as at his labour; he is a terrible fastner on a piece of beef, and you may hope to stave the guard off sooner. His religion is a part of his copy-hold, which he takes from his land-lord, and refers it wholly to his discretion : yet if he give him leave he is a good Christian to his power, (that is,) comes to church in his best cloaths, and sits there with his neighbours, where he is capable only of two prayers, for rain and fair weather. He apprehends God's blessings only in a good year, or a fat pasture, and never praises him but on good ground. Sunday, he esteems a day to make merry in, and thinks a bag-pipe as essential to it as evening prayer, where he walks very solemnly after service with his hands coupled behind him, and censures the dancing of his parish. His compliment with his neighbour is a good thump on the back, and his salutation commonly some blunt curse. He thinks nothing to be vices, but pride and ill husbandry, from which he will gravely dissuade the youth, and has some thrifty hob-nail proverbs to clout his discourse. He is a niggard all the week, except only market-day, where, if his corn sell well, he thinks he may be drunk never lost his eye-sight nor used spectacles. He got on horseback without help, and rode to the death of the stag till he was past four score.”
“ But this you will say is the portrait of an individual, one Mr Hastings; take, however, another sketch of his general contemporary. It is from Grose's Olio."
A SQUIRE OF QUEEN ANNE'S TIME. “ The little independent gentleman of three hundred pounds per annum, who commonly appeared in a plain drab or plush coat, large silver buttons, a jockey cap, and rarely without boots. His travels never exceeded the distance of the county town, and that only at assize and session time, or to attend an election. Once a week he commonly dined at the next market town, with the attornies and justices. This man went to church regularly, read the Weekly Journal, settled the parochial disputes between the parish officers at the vestry, and afterwards adjourned to the neighbouring alehouse, where he usually got drunk for the good of his country. He never played at cards but at Christmas, when a family pack was produced from the mantle-piece. He was commonly followed by a couple of greyhounds and a pointer, and announced his arrival at a neighbour's house by smacking his whip, or giving the view-halloo. His drink was generally ale, except on Christmas, the fifth of November, or some other gala days, when he would make a bowl of strong brandy punch garnished with a toast and nutmeg. A journey to London was, by one of these men, reckoned as great an undertaking as is at present a voyage to the East Indies, and undertaken with scarce less precaution and preparation.
“ The mansion of one of these 'squires was of plaister striped with timber, not unaptly called callimanco work,
or of red brick, large casemented bow windows, a porch with seats in it, and over it a study; the eaves of the house well inhabited by swallows, and the court set round with holly-hocks. Near the gate a horse-block for the conveniency of mounting
“ The hall was furnished with flitches of bacon, and the mantle-piece with guns and fishing rods of different dimensions, accompanied by the broad sword, partizan, and dagger, borne by his ancestor in the civil wars. The vacant spaces were occupied by stag's horns. Against the wall was posted King Charles's Golden Rules, Vincent Wing's Almanack, and a portrait of the Duke of Marlborough ; in his window lay Baker's Chronicle, Fox's Book of Martyrs, Glanvil on Apparitions, Quincey's Dispensatory, the Complete Justice and a Book of Farriery.
“ In the corner, by the fire side, stood a large wooden two-armed chair with a cushion; and within the chimney corner were a couple of seats. Here, at Christmas, he entertained his tenants assembled round a glowing fire made of the roots of trees, and other great logs, and told and heard the traditionary tales of the village respecting ghosts and witches, till fear made them afraid to move. In the mean time the jorum of ale was in continual circulation.
“ The best parlour, which was never opened but on particular occasions, was furnished with Turk-worked chain, and hung round with portraits of his ancestors; the men in the character of shepherds, with their crooks, dressed in full suits and huge full-bottomed perukes ; others in complete armour or buff coats, playing on the base viol or lute. The females likewise as shepherdesses, with the lamb and crook, all habited in high heads and flowing robes.
6 Alas! these men and these houses are no more !
with a good conscience. He is sensible of no calamity but the burning a stack of corn, or the overflowing of a meadow, and thinks Noah's flood the greatest plague that ever was, not because it drowned the world, but spoiled the grass. For death he is never troubled, and if he get in but his harvest before, let it come when it will, he cares not.”
“ The Scotch," said Egeria, with the volume of • Lights and Shadows' in her hand, “ seem resolved to write up their manners, their scenery, and their annals. There is nothing in the whole course of literary history so extraordinary as the earnestness with which the descriptive authors of Scotland have devoted their pens and powers to the illustration of their beloved country. In the Gentle Shepherd, and songs of Allan Ramsay, we have the feelings and the pastoral life of the south-country swains expressed and delineated with an easy simplicity and truth that beggars in comparison all the pastoral poetry written since the Song of Solomon ; and Burns has done quite as much for the manners, habits, and amusements of the farmers. We shall look in vain, among all the other literature of Europe, for any thing so truly national, worthy of being compared with the pictures which they have intro