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Though lame, her white rod nimbly walks about;
With band of yarn she keeps offenders in,
And to her gown the sturdiest rogue can pin;
Aided by these, and spells, and tell-tale birds,
Her power they dread and reverence her words,
To Learning's second seats we now proceed,
Where humming students gilded primers read;
Or books with letters large and pictures gay,
To make their reading but a kind of play-
"Reading made Easy," so the titles tell:
But they who read must first begin to spell: (3)
There may be profit in these arts, but still,
Learning is labor, call it what you will;
Upon the youthful mind a heavy load,
Nor must we hope to find the royal road.
Some will their easy steps to science show,
And some to heav'n itself their by-way know;
Ah! trust them not,-who fame or bliss would share,
Must learn by labor, and must live by care.
Another matron, of superior kind,
For higher schools prepares the rising mind;
Preparatory she her learning calls, (4)
The step first made to colleges and halls.
She early sees to what the mind will grow,
Nor abler judge of infant-powers I know;
She sees what soon the lively will impede,
And how the steadier will in turn succeed;
Observes the dawn of wisdom, fancy, taste,
And knows what parts will wear, and what will waste
She marks the mind too lively, and at once
Sees the gay coxcomb and the rattling dunce.
Long has she lived, and much she loves to trace
Her former pupils, now a lordly race;
Whom when she sees rich robes and furs bedeck,
She marks the pride which once she strove to check.
A Burgess comes, and she remembers well
How hard her task to make his worship spell:
Cold, selfish, dull, inanimate, unkind,
"T was but by anger he display'd a mind:
Now civil, smiling, complaisant, and gay,
The world has worn th' unsocial crust away;
That sullen spirit now a softness wears,
And, save by fits, e'en dullness disappears:
But still the matron can the man behold,
Dull, selfish, hard, inanimate, and cold.
A Merchant passes,-" Probity and truth,
Prudence and patience, mark'd thee from thy youth."
Thus she observes, but oft retains her fears
For him, who now with name unstain'd appears;
Nor hope relinquishes, for one who yet
Is lost in error and involved in debt;
For latent evil in that heart she found, (5)
More open here, but here the core was sound.
Various our Day-Schools; here behold we one
Empty and still:-the morning duties done.
Soil'd, tatter'd, worn, and thrown in various heaps,
Appear their books, and there confusion sleeps
The workmen all are from the Babel fled,
And lost their tools, till the return they dread;
Meantime the master, with his wig awry,
Prepares his books for business by-and-by:
Now all th' insignia of the monarch laid
Beside him rest, and none stand by afraid;
He, while his troop light-hearted leap and play,
Is all intent on duties of the day;
No more the tyrant stern or judge severe,
He feels the father's and the husband's fear.
Ah! little think the timid trembling crowd,
That one so wise, so powerful, and so proud,
Should feel himself, and dread the humble ills
Of rent-day charges and of coal-man's bills;
That while they mercy from their judge implore,
He fears himself—a knocking at the door;
And feels the burthen as his neighbor states
His humble portion to the parish-rates.
They sit th' allotted hours, then eager run,
Rushing to pleasure when the duty's done;
His hour of leisure is of different kind,
Then cares domestic rush upon his mind,
And half the ease and comfort he enjoys,
Is when surrounded by slates, books, and boys.
Poor Reuben Dixon has the noisiest school (6) Of ragged lads, who ever bow'd to rule; Low in his price-the men who heave our coals, And clean our causeways, send him boys in shoals. To see poor Reuben, with his fry beside,Their half-check'd rudeness and his half-scorn'd pride, Their room, the sty in which th' assembly meet, In the close lane behind the Northgate-street; T'observe his vain attempts to keep the peace, Till tolls the bell, and strife and troubles cease,— Calls for our praise; his labor praise deserves, But not our pity; Reuben has no nerves: 'Mid noise, and dirt, and stench, and play, and prate, He calmly cuts the pen or views the slate.
But Leonard;-yes, for Leonard's fate I grieve, (7)
Who loathes the station which he dares not leave;
He can not dig, he will not beg his bread,
All his dependence rests upon his head';
And deeply skill'd in sciences and arts,
On vulgar lads he wastes superior parts.
Alas! what grief that feeling mind sustains,
In guiding hands and stirring torpid brains;
He whose proud mind from pole to pole will move,
And view the wonders of the worlds above;
Who thinks and reasons strongly :-hard his fate,
Confined forever to the pen and slate.
True he submits, and when the long dull day
Has slowly pass'd in weary tasks away,
To other worlds with cheerful view he looks,
And parts the night between repose and books.
Amid his labors, he has sometimes tried
To turn a little from his cares aside :
Pope, Milton, Dryden, with delight has seized
His soul engaged and of his trouble eased:
When, with a heavy eye and ill-done sum,
No part conceived, a stupid boy will come;
Then Leonard first subdues the rising frown,
And bids the blockhead lay his blunders down;
O'er which disgusted he will turn his eye,
To his sad duty his sound mind apply,
And, vex'd in spirit, throw his pleasures by.
Turn we to Schools which more than these afford-
The sound instruction and the wholesome board;
And first our School for Ladies: (8) pity calls
For one soft sigh, when we behold these walls,
Placed near the town, and where, from window high,
The fair, confined, may our free crowds espy,
With many a stranger gazing up and down,
And all the envied tumult of the town;
May, in the smiling summer-eve, when they
Are sent to sleep the pleasant hours away,
Behold the poor (when they conceive the bless'd)
Employ'd for hours, and grieved they carr not rest.
Here the fond girl, whose days are sad and few
Since dear mamma pronounced the last adieu,
Looks to the road, and fondly thinks she hears
The carriage-wheels, and struggles with her tears.
All yet is new, the misses great and small,
Madam herself, and teachers, odious all;
From laughter, pity, nay command, she turns,
But melts in softness, or with anger burns;
Nauseates her food, and wonders who can sleep
On such mean beds, where she can only weep:
She scorns condolence-but to all she hates
Slowly at length her mind accommodates;
Then looks on bondage with the same concern
As others felt, and finds that she must learn
As others learn'd-the common lot to share,
To search for comfort and submit to care.
There are, 't is said, who on these seats attend,
And to these ductile minds destruction vend; (9)
Wretches-(to virtue, peace, and nature, foes)-
To these soft minds, their wicked trash expose;
Seize on the soul, ere passions take the sway,
And let the heart, ere yet it feels, astray.
Smugglers obscene! and can there be who take
Infernal pains, the sleeping vice to wake?
Can there be those, by whom the thoughts defiled
Enters the spotless bosom of a child?
By whom the ill is to the heart convey'd,
Who lend the foe, not yet in arms, their aid,
And sap the city-walls before the siege be laid?
Oh! rather skulking in the by-ways steal,
And rob the poorest traveler of his meal;
Burst through the humblest trader's bolted door;
Bear from the widow's hut her winter-store;
With stolen steed, on highways take your stand,
Your lips with curses arin'd, with death your hand ;-
Take all but life-the virtuous more would say,-
Take life itself, dear as it is, away,
Rather than guilty thus the guileless soul betray.
Years pass away-let us suppose them past,
Th' accomplish'd nymph for freedom looks at last;
All hardships over, which a school contains,
Th' spirit's bondage and the body's pains;
Where teachers make the heartless, trembling set
Of pupils suffer for their own regret ;
Where winter's cold, attack'd by one poor fire,
Chills the fair child, commanded to retire ;
She felt it keenly in the morning air,
Keenly she felt it at the evening prayer.
More pleasant summer; but then walks were made,
Not a sweet ramble, but a slow parade;
They moved by pairs beside the hawthorn-hedge,
Only to set their feelings on an edge ;
And now at eve, when all their spirits rise,
Are sent to rest, and all their pleasure dies;
Where yet they all the town alert can see,
And distant plough-boys pacing o'er the lea
These and the tasks successive masters brought
The French they con'd, the curious works they wrought:
The hours they made their taper fingers strike
Note after note, all due to them alike;
Their drawings, dancings on appointed days,
Playing with globes, and getting parts of plays;
The tender friendships made 'twixt heart and heart,
When the dear friends had nothing to impart :-
All! all! are over;-now th' accomplish'd maid
Longs for the world, of nothing there afraid:
Dreams of delight invade her gentle breast,
And fancied lovers rob the heart of rest;
At the paternal door a carriage stands,
Love knits their hearts and Hymen joins their hands.
Ah!-world unknown! how charming is thy view,
Thy pleasures many, and each pleasure new:
Ah!-world experienced! what of thee is told?
How few thy pleasures, and those few how old!
Within a silent street, and far apart
From noise of business, from a quay or mart,
Stands an old spacious building, and the din
You hear without, explains the work within;
Unlike the whispering of the nymphs, this noise
Loudly proclaims a "Boarding-School for Boys; (10)
The master heeds it not, for thirty years
Have render'd all to his familiar ears;
He sits in comfort, 'mid the various sound
Of mingled tones for ever flowing round;
Day after day he to his task attends,-
Unvaried toil, and care that never ends,-
Boys in their works proceed; while his employ
Admits no change, or changes but the boy;
Yet time has made it easy;-he beside
Has power supreme, and power is sweet to pride;
But grant him pleasure;-what can teachers feel,
Dependent helpers always at the wheel?
Their power despised, their compensation small,
Their labor dull, their life laborious all!
Set after set the lower lads to make
Fit for the class which their superiors take;
The road of learning for a time to track
In roughest state, and then again go back:
Just the same way on other troops to wait,-
Attendants fix'd at Learning's lower gate.
The day-tasks now are over,-to their ground
Rush the gay crowd with joy-compelling sound;
Glad to illude the burthens of the day,
The eager parties hurry to their play :
Then in these hours of liberty we find
The native bias of an opening mind;
They yet posses not skill the mask to place,
And hide the passions glowing in the face;
Yet some are found-the close, the sly, the mean,
Who know already all must not be seen.
Lo! one who walks apart, although so young,
He lays restraint upon his eye and tongue;
Nor will he into scrapes or danger get,
And half the school are in the stripling's debt:
Suspicious, timid, he is much afraid
Of trick and plot :-he dreads to be betray'd:
He shuns all friendship, for he finds they lend,
When lads begin to call each other friend:
Yet self with self has war; the tempting sight
Of fruit on sale provokes his appetite;-
See how he walks the sweet seduction by;
That he is tempted, costs him first a sigh,-
"T is dangerous to indulge, 't is grievous to deny 1
This he will choose, and whispering asks the price
The purchase dreadful, but the portion nice;
Within the pocket he explores the pence;
Without, temptation strikes on either sense,
The sight, the smell ;-but then he thinks again
O money gone! while fruit nor taste remain.
Meantime there comes an eager thoughtless boy.
Who gives the price and only feels the joy:
Example dire! the youthful miser stops,
And slowly back the treasured coinage drops:
Heroic deed! for should he now comply,
Can he to-morrow's appetite deny?
Beside, these spendthrifts who so freely live,
Cloy'd with their purchase, will a portion give!
Here ends debate, he buttons up his store,
And feels the comfort that it burns no more.
Unlike to him the Tyrant boy, whose sway All hearts acknowledge; him the crowds obey: At his command they break through every rule;