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In ev'ry village mark'd with little spire,
Embower'd in trees, and hardly known to fame,
There dwells, in lowly shed, and mean attire,
A matron old, whom we School-Mistress name;
Who boasts unruly brats with birch to tame;
They grieven sore, in piteous durance pent,
Aw'd by the pow'r of this relentless dame;
And oft-times on vagaries idly bent,
For unkempt hair, or task unconn'd, are sorely slient.
And all in sight doth rise a birchen tree,
Which Learning near her little dome did stowe ;
Whilom a twig of small regard to see,
Tho' now so wide its waving branches flow;
And work the simple vassals mickle woe;
For not a wind might curl the leaves that blew,
But their limbs shudder'd, and their pulse beat low;
And, as they look'd, they found their horror grew,
And shap'd it into rods, and tingled at the view.
So have I seen (who has not, may conceive)
A lifeless phantom near a garden plac'd:
So doth it wanton birds of peace bereave,
Of sport, of song, of pleasure, of repast;
They start, they stare, they wheel, they look aghast;
Sad servitude! such comfortless annoy
May no bold Briton's riper age e'er taste!
Ne superstition clog his dance of joy,
Ne vision empty, vain, his native bliss destroy.
Near to this dome is found a patch so green,
On which the tribe their gambols do display;
And at the door impris'ning board is seen,
Lest weakly wights of smaller size should stray;
Eager, perdie, to bask in sunny day!
The noises intermix'd, which hence resound,
Do Learning's little tenement betray:
Where sits the Dame, disguis'd in look profound, And eyes her fairy throng, and turns her wheel around.
Her cap, far whiter than the driven snow,
Emblem right meet of decency does yield:
Her apron dy'd in grain, as blue, I trowe,
As is the hare-bell that adorns the field:
And in her hand, for sceptre, she does wield
Tway birchen sprays, with anxious fear entwin'd,
With dark distrust, and sad repentance fill'd,
And stedfast hate, and sharp affliction join'd,
And fury uncontroul'd, and chastisement unkind.
Few but have kenn'd, in semblance meet pourtray'd,
The childish faces of old ol's train;
Libs, Notus, Auster: these in frowns array'd,
How then would fare or earth, or sky, or main,
Were the stern god to give his slaves the rein?
And were not she rebellious breasts to quell,
And were not she her statutes to maintain,
The cot no more, I ween, were deem'd the cell,
Where comely peace of mind, and decent order dwell.
A russet stole was o'er her shoulders thrown : A russet kirtle fenc'd the nipping air; 'Twas simple russet, buit was her own; 'Twas her own country bred the flock so fair; 'Twas her own labour did the fleece prepare; And, sooth to say, her pupils, rang'd around, Thro' pious awe, did term it passing rare; For they in gaping wonderment abound, And think, no doubt, she been the greatest wight on ground.
Albeit ne flatt'ry did corrupt her truth,
Ne pompous title did debauch her ear;
Goody, good-woman, gossip, n'aunt, forsooth,
Or dame, the sole additions she did hear;
Yet these she challeng'd, these she held right dear :
Ne wou'd esteem him act as mought behove,
Who should not honour'd eld with these revere:
For never title yet so mean could prove,
But there was eke a mind which did that title love.
One ancient hen she took delight to feed,
The plodding pattern of the busy Dame;
Which, ever and anon, impell'd by need,
Into her school, begirt with chickens, came;
Such favour did her past deportment claim;
And, if neglect had lavish'd on the ground.
Fragment of bread, she would collect the same;
For well she knew, and quaintly could expound,
What sin it were to waste the smallest crumb she found.
Herbs too she knew, and well of each could speak,
That in her garden sipp'd the silv'ry dew;
Where no vain flow'r disclos'd a gaudy streak;
But herbs for use, and physic, not a few,
Of grey renown, within those borders
The tufted basil, pun provoking thyme,
Fresh baum, and mary-gold of chearful hue;
The lowly gill, that never dares to climb,
And more I fain would sing, disdaining here to rhyme.
Yet euphrasy may not be left unsung,
That gives dim eyes to wander leagues around;
And pungent radish, biting infant's tongue;
And plantain ribb'd, that heals the reaper's wound;
And marj'ram sweet, in shepherd's posie found;
And lavender, whose spikes of azure bloom
Shall be, ere-while, in arid bundles bound,
To lurk amidst the labours of her loom,
And crown her kerchiefs clean, with mickle rare perfume.
And here trim rosmarine, that whilom crown'd
The daintiest garden of the proudest peer;
Ere, driven from its envied site, it found
A sacred shelter for its branches here;
Where, edg'd with gold, its glitt'ring skirts appear.
O wassel days! O customs meet and well!
Ere this was banish'd from its lofty sphere:
Simplicity then sought this humble cell,
Nor ever would she more with Thane and lordling dwell.
Here oft the Dame, on sabbath's decent eve,
Hymned such psalms as Sternhold forth did mete;
If winter 'twere, she to her hearth did cleave;
But in her garden found a summer seat:
Sweet melody! to hear her then repeat
How Israel's sons, beneath a foreign king,
While taunting foe-men did a song intreat,
All, for the nonce, untuning ev'ry string,
Up hung their useless lyres-small heart had they to sing.
For she was just, and friend to virtuous ́lore,
And pass'd much time in truly virtuous deed;
And, in those elfin's ears, would oft deplore
The times, when truth by popish rage did bleed;
And tortious death was true devotion's meed;
And simple faith in iron chains did mourn,
That would on wooden image place her creed;
And lawny saints in smould ring flames did burn :
Ah! dearest Lord, forefend, thilk days should e'er return.
In elbow chair, like that of Scottish stem
By the sharp tooth of cank'ring eld defac'd,
In which, when he receives his diadem,
Our sovereign prince and liefest liege is plac'd,
The matron sate; and some with rank she grac'd,
(The source of children's and of courtiers' pride!)
Redress'd affronts, for vile affronts there pass'd;
And warn'd them not the fretful to deride,
But love each other dear, whatever them betide.
Right well she knew each temper to descry;
To thwart the proud, and the submiss to raise;
Some with vile copper prize exalt on high,
And some entice with pittance small of praise;
And other some with baleful sprig she 'frays:
Ev'n absent, she the reins of pow'r doth hold,
While with quaint arts the giddy crowd she sways;
Forewarn'd, if little bird their pranks behold,
'Twill whisper in her ear, and all the scene unfold.
Lo now with state she utters the command!
Eftsoons the urchins to their tasks repair;
Their books, of stature small, they take in hand,
Which with pellucid horn secured are;
To save from finger wet the letters fair :
The work so gay, that on their back is seen,
St. George's high atchievements does declare;
On which thilk wight that has y-gazing been,
Kens the forth-coming rod, unpleasing sight, I ween!
Ah! luckless he, and born beneath the beam
Of evil star! it irks me whilst I write !
As erst the *bard by Mulla's silver stream,
Oft, as he told of deadly dolorous plight,
Sigh'd as he sung, and did in tears Indite.
For, brandishing the rod, she doth begin
To loose the brogues, the stripling's late delight!
And down they drop; appears his dainty skin,
Fair as the furry coat of whitest ermeline.
O ruthful scene! when, from a nook obscure,
His little sister doth his peril see:
All playful as she sate, she grows demure;
She finds full soon her wonted spirits flee;
She meditates a prayer to set him free :
Nor gentle pardon could this Dame deny,
(If gentle pardon could with dames agree)
To her sad grief that swells in either eye,
And wrings her so that all for pity she could die.
Nor longer can she now her shrieks command;
And hardly she forbears, thro' awful fear,
To rushen forth, and, with presumptuous hand,
To stay harsh justice in its mid career.
On thee she calls, on thee, her parent dear!
(Ah! too remote to ward the shameful blow!)
She sees no kind domestic visage near;
And soon a flood of tears begins to flow,
And gives a loose, at last, to unavailing woe.
But ah! what pen his piteous plight may trace ?
Or what device his loud laments explain?
The form uncouth of his disguised face?
The pallid hue that dyes his looks amain?
The plenteous show'r that does his cheek distain?
When he, in abject wise, implores the Dame,.
Ne hopeth aught of sweet reprieve to gain;
Or when from high she levels well her aim,
And, thro' the thatch, his cries each falling stroke proclaim.
The other tribe, aghast, with sore dismay,
Attend, and con their tasks with mickle care ::
By turns, astony'd, every twig survey,
And from their fellow's hateful wounds beware;
Knowing, I wist, how each the same may share ;
"Till fear has taught them a performance meet,
And to the well-known chest the Dame repair;
Whence oft with sugar'd cates she doth 'em greet,
And gingerbread y-rare; now, certes, doubly sweet!
See to their seats they hye with merry glee,
And in beseemly order sitten there;
All but the wight of bum y-galled, he
Abhorreth bench, and stool, and fourm, and chair;