BETA

SKETCHES OF VILLAGE CHARACTER.

No III.

Helmorran.

Whilst vice parades her front in open day,1
Nor finds contempt companion of her way ;2
Whilst darkness veils the nightly-prowling thief,3
And skulking malice baffles all belief;4
Whilst children lisp in oaths of dreadful name,5
And steal, and stare, beyond the reach of shame ;6
Whilst radical confusion rules the hour,7
Which speaks Queen Caroline’s degrading power,8
And men are maddened to the last extreme,9
Nor reckon blasphemy nor treason shame ;10
If nature fails in such provoking times,11
Even indignation must have vent in rhymes !12
Helmorran, great in every deed of ill,13
In inclination only greater still,14
Be thou my theme ! in all thy motley show15
Of ragged crime and variegated woe ;16
Stand forth supreme of every sister band,17
The scorn, contempt, and bye-word of the land.18
Long have thy sins for vengeance sued aloud,19
And long has slept the lightning in the cloud ;20
Now let the guilty tremble—in his ire21
Heaven speeds a tempest of vindictive fire.22
On watchful day has crept the coward night,23
And screened her deeds of darkness from the sight ;24
Forth issuing now, with noiseless step and breath,25
The song of Belial track their fearful path.26
This to the barn-yard, feels his miscreant way,27
And this the hen-roost destines as his prey ;28
This wanders far in quest of plunder store,29
Whilst this steals boldly from his neighbour’s door.30
Hast thou with care adorned thy pleasure-ground,31
And made an Eden of thy fields around ?32
Cut into clumps and waving swells thy lawn,33
And graced thy paddock with the fearful fawn ?34
Canst thou set watch for those who shun the light,35
Or bind in bonds the Demons of the night ?36
Avert the weapon, whose accursed use37
Is mangling devastation and abuse ?38
Thy poultry own thy unremitted care,39
And geese and turkeys fatten on their fare ;40
Thy ducks and chickens crowd thy kitchen door,41
And noisy gabblings speak thy feathered store.42
With lock and bar thy peopled roost protect,43
Thou canst not stem that bleeding turkey’s neck,44
Restore the wing by well-aimed malice broke,45
Nor speak protection to thy limping flock !46
One favourite dog, by age and worth endeared,47
Recalls the memory of a name revered48
A father’s kindly unremitted love49
A tender mother’s now in heaven above ;50
Around his every motion time has cast51
Deep-rooted recollections of the past ;52
The well known cough, and head of silver hair53
The chapter folded down, and conned with care54
The time, the place, the incidents that were.55
Upon thy hearth he takes his daily bed56
Of matted fleece, by thy own fingers spread ;57
In circling movement folds his shaggy paws, 58
And yawns his languor with distended jaws. 59
Around his couch thy menials move with care, 60
All thy affection share, or seem to share ;61
The very housemaid plies a cautious broom,62
And treads more softly through the dusted room.63
Though, all unapt for motion, forth he creep,64
To stretch a tedious interval, and sleep ;65
Though visionless he eat his wonted meal,66
Without or recognisance or appeal,67
Refuse the “ bit” bestowed in action bland,68
And scarcely deign to lick the giver’s hand ;69
The time has been, when with thy changing eye,70
His own had gleamed or sorrowed in reply ;71
From forth thy opened door he’d shot away,72
In antic gambo ! and unceasing play,73
Made all thy lawn re-echo to his tale,74
And chased in very sport his circling tail!75
His sports are numbered, all his meals are past,76
Doomed to receive a poisoned meal at last !77
Around thee blooms the purple heather-bell,78
And daisies spread their cups along the dell ;79
The fox-glove reddens on thy scented banks,80
And blue-bells hang their heads in graceful ranks ;81
The starry-headed clover sprinkles o’er82
Thy green-sward pasture-ground with snow shower :83
Amidst these sweets, and o’er that honeyed lea,84
Through gayest noontide summer hums the bee ;85
From flower to flower, with note of tiny swell,86
He culls provision for his winter cell,87
With loaded thigh ascends the sunny day,88
And homeward speeds his heaven-conducted way ;89
Ill-fated wanderer of thy cherished hive,90
What means can care pursue, can art contrive !91
What engine set, the spoiler’s steps to stay,92
Which bears at noon of night thy store away !93
Whence have these cows their food, that seem so sleek;94
And by the highway-side a pittance seek ?95
These horses, can they labour thus on nought,96
For whose support no provender is bought ?97
The neighbouring farmer—for he knows full well98
Could solve the problem, if he dared to tell.99
Such are thy deeds, Helmorran ! such thy shame100
Befitting well thy far-detested name !101
The actors next we sing in order due,102
And from perplexing numbers cull a few.103