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THE SCHOOL-MISTRESS.

A POEM, In Imitation of Spenser.

Auditae voces; vagitus & ingens,
Infantumque animae flentes in Limine primo.
Virg.
[ed.] Virgil, Aeneid 6.426f. (AH)

ADVERTISEMENT.

What particulars in Spenser were imagin'd most proper for the Author's imitation on this occasion, are his language, his simplicity, his manner of description, and a peculiar tenderness of sentiment remarkable throughout his works.

I.
1 AH me! full sorely is my heart forlorn,
2 To think how modest worth neglected lies;
3 While partial fame doth with her blasts adorn
4 Such deeds alone, as pride and pomp disguise;
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5 Deeds of ill sort, and mischievous emprize!
6 Lend me thy clarion, goddess! let me try
7 To sound the praise of merit, ere it dies;
8 Such as I oft have chaunced to espy,
9 Lost in the dreary shades of dull obscurity.
II.
10 In every village mark'd with little spire,
11 Embow'r'd in trees, and hardly known to Fame,
12 There dwells, in lowly shed, and mean attire,
13 A matron old whom we school-mistress name;
14 Who boasts unruly brats with birch to tame.
15 They grieven sore, in piteous durance pent,
16 Aw'd by the pow'r of this relentless dame;
17 And oft-times on vagaries idly bent,
18 For unkempt hair, or task unconn'd, are sorely shent.
III.
19 And all in sight doth rise a birchen tree,
20 Which Learning near her little dome did stowe;
21 Whilom a twig of small regard to see,
22 Tho' now so wide its waving branches flow;
23 And work the simple vassals mickle woe;
24 For not a wind might curl the leaves that blew,
25 But their limbs shudder'd, and their pulse beat low;
26 And, as they look'd, they found their horror grew,
27 And shap'd it into rods, and tingled at the view.
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IV.
28 So have I seen (who has not, may conceive,)
29 A lifeless phantom near a garden plac'd:
30 So doth it wanton birds of peace bereave,
31 Of sport, of song, of pleasure, of repast;
32 They start, they stare, they wheel, they look aghast:
33 Sad servitude! such comfortless annoy
34 May no bold Briton's riper age e'er taste!
35 Ne Superstition clog his dance of joy,
36 Ne vision empty, vain, his native bliss destroy.
V.
37 Near to this dome is found a patch so green,
38 On which the tribe their gambols do display;
39 And at the door impris'ning board is seen,
40 Lest weakly wights of smaller size shou'd stray;
41 Eager, perdie, to bask in sunny day!
42 The noises intermix'd, which thence resound,
43 Do Learning's little tenement betray:
44 Where sits the dame, disguis'd in look profound,
45 And eyes her fairy throng, and turns her wheel around.
VI.
46 Her cap, far whiter than the driven snow,
47 Emblem right meet of decency does yield:
48 Her apron dy'd in grain, as blue, I trowe,
49 As is the Hare-bell that adorns the field:
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50 And in her hand, for scepter, she does wield
51 Tway birchen sprays; with anxious Fear entwin'd,
52 With dark Distrust, and sad Repentance fill'd;
53 And stedfast Hate, and sharp Affliction join'd,
54 And Fury uncontroul'd, and Chastisement unkind.
VII.
55 Few but have ken'd, in semblance meet pourtray'd,
56 The childish faces of old Eol's train;
57 Libs, Notus, Auster: these in frowns array'd,
58 How then would fare or earth, or sky, or main,
59 Were the stern god to give his slaves the rein?
60 And were not she rebellious breasts to quell,
61 And were not she her statutes to maintain,
62 The cott no more, I ween, were deem'd the cell,
63 Where comely peace of mind, and decent order dwell.
VIII.
64 A russet stole was o'er her shoulders thrown;
65 A russet kirtle fenc'd the nipping air;
66 'Twas simple russet, but it was her own;
67 'Twas her own country bred the flock so fair;
68 'Twas her own labour did the fleece prepare;
69 And sooth to say, her pupils, rang'd around,
70 Thro' pious awe, did term it passing rare;
71 For they in gaping wonderment abound,
72 And think, no doubt, she been the greatest wight on ground.
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IX.
73 Albeit ne flatt'ry did corrupt her truth,
74 Ne pompous title did debauch her ear;
75 Goody, good-woman, gossip, n'aunt, forsooth,
76 Or dame, the sole additions she did hear;
77 Yet these he challeng'd, these she held right dear:
78 Ne would esteem him act as mought behove,
79 Who should not honour'd eld with these revere:
80 For never title yet so mean could prove,
81 But there was eke a Mind which did that title love.
X.
82 One ancient hen she took delight to feed,
83 The plodding pattern of the busy dame;
84 Which, ever and anon, impell'd by need,
85 Into her school, begirt with chickens, came;
86 Such favour did her past deportment claim:
87 And, if Neglect had lavish'd on the ground
88 Fragment of bread, she would collect the same;
89 For well she knew, and quaintly could expound,
90 What sin it were to waste the smallest crumb she found.
XI.
91 Herbs too she knew, and well of each could speak
92 That in her garden sipp'd the silv'ry dew;
93 Where no vain flow'r disclos'd a gaudy streak;
94 But herbs for use, and physick, not a few,
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95 Of grey renown, within those borders grew:
96 The tufted Basil, pun-provoking Thyme,
97 Fresh Baum, and Mary-gold of cheerful hue;
98 The lowly Gill that never dares to climb;
99 And more I fain would sing, disdaining here to rhime.
XII.
100 Yet Euphrasy may not be left unsung,
101 That gives dim eyes to wander leagues around;
102 And pungent Radish, biting infant's tongue;
103 And Plantain ribb'd that heals the reaper's wound;
104 And Marj'ram sweet, in shepherd's posie found;
105 And Lavender, whose spikes of azure bloom
106 Shall be, ere-while, in arid bundles bound,
107 To lurk amidst the labours of her loom,
108 And crown her kerchiefs clean, with mickle rare perfume.
XIII.
109 And here trim Rosmarine, that whilom crown'd
110 The dantiest garden of the proudest peer;
111 Ere, driven, from its envy'd site, it found
112 A sacred shelter for its branches here;
113 Where edg'd with gold its glitt'ring skirts appear.
114 Oh wassel days; O customs meet and well!
115 Ere this was banish'd from its lofty sphere:
116 Simplicity then sought this humble cell,
117 Nor ever would She more with thane and lordling dwell.
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XIV.
118 Here oft the dame, on Sabbath's decent eve,
119 Hymned such psalms as Sternhold forth did mete,
120 If winter 'twere, she to her hearth did cleave;
121 But in her garden found a summer seat:
122 Sweet melody! to hear her then repeat
123 How Israel's sons, beneath a foreign king,
124 While taunting foe-men did a song intreat,
125 All, for the Nonce, untuning ev'ry string,
126 Up hung their useless lyres small heart had they to sing.
XV.
127 For she was just, and friend too virtuous lore,
128 And pass'd much time in truly virtuous deed;
129 And, in those Elsins ears, would oft deplore
130 The times, when Truth by Popish rage did bleed;
131 And tortious death was true devotion's meed;
132 And simple Faith in iron chains did mourn,
133 That would on wooden image place her creed;
134 And lawny saints in mould'ring flames did burn:
135 Ah! dearest Lord, forefend, thilk days should e'er return.
XVI.
136 In elbow chair, like that of Scottish stem
137 By the sharp tooth of cank'ring eld defac'd,
138 In which, when he receives his diadem,
139 Our sovereign prince and liefest liege is plac'd,
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140 The matron sate; and some with rank she grac'd,
141 (The source of childen's and of courtier's pride!)
142 Redress'd affronts, for vile affronts there pass'd;
143 And warn'd them not the fretful to deride,
144 But love each other dear, whatever them betide.
XVII.
145 Right well she knew each temper to descry;
146 To thwart the proud, and the submiss to raise;
147 Some with vile copper prize exalt on high,
148 And some entice with pittance small of praise;
149 And other some with baleful sprig she 'frays;
150 Ev'n absent, she the reins of pow'r doth hold,
151 While with quaint arts the giddy crowd she sways;
152 Forewarn'd, if little bird their pranks behold,
153 'Twill whisper in her ear, and all the scene unfold.
XVIII.
154 Lo now with state she utters the command!
155 Eftsoons the urchins to their tasks repair;
156 Their books of stature small they take in hand,
157 Which with pellucid horn secured are;
158 To save from finger wet the letters fair:
159 The work so gay, that on their back is seen,
160 St. George's high atchievements does declare;
161 On which thilk wight that has y-gazing been,
162 Kens the forth-coming rod, unpleasing sight, I ween!
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XIX.
163 Ah luckless he, and born beneath the beam
164 Of evil star! it irks me whilst I write!
165 As erst the
a Spenser.
bard by Mulla's silver stream,
166 Oft, as he told of deadly dolorous plight,
167 Sigh'd as he sung, and did in tears indite.
168 For brandishing the rod, she doth begin
169 To loose the brogues, the stripling's late delight!
170 And down they drop; appears his dainty skin,
171 Fair as the furry coat of whitest Ermilin.
XX.
172 O ruthful scene! when from a nook obscure,
173 His little sister doth his peril see:
174 All playful as she sate, she grows demure;
175 She finds full soon her wonted spirits flee;
176 She meditates a pray'r to set him free:
177 Nor gentle pardon could this dame deny,
178 (If gentle pardon could with dames agree)
179 To her sad grief that swells in either eye,
180 And wrings her so that all for pity she could dye.
XXI.
181 Nor longer can she now her shrieks command;
182 And hardly she forbears, thro' aweful fear,
183 To rushen forth, and, with presumptuous hand,
184 To stay harsh justice in its mid career.
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185 On thee she calls, on thee her parent dear!
186 (Ah! too remote to ward the shameful blow!)
187 She sees no kind domestick visage near,
188 And soon a flood of tears begins to flow;
189 And gives a loose at last to unavailing woe.
XXII.
190 But ah! what pen his piteous plight may trace?
191 Or what device his loud laments explain?
192 The form uncouth of his disguised face?
193 The pallid hue that dyes his looks amain?
194 The plenteous show'r that does his cheek distain?
195 When he, in abject wise, implores the dame,
196 Ne hopeth ought of sweet reprieve to gain;
197 Or when from high she levels well her aim,
198 And, thro' the thatch, his cries each falling stroke proclaim.
XXIII.
199 The other tribe, aghast, with sore dismay,
200 Attend, and conn their tasks with mickle care:
201 By turns, astony'd, ev'ry twig survey,
202 And, from their fellow's hateful wounds, beware;
203 Knowing, I wist, how each the same may share;
204 Till Fear has taught them a performance meet,
205 And to the well-known chest the dame repair;
206 Whence oft with sugar'd cates she doth 'em greet,
207 And ginger-bread y-rare; now, certes, doubly sweet!
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XXIV.
208 See to their seats they hye with merry glee,
209 And in beseemly order sitten there;
210 All but the wight of bum y-galled, he
211 Abhorreth bench and stool, and fourm, and chair;
212 (This hand in mouth y-fix'd, that rends his hair;)
213 And eke with snubs profound, and heaving breast,
214 Convulsions intermitting! does declare
215 His grievous wrong; his dame's unjust behest;
216 And scorns her offer'd love, and shuns to be caress'd.
XXV.
217 His face besprent with liquid crystal shines,
218 His blooming face that seems a purple flow'r,
219 Which low to earth its drooping head declines,
220 All smear'd and sully'd by a vernal show'r.
221 O the hard bosoms of despotick pow'r!
222 All, all, but she, the author of his shame,
223 All, all, but she, regret this mournful hour:
224 Yet hence the youth, and hence the flow'r, shall claim,
225 If so I deem aright, transcending worth and fame.
XXVI.
226 Behind some door, in melancholy thought,
227 Mindless of food, he, dreary caitiff! pines;
228 Ne for his fellow's joyaunce careth ought,
229 But to the wind all merriment resigns;
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230 And deems it shame, if he to peace inclines;
231 And many a sullen look ascance is sent,
232 Which for his dame's annoyance he designs;
233 And still the more to pleasure him she's bent,
234 The more doth he, perverse, her haviour past resent.
XXVII.
235 Ah me! how much I fear lest pride it be!
236 But if that pride it be, which thus inspires,
237 Beware, ye dames, with nice discernment see,
238 Ye quench not too the sparks of nobler fires:
239 Ah! better far than all the Muse's lyres,
240 All coward arts, is valour's gen'rous heat;
241 The firm fixt breast which Fit and Right requires,
242 Like Vernon's patriot soul; more justly great
243 Than craft that pimps for ill, or flow'ry false deceit.
XXVIII.
244 Yet nurs'd with skill, what dazling fruits appear!
245 Ev'n now sagacious Foresight points to show
246 A little bench of heedless bishops here,
247 And there a chancellour in embryo,
248 Or bard sublime, if bard may e'er be so,
249 As Milton, Shakespeare, names that ne'er shall dye!
250 Tho' now he crawl along the ground so low,
251 Nor weeting how the Muse shou'd soar on high,
252 Wisheth, poor starving elf! his paper-kite may fly.
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XXIX.
253 And this perhaps, who, cens'ring the design,
254 Low lays the house which that of cards doth build,
255 Shall Dennis be! if rigid fates incline,
256 And many an Epick to his rage shall yield;
257 And many a poet quit th' Aonian field;
258 And, sour'd by age, profound he shall appear,
259 As he who now with 'sdainful fury thrill'd
260 Surveys mine work; and levels many a sneer,
261 And furls his wrinkly front, and cries "What stuff is here?"
XXX.
262 But now Dan Phoebus gains the middle skie,
263 And Liberty unbars their prison-door;
264 And like a rushing torrent out they fly,
265 And now the grassy cirque han cover'd o'er
266 With boist'rous revel-rout and wild uproar;
267 A thousand ways in wanton rings they run,
268 Heav'n shield their short-liv'd pastimes, I implore!
269 For well may Freedom, erst so dearly won,
270 Appear to British elf more gladsome than the sun.
XXXI.
271 Enjoy, poor imps! enjoy your sportive trade;
272 And chase gay flies, and cull the fairest flow'rs;
273 For when my bones in grass-green sods are laid;
274 For never may ye taste more careless hours
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275 In knightly castles, or in ladies bow'rs.
276 O vain to seek delight in earthly thing!
277 But most in courts where proud Ambition tow'rs;
278 Deluded wight! who weens fair peace can spring
279 Beneath the pompous dome of kesar or of king.
XXXII.
280 See in each sprite some various bent appear!
281 These rudely carol most incondite lay;
282 Those saunt'ring on the green, with jocund leer
283 Salute the stranger passing on his way;
284 Some building fragile tenements of clay;
285 Some to the standing lake their courses bend,
286 With pebbles smooth at duck and drake to play;
287 Thilk to the huxter's sav'ry cottage tend,
288 In pastry kings and queens th' allotted mite to spend.
XXXIII.
289 Here, as each season yields a different store,
290 Each season's stores in order ranged been;
291 Apples with cabbage-net y-cover'd o'er,
292 Galling full sore th' unmoney'd wight are seen;
293 And goose-b'rie clad in liv'ry red or green;
294 And here of lovely dye, the Cath'rine pear,
295 Fine pear! as lovely for thy juice, I ween:
296 O may no wight e'er penny-less come there,
297 Lest smit with ardent love he pine with hopeless care!
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XXXIV.
298 See! cherries here, ere cherries yet abound,
299 With thread so white in tempting posies ty'd,
300 Scatt'ring like blooming maid their glances round,
301 With pamper'd look draw little eyes aside;
302 And must be bought though penury betide.
303 The plumb all azure and the nut all brown,
304 And here each season, do those cakes abide,
305 Whose honour'd names th' inventive city own,
306 Rend'ring thro' Britain's isle Salopia's praises known.
b Shrewsbury cakes.
XXXV.
307 Admir'd Salopia! that with venial pride
308 Eyes her bright form in Severn's ambient wave,
309 Fam'd for her loyal cares in perils tried,
310 Her daughters lovely, and her striplings brave;
311 Ah! 'midst the rest, may flowers adorn his grave,
312 Whose art did first these dulcet cates display!
313 A motive fair to Learning's imps he gave,
314 Who cheerless o'er her darkling region stray;
315 'Till reason's morn arise, and light them on their way.

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    About this text

    Title (in Source Edition): THE SCHOOL-MISTRESS. A POEM, In Imitation of Spenser.
    Themes: women; female character; education
    Genres: alexandrine; Spenserian stanza; imitation
    References: DMI 19721

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    A Collection of Poems in Six Volumes. By Several Hands. Vol. I. London: printed by J. Hughs, for R. and J. Dodsley, 1763 [1st ed. 1758], pp. 241-255. 6v.: music; 8⁰. (ESTC T131163; OTA K104099.001)

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    The text has been typographically modernized, but without any silent modernization of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. The source of the text is given and all editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. Based on the electronic text originally produced by the ECCO-TCP project, this ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 3.0.

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