George Crabbe
Edwin Arlington Robinson

Give him the darkest inch your shelf allows,
Hide him in lonely garrets, if you will, --
But his hard, human pulse is throbbing still
With the sure strength that fearless truth endows.
In spite of all fine science disavows,
Of his plain excellence and stubborn skill
There yet remains what fashion cannot kill,
Though years have thinned the laurel from his brows.

Whether or not we read him, we can feel
From time to time the vigor of his name
Against us like a finger for the shame
And emptiness of what our souls reveal
In books that are as altars where we kneel
To consecrate the flicker, not the flame.

George Crabbe (1754-1832) was a poet, whose best works are realist studies of village life in his native Suffolk: his The Village (1783) was encouraged by Burke and Johnson, and made his name. In The Borough (1810) he tells tales in epistolary form about the lives set in a version of his real home town of Aldeburgh: including Peter Grimes the fisherman. Benjamin Britten, composer of the opera of that name, was a native of the same area.

After a short apprenticeship in surgery he practised in Aldeburgh, but quickly turned his attention to writing. His first publication was Inebriety in 1775. He went to London and did badly until befriended by Burke, who got his The Library published (1781), introduced him to literary society, and persuaded him to take holy orders.

In 1781 Crabbe served as curate at Aldeburgh, then in 1782 he became chaplain to the Duke of Rutland. He held a living in Leicestershire from 1789 but lived in Suffolk for many years; in 1814 he was appointed vicar of Trowbridge in Wiltshire, where he died. He was married to Sarah Elmy between 1783 and 1813, whom he called Mira in his poems.

The only samples of his work I have to hand are along the following lines, and don't seem all that interesting, I'm afraid, but he was very much admired in his own day: Jane Austen's favourite poet, for one.

Late Wisdom

We've trod the maze of error round,
 Long wandering in the winding glade;
And now the torch of truth is found,
 It only shows us where we strayed:
By long experience taught, we know--
 Can rightly judge of friends and foes;
Can all the worth of these allow,
 And all the faults discern in those.

Now, 'tis our boast that we can quell
 The wildest passions in their rage,
Can their destructive force repel,
 And their impetuous wrath assuage.--
Ah, Virtue! dost thou arm when now
 This bold rebellious race are fled?
When all these tyrants rest, and thou
 Art warring with the mighty dead?

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