Everyday Characters I: The Vicar

Original Text: 
The New Monthly Magazine (London, March 1829). AP 4 N45 Robarts Library.
1Some years ago, ere time and taste
2    Had turned our parish topsy-turvy,
3When Darnel Park was Darnel Waste,
4    And roads as little known as scurvy,
5The man who lost his way, between
6    St. Mary's Hill and Sandy Thicket,
7Was always shown across the green,
8    And guided to the Parson's wicket.
9Back flew the bolt of lissom lath;
10    Fair Margaret, in her tidy kirtle,
11Led the lorn traveller up the path,
12    Through clean-clipt rows of box and myrtle;
13And Don and Sancho, Tramp and Tray,
14    Upon the parlour steps collected,
15Wagged all their tails, and seemed to say--
16    "Our master knows you--you're expected."
17Uprose the Reverend Dr. Brown,
19The lady laid her knitting down,
21Whate'er the strangers caste or creed,
22    Pundit or Papist, saint or sinner,
23He found a stable for his steed,
24    And welcome for himself, and dinner.
25If, when he reached his journey's end,
26    And warmed himself in Court or College,
27He had not gained an honest friend
28    And twenty curious scraps of knowledge,--
29If he departed as he came,
30    With no new light on love or liquor,--
31Good sooth, the traveller was to blame
32    And not the Vicarage, nor the Vicar.
33His talk was like a stream, which runs
34    With rapid change from rocks to roses:
35It slipped from politics to puns,
36    It passed from Mahomet to Moses;
37Beginning with the laws which keep
38    The planets in their radiant courses,
39And ending with some precept deep
40    For dressing eels, or shoeing horses.
41He was a shrewd and sound Divine,
42    Of loud Dissent the mortal terror;
43And when, by dint of page and line,
44    He 'stablished Truth, or startled Error,
45The Baptist found him far too deep;
47And the lean Levite went to sleep,
48    And dreamed of tasting pork to-morrow.
49His sermon never said or showed
50    That Earth is foul, that Heaven is gracious,
51Without refreshment on the road
53And sure a righteous zeal inspired
54    The hand and head that penned and planned them,
55For all who understood admired,
56    And some who did not understand them.
57He wrote, too, in a quiet way,
58    Small treatises, and smaller verses,
59And sage remarks on chalk and clay,
60    And hints to noble lords--and nurses;
61True histories of last year's ghost,
62    Lines to a ringlet, or a turban,
63And trifles for the Morning Post,
65He did not think all mischief fair,
66    Although he had a knack of joking;
67He did not make himself a bear,
68    Although he had a taste for smoking;
69And when religious sects ran mad,
70    He held, in spite of all his learning,
71That if a man's belief is bad,
72    It will not be improved by burning.
73And he was kind, and loved to sit
74    In the low hut or garnished cottage,
75And praise the farmer's homely wit,
76    And share the widow's homelier pottage:
77At his approach complaint grew mild;
78    And when his hand unbarred the shutter,
79The clammy lips of fever smiled
80    The welcome which they could not utter.
81He always had a tale for me
82    Of Julius Cæsar, or of Venus;
85I used to singe his powdered wig,
86    To steal the staff he put such trust in,
87And make the puppy dance a jig,
88    When he began to quote Augustine.
89Alack the change! in vain I look
90    For haunts in which my boyhood trifled,--
91The level lawn, the trickling brook,
92    The trees I climbed, the beds I rifled:
93The church is larger than before;
94    You reach it by a carriage entry;
95It holds three hundred people more,
96    And pews are fitted up for gentry.
97Sit in the Vicar's seat: you'll hear
99Whose hand is white, whose tone is clear,
100    Whose phrase is very Ciceronian.
101Where is the old man laid?--look down,
102    And construe on the slab before you,
104    Vir nulla non donandus lauru."

Notes

18] winsome marrow. Presumably borrowed from Wordsworth's Yarrow Unvisited. Back to Line
20] Barrow. Isaac Barrow (1630-1677), eminent classical and mathematical scholar and teacher at Cambridge. He wrote on controversial religious subjects as well, and his sermons are considered to be among the best in English, though very long. Back to Line
46] Deist. One who acknowledges the existence of a God upon the testimony of reason, but rejects revealed religion. Back to Line
52] Jerome, St. Jerome (ca. 340-420), whose best known work in the Latin translation of the Bible known as the Vulgate.
Athanasius. A famous bishop of Alexandria, and a vigorous opponent of the Arian heresy (d. 374). Back to Line
64] Sylvanus Urban. Pseudonym of Edward Cave, founder of the Gentleman's Magizine, which he conducted from 1731 until his death in 1754. Back to Line
83] rule of three. A method of finding a fourth number from three given numbers, of which the first is in the same proportion to the second as the third is to the unknown fourth. Back to Line
84] Cat's cradle. A child's game, played with pieces of string looped over the fingers to form geometrical designs and transferred from the fingers of one player to those of another. One of the most widespread of all games. Back to Line
98] Johnian. A member of St. John's College, Cambridge. Back to Line
103] Here lies William Brown, a man to whom no laurel crown was given. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1829
RPO poem Editors: 
J. D. Robins
RPO Edition: 
2RP.2.335; RPO 1996-2000.
Rhyme: