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A trav'ler took his folitary way;
When low beneath the hills was sunk the day.
And now the skie, with gath’ring darkness lowr,
The branches rustle with the threaten'd shower ;
With sudden blasts the forest murmurs loud,
Indented lightnings cleave the sable cloud,
Thunder on thunder breaks, the tempest roars,
And heav'n discharges all its' watry stores.
The wand'ring trav'ler shelter seeks in vain,
And shrinks and shivers with the beating rain;
On his steed's neck the slacken'd bridle lay,
Who chose with cautious' step th' uncertain way;
And now he checks the reign, and halts to hear
noise foretold a village near.
At length from far a stream of light he sees
Extend its level ray between the trees ;
Thither he speeds, and as he nearer came,
Joyful he knew the lamp's domestic fame
That trembled thro' the window : cross the way
Darts forth the barking cur, and stands at bay.
It was an ancient lonely house, that stood
Upon the borders of the spacious wood ;
Here towers and antique battlements arise,
And there in heaps the moulder'd ruin lies ;
Some lord this manfion held in days of yore,
To chace the wolf, and pierce the foaming boar :
How chang'd, alas, from what it once had been !
'Tis now degraded to a public inn.
Strait he dismounts, repeats his loud commands ;
Swift at the gate the ready landlord stands;
With frequent cringe he bows, and begs excuse,
His house was full, and ev'ry bed in use.
What not a garret, and no straw to spare ?
Why then the kitchen-fire and elbow.chair
Shall serve for once to nod away the night.
The kitchen ever is the servani's right,
Replies the host; there, all the fire around,
The count's tir'd footmen snore upon the ground.
The maid, who listen'd to this whole debate,
With pity learnt the weary stranger's fate.
Be brave, she cries, you still may be our guest,
Our haunted room was ever held the best;
If then your valour can the fright sustain
Of rattling curtains and the clinking chain,
If your courageous tongue has power to talk,
When round your bed the horrid ghost shall walk;
If you dare ask it, why it leaves its tomb,
I'll see your sheets well air'd, and show the room.
Soon as the frighted maid her tale had told,
The stranger enter'd, for his heart was bold.
The damsel led him through a spacious hall,
Where ivy hung the half-demolish'd wall ;
She frequent look'd behind, and chang'd her hue,
While fancy tipt the candle's flame with blue.
And now they gain'd the winding stairs ascent,
And to the lonesome room of terrors went.
When all was ready swift retir'd the maid,
The watch-lights burn, tuckt warm in bed was laid
The hardy stranger, and attends the sprite
'Till bis accustom'd walk at dead of night.
At first he hears the wind with hollow roar
Shake the loose lock, and swing the creaking door ;
Nearer and nearer draws the dreadful round
Of rattling chains, that dragg'd upon the ground:
When lo, the spectre came with horrid tride,
Approach'd the bed, and drew the curtains wide;
In human form the ghaflful phantom food,
Expos d his mangled bosom dy'd with blood,
Then flent pointing to his wounded breaft,
Thrice way'd his hand. Beneath his frighted guest,
The bed.cords trembled, and with fhudd'ring fear,
Sweat chill'd his limbs, high rose his bristled.hair ;
Then mutt'ring hasty pray'rs, he mann'd his heart,
And cry'd aloud ; Say, whence and who thou art
The stalking ghost with hollow voice replies,
Three years are counted, since with mortal eyes
I saw the fun, and vital air respir'd.
Like thee benighted, and with travel tir'd,
Within these walls I slept. O thirft of gain!
See still the planks the bloody marks retain ;
Stretch'd on this very bed, from sleep I start,
And see the steel impending o'er my heart;
The barb'rous hoftels held the lifted knife,
The floor ran purple with my gushing life.
My treasure now they seize, the golden spoil
They bury deep beneath the grass-grown foil,
Far in the common field. Be bold, arise,
My steps shall lead thee to thy secret prize ;
There dig and find ; let that thy care reward:
Call loud on justice, bid her not retard
To punish murder ; lay my ghost at rest,
So shall with peace secure thy nights be blest ;
And when beneath these boards my bones are found,
Decent inter them in some facred ground.
Here ceas'd the ghost. The stranger springs from bed,
And boldly follows where the phantom led ;
The half-worn stony stairs they now descend,
Where passages obscure their arches bend,
Silent they walk; and now through groves they pass,
Now through wet meads their steps imprint the grass;
At length amidst a spacious field they came :
There stops the spectre, and ascends in fame.
Amaz'd he stood, no bush, nor briar was found,
To teach his morning search to find the ground;
What could he do ? the night was hideous dark,
Fear fhook his joints, and nature dropt the MARK ;;
With that he starting wak’d, and rais'd his head,
But found the golden.MAR.K was left in bed.
HE Fable differs little from the Tale, except in
this, that it is allegorical, and generally introduces animals, and things inanimate, as persons discoursing to. gether, and delivering Precepts for the improvement of mankind:
This species of composition was invented, we may fuppose, to convey truth in an indirect manner, and under feigned characters, in cases where to speak plainly, and directly to the purpose, might not be so safe or so effec
tual. We find this use made of it even in the Holy Scriptures. Jotham's parable of the trees in the ninth chapter of Judges is a kind of Fable, as is also that of Nathan's poor man and his lamb; which, as Mr. Addison observes, conveyed instruction to the ear of a king without offence, and brought David to a proper sense of his guilt, and of his duty. Æsop, we may suppose, read his lectures in this manner as well for the sake of safety, as to make them more agreeable ; and we are told that in the beginning of the Roman Commonwealth, a mutiny was appeased, and the incensed rabble reduced to reason, by a Fable of the belly and the limbs; when a man would have been torn in pieces, perhaps, who had preached the same doctrine to them in any other manner.
It is always expected that these compositions should inculcate some moral, or useful lesson, for when deficient in this respect, they are of little, or no value. —Take an example from Mr. Gay.
The JUGGLERS. A FABLE. By Mr. Gay.
A JUGgler long through all the town
Had rais'd his fortune and renown;
You'd think (so far his art transcends)
The devil at his fingers ends.
Vice heard his fame, the read his bill-
Convinc'd of his inferior kill,
She fought his booth, and from the crowd
Defy'd the man of art aloud.
Is this then he so fam'd for flight,
Can this flow bangler cheat your fight,
Dares he with me dispute the prize ?
I leave it to impartial eyes.
Provok'd, the jaggler cryd, 'tis done.
In science I submit to none.
Thus faid, the caps and balls he play'd ;
By turns, this here, that there, convey'd ;
The cards obedient to his words,
Are by a fillip turn'd to birds ;
His little boxes change the grain,
Trick after trick deludes the train.
He shakes his bag, he fhows all fair,
His fingers spread, and nothing there.
Then bids it rain with showers of gold,
And now his iv'ry eggs are told.
But when from thence the hen he draws,
Amaz'd spectators hum applause.
Vice now stept forth and took the place
With all the forms of his grimace.
This magick looking-glafs, she cries,
(There, hand it round) will charm your eyes :
Each eager eye the fight defir'd,
And ev'ry man himfelf admir'd.
Next, to a senator addressing ;
See this Bank-note ; observe the blessing ;
Breathe on the bill, Heigh, pass ! 'Tis gone.
Upon his lips a padlock thone.
A second puff the magick broke,
The padlock vanish’d, and he spoke.
Twelve bottles rang'd upon the board,
All full, with heady liquor stor’d,
By clean conveyance disappear,
And now too bloody swords are there.
A purse she to the thief expos:d ;
At once his ready fingers clos'd ;
opes his fift, the treasures Aled ;
He fees a halter in its stead.
She bids ambition hold a wand,
He grasps a hatchet in his hand.
A box of charity The shows :
Blow here, and a church. warden blows,
"Tis 'vanilh'd with conveyance neat,
And on the table fmokes a treat.
She shakes the dice, the board she knocks.
And from all pockets fills her box.
She next'a meager rake addrest
This picture fee; her shape, her breaft!
What youth, and what inviting eyes !
Hold her, and have her. With surprise,
His hand expos'd a box of pills;
And a loud laugh proclaim'd his ills.
A counter, in a miser's hand,
Grew twenty guineas at command;