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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Isaac Ashford

By George Crabbe (1754–1832)

From ‘The Parish Register’

NEXT to these ladies, but in naught allied,

A noble peasant, Isaac Ashford, died.

Noble he was, contemning all things mean,

His truth unquestioned and his soul serene:

Of no man’s presence Isaac felt afraid;

At no man’s question Isaac looked dismayed;

Shame knew he not; he dreaded no disgrace;

Truth, simple truth, was written in his face:

Yet while the serious thought his soul approved,

Cheerful he seemed, and gentleness he loved;

To bliss domestic he his heart resigned,

And with the firmest had the fondest mind.

Were others joyful, he looked smiling on,

And gave allowance where he needed none;

Good he refused with future ill to buy,

Nor knew a joy that caused reflection’s sigh;

A friend to virtue, his unclouded breast

No envy stung, no jealousy distressed;

(Bane of the poor! it wounds their weaker mind

To miss one favor which their neighbors find.)

Yet far was he from stoic pride removed;

He felt humanely, and he warmly loved.

I marked his action when his infant died,

And his old neighbor for offense was tried:

The still tears, stealing down that furrowed cheek,

Spoke pity plainer than the tongue can speak.

If pride were his, ’twas not their vulgar pride

Who in their base contempt the great deride;

Nor pride in learning: though my Clerk agreed,

If fate should call him, Ashford might succeed;

Nor pride in rustic skill, although we knew

None his superior, and his equals few:

But if that spirit in his soul had place,

It was the jealous pride that shuns disgrace;

A pride in honest fame, by virtue gained,

In sturdy boys to virtuous labors trained:

Pride in the power that guards his country’s coast,

And all that Englishmen enjoy and boast;

Pride in a life that slander’s tongue defied—

In fact a noble passion, misnamed Pride.

He had no party’s rage, no sectary’s whim;

Christian and countryman was all with him:

True to his church he came; no Sunday shower

Kept him at home in that important hour;

Nor his firm feet could one persuading sect

By the strong glare of their new light direct;

“On hope in mine own sober light I gaze,

But should be blind and lose it, in your blaze.”

In times severe, when many a sturdy swain

Felt it his pride, his comfort, to complain,

Isaac their wants would soothe, his own would hide,

And feel in that his comfort and his pride….

I feel his absence in the hours of prayer,

And view his seat, and sigh for Isaac there:

I see no more those white locks thinly spread

Round the bald polish of that honored head;

No more that awful glance on playful wight,

Compelled to kneel and tremble at the sight,

To fold his fingers, all in dread the while,

Till Mr. Ashford softened to a smile:

No more that meek and suppliant look in prayer,

Nor the pure faith (to give it force), are there;—

But he is blest, and I lament no more

A wise, good man, contented to be poor.