The Country Printer
(Description of his Village.)
Beside a stream, that never yet ran dry,
There stands a TOWN, not high advanced in fame;
Tho' few its buildings rais'd to please the eye,
Still this proud title it may fairly claim;
A Tavern (its first requisite) is there,
A mill, a black-smith's shop, a place of prayer.
Nay, more—a little market-house is seen
And iron hooks, where beef was never hung,
Nor pork, nor bacon, poultry fat or lean,
Pig's head, or sausage link, or bullock's tongue.
Look when you will, you see the vacant bench
No butcher seated there, no country wench.
Great aims were his, who first contriv'd this town;
A market he would have—but, humbled now,
Sighing, we see its fabric mouldering down,
That only serves, at night, to pen the cow:
And hence, by way of jest, it may be said
That beef is there, tho' never beef that's dead.
Abreast the inn—a tree before the door,
A Printing-Office lifts its humble head
Where busy Type old journals doth explore
For news that is thro' all the village read;
Who, year from year, (so cruel is his lot)
Is author, pressman, devil—and what not?
Fame says he is an odd and curious wight,
Fond to distraction of this native place;
In sense, not very dull nor very bright,
Yet shews some marks of humour in his face,
One who can pen an anecdote, complete,
Or plague the parson with the mackled sheet.
Three times a week, by nimble geldings drawn
A stage arrives; but scarcely deigns to stop,
Unless the driver, far in liquor gone,
Has made some business for the black-smith-shop;
Then comes this printer's harvest-time of news,
Welcome alike from Christians, Turks, or Jews.
Each passenger he eyes with curious glance,
And, if his phiz be mark'd of courteous kind,
To conversation, straight, he makes advance,
Hoping, from thence, some paragraph to find,
Some odd adventure, something new and rare,
To set the town a-gape, and make it stare.
All is not Truth ('tis said) that travellers tell —
So much the better for this man of news;
For hence the country round, that know him well,
Will, if he prints some lies, his lies excuse.
Earthquakes, and battles, shipwrecks, myriads slain —
If false or true—alike to him are gain.
But if this motley tribe say nothing new,
Then many a lazy, longing look is cast
To watch the weary post-boy travelling through,
On horse's rump his budget buckled fast;
With letters, safe in leathern prison pent,
And, wet from press, full many a packet sent.
Not Argus with his fifty pair of eyes
Look'd sharper for his prey than honest TYPE
Explores each package, of alluring size,
Prepar'd to seize them with a nimble gripe,
Did not the post-boy watch his goods, and swear
That village TYPE shall only have his share.
Ask you what matter fills his various page?
A mere farrago 'tis, of mingled things;
Whate'er is done on madam TERRA 's stage
He to the knowledge of his townsmen brings:
One while, he tells of monarchs run away;
And now, of witches drown'd in Buzzard's bay.
Some miracles he makes, and some he steals;
Half Nature's works are giants in his eyes:
Much, very much, in wonderment he deals, —
New Hampshire apples grown to pumpkin size,
Pumpkins almost as large as country inns,
And ladies bearing, each,—three lovely twins.
He, births and deaths with cold indifference views;
A paragraph from him is all they claim:
And here the rural squire, amongst the news
Sees the fair record of some lordling's fame;
All that was good, minutely brought to light,
All that was ill,—conceal'd from vulgar sight!
Source of the wisdom of the country round!
Again I turn to that poor lonely shed
Where many an author all his fame has found,
And wretched proofs by candle-light are read,
Inverted letters, left the page to grace,
Colons derang'd, and commas out of place.
Beneath this roof the Muses chose their home; —
Sad was their choice, less bookish ladies say.
Since from the blessed bour they deign'd to come
One single cob-web was not brush'd away: —
Fate early had pronounc'd this building's doom,
Ne'er to be vex'd with boonder, brush, or broom.
Here, full in view, the ink-bespangled press
Gives to the world its children, with a groan,
Some born to live a month—a day—some less;
Some, why they live at all, not clearly known,
All that are born must die —TYPE well knows that —
The Almanack's his longest-living brat.
Here lie the types, in curious order rang'd
Ready alike to imprint your prose or verse;
Ready to speak (their order only chang'd)
Creek-Indian lingo, Dutch, or Highland erse;
These types have printed Erskine's Gospel Treat,
Tom Durfey's songs, and Bunyan's works, complete.
But faded are their charms—their beauty fled!
No more their work your nicer eyes admire;
Hence, from this press no courtly stuff is read;
But almanacks, and ballads for the Squire,
Dull paragraphs, in homely language dress'd,
The pedlar's bill, and sermons by request.
Here, doom'd the fortune of the press to try,
From year to year poor TYPE his trade pursues —
With anxious care and circumspective eye
He dresses out his little sheet of news;
Now laughing at the world, now looking grave,
At once the Muse's midwife—and her slave.
In by-past years, perplext with vast designs,
In cities fair he strove to gain a seat;
But, wandering to a wood of many pines,
In solitude he found his best retreat,
When sick of towns, and sorrowful at heart,
He to those deserts brought his favorite art.
Thou, who art plac'd in some more favour'd spot,
Where spires ascend, and ships from every clime
Discharge their freights—despise not thou the lot
Of humble TYPE, who here has pass'd his prime;
At case and press has labour'd many a day,
But now, in years, is verging to decay.
He, in his time, the patriot of his town,
With press and pen attack'd the royal side,
Did what he could to pull their Lion down,
Clipp'd at his beard, and twitch'd his sacred hide,
Mimick'd his roarings, trod upon his toes,
Pelted young whelps, and tweak'd the old one's nose.
Rous'd by his page, at church or court-house read,
From depths of woods the willing rustics ran,
Now by a priest, and now some deacon led
With clubs and spits to guard the rights of man;
Lads from the spade, the pick-ax, or the plough
Marching afar, to fight Burgoyne or Howe.
Where are they now?—the Village asks with grief,
What were their toils, their conquests, or their gains? —
Perhaps, they near some State-House beg relief,
Perhaps, they sleep on Saratoga's plains;
Doom'd not to live, their country to reproach
For seven-years' pay transferr'd to Mammon's coach.
Ye Guardians of your country and her laws!
Since to the pen and press so much we owe
Still bid them favour freedom's sacred cause,
From this pure source, let streams unsullied flow;
Hence, a new order grows on reason's plan,
And turns the fierce barbarian into—man.
Child of the earth, of rude materials fram'd,
Man, always found a tyrant or a slave,
Fond to be honour'd, valued, rich, or fam'd
Roves o'er the earth, and subjugates the wave:
Despots and kings this restless race may share, —
But knowledge only makes them worth your care!
This poem is in the public domain.