“I Richard Furness,
Keep parish books and pay the poor;
Draw plans for buildings and indite
Letters for those who cannot write;
Make wills and recommend a proctor;
Cure wounds, let blood with any doctor;
Draw teeth, sing psalms, the hautboy play
At chapel on each holy day;
Paint sign-boards, cast names at command,
Survey and plot estates of land:
Collect at Easter, one in ten,
And on the Sunday say Amen.”
He wrote a poem entitled Medicus Magus, or the Astrologer, a droll story brimming over with quiet humour, folk-lore, philology and archaic lore. Also The Ragbag, which is dedicated to “John Bull, Esq.” The style of his poetry was Johnsonian, or after the manner of Erasmus Darwin, a bard whom the present generation has forgotten, but whose Botanic Garden, published in 1825, is full of quaint plant-lore and classical allusions, if it does not reach the highest form of poetic talent. Here is a poem by our clerkly poet on the Old Year’s funeral:
“The clock in
oblivion’s mouldering tower
By the raven’s nest struck the midnight hour,
And the ghosts of the seasons wept over the bier
Of Old Time’s last son—the departing year.
her daisies and dews on his bed,
Summer covered with roses his shelterless head,
And as Autumn embalmed his bodiless form,
Winter wove his snow shroud in his Jacquard of storm;
For his coffin-plate, charged with a common device,
Frost figured his arms on a tablet of ice,
While a ray from the sun in the interim came,
And daguerreotyped neatly his age, death, and name.
Then the shadowing months at call
Stood up to bear the pall,
And three hundred and sixty-five days in gloom
Formed a vista that reached from his birth to his tomb.
And oh, what a progeny followed in tears—
Hours, minutes, and moments—the children of years!
Death marshall’d th’ array,
Slowly leading the way,
With his darts newly fashioned for New Year’s Day.”
Richard Furness died in 1857, and was buried with
his ancestors at Eyam.
He thus sang his own requiem shortly before he passed away:
“To joys and griefs,
to hopes and fears,
To all pride would, and power could do,
To sorrow’s cup, to pity’s tears,
To mortal life, to death adieu.”
I will conclude this chapter on poetical clerks with
a sweet carol for
Advent, written by Mr. Daniel Robinson, ex-parish clerk of Flore,
Weedon, which is worthy of preservation:
“Behold, thy King cometh unto thee.”—MATTHEW xxi. 5.