The Confessor, a Sanctified Tale by Mary Darby Robinson
When SUPERSTITION rul'd the land And Priestcraft shackled Reason, At GODSTOW dwelt a goodly band, Grey monks they were, and but to say They were not always giv'n to pray, Would have been construed Treason. Yet some did scoff, and some believ'd That sinners were themselves deceiv'd; And taking Monks for more than men They prov'd themselves, nine out of ten, Mere dupes of these Old Fathers hoary; But read--and mark the story.
Near, in a little Farm, there liv'd A buxom Dame of twenty three; And by the neighbours 'twas believ'd A very Saint was She! Yet, ev'ry week, for some transgression, She went to sigh devout confession. For ev'ry trifle seem'd to make Her self-reproving Conscience ache; And Conscience, waken'd, 'tis well known, Will never let the Soul alone.
At GODSTOW, 'mid the holy band, Old FATHER PETER held command. And lusty was the pious man, As any of his crafty clan: And rosy was his cheek, and sly The wand'rings of his keen grey eye; Yet all the Farmers wives confest The wond'rous pow'r this Monk possess'd; Pow'r to rub out the score of sin, Which SATAN chalk'd upon his Tally; To give fresh licence to begin,-- And for new scenes of frolic, rally. For abstinence was not his way-- He lov'd to live --as well as pray ; To prove his gratitude to Heav'n By taking freely all its favors,-- And keeping his account still even, Still mark'd his best endeavours: That is to say, He took pure Ore For benedictions,--and was known, While Reason op'd her golden store,-- Not to unlock his own.-- And often to his cell went he With the gay Dame of twenty-three: His Cell was sacred, and the fair Well knew, that none could enter there, Who, (such was PETER'S sage decree,) To Paradise ne'er bought a key.
It happen'd that this Farmer's wife (Call MISTRESS TWYFORD--alias BRIDGET,) Led her poor spouse a weary life-- Keeping him, in an endless fidget! Yet ev'ry week she sought the cell Where Holy FATHER PETER stay'd, And there did ev'ry secret tell,-- And there, at Sun-rise, knelt and pray'd. For near, there liv'd a civil friend, Than FARMER TWYFORD somewhat stouter, And he would oft his counsel lend, And pass the wintry hours away In harmless play; But MISTRESS BRIDGET was so chaste, So much with pious manners grac'd, That none could doubt her!
One night, or rather morn, 'tis said The wily neighbour chose to roam, And (FARMER TWYFORD far from home), He thought he might supply his place; And, void of ev'ry spark of grace, Upon HIS pillow, rest his head. The night was cold, and FATHER PETER, Sent his young neighbour to entreat her, That she would make confession free-- To Him,--his saintly deputy. Now, so it happen'd, to annoy The merry pair, a little boy The only Son of lovely Bridget, And, like his daddy , giv'n to fidget, Enquir'd who this same neighbour was That took the place his father left-- A most unworthy, shameless theft,-- A sacrilege on marriage laws!
The dame was somewhat disconcerted-- For, all that she could say or do,-- The boy his question would renew, Nor from his purpose be diverted. At length, the matter to decide, "'Tis FATHER PETER" she replied. "He's come to pray." The child gave o'er, When a loud thumping at the door Proclaim'd the Husband coming! Lo! Where could the wily neighbour go? Where hide his recreant, guilty head-- But underneath the Farmer's bed?--
NOW MASTER TWYFORD kiss'd his child; And straight the cunning urchin smil'd : "Hush father ! hush ! 'tis break of day-- "And FATHER PETER'S come to pray! "You must not speak," the infant cries-- "For underneath the bed he lies." Now MISTRESS TWYFORD shriek'd, and fainted, And the sly neighbour found, too late, The FARMER, than his wife less sainted, For with his cudgel he repaid-- The kindness of his faithless mate, And fiercely on his blows he laid, 'Till her young lover, vanquish'd, swore He'd play THE CONFESSOR no more !
Tho' fraud is ever sure to find Its scorpion in the guilty mind: Yet, PIOUS FRAUD, the DEVIL'S treasure, Is always paid, in TENFOLD MEASURE.