Tag Archives: animal cruelty

[William Mason], “The Plow-Boy’s Dream”


“The Plow-Boy’s Dream”


I am a Plow-boy stout and strong,
As ever drove a team;
And three years since asleep in bed
I had a dreadful dream:
And, as that dream has done me good,                                  5
I’ve got it put in rhyme;
That other boys may read and sing
My dream, when they have time.

Methought I drove my master’s team,
With Dobbin, Ball, and Star;                                               10
Before a stiff and handy plough,
As all my master’s are:
But found the ground was bak’d so hard,
And more like brick than clay,
I could not cut my furrow clean,                                               15
Nor would my beasts obey.

The more I whipt, and lash’d, and swore
The less my cattle stirr’d;
Dobbin laid down, and Ball, and Star
They kick’d and snorted hard:                                            20
When lo! above me a bright youth
Did seem to hang in air,
With purple wings and golden wand,
As Angels painted are.

“Give over, cruel wretch,” he cry’d,                                             25
“Nor thus thy beasts abuse;
Think, if the ground was not too hard,
Would they their work refuse?
Besides I heard thee curse and swear
As if dumb beasts could know                                            30
What all thy oaths and curses meant,
Or better for them go.

But tho’ they know not, there is One,
Who knows thy sins full well,
And what shall be thy after doom,                                            35
Another shall thee tell.”
No more he said, but light as air
He vanish’d from my sight;
And with him went the sun’s bright beams,
And all was dark midnight.                                                  40

The thunder roar’d from under ground,
The earth it seem’d to gape;
Blue flames broke forth, and in those flames
A dire gigantic shape.
“Soon shall I call thee mine,” it cry’d,                                          45
With voice so dread and deep,
That quiv’ring like an aspin leaf
I waken’d from my sleep.

And tho’ I found it but a dream,
It left upon my mind                                                             50
That dread of sin, that fear of GOD,
Which all should wish to find;
For since that hour I’ve never dar’d
To use my cattle ill,
And ever fear’d to curse and swear,                                          55
And hope to do so still.

Now ponder well ye Plow-boys all
The dream that I have told;
And if it works such change in you,
‘Tis worth its weight in gold;                                               60
For should you think it false or true,
It matters not one pin,
If you but deeds of mercy shew,
And keep your souls from sin.


Title This poem, signed “M.”, was one of two by William Mason (1724-1797) that Hannah More (1745-1833) accepted for publication in her Cheap Repository Tract scheme.  Mason’s authorship is confirmed in a letter More wrote to her sister in which she explains why she rejected four of the six poems Mason submitted before noting that “two, one of which was called the ‘Ploughboy’s Dream,’ will do very well” (William Roberts, Memoirs of the Life and Correspondence of Mrs. Hannah More, third edition [1835], vol. 2, p. 430).  G. H. Spinney dates publication of this tract in August, 1795 (“Cheap Repository Tracts:  Hazard and Marshall Edition,” The Library, 4th series, 20:3 [1939], p. 320).

6 rhyme Corrected from “ryhme,” a printer’s error.

10 Dobbin, Ball, and Star Common names for draft or farm horses.

18 cattle “A collective term for live animals held as property,” often applied to horses in this period (OED).

60 its Corrected from “it’s,” a printer’s error.

62 not one pin Very little.

Source:  “The Plow-Boy’s Dream,” single sheet, (London and Bath, [1795]).  [ESTC]

Edited by Bill Christmas

“Posthumus,” “The Partridges: an elegy”


 “The Partridges: an elegy. Written on the 31st of August, 1788”

 Ill-Fated birds, for whom I raise the strain,
To tell my lively sorrow for your fates;
Ye little know, ere morn shall gild the plain,
What drear destruction all your race awaits.

While innocently basking in the ray,                                                          5
That throws the lengthen’d shadows o’er the lawn,
Unconscious you behold the parting day,
Nor feel a fear to meet the morrow’s dawn.

Could man like you thus wait the ills of life,
Nor e’er anticipate misfortune’s blow,                                              10
He’d shun a complicated load of strife,
Greater than real evils can bestow.

Ev’n now the sportsman, anxious for his fame,
Prepares the tube so fatal to your race;
He pants already for the glorious game,                                                  15
And checks the lingering hours’ tardy pace.

Raptur’d he’ll hie him, at the dawn of day,
With treacherous caution tread your haunts around,
Exulting rout his poor defenceless prey,
Then bring the fluttering victims to the ground.                             20

Yes! while he gives the meditated blow,
And sees around the struggling covey bleed,
His iron heart a barbarous joy shall know,
And plume itself upon the bloody deed.

For shame! Can men who boast a polish’d mind,                                  25
And feelings too, these savage pastimes court?
In such inhuman acts a pleasure find,
And call the cruel desolation—sport?

Thousands that graze the fields must daily bleed,
Necessity compels—for man they die                                             30
But no excuse necessity can plead,
To kill those harmless tenants of the sky.

By heaven privileg’d they build the nest,
They take the common bounty nature yields,
No property with vicious force molest,                                                   35
But pick the refuse of the open fields.

Then why, if God this privilege has given,
Should we pervert great nature’s bounteous plan?
For happiness is sure the end of heaven,
As well to bird and insect as to man.                                               40

Like us they move within their narrow sphere,
Each various passion of the mind confess;
And joy and sorrow, love and hope and fear,
Alternate pain them, and alternate bless.

Yes! they can pine in grief—with rapture glow                                       45
Their little hearts, to every feeling true:
Like us conceive affection, and the blow
That kills the offspring, wounds the mother too.

Then bid your breasts for nobler pastimes burn!
Let not such cruelty your actions stain!                                           50
Humanity should teach mankind to spurn
The pleasures purchas’d by another’s pain.


 Author   “POSTHUMUS” appears at the conclusion of the poem followed by “Canterbury.” “POSTHUMUS” is most likely the author’s pseudonym, while “Canterbury” is most likely where the author had lived.

 1   raise the strain Here the phrase means something like “write this poem.” Possibly also an allusion to the hymn “Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain” by St. John Damascus.

 17 hie “To cause to hasten; to hasten, urge on, bring quickly” (OED).

 19 rout “Of a person: to cry out; to roar, bellow, to shout” (OED).

22 covey “A brood or hatch of partridges; a family of partridges keeping together during the first season” (OED).

Source: The Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. 63 (February 1788), p. 824.

 Edited by Amanda Boyer