OR, THE DANGER OF EVIL COMPANY
By Hannah More
There was a young west country man,
A carpenter by trade,
A skilful wheelwright too was he,
And few such wagons made.
No man a tighter barn could build,
Throughout his native town;
Through many a village round was he
The best of workmen known.
His father left him what he had,—
In sooth it was enough,—
His shining pewter, pots of brass,
And all his household stuff.
A little cottage too he had,
For ease and comfort planned;
And, that he might not lack for aught,
An acre of good land.
A pleasant orchard too there was
Before his cottage door:
Of cider and of corn likewise
He had a little store.
Active and healthy, stout and young,
No business wanted he:
Now tell me, reader, if you can,
What man more blessed could be?
To make his comfort quite complete,
He had a faithful wife;
Frugal, and neat, and good was she,
The blessing of his life.
Where is the lord, or where the squire,
Had greater cause to praise
The goodness of that bounteous hand
Which blessed his prosperous days?
Each night, when he returned from work,
His wife, so meek and mild,
His little supper gladly dressed,
While he caressed his child.
One blooming babe was all he had,
His only darling dear,
The object of their equal love,
The solace of their care.
O what could ruin such a life,
And spoil so fair a lot?
O what could change so kind a heart,
And every virtue blot?
With grief the cause I must relate,
The dismal cause reveal;
’Twas evil company and drink,
The source of every ill.
A cooper came to live hard by,
Who did his fancy please;
An idle, rambling man was he,
Who oft had crossed the seas.
This man could tell a merry tale,
And sing a merry song;
And those who heard him sing or talk,
Ne’er thought the evening long.
But vain and vicious was the song,
And wicked was the tale;
And every pause he always filled
With cider, gin, or ale.
Our carpenter delighted much
To hear the cooper talk,
And with him to the ale-house oft
Would take his evening walk.
At first he did not care to drink,
But only liked the fun;
But soon he from the cooper learnt
The same sad course to run.
He said the cooper’s company
Was all for which he cared;
But soon he drank as much as he
To swear like him soon dared.
His hammer now neglected lay;
For work he little cared;
Half-finished wheels and broken tools
Were strewed about the yard.
To get him to attend his work,
No prayers could now prevail;
His hatchet and his plane forgot,
He never drove a nail.
His cheerful evenings now no more
With peace and plenty smiled;
No more he sought his pleasing wife,
Nor hugged his smiling child.
For not his drunken nights alone
Were with the cooper passed;
His days were at the Angel spent,
And still he staid the last.
No handsome Sunday suit was left,
Nor decent holland shirt;
No nosegay marked the Sabbath morn,
But all was rags and dirt.
No more his church he did frequent,
A symptom ever sad;
Where once the Sunday is misspent,
The week-days must be bad.
The cottage mortgaged for its worth,
The favorite orchard sold,
He soon began to feel th’ effects
Of hunger and of cold.
The pewter dishes one by one
Were pawned, till none were left;
And wife and babe at home remained,
Of every help bereft.
By chance he called at home one night
And in a surly mood
He bade his weeping wife go get
Immediately some food.
His empty cupboard well he knew
Must needs be bare of bread;
No rasher on the rack he saw;
Whence could he then be fed?
His wife a piteous sigh did heave,
And then before him laid
A basket covered with a cloth,
But not a word she said;
Then to her husband gave a knife,
With many a silent tear:
In haste he tore the cover off,
And saw his child lie there!
“There lies thy babe,” the mother said,
“Oppressed with famine sore!
O kill us both—’twere kinder far—
We could not suffer more.”
The carpenter, struck to the heart,
Fell on his knees straightway;
He wrung his hands, confessed his sins,
And did both weep and pray.
From that same hour the cooper more
He never would behold;
Nor would he to the ale-house go,
Had it been paved with gold.
His wife forgave him all the past,
And soothed his sorrowing mind,
And much he grieved that e’er he wronged
The worthiest of her kind.
By laboring hard, and working late,
By industry and pains,
His cottage was at length redeemed,
And saved were all his gains.
His Sundays now at church were spent,
His home was his delight;
The following verse himself he made,
And read it every night:—
The drunkard murders child and wife,
Nor matters it a pin,
Whether he stabs them with his knife,
Or starves them with his gin.