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THE THREE GRAVES.
A FRAGMENT OF A SEXTON'S TALE.
[The Author has published the following humble fragment, encouraged by the decisive recommendation of more than one of our most celebrated living Poets. The language was intended to be dramatic; that is suited to the narrator; and the metre corresponds to the homeliness of the diction. It is therefore presented as the fragment, not of a Poem, but of a common Ballad-tale. Whether this is sufficient to justify the adoption of such a style, in any metrical composition not professedly ludicrous, the Author is himself in some doubt. At all events, it is not presented as Poetry, and it is in no way connected with the Author's judgement concerning Poetic diction. Its merits, if any, are exclusively Pschycological. The story which must have been supposed to have been narrated in the first and second parts is as follows.
Edward, a young farmer, meets at the house of Ellen, her bosom-friend Mary, and commences an acquaintance, which ends in a mutual attachment. With her consent, and by the advice of their common friend Ellen, he announces his hopes and intentions to Mary's Mother, a widow-woman bordering on her fortieth year, and from constant health, the possession of a competent property, and from having had no other children but Mary and another Daughter (the Father died in their infancy) retaining, for the greater part, her personal attractions and comeliness of appearance; but a woman of low education and violent temper. The answer which she at once returned to Edward's application was remarkable-" Well, Edward! you are a handsome young fellow, and you shall have my Daughter." From this time all their
wooing passed under the Mother's eyes; and, in fine, she became herself enamoured of her future Son-in-law, and practised every art, both of endearment and of calumny, to transfer his affections from her daughter to herself. (The outlines of the Tale are positive Facts, and of no very distant date, though the author has purposely altered the names and the scene of action, as well as invented the characters of the parties and the detail of the incidents.) Edward, however, though perplexed by her strange detractions from her daughter's good qualities, yet in the innocence of his own heart still mistaking her increasing fondness for motherly affection; she at length, overcome by her miserable passion, after much abuse of Mary's temper and moral tendencies, exclaimed with violent emotion-O Edward! indeed, indeed, she is not fit for you-she has not a heart to love you as you deserve. It is I that love you! Marry me, Edward! and I will this very day settle all my property on you.-The Lover's eyes were now opened: and thus taken by surprize, whether from the effect of the horror which he felt, acting as it were hysterically on his nervous sys. tem, or that at the first moment he lost the sense of guilt of the the proposal in the feeling of its strangeness and absurdity, he flung her from him and burst into a fit of laughter. Irritated by this almost to frenzy, the woman fell on her knees, and in a loud voice, that approached to a scream, she prayed for a Curse both on him and on her own Child. Mary happened to be in the room directly above them, heard Edward's laugh and her Mother's blasphemous prayer, and fainted away. He, hearing the fall, ran up stairs, and taking her in his arms, carried her off to Ellen's home; and after some fruitless attempts on her part toward a reconciliation with her Mother, she was married to him.-And here the third part of the Tale begins.
I was not led to chuse this story from any partiality to tragic, much less to monstrous events (though at the time that I composed the verses, somewhat more than twelve years ago, I was less averse to such subjects than at present), but from finding in it a striking proof of the possible effect on the imagination, from an Idea violently and suddenly imprest on it. I had been reading Bryan Edwards's account of the effect of the Oby Witchraft on the Negroes in the West-Indies, and Hearne's deeply interesting Anecdotes of