Highways and Byways in Sussex - online book

An illustrated appreciation, of the most interesting districts in Sussex.

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xxxix                              THE DONKEY RACE                                      385
charge, for, whatever its form may be now, its eleven had once a terrible reputation. I find in the county paper for 1771 an advertisement to the effect that Burwash, having " challenged all its neighbours without effect," invites a match with any parish whatsoever in all Sussex.
Mr. Egerton was not the first parson to record the manners of the Burwash parishioner. The Rev. James Hurdis, curate there towards the end of the preceding century, and afterwards Professor of Poetry at Oxford (we saw his grave at Bishopstone), had written a blank verse poem in the manner of Cowper, with some of the observation of Crabbe, entitled "The Village Curate," which is a record of his thoughts and impressions in his Burwash days. One could hardly say that " The Village Curate " would bear reprinting at the present time ; we have moved too far from its pensiveness, and an age that does not read "The Task" and only talks about Crabbe is hardly likely to reach out for Hurdis. But within its limits "The Village Curate " is good, alike in its description of scenery, its re­flections and its satire. The Burwash donkey race is capital: —
Then comes the ass-race. Let not wisdom frown,
If the grave clerk look on, and now and then
Bestow a smile ; for we may see, Alcanor,
In this untoward race the ways of life.
Are we not asses all ? We start and run,
And eagerly we press to pass the goal,
And all to win a bauble, a lac'd hat.
Was not great Wolsey such ? He ran the race,
And won the hat. What ranting politician,
What prating lawyer, what ambitious clerk,
But is an ass that gallops for a hat ?
For what do Princes strive, but golden hats?
For diadems, whose bare and scanty brims
Will hardly keep the sunbeam from their eyes.
For what do Poets strive ? A leafy hat,
Without or crown or brim, which hardly screens
The empty noddle from the fist of scorn,
Much less repels the critic's thund'ring arm.
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