Late Tithe Case by Thomas Moore

“sic vos non vobis.”

“The Vicar of Birmingham desires me to state that, in consequence of the passing of a recent Act of Parliament, he is compelled to adopt measures which may by some be considered harsh or precipitate; but, in duty to what he owes to his successors, he feels bound to preserve the rights of the vicarage.” —Letter from Mr. S. Powell, August 6.

No, not for yourselves, ye reverend men,
Do you take one pig in every ten,
But for Holy Church’s future heirs,
Who’ve an abstract right to that pig, as theirs;
The law supposing that such heirs male
Are already seized of the pig, in tail.
No, not for himself hath Birmingham’s priest
His “well-beloved” of their pennies fleeced:
But it is that, before his prescient eyes,
All future Vicars of Birmingham rise,
With their embryo daughters, nephews, nieces,
And ’tis for them the poor he fleeces.
He heareth their voices, ages hence
Saying, “Take the pig”–“oh take the pence;”
The cries of little Vicarial dears,
The unborn Birminghamites, reach his ears;
And, did he resist that soft appeal,
He would not like a true-born Vicar feel.
Thou, too, Lundy of Lackington!
A rector true, if e’er there was one,
Who, for sake of the Lundies of coming ages,
Gripest the tenths of laborer’s wages.[1]
‘Tis true, in the pockets of thy small-clothes
The claimed “obvention”[2]of four-pence goes;
But its abstract spirit, unconfined,
Spreads to all future Rector-kind,
Warning them all to their rights to wake,
And rather to face the block, the stake,
Than give up their darling right to take.

One grain of musk, it is said, perfumes
(So subtle its spirit) a thousand rooms,
And a single four-pence, pocketed well,
Thro’ a thousand rectors’ lives will tell.
Then still continue, ye reverend souls,
And still as your rich Pactolus rolls,
Grasp every penny on every side,
From every wretch, to swell its tide:
Remembering still what the Law lays down,
In that pure poetic style of its own.
“If the parson in esse submits to loss, he
“Inflicts the same on the parson in posse.”

[1] Fourteen agricultural laborers (one of whom received so little as six guineas for yearly wages, one eight, one nine, another ten guineas, and the best paid of the whole not more than 18l. annually) were all, in the course of the autumn of 1832, served with demands of tithe at the rate of 4d. in the 1l. sterling, on behalf of the Rev. F. Lundy, Rector of Lackington, etc.–The Times, August, 1833.

[2] One of the various general terms under which oblations, tithes, etc., are comprised.