Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

ROBERT BLOOMFIELD.

ROBERT BLOOMFIELD, the son of a tailor at prospect that his production could be printed, yet Honington, in Suffolk, was born on the 3d of he found attention by his repeated calls, and by the December, 1766. His mother, who was the village humility of his expectations, which were limited to school-mistress, gave him the only education he half-a-dozen copies of the magazine. At length, ever received, and placed him first, with a farmer on his name being announced when a literary of Sapiston, as his assistant, and afterward with gentleman, particularly conversant in rural economy, George, the brother of our poet, who was a shoe- happened to be present, the poem was finally remaker in London. His principal occupation was examined, and its general aspect excited the risito wait upon the journeymen, in fetching their bility of that gentleman in so pointed a manner, dinners, &c.; and, in his intervals of leisure, he that Bloomfield was called into the room, and exread the newspaper, and, with the help of a dic- horted not to waste his time, and neglect his emtionary, was soon able to comprehend and admire ployment, in making vain attempts, and particularly the speeches of Burke, Fox, and other statesmen of in treading on the ground which Thomson had the day. His next step toward improvement was in sanctified. His earnestness and confidence, howhis attendance at a dissenting meeting-house, where, ever, led the editor to advise him to consult his be says, he soon learned to accent “hard words ,' countryman, Mr. Capel Lofft, of Trooton, to whom besides which, he also visited a debating society, he gave him a letter of introduction. On his went sometimes to the theatre, and read the His-departure, the gentleman present warmly comtory of England, the British Traveller, and a book plimented the editor on the sound advice which of geography. A perusal of some poetry in the he had given the poor fellow ;' and it was mutually London Magazine, led to his earliest attempts in verse, conceived that an industrious man was thereby which he sent to a newspaper, under the title of the likely to be saved from a ruinous infatuation.” Milk-maid, or the First of May, and the Sailor's The poem at length reached the hands of Mr. Return. Indeed, says his biographer, in the An-Capel Lotft, who sent it, with the strongest recomnual Obituary, he had so generally and diligently mendations, to Mr. Hill, the proprietor of the improved himself, that, although only sixteen or Monthly Mirror, who negotiated the sale of the seventeen years of age, his brother George and poem with the publishers, Messrs. Vernor and his fellow workmen began to be instructed by his Hood. These gentlemen acted with great liberality conversation.

towards Bloomfield, by voluntarily giving him In 1784, anxious to avoid a part in some disputes £200 in addition to the £50 originally stipulated which had arisen between the journeymen and for, and by securing to him a moiety of the copymaster shoemakers, by whom himself and his right of his poem, which, on its appearance, was brother were employed, Robert returned to his received with a burst of wonder and applause from relation at Sapiston, and, for two months, worked all quarters. The most eminent critics and literati at farming. At the expiration of that time he was of the day were profuse in their praise of both the put apprentice to Mr. Dudbridge, a ladies' snoe- author and his poem ; and the most polished circles maker, and soon became expert at his trade. In of society were smitten with the charms of rural 1790, he married the daughter of a boat-builder, life, as depicted by the Farmer's Boy. He also and after some years of conjugal poverty, bired a received some substantial proofs of the estimation room up one pair of stairs, at No. 14 Bell Alley, in which he was held, by presents from the Duke Coleman Street. The master of the house, it is of York and other persons of distinction; and the saul, giving him leave to work in the light garret, Duke of Grafton, after having had him down to to ) pair of stairs higher, he not only there carried Whittlebury Forest, of which his grace was ranger, on his occupation, but, in the midst of six or seven settled upon him a gratuity of a shilling a-day, and other workmen, actually completed his Farmer's subsequently appointed him under-sealer in the Box: the parts of Autumn and Winter having been Seal office. Subscriptions were also entered into composed in his head before a line of them was for his benefit at various places; in addition to committed to paper. When the manuscript was fit which, he derived considerable emolument from the for publication, he offered it, but in vain, to various sale of his work, of which, in a short space of time, booksellers, and to the editor of the Monthly near forty thousand copies were sold. Magazine, who, in his number for September, 1823, His good fortune, which, he said, appeared to hin gives the following interesting account of the as a dream, enabled him to remove to a comfortable affair :" He brought his poem to our office; and, and commodious habitation in the City Road, though his unpolished appearance, his coarse hand- where, having given up his situation at the Seal writing, and wretched orthography, atforded no office, in consequence of kll health, he worked at 51

2 L 2

401

his trade as a shoemaker, and also sold Æolian and all the most eminent critics and poets of a harps of his own construction. He continued to later date. Dr. Drake, in his Literary Hours, has employ his poetical powers, and, besides contribu- | taken a very masterly view of the merits of this ting several pieces to the Monthly Mirror, published poem, which he considers not inferior to the Seasons three volumes of poems, in 1802, 1804, and 1806, of Thomson, from which Bloomfield probably took successively. In 1811, appeared his Banks of the the idea of the Farmer's Boy ; though there is no Wye, the result of a tour made by him into New other affinity between the two, than, as Mr. Lofft South Wales, the mountain scenery of which observes, “ flowing numbers, feeling piety, poetic country made a novel and pleasing impression upon imagery and animation, a taste for the picturesque, his mind. Not long afterward, owing, as some force of thought, and a true sense of the natural say, to his engaging in the book trade, he became a and pathetic.” The great difference between the bankrupt; and about the same time, suffering much composition of Thomson and Bloomfield consists from the dropsy, he left London, and took up his in that of the latter being exclusively pastoral abode at Shefford, ir Bucks, for the benefit of his throughout ; and, indeed, says Dr. Drake, “such health. It seems, that the decreasing sale of his are its merits, that in true pastoral imagery and works, and an indiscriminate liberality toward his simplicity, I do not think any production can be friends and relations, who were poor and numerous, put in competition with it since the days of Theohad materially diminished his finances; and this, cratus.” A Latin version of the Farmer's Boy, by together with the illness before mentioned, preying Mr. Clubbe, was published in 1805, and it has been upon his mind, threw him into a state which translated, by M. Etienne Allard, into French, threatened to terminate in mental aberration. This under the title of le Valet du Fermier. We conevent was, however, prevented by his death, which clude our memoir of Bloomfield, who appears to took place at Shefford, on the 19th of August, 1823, have blended with great genius, an innate modesty in the fifty-seventh year of his age. He left a and amiableness of character, with the following widow and four children; and had published, verse, from a very eloquent tribute to his memory, shortly before his death, May Day with the Muses, by Bernard Barton : and Hazlewood Hall, a Village Drama, in three

It is not quaint and local terms acts.

Besprinkled o'er thy rustic lay, The characteristics of the poem of the Farmer's Though well such dialect confirms Boy are too well known to need a repetition of them

Its power unletler'd minds to sway; here ; it is sufficient to say, that the popularity of

But 'tis not these that most display

Thy sweetest charms, thy gentlest thrall,the work is justified by the unqualified eulogy of Words, phrases, fashions, pass away, Parr, Southey, Aikin, Watson, (Bishop of Llandaff,) But Truth and Nature live through all.

THE FARMER'S BOY.

Live trifling incidents, and grace my song,
That to the humblest menial belong :

To him whose drudgery unheeded goes,
SPRING.

His joys unreckon'd, as his cares or woes,

Though joys and cares in every path are sown, ARGUMENT.

And youthful minds have feelings of their own, Invocation, &c. Seed-time. Harrowing. Morning walks. Quick springing sorrows, transient as the dew, Milking. The dairy. Suffolk cheese. Spring coming Delights from trifles, trifles ever new. forth. Sheep fond of changing. Lambs at play. The 'Twas thus with Giles: meek, fatherless and polos butcher, &c.

Labour his portion, but he felt no more ;
O COME, blest spirit! whatsoe'er thou art, No stripes, no tyranny his steps pursued;
Thou kindling warmth that hoverest round my heart, His life was constant, cheerful servitude;
Sweet inmate, hail! thou source of sterling joy, Strange to the world, he wore a bashful look,
That poverty itself cannot destroy,

The fields his study, nature was his book!
Be thou my muse; and faithful still to me, And as revolving seasons changed the scene
Retrace the paths of wild obscurity.

From heat to cold, tempestuous to serene,
No deeds of arms my humble lines rehearse; Though every change still varied his employ,
No Alpine wonders thunder through my verse, Yet each new duty brought its share of joy.
The roaring cataract, the snow-topt hill,

Where noble Grafton spreads his rich domains
Inspiring awe, till breath itself stands still ; Round Euston's water'd vale, and sloping plains,
Nature's sublimer scenes ne'er charm’d mine eyes, Where woods and groves in solemn grandeur 15thg
Nor science led me through the boundless skies ; Where the kite brooding unmolested fies;
From meaner objects far my raptures flow

The woodcock and the painted pheasant race, O point these raptures ! bid my bosom glow! And skulking foxes, destined for the chase ; And lead my soul to ecstasies of praise

There Giles, untaught and unrepining, stray'd For all the blessings of my infant days!

Through every copse, and grove, and winding glade; Bear me through regions where gay fancy dwells : There his first thoughts to nature's charms inclined, But mould to truta's fair form what memory tells. That stamps devotion on th' inquiring mind.

A little farm his generous master tillid,

These, hung in triumph round the spacious field, Who with peculiar grace his station fillid; At best will but a shortlived terror yield: By deeds of hospitality endeard,

Nor guards of property ; (not penal law, Served from affection, for his worth revered; But harmless riflemen of rags and straw ;) A happy offspring blest his plenteous board, Familiarized to these, they boldly rove, His fields were fruitful, and his barns well stored, Nor heed such sentinels that never move. And fourscore ewes he fed, a sturdy team,

Let then your birds lie prostrate on the earth And lowing kine that grazed beside the stream. In dying posture, and with wings stretch'd forth Unceasing industry he kept in view;

Shist them at eve or morn from place to place, And never lack'd a job for Giles to do.

And death shall terrify the pilfering race; Fled now the sullen murmurs of the north, In the mid air, while circling round and round, The splendid raiment of the Spring peeps forth; They call their lifeless comrades from the ground; Her universal green, and the clear sky,

With quickening wing, and note of loud alarm, Delight still more and more the gazing eye. Warn the whole flock to shun th’ impending harm. Wide o'er the fields, in rising moisture strong, This task had Giles, in fields remote from home : Shoots up the simple flower or creeps along Oft has he wish'd the rosy morn to come: The mellow'd soil; imbibing fairer hues,

Yet never famed was he nor foremost found Or sweets from frequent showers and evening dews; To break the seal of sleep; his sleep was sound; That summon from their sheds the slumbering But when at daybreak summond from his bed, ploughs,

Light as the lark that carollid o'er his head.While health impregnates every breeze that blows. His sandy way, deep worn by hasty showers, No wheels support the diving, pointed share ; O'erarch'd with oaks that form'd fantastic bowers, No groaning ox is doom'd to labour there;

Waving aloft their towering branches proud, No helpmates teach the docile steed his road; In borrow'd tinges from the eastern cloud, (Alike unknown the ploughboy and the goad ;) Gave inspiration, pure as ever flow'd, But, unassisted through each toilsome day, And genuine transport in his bosom glow'd. With smiling brow the ploughman cleaves his way, His own shrill matin join'd the various notes Draws his fresh parallels, and widening still, Of nature's music, from a thousand throats : Treads slow the heavy dale, or climbs the hill : The blackbird strove with emulation sweet, Strong on the wing his busy followers play, [day; And echo answer'd from her close retreat ; Where writhing earth worms meet th’unwelcome The sporting whitethroat on some twig's end borne, Till all is changed, and hill and level down Pour'd hymns to freedom and the rising morn; Assume a livery of sober brown:

Stopt in her song, perchance the starting thrush Again disturb’d, when Giles with wearying strides Shook a white shower from the blackthorn bush, From ridge to ridge the ponderous harrow guides; Where dewdrops thick as early blossoms hung, His heels deep sinking every step he goes,

And trembled as the minstrel sweetly sung. Till dirt adhesive loads his clouted shoes.

Across his path, in either grove to hide, Welcome, green headland! firm beneath his feet; The timid rabbit scouted by bis side ; Welcome the friendly bank's refreshing seat; Or pheasant boldly stalk'd along the road, There, warm with toil, his panting horses browse Whose gold and purple tints alternate glow'd. Their sheltering canopy of pendent boughs ;

But groves no farther fenced the devious way, Till rest, delicious, chase cach transient pain, A wide-extended heath before him lay, And new-born vigour dwell in every vein.

Where on the grass the stagnant shower had run, Hour after hour, and day to day succeeds;

And shone a mirror to the rising sun, Till every clod and deep-drawn furrow spreads Thus doubly seen to light a distant wood, To crumbling mould; a level surface clear, To give new life to each expanding bud; And strewd with corn to crown the rising year; And chase away the dewy footmarks found, And o'er the whole Giles once transverse again, Where prowling Reynard trod his nightly round; In earth's moist bosom buries up the grain. To shun whose thefts was Giles's evening care, The work is done; no more to man is given; His feather'd victims to suspend in air, The grateful farmer trusts the rest to Heaven. High on the bough that nodded o'er his head, Yet oft with anxious heart he looks around, And thus each morn to strew the field with dead. And marks the first green blade that breaks the His simple errand done, he homeward hies; ground:

Another instantly its place supplies. In fancy sees his trembling oats uprun,

The clattering dairy maid, immersed in steam, His tufted barley yellow with the sun;

Singing and scrubbing midst her milk and cream, Sees clouds propitious shed their timely store, Bawls out Go fetch the cows .!—he hears no more; And all bis harvest gather'd round his door, For pigs, and ducks, and turkeys throng the door, But still unsafe the big swoln grain below, And sitting hens, for constant war prepared ; A favourite morsel with the rook and crow; A concert strange to that which late he heard. From field to field the Rock increasing goes : Straight to the meadow then he whistling goes ; To level crops most formidable foes;

With well known halloo calls his lazy cows; Their danger well the wary plunderers know, Down the rich pasture heedlessly they graze, And place a watch on some conspicuous bough ; Or hear the summons with an idle gaze; Yet oft the skulking gunner by surprise

For well they know the cowyard yiclds no more Will scatter death amongst them as they rise. Its tempting fragrance, nor its wintry store,

Reluctance marks their steps, sedate and slow; Where grandeur revels in unbounded stores ;
The right of conquest all the law they know : Restraint, a slighted stranger at their doors !
The strong press on, the weak by turns succeed, Thou, like a whirlpoo), drain'st the country round,
And one superior always takes the lead ;

Till London market, London price, resound
Is ever foremost, wheresoe'er they stray:

Through every town, round every passing load, Allow'd precedence, undisputed sway:

And dairy produce throngs the eastern road : With jealous pride her station is maintain'd, Delicious veal, and butter, every hour, For many a broil that post of honour gain'd. From Essex lowlands, and the banks of Stour: At home, the yard affords a grateful scene; And further far, where numerous herds repose, For Spring makes e'en a miry cowyard clean. From Orwell's brink, from Waveny, or Ouse. Thence from its chalky bed behold convey'd Hence Suffolk dairy wives run mad for cream, The rich manure that drenching Winter made, And leave their milk with nothing but its name: Which piled near home, grows green with many a Its name derision and reproach pursue, A promised nutriment for Autumn's seed. (weed, And strangers tell of “three times skimm'd sky Forth comes the maid, and like the morning smiles ; blue.” The mistress too, and follow'd close by Giles. To cheese converted, what can be its boast; A friendly tripod forms their humble seat, What, but the commou virtues of a post! With pails bright scour'd, and delicately sweet. If drought o'ertake it faster than the knife, Where shadowing elms obstruct the morning ray, Most fair it bids for stubborn length of life, Begins the work, begins the simple lay ;

And, like the oaken shelf whereon 'tis laid, The full charged udder yields its willing streams, Mocks the weak efforts of the bending blade; While Mary sings some lover's amorous dreams; Or in the hog-trough rests in perfect spite, And crouching Giles, beneath a neighbouring tree, Too big to swallow, and too hard to bite. Tugs o'er his pail, and chants with equal glee: Inglorious victory! Ye Cheshire meads, Whose hat with tatter'd brim, of nap so bare, Or Severn's flowery dales, where plenty treads, From the cow's side purloins a coat of hair, Was your rich milk to suffer wrongs like these, A mottled ensign of his harmless trade,

Farewell your pride! farewell renowned cheese! An unambitious, peaceable cockade,

The skimmer dread, whose ravages alone, As unambitious too that cheerful aid

Thus turn the mead's sweet nectar into stone. The mistress yields beside her rosy maid:

Neglected now the early daisy lies: With joy she views her plenteous, reeking store, Nor thou, pale primrose, bloom'st the only prize! And bears a brimmer to the dairy door ;

Advancing Spring profusely spreads abroad Her cows dismiss'd the luscious mead to roam, Flowers of all hues, with sweetest fragrance stored ; Till eve again recalls them loaded home.

Where'er she treads, Love gladdens every plain, And now the dairy claims her choicest care, Delight on tiptoe bears her lucid train ; And half her household find employment there : Sweet Hope with conscious brow before her flies, Slow rolls the churn, its load of clogging cream Anticipating wealth from summer skies ; At once foregoes its quality and name ;

All nature feels her renovating sway; From knotty particles first floating wide

The sheep-fed pasture, and the meadow gay, Congealing butter’s dash'd from side to side; And trees, and shrubs, no longer budding seen, Streams of new milk through flowing coolers stray, Display the new-grown branch of lighter green ; And snow-white curd abounds, and wholesome On airy downs the idling shepherd lies, whey.

And secs to-morrow in the marbled skies. Due north th' unglazed windows, cold and clear Here then, my soul, thy darling theme pursue, For warming sunbeams are unwelcome here. For every day was Giles a shepherd too. Brisk goes the work beneath each busy hand, Small was his charge; no wilds had they to And Giles must trudge, whoever gives command ;

roam ; A Gibeonite, that serves them all by turns : But bright enclosures circling round their home. He drains the pump, from him the fagot burns ; No yellow-blossom'd furze, nor stubborn thorn, From him the noisy hogs demand their food; The heath's rough produce, had their fleeces torn; While at his heels run many a chirping brood, Yet ever roving, ever seeking thee, Or down his path in expectation stand,

Enchanting spirit, dear Variety ! With equal claims upon his strewing hand. O happy tenants, prisoners of a day! Thus wastes the morn, till each with pleasure sees Released to ease, to pleasure, and to play ; The bustle o'er, and press'd the new-made cheese. Indulged through every field by turns to range,

Unrivall’d stands thy country cheese, O Giles ! And taste thein all in one continual change. Whose very name alone engenders smiles ; For though luxuriant their grassy food, Whose fame abroad by every tongue is spoke, Sheep long confined but loathe the present good; The well-known butt of many a flinty joke, Bleating around the homeward gate they meet, That pass like current coin the nation through: And starve, and pine, with plenty at their feet. And, ah! experience proves the satire true. Loosed from the winding lane, a joyful throng, Provision's grave, thou ever craving mart, See, o'er yon pasture, how they pour along! Dependant, huge metropolis ! where art

Giles round their boundaries takes his usual stroll; Her poring thousands stows in breathless rooms, Sees every pass secured, and fences whole ; Midst poisonous smokes and steams, and rattling High fences, proud to charm the gazing eye, looms;

Where many a nestling first essays to fly;

66

Where blows the woodbine, faintly streak'd with Nor estimates alone one blessing's worth,
And rests on every bough its tender head; (red, From changeful seasons, or capricious earth;
Round the young ash its twining branches meet, But views the su ure with the present hours,
Or crown the hawthorn with its odours sweet. And looks for failures as he looks for showers ;

Say, ye that know, ye who have felt and seen For casual as for certain want prepares,
Spring's inorning smiles, and soul-enlivening green: And round his yard the reeking haystack rears;
Say, did you give the thrilling transport way? Or clover, blossom'd lovely to the sight,
Did your eye brighten, when young lambs at play His team's rich store through many a wintry night.
Leap'd o'er your path with animated pride, What though abundance round his dwelling spreads,
Or gazed in merry clusters by your side ?

Though ever moist his self-improving meads
Ye who can smile, to wisdom no disgrace,

Supply his dairy with a copious flood, At the arch meaning of a kitten's face :

And seems to promise unexhausted food; If spotless innocence, and infant mirth,

That promise fails, when buried deep in snow, Excites to praise, or gives reflection birth,

And vegetative juices cease to flow. In shades like these pursue your favourite joy, For this, his plough turns up the destined lands, Midst nature's revels, sports that never cloy. Whence stormy Winter draws its full demands; A few begin a short but vigorous race,

For this, the seed minutely small, he sows, And indolence abash'd soon flies the place ;

Whence, sound and sweet, the hardy turnip grows, Thus challenged forth, see thither one by one,

But how unlike to April's closing days! From every side assembling playmates run;

High climbs the sun, and darts his powerful rays ; A thousand wily antics mark their stay,

Whitens the fresh-drawn mould, and pierces through A starting crowd, impatient of delay.

The cumbrous clods that tumble round the plough. Like the fond dove from fearful prison freed,

O'er heaven's bright azure, hence with joyful eyes, Each seems to say, “Come, let us try our speed;" The farmer sees dark clouds assembling rise ; Away they scour, impetuous, ardent, strong,

Borne o'er his fields a heavy torrent falls, The green turf trembling as they bound along;

And strikes the earth in hasty driving squalls. Adown the slope, then up the hillock climb,

Right welcome down, ye precious drops,” he Where every molehill is a bed of thyme ;

cries; There panting stop; yet scarcely can refrain ; But soon, too soon, the partial blessing flies. A bird, a leaf, will set them off again :

“ Boy, bring the harrows, try how deep the rain Or, if a gale with strength unusual blow,

Has forced its way.” He comes, but comes in Scattering the wild-briar roses into snow,

vain, Their little limbs increasing efforts try,

Dry dust beneath the bubbling surface lurks Like the torn flower the fair assemblage fly. And mocks his pains the more, the more he works; Ah, fallen rose ! sad emblem of their doom; S:ill, midst huge clods, he plunges on forlorn, Frail as thyself, they perish while they bloom! That laugh his harrows and the shower to scorn. Though unarfending innocence may plead,

E’en thus the living clod, the stubborn fool, Though frantic ewes may mourn the savage deed, Resists the stormy lectures of the school, Their shepherd comes, a messenger of blood, Till tried with gentler means, the dunce to please, And drives them bleating from their sports and food. His head imbibes right reason by degrees : Care loads his brow, and pity wrings his heart, As when froin eve till morning's wakeful hour, Fer lo, the murdering butcher, with his cart, Light, constant rain evinces secret power, Demands the firstlings of his flock to die,

And, ere the day resumes its wonted smiles, And makes a sport of life and liberty!

Presents a cheerful, easy task for Giles. His gay companions Giles beholds no more ; Down with a touch the mellow'd soil is laid, Closed are their eyes, their fleeces drench'd in gore. And yon tall crop next claims his timely aid ; Nor can compassion, with her softest notes, Thither well pleased he hies, assured to find Withhold the knife that plunges through their throats. Wild, trackless haunts, and objects to his mind. Down, indignation! hence, ideas foul !

Shot up from broad rank blades that droop below, Away the shocking image from my soul!

The nodding wheat-ear forms a graceful bow, Let kindlier visitants attend my way,

With milky kernels starting full, weigh'd down,
Beneath approaching Summer's fervid ray; Ere yet the sun haih tinged its head with brown;
Nor thankless glooms obtrude, nor cares annoy, There thousands in a flock, for ever gay,
Whilst the sweet theme is universal joy.

Loud chirping sparrows welcome on the day,
And from the mazes of the leafy thorn

Drop one by one upon the bending corn.
SUMMER.

Giles with a pole assails their close retreats
ARGUMENT.

And round the grass-grown, dewy border beats Turnip sowing Wheat ripening. Sparrows. Insects. On either side completely overspread, The skylark Reaping, &c. Harvest-field. Dairy. Here branches bend, there corn o’erstoops his head. maid, &c. Labourers of the barn. The gander. Night: Green covert, hail! for through the varying year a thunder-storm. Harvest-home. Reflections, &c.

No hours so sweet, no scene to him so dear. The farmer's life displays in every part

Here wisdom's placid eye delighted sees A moral lesson to the sensual heart.

His frequent intervals of lonely ease, Though in the lap of plenty, thoughtful still, And with one ray his infant soul inspires, He looks beyond the present good or ill ;

Just kindling there her never-dying fires,

« ZurückWeiter »