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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 conversantin 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 he 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 Lofft, 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' shoe 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, hired 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 said, giving him leave to work in the light garret, Duke of Grafton, after having had him down to two 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 Boy: 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 him 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, afforded no office, in consequence of ill health, he worked at 51
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his trade as a shoemaker, and also sold Æolian and all the most eminent critics and poets of : 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, in 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 Theo had 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;
But 'tis not these that most display here ; it is sufficient to say, that the popularity of
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,
To him whose drudgery unheeded goes,
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 poor; butcher, &c.
Labour his portion, but he felt no more ;
The fields his study, nature was his book!
And as revolving seasons changed the scene
From heat to cold, tempestuous to serene,
Where noble Grafton spreads his rich domains
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 summon’d from his bed, ploughs,
Light as the lark that carolld 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
And trembled as the minstrel sweetly sung.
Across his path, in either grove to hide,
But groves no farther fenced the devious way,
And shone a mirror to the rising sun,
Another instantly its place supplies.
The clattering dairy maid, immersed in steam,
Singing and scrubbing midst her milk and cream,
With well known halloo calls his lazy cows;
For well they know the cowyard yields no more
Reluctance marks their steps, sedate and slow; Where grandeur revels in unbounded stores;
Till London market, London price, resound
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 common 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 sees 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;
Enchanting spirit, dear Variety!
Unrivall’d stands thy country cheese, O Giles ! And taste them all in one continual change.
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 iy;
Where blows the woodbine, faintly streak'd with Nor estimates alone one blessing's worth,
Say, ye that know, ye who have felt and seen For casual as for certain want prepares,
Though ever moist his self-improving meads
Supply his dairy with a copious flood,
And seems to promise unexhausted food;
That promise fails, when buried deep in snow,
And vegetative juices cease to flow.
Whence stormy Winter draws its full demands;
For this, the seed minutely small, he sows,
High climbs the sun, and darts his powerful rays ;
Whitens the fresh-drawn mould, and pierces through
The cumbrous clods that tumble round the plough.
“ 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,
Dry dust beneath the bubbling surface lurks
E’en thus the living clod, the stubborn fool,
And, ere the day resumes its wonted smiles,
Presents a cheerful, easy task for Giles.
Shot up from broad rank blades that droop below,
The nodding wheat-ear forms a graceful bow,
With milky kernels starting full, weigh'd down,
Loud chirping sparrows welcome on the day,
Drop one by one upon the bending corn.
Giles with a pole assails their close retreats
And round the grass-grown, dewy border beats,
The skylark. Reaping, &c. Harvest-field. Dairy. Here branches bend, there corn o'erstoops his head.
No hours so sweet, no scene to him so dear.
Here wisdom's placid eye delighted sees
His frequent intervals of lonely ease,
Just kindling there her never-dying fires,