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[ROBERT BLOOMFIELD, the Suffolk poet, who may be termed the English Theocritus, furnishes one of the most striking instances on record of the mind's self-emancipation. He was born in the year 1766, but losing his father before he was a year old, his mother was obliged to keep a little school to obtain a livelihood; thus Robert learned to read almost as soon as he could speak. She managed to give him, however, a little farther schooling, and he was sent to a master for a few months, to learn writing. When about eleven years of age, he became farmer's boy to a farmer named Austin, of Sapiston, in which occupation he recieved and buried in his mind those impressions from nature which are so delightfully wrought out in all his poems. Being too weak to endure the robust labours of the field, his mother sent him to his uncle, Mr. George Bloomfield, a shoemaker, who resided in Bell Alley, Coleman Street, London, and here in a garret where there were two turn-up beds and where five men worked, amid the din of the hammer and lapstone, did poor Bloomfield compose the inimitable poem of the “ Farmer's Boy."
This poem was sent to Capel Lofft, Esq., with a request that he would read it and give his opinion upon it. That gentleman being above vulgar prejudices and of a benevolent heart, refrained from giving his opinion, till he had read the poem determining to judge of the work not by taking into consideration the circumstances of the writer, but the merit of the performance. Upon perusal, he soon found the work to have a character of its own, that the author had struck into a new path, and that although the subject was the same that one of our greatest poets had chosen, it was nevertheless quite dissimilar, and that it contained all the genuine characteristics of true poetry. The poem was accordingly published, and immediately obtained for the author much celebrity and created an interest in his behalf which had the effect to rescue him from his laborious employment, and give him opportunities for further mental exertion. “Rural Tales," and "Wild Flowers,” soon followed the publication of the “Farmer's Boy."
With respect to the character of his poetry, it may be termed sui generis; and more faithfully than any poetry ever written depicts the feelings, sentiments, and manners, of our English Peasantry, and most enchantingly describes the scenery which a Gainsborough and a Moreland have immortalized with the pencil. In Bloomfield, as in Shakspeare, all is nature, he seldom, if ever, looks upon things through the spectacles of books, nor calls to his aid the knowledge which science so abundantly furnishes. His book was the broad heath, the sandy hill, the flowry mead, the shady lane, and the farm yard. He looked upon his own class, and within his own mind, for those beautiful resemblances which he has so faithfully described. And thus he is the poet of rural life. He carries you into the dairy, the making of butter and cheese : you are abroad with the sower, harrowing, reaping ; are now with the hogs in the wood; with the cattle among frozen turnips; in the cow-yard, or the stable, or he takes you to the country fair, and rolls you with the fairings down the hill. In all these scenes, and among such objects, at every step, he draws the tear of sympathy, teaches a lesson or developes some leading principle of our nature, in which our affections or passions “sway is to the mood." Bloomfield has not had justice done him, no poet ever lived more deserving of his countrymen's best service, but the time must come when he will not only be revered for his amiability and virtue exhibited by his unblemished lite, but have acceded to him the title he so well deserves, namely, that of En. gland's Rustic Classic.
EXTRACTS FROM BLOOMFIELD'S WORKS.
Say, ye that know, ye who have felt and seen
Spring's morning smiles, and soul-enliv'ning green,
Say, did you give the thrilling transport way?
Did your eye brighten, when young lambs at play
Leap'd o'er your path with animated pride,
Or gazed in merry clusters by your side?
Ye who can smile, to wisdom no disgrace,
At the arch meaning of a kitten's face :
If spotless innocence, and infant mirth,
Excites to praise, or gives reflection birth,
In shades like these pursue your fav’rite joy,
'Midst Nature's revels, sports that never cloy.
A few begin a short but vigorous race,
And Indolence abash'd soon flies the place;
Thus challenged forth, see thither, one by one,
From every side assembling playmates run;
A thousand wily antics mark their stay,
A starting crowd, impatient of delay.
Like the fond dove from fearful prison freed,
Each seems to say, “Come, let us try our speed;"
Away they scour, impetuous, ardent, strong,
The green turf trembling as they bound along;
Adown the slope, then up the hillock climb,
Where every molehill is a bed of thyme;
There panting stop; yet scarcely can refrain :
A bird, a leaf, will set them off again :
Or, if a gale with strength unusual blow,
Scatt'ring the wild-briar roses into snow,
Their little limbs increasing efforts try,
Like the torn flower the fair assemblage fly.
Ah ! fallen rose! sad emblem of their doom :
Frail as thyself, they perish while they bloom ;
Though unoffending Innocence may plead,
Though frantic ewes may mourn the savage deed,
Their shepherd comes, a messenger of blood,
And drives them bleating from their sports and food.
Care loads his brow, and pity wrings his heart,
For lo, the murd'ring butcher, with his cart,
Demands the firstlings of the flock to die,
And makes a sport of life and liberty!
His gay companions Giles beholds no more,
Closed are their eyes, their fleeces drench'd in gore,
Nor can Compassion, with her softest notes,
Withhold the knife that plunges in their throats.
Down, indignation! hence ideas foul !
Away the shocking image from my soul !
Let kindlier visitants attend my way,
Beneath approaching Summer's fervid ray;
Nor thankless glooms intrude, nor cares annoy,
Whilst the sweet theme is universal joy.
Just where the parting boughs' light shadows play,
Scarce in the shade, nor in the scorching day,
Stretch'd on the turf he lies, a peopled bed,
Where swarming insects creep around his head.
The small dust-colour'd beetle climbs with pain
O'er the smooth plantain leaf, a spacious plain !
Thence higher still, by countless steps convey'd,
He gains the summit of a shiv'ring blade,
And flirts his filmy wings, and looks around,
Exulting in his distance from the ground.
The tender speckled moth here dancing seen,
The vaulting grasshopper of glossy green,
And all prolific Summer's sporting train,
Their little lives by various powers sustain.
But what can unassisted vision do?
What but recoil where most it would pursue ;
His patient gaze but finish with a sigh,
When music waking speaks the sky-lark nigh.
Just starting from the corn, he cheerly sings,
And trusts with conscious pride his downy wings;
Still louder breathes, and in the face of day
Mounts up, and calls on Giles to mark his way.
Close to his eyes, his hat he instant bends
And forms a friendly telescope, that lends
Just aid enough to dull the glaring light,
And place the wand'ring bird before his sight,
That oft beneath a light cloud sweeps along,
Lost for awhile, yet pours the varied song;
The eye still follows, and the cloud moves by,
Again he stretches up the clear blue sky;
His form, his motion, undistinguish'd quite,
Save when he wheels direct from shade to light :
E'en then the songster a mere speck became,
Gliding like fancy's bubbles in a dream,
The gazer sees; but, yielding to repose,
Unwillingly his jaded eyelids close.
Delicious sleep! from sleep who could forbear
With guilt no more than Giles ; and no more care ;
Peace o'er his slumbers waves her guardian wing,
Nor Conscience once disturbs him with a sting;
He wakes refresh'd from every trivial pain,
And takes his pole, and brushes round again.
Again the year's decline, midst storms and floods,
The thundering chase, the yellow fading woods,
Invite my song; that fain would boldy tell,
Of upland coverts and the echoing dell,
By turns resounding loud, at eve and morn
The swineherd's halloo, or the huntsman's horn.
No more the flelds with scatter'd grain supply
The restless wand'ring tenants of the sky :
From oak to oak they run with eager haste,
And wrangling share the first delicious taste
Of fallen acorns ; yet but thinly found,
Till the strong gale hath shook them to the ground.
It comes; and roaring woods obedient wave:
Their home well pleased the joint adventurers leave;
The trudging sow leads forth her numerous young,
Playful, and white, and clean, the briers among,
Till briers and thorns increasing fence them round,
Where last year's mould'ring leaves bestrew the ground.
And o'er their heads, loud lashed by furious squalls,
Bright from their cups the rattling treasure falls ;
Hot thirsty food; whence doubly sweet and cool,
The welcome margin of some rush-grown pool,
The wild duck's lonely haunt whose jealous eye
Guards every point; who sits prepared to fly
On the calm bosom of her little lake,
Too closely screen'd for ruffian winds to shake;
And as the bold intruders press around,
At once she starts, and rises with a bound;
With bristles raised, the sudden noise they hear,
And ludicrously wild, and wing'd with fear,
The herd decamp with more than swinish speed,
And snorting, dash through sedge, and rush, and reed;
Through tangling thickets headlong on they go,
Then stop and listen for their fancied foe;
The hindmost still the growing panic spreads,
Repeated fright the first alarm succeeds,
Till folly's wages, wounds and thorns, they reap;
Yet glorifying in their fortunate escape,
Their groundless terrors, by degrees soon cease,
And night's dark reign restores their wonted peace.
For now the gale subsides, and from each bough
The roosting pheasant's short but frequent crow
Invites to rest; and huddling side by side,
The herd in closest ambush seem to hide;
Seek some warm slope, with shagged moss o'erspread,
Dried leaves their copious covering and their bed.
In vain may Giles, through gathering glooms that fall,
And solemn silence, urge his piercing call;
Whole days and nights they tarry midst their store,
Nor quit the woods till oaks can yield do more.
Short sighted Dobbin! Thou canst only see
The trivial hardships that encompass thee:
Thy chains were freedom, and thy toils repose,
Could the poor post-horse tell thee all his woes,
Show thee his bleeding shoulders, and unfold
The dreadful anguish he endures for gold;
Hired at each call of business, lust, or rage,
That prompts the travellers on from stage to stage,
Still on his strength depends their boasted speed,
For them his limbs grow weak, or bare ribs bleed,
And though he groaning quickens at command,
Their extra shilling in the rider's hand
Becomes his bitter scourge :-'tis he must feel
The double efforts of the lash and steel;
Till when up-hill, the destin'd inn he gains,
And trembling under complicated pains,
Prone from his nostrils, darting on the ground,
His breath emitted, floats in clouds around.