Robert Bloomfield

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The Farmer's Boy

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The Poems: Volume I: The Farmer’s Boy, and Glad Tidings

With the exception of some minor variation in capitalisations, the 1827 text is very similar to that provided in Robert Bloomfield, Selected Poems, ed. by John Lucas and John Goodridge (Nottingham: Trent Editions, 1998), derived from The Poems of Robert Bloomfield, 2 volumes (London, 1809). In both cases, the text used reflects Bloomfield’s corrections to the emendations of Capel Lofft (as seen in the early editions) that Bloomfield resented. Line numbers have been added for the reader’s convenience. (Stephen Van-Hagen)

ARGUMENT

Invocation, &c. Seed time. Harrowing. Morning walks. Milking. The Dairy. Suffolk Cheese. Spring coming forth. Sheep fond of changing. Lambs at play. The Butcher, &c.

    O come, blest Spirit! whatsoe’er thou art,  
    Thou kindling warmth that hover’st round my heart,  
    Sweet inmate, hail! thou source of sterling joy,  
    That poverty itself cannot destroy,  
5   Be thou my Muse; and faithful still to me,  
    Retrace the paths of wild obscurity.  
    No deeds of arms my humble lines rehearse;  
    No Alpine wonders thunder through my verse,  
     
    The roaring cataract, the snow-topt hill,  
10   Inspiring awe, till breath itself stands still:  
    Nature’s sublimer scenes ne’er charm’d mine eyes,  
    Nor Science led me through the boundless skies;  
    From meaner objects far my raptures flow:  
    O point these raptures! bid my bosom glow!  
15   And lead my soul to ecstasies of praise  
    For all the blessings of my infant days!  
    Bear me through regions where gay Fancy dwells;  
    But mould to Truth’s fair form what Memory tells.  
     
     
    Live, trifling incidents, and grace my song,  
20   That to the humblest menial belong:  
    To him whose drudgery unheeded goes,  
    His joys unreckon’d as his cares or woes;  
    Though joys and cares in every path are sown,  
    And youthful minds have feelings of their own,  
25   Quick springing sorrows, transient as the dew,  
    Delights from trifles, trifles ever new.  
     
    ’Twas thus with Giles: meek, fatherless, and poor  
    Labour his portion, but he felt no more;  
    No stripes, no tyranny his steps pursu’d;  
30   His life was constant, cheerful, servitude:  
    Strange to the world, he wore a bashful look,  
    The fields his study, Nature was his book;  
    And, as revolving Seasons chang’d the scene  
    From heat to cold, tempestuous to serene,  
35   Though every change still varied his employ,  
    Yet each new duty brought its share of joy.  
     
     
    Where noble Grafton spreads his rich domains,  
    Round Euston’s water’d vale, and sloping plains,  
    Where woods and groves in solemn grandeur rise,  
40   Where the kite brooding unmolested flies;  
    The woodcock and the painted pheasant race,  
    And sculking Foxes, destin’d for the chace;  
    There Giles, untaught and unrepining, stray’d  
    Through every copse, and grove, and winding glade;  
     
45   There his first thoughts to Nature’s charms inclin’d,  
    That stamps devotion on th’ inquiring mind.  
    A little farm his generous Master till’d,  
    Who with peculiar grace his station fill’d;  
    By deeds of hospitality endear’d,  
50   Serv’d from affection, for his worth rever’d;  
    A happy offspring blest his plenteous board,  
    His fields were fruitful, and his barns well stor’d.  
    And fourscore ewes he fed, a sturdy team,  
    And lowing kine that graz’d beside the stream:  
55   Unceasing industry he kept in view;  
    And never lack’d a job for Giles to do.  
     
     
    Fled now the sullen murmurs of the North,  
    The splendid raiment of the Spring peeps forth;  
    Her universal green, and the clear sky,  
60   Delight still more and more the gazing eye.  
    Wide o’er the fields, in rising moisture strong,  
    Shoots up the simple flower, or creeps along  
     
    The mellow’d soil; imbibing fairer hues,  
    Or sweets from frequent showers and evening dews;  
65   That summon from their sheds the slumb’ring plows,  
    While health impregnates every breeze that blows.  
  No wheels support the diving, pointed, share;  
    No groaning ox is doom’d to labour there;  
    No helpmates teach the docile steed his road;  
70   (Alike unknown the ploughboy and the goad;)  
    But, unassisted through each toilsome day,  
    With smiling brow the ploughman cleaves his way,  
    Draws his fresh parallels, and, wid’ning still,  
    Treads slow the heavy dale, or climbs the hill:  
75   Strong on the wing his busy followers play,  
    Where writhing earth-worms meet th’ unwelcome day  
    Till all is chang’d, and hill and level down  
    Assume a livery of sober brown:  
    Again disturb’d, when Giles with wearying strides  
80   From ridge to ridge the ponderous harrow guides;  
     
    His heels deep sinking every step he goes,  
    Till dirt adhesive loads his clouted shoes.  
    Welcome green headland! firm beneath his feet;  
    Welcome the friendly bank’s refreshing seat;  
85   There, warm with toil, his panting horses browse  
    Their shelt’ring canopy of pendent boughs;  
    Till rest, delicious, chase each transient pain,  
    And new-born vigour swell in every vein.  
    Hour after hour, and day to day succeeds;  
90   Till every clod and deep-drawn furrow spreads  
    To crumbling mould; a level surface clear,  
    And strew’d with corn to crown the rising year;  
    And o’er the whole Giles once transverse again,  
    In earth’s moist bosom buries up the grain.  
95   The work is done; no more to man is given;  
    The grateful Farmer trusts the rest to Heaven.  
    Yet oft with anxious heart he looks around,  
    And marks the first green blade that breaks the ground;  
     
    In fancy sees his trembling oats uprun,  
100   His tufted barley yellow with the sun;  
    Sees clouds propitious shed their timely store,  
    And all his harvest gather’d round his door.  
    But still unsafe the big swoln grain below,  
    A fav’rite morsel with the Rook and Crow;  
105   From field to field the flock increasing goes;  
    To level crops most formidable foes:  
    Their danger well the wary plunderers know,  
    And place a watch on some conspicuous bough;  
    Yet oft the sculking gunner by surprise  
110   Will scatter death amongst them as they rise.  
    These, hung in triumph round the spacious field,  
    At best will but a short-liv’d terror yield:  
    Nor guards of property; (not penal law,  
    But harmless riflemen of rags and straw;)  
115   Familiariz’d to these, they boldly rove,  
    Nor heed such sentinels that never move.  
     
    Let then your birds lie prostrate on the earth,  
    In dying posture, and with wings stretcht forth;  
    Shift them at eve or morn from place to place,  
120   And Death shall terrify the pilfering race;  
    In the mid air, while circling round and round,  
    They call their lifeless comrades from the ground;  
    With quick’ning wing, and notes of loud alarm,  
    Warn the whole flock to shun th’ impending harm.  
     
     
125   This task had Giles, in fields remote from home:  
    Oft has he wish’d the rosy morn to come:  
    Yet never fam’d was he nor foremost found  
    To break the seal of sleep; his sleep was sound:  
    But when at day-break summon’d from his bed,  
130   Light as the lark that carol’d o’er his head. —  
    His sandy way, deep-worn by hasty showers,  
    O’er-arch’d with oaks that form’d fantastic bow’rs,  
    Waving aloft their tow’ring branches proud,  
    In borrow’d tinges from the eastern cloud,  
     
135   Gave inspiration, pure as ever flow’d,  
    And genuine transport in his bosom glow’d.  
    His own shrill matin join’d the various notes  
    Of Nature’s music, from a thousand throats:  
    The Blackbird strove with emulation sweet,  
140   And Echo answer’d from her close retreat;  
    The sporting White-throat on some twig’s end borne,  
    Pour’d hymns to freedom and the rising morn;  
    Stopt in her song perchance the starting Thrush  
    Shook a white shower from the black-thorn bush,  
145   Where dew-drops thick as early blossoms hung,  
    And trembled as the minstrel sweetly sung.  
    Across his path, in either grove to hide,  
    The timid Rabbit scouted by his side;  
    Or Pheasant boldly stalk’d along the road,  
150   Whose gold and purple tints alternate glow’d.  
     
     
    But groves no farther fenc’d the devious way;  
    A wide-extended heath before him lay,  
     
    Where on the grass the stagnant shower had run,  
    And shone a mirror to the rising sun,  
155   Thus doubly seen to light a distant wood,  
    To give new life to each expanding bud;  
    And chase away the dewy foot-marks found,  
    Where prowling Reynard trod his nightly round;  
    To shun whose thefts ’twas Giles’s evening care,  
160   His feather’d victims to suspend in air,  
    High on the bough that nodded o’er his head,  
    And thus each morn to strew the field with dead.  
     
     
    His simple errand done, he homeward hies;  
    Another instantly its place supplies.  
165   The clatt’ring Dairy-Maid immers’d in steam,  
    Singing and scrubbing midst her milk and cream,  
    Bawls out, “Go fetch the Cows!”....he hears no more;  
    For pigs, and ducks, and turkies, throng the door,  
    And sitting hens, for constant war prepar’d;  
170   A concert strange to that which late he heard.  
     
    Straight to the meadow then he whistling goes;  
    With well-known halloo calls his lazy Cows:  
    Down the rich pasture heedlessly they graze,  
    Or hear the summon with an idle gaze;  
175   For well they know the cow-yard yields no more  
    Its tempting fragrance, nor its wintry store.  
    Reluctance marks their steps, sedate and slow;  
    The right of conquest all the law they know:  
    The strong press on, the weak by turns succeed,  
180   And one superior always takes the lead;  
    Is ever foremost, wheresoe’er they stray:  
    Allow’d precedence, undisputed sway:  
    With jealous pride her station is maintain’d,  
    For many a broil that post of honour gain’d.  
185   At home, the yard affords a grateful scene;  
    For Spring makes e’en a miry cow-yard clean.  
    Thence from its chalky bed behold convey’d  
    The rich manure that drenching Winter made,  
     
    Which pil’d near home, grows green with many a weed,  
190   A promis’d nutriment for Autumn’s seed.  
    Forth comes the Maid, and like the morning smiles;  
    The Mistress too, and follow’d close by Giles.  
    A friendly tripod forms their humble seat,  
    With pails bright scour’d, and delicately sweet.  
195   Where shadowing elms obstruct the morning ray,  
    Begins the work, begins the simple lay;  
    The full charg’d udder yields its willing streams,  
    While Mary sings some lover’s amorous dreams;  
    And crouching Giles beneath a neighbouring tree  
200   Tugs o’er his pail, and chants with equal glee;  
    Whose hat with tatter’d brim, of nap so bare,  
    From the cow’s side purloins a coat of hair,  
    A mottled ensign of his harmless trade,  
    An unambitious, peaceable cockade  
205   As unambitious too that cheerful aid  
    The Mistress yields beside her rosy Maid;  
     
    With joy she views her plenteous reeking store,  
    And bears a brimmer to the dairv door;  
    Her Cows dismiss’d, the luscious mead to roam,  
210   Till eve again recal them loaded home.  
    And now the Dairy claims her choicest care,  
    And half her household find employment there:  
    Slow rolls the churn, its load of clogging cream  
    At once foregoes its quality and name;  
215   From knotty particles first floating wide  
    Congealing butter’s dash’d from side to side;  
    Streams of new milk through flowing coolers stray,  
    And snow-white curd abounds, and wholesome whey,  
    Due north th’ unglazed windows, cold and clear,  
220   For warming sunbeams are unwelcome here.  
    Brisk goes the work beneath each busy hand,  
    And Giles must trudge, whoever gives command;  
    A Gibeonite, that serves them all by turns:  
    He drains the pump, from him the faggot burns;  
     
225   From him the noisy Hogs demand their food;  
    While at his heels run many a chirping brood,  
    Or down his path in expectation stand,  
    With equal claims upon his strewing hand.  
    Thus wastes the morn, till each with pleasure sees  
230   The bustle o’er, and press’d the new-made cheese.  
     
     
    Unrivall’d stands thy country Cheese, O Giles!  
    Whose very name alone engenders smiles;  
    Whose fame abroad by every tongue is spoke,  
    The well-known butt of many a flinty joke,  
235   That pass like current coin the nation through;  
    And, ah! experience proves the satire true.  
    Provision’s grave, thou ever-craving mart,  
    Dependant, huge Metropolis! where Art  
    Her poring thousands stows in breathless rooms,  
240   Midst pois’nous smokes and steams, and rattling looms;  
    Where Grandeur revels in unbounded stores;  
    Restraint, a slighted stranger at their doors!  
     
    Thou, like a whirlpool, drain’st the countries round,  
    Till London market, London price, resound  
245   Through every town, round every passing load,  
    And dairy produce throngs the eastern road:  
    Delicious veal, and butter, every hour,  
    From Essex lowlands, and the banks of Stour;  
    And further far, where numerous herds repose,  
250   From Orwell's brink, from Waveny, or Ouse.  
    Hence Suffolk dairy-wives run mad for cream,  
    And leave their milk with nothing but its name;  
    Its name derision and reproach pursue,  
    And strangers tell of “three times skimm'd sky-blue.”  
255   To cheese converted, what can be its boast?  
    What, but the common virtues of a post!  
    If drought o’ertake it faster than the knife,  
    Most fair it bids for stubborn length of life,  
    And, like the oaken shelf whereon ’tis laid,  
260   Mocks the weak efforts of the bending blade;  
     
    Or in the hog-trough rests in perfect spite,  
    Too big to swallow, and too hard to bite.  
    Inglorious victory! Ye Cheshire meads,  
    Or Severn’s flow’ry dales, where Plenty treads,  
265   Was your rich milk to suffer wrongs like these,  
    Farewell your pride! farewell renowned cheese!  
    The skimmer dread, whose ravages alone  
    Thus turn the mead’s sweet nectar into stone.  
     
     
    Neglected now the early daisy lies;  
270   Nor thou, pale primrose, bloom’st the only prize:  
    Advancing Spring profusely spreads abroad  
    Flow’rs of all hues, with sweetest fragrance stor’d;  
    Where’er she treads, Love gladdens every plain,  
    Delight on tiptoe bears her lucid train;  
275   Sweet Hope with conscious brow before her flies,  
    Anticipating wealth from Summer skies;  
    All Nature feels her renovating sway;  
    The sheep-fed pasture, and the meadow gay,  
     
    And trees, and shrubs, no longer budding seen  
280   Display the new-grown branch of lighter green;  
    On airy downs the idling Shepherd lies,  
    And sees to-morrow in the marbled skies.  
    Here then, my soul, thy darling theme pursue,  
    For every day was Giles a shepherd too.  
     
     
285   Small was his charge: no wilds had they to roam;  
    But bright inclosures circling round their home.  
    No yellow-blossom’d furze, nor stubborn thorn,  
    The heath’s rough produce, had their fleeces torn  
    Yet ever roving, ever seeking thee,  
290   Enchanting spirit, dear Variety!  
    O happy tenants, prisoners of a day!  
    Releas’d to ease, to pleasure, and to play;  
    Indulg’d through every field by turns to range,  
    And taste them all in one continual change.  
295   For though luxuriant their grassy food,  
    Sheep long confin’d but loathe the present good  
     
    Bleating around the homeward gate they meet,  
    And starve, and pine, with plenty at their feet.  
    Loos’d from the winding lane, a joyful throng,  
300   See, o’er yon pasture, how they pour along!  
    Giles round their boundaries takes his usual stroll;  
    Sees every pass secur’d, and fences whole;  
    High fences, proud to charm the gazing eye,  
    Where many a nestling first assays to fly;  
305   Where blows the woodbine, faintly streak’d with red,  
    And rests on every bough its tender head;  
    Round the young ash its twining branches meet,  
    Or crown the hawthorn with its odours sweet.  
     
     
    Say, ye that know, ye who have felt and seen,  
310   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 gaz’d in merry clusters by your side?  
     
315   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,  
320   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 challeng’d forth, see thither one by one,  
    From every side assembling playmates run;  
325   A thousand wily anties 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,  
330   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:  
335   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;  
340   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  
345   Care loads his brow, and pity wrings his heart,  
    For lo, the murd’ring Butcher, with his cart,  
    Demands the firstlings of his flock to die,  
    And makes a sport of life and liberty!  
    His gay companions Giles beholds no more;  
350   Clos’d are their eyes, their fleeces drench’d in gore;  
     
    Nor can Compassion, with her softest notes,  
    Withhold the knife that plunges thro’ their throats.  
     
     
    Down, indignation! hence, ideas foul!  
    Away the shocking image from my soul!  
355   Let kindlier visitants attend my way,  
    Beneath approaching Summer’s fervid ray;  
    Nor thankless glooms obtrude, nor cares annoy,  
    Whilst the sweet theme is universal joy.

First published 1827.

Contributed by Stephen Van-Hagen.