Oldalképek
PDF
ePub
[graphic][subsumed][merged small]

Meek, fatherless, and poor ;
Labour his portion, but he felt no more;
No stripes, no tyranny, his steps pursued ;
His life was constant, cheerful servitude ;
Strange to the world, he wore a bashful look,
The fields his study, Nature was his book.

ROBERT BLOOMFIELD.

To clearly appreciate the many beauties scattered over " Bloomfield's Farmer's Boy,” the reader ought to possess some knowledge of country life; for it contains such natural and simple passages, the merit of which consists in their faithfulness to nature, that without an acquaintance with rural objects, much of the truth and beauty of the descrip

tion must be lost. A learned and profound critic, without this knowledge of “fields and farms,” would never enter into the minute details which abound in this

pure, pastoral poem; would not stoop to look at the little mole-bills covered with wild thyme, nor count the spots in the bottom of the cowslip: and yet this exquisite enamelling is the greatest charm of the poem. He could not see the hair, gathered from rubbing against the cow's hide, on the old hat in which he milked, without contrasting his peaceable cockade with that worn by the slaughtering soldier; an insect creeping up a plantain-leaf, conjured up the vast plain which must appear to the tiny traveller; nor could the started thrush hurry from the hedge without his noticing the shower of blossoms she shook from the blackthorn when springing from the branch. The quarrelsome gander with its broken wing, the horse switching its stumpy tail, the hunter's fetlock “sucking" the moistened ground, the hounds ranging through the covert “one by one,” and the warm grateful breath of the cattle which surrounded him whilst breaking up the frozen turnips, show by what little morsels he managed to make up an exquisite picture. The greatest test of true descriptive poetry is, that you may break it into the smallest pieces, and yet find every

bit a perfect part of the great whole; even as a botanist separates a flower, that he may the better understand its wonderful formation. Those who look for great and grand poetry in “ The Farmer's Boy” will not find it there, no more than they will find the majesty, strength, and grandeur of the noble oak in the sprig of moss, whose form resembles the giant tree. To make ourselves better understood, few architects could excel Bloomfield in planning and putting together a simple rustic cottage, with its

thatched roof and trellised porch ; a nobleman's mansion, a gothic church, and turreted castle he could admire ; but the style, and order, and harmony would be beyond his comprehension. His work has been compared to “Thomson's Seasons :” saving in very few passages, where both poets had to describe the same objects, there is no resemblance between them ; Thomson was a well-read author, he brought to his task a great knowledge of books, he took the range of the world within his subjects. Bloomfield scarcely looked beyond his own neighbourhood, never ventured further than his own experience, his field was very limited, he only felt at home while depicting what was familiar to him; and his knowledge of books was, perhaps, the least of any author who has left a name that will be remembered. Strange as it may appear, this ciency in reading was not without its advantage ; it compelled him to look closer into nature, to recall all he had ever seen which interested and pleased him; for he says

in the four lines which follow the quotation at the head of this article,

" And as revolving Seasons changed the scene,

From heat to cold, tempestuous to serene,
Though every change still varied his employ,
Yet each new duty brought its share of joy.”

very defi

How very few authors have, like Bloomfield, commenced their career by describing what was familiar to them ; imaginative genius has often begun its flight in a world of its own forming ; fairies, witches, and enchanters have been the creations with which they have peopled their imaginary realms. This is a point which too many have overlooked, though certain we are in our own mind, that whilst Bloomfield was bending over his last and awl in a London garret,

his

memory was away in the pleasant fields where he passed the happy, though hard days of his boyhood. Backward and backward would be go, amid London smoke and a limited landscape of chimney-pots, and bring forward, bit by bit, almost every incident in his pastoral life, and see them the more distinctly through the murky atmosphere he there breathed; as in a darkened theatre the spectator can better behold the magical illusions, which, for want of seeing other objects, rivet and fix his attention. Every field and footpath would rise up before him ; the sunlight of morning, and the shadows which evening spread, would light up and darken a thousand spots which his memory had hallowed. Though he saw not, like Wordsworth, upon the lake “floating double swan and shadow,” yet he looked through the same poetical mirror, and beheld where

[ocr errors]

“A wide extended heath before him lay,

Where on the grass the stagnant shower had run,
And shone a mirror to the rising sun,
Thus doubly seen, lighting a distant wood.

Such little touches as these show the true poet ; your mere rhymester never looks at them, and if he did he would see nothing but water: the image deep down meets mot his eye, a flower is to him only something coloured, a star a little bright speck in the sky, the song of a bird and the whistling of a butcher-boy a mere variation of sound. The real legitimate stamp of sterling poetry will never be universally acknowledged, because all cannot comprehend it; a few may be able to test pure gold, but a spurious coin may pass through the hands of thousands, who are in capable of detecting the imposition. We have in our day heard passages of verse extolled by men who were clever

in all worldly matters; but could not see that what they uttered lacked the breath and soul of poetry.

SPRING.

We will take the Seasons as he has arranged them, and begin with Ploughing; an employment that just hangs over the edge of Winter, and sends around that healthy smell which arises from the up-turned earth, proclaiming even before the flowers appear, that Spring has come.

In some counties a boy is engaged to walk beside the horses, and increase their lagging pace by using the whip; and Bloomfield boasts that this was not the case in the fields where he laboured

“But unassisted through each toilsome day,
With smiling brow the ploughman cleaves his way,
Draws his fresh parallels, and widening still,
Treads slow the heavy dale, or climbs the hill ;
Strong on the wing his busy followers play,
Where writhing earth-worms meet the unwelcome day;
Till all is changed, and hill and level down
Assume a livery of sober brown.”

The swart ploughman does not do his work so poetically in the description, as the boy who follows with the irontoothed “harrow," an implement whose name has been used by all our great poets. We want a description of the fur rows made by the plough as they are turned over wave upon wave, smooth and bright if the land is moist, and regular as ocean-waves when the sea only just seems to move in its sleep, and all the winds are hushed. We miss the jingling of the harness, the whistle of the ploughman, the halfmuffled tramp of the horses, the handles of the plough worn bright through use, the measured tread and stooping

« ElőzőTovább »