The connections between these two excerpts, below:
The Seasons: Spring (James Thomson) and The Farmer’s Boy: Spring (Robert Bloomfield)
Both poets were admired by John Clare. Clare said that once discovered, as a young man, he always liked to have a copy of James Thomson’s: The Seasons with him whilst out in the fields working (labouring) or when he was just walking and/or watching the nature of life around him. He certainly admired Robert Bloomfield’s poetry, especially as he was from similar poor stock (though Bloomfield had certain advantages and manner that helped his luck and his poetry). Like Clare he was a ‘Pastoral Poet’. Bloomfield’s publication of The Farmers Boy was successful from the start and sold some 23,000 copies, unlike Clares first work that only sold a couple of thousand. I have no idea of the length or quantity of James Thomson’s success with his ‘The Seasons’ but I have a pocket-sized copy of ‘The Seasons and Castle of Indolence’ printed in 1825. He seems to have been a popular playwright as well as poet and moved to London in 1724, where he died of a fever in 1748.
Both poems were written in the Eighteenth Century, on the countryside, the Seasons, before Enclosures started.
Closeness to John Clare’s interest is why I picked on these two pieces but each ‘Spring’ is only a short extract and the other Seasons are waiting in the wings for you to look at. Many sites have them, especially Gutenberg project . There is also an interesting little website for the Robert Bloomfield Society which has assorted links. Reading about Bloomfield is informative for his poetry but with my bias it shows that his mountain to climb was a little easier than Clare’s. It also makes me aware that Bloomfield should be included in the hierarchy of poetry and not forgotten and that Clare is still gaining recognition he deserves. link to: John Clare Society also, see Useful links tag
The Farmer’s Boy: Spring. Robert Bloomfield 1766-1850
(first 932 words)
O come, blest Spirit! whatsoe’er thou art,
Thou rushing warmth that hover’st round my heart,
Sweet inmate, hail! thou source of sterling joy,
That poverty itself cannot destroy,
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,
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!
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,
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,
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;
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,
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,
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
Thro’ every copse, and grove, and winding glade;
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,
Serv’d from affection, for his worth rever’d;
A happy offspring blest his plenteous board,
His fields were fruitful, and his harm well stor’d,
And fourscore ewes he fed, a sturdy team,
And lowing kine that grazed beside the stream:
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,
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;
That summon from its shed the slumb’ring ploughs,
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;
(Alike unknown the plow-boy and the goad
But, unassisted through each toilsome day,
With smiling brow the plowman cleaves his way,
Draws his fresh parallels, and wid’ning still,
Treads slow the heavy dale, or climbs the hill:
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
From ridge to ridge the ponderous harrow guides;
His heels deep sinking every step he goes,
Till dirt usurp the empire of his shoes.
Welcome green headland! firm beneath his feet;
Welcome the friendly bank’s refreshing seat;
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;
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.
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,
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;
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
Will scatter death amongst them as they rise.
These, hung in triumph round the spacious field,
At best will but a short-lived terror yield:
Nor guards of property; (not penal law,
But harmless riflemen of rags and straw);
Familiariz’d to these, they boldly rove,
Nor heed such centinels that never move.
Let then your birds lie prostrate on the earth,
In dying posture, and with wings stretch’d forth;
Shift them at eve or morn from place to place,
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 the’ impending harm.
The Four Seasons : Spring. James Thomson 1700-1748
Come, gentle Spring! ethereal Mildness! come,
And from the bosom of yon dropping cloud,
While music wakes around, veil’d in a shower
Of shadowing roses, on our plains descend.
O Hertford, fitted or to shine in courts
With unaffected grace, or walk the plain
With innocence and meditation join’d
In soft assemblage, listen to my song,
Which thy own Season paints; when Nature all
Is blooming and benevolent, like thee.
And see where surly Winter passes off,
Far to the north, and calls his ruffian blasts:
His blasts obey, and quit the howling hill,
The shatter’d forest, and the ravaged vale;
While softer gales succeed, at whose kind touch,
Dissolving snows in livid torrents lost,
The mountains lift their green heads to the sky.
As yet the trembling year is unconfirm’d,
And Winter oft at eve resumes the breeze,
Chills the pale morn, and bids his driving sleets
Deform the day delightless: so that scarce
The bittern knows his time, with bill ingulf’d,
To shake the sounding marsh; or from the shore
The plovers when to scatter o’er the heath,
And sing their wild notes to the listening waste
At last from Aries rolls the bounteous sun,
And the bright Bull receives him. Then no more
The expansive atmosphere is cramp’d with cold
But, full of life and vivifying soul,
Lifts the light clouds sublime, and spreads then thin,
Fleecy, and white, o’er all-surrounding heaven.
Forth fly the tepid airs: and unconfined,
Unbinding earth, the moving softness strays.
Joyous, the impatient husbandman perceives
Relenting Nature, and his lusty steers
Drives from their stalls, to where the well used plough
Lies in the furrow, loosen’d from the frost.
There, unrefusing, to the harness’d yoke
They lend their shoulder, and begin their toil,
Cheer’d by the simple song and soaring lark.
Meanwhile incumbent o’er the shining share
The master leans, removes the obstructing clay,
Winds the whole work, and sidelong lays the glebe
While through the neighbouring fields the sowe stalks,
With measured step, and liberal throws the grain
Into the faithful bosom of the ground;
The harrow follows harsh, and shuts the scene.
Be gracious, Heaven! for now laborious Man
Has done his part. Ye fostering breezes, blow!
Ye softening dews, ye tender showers, descend!
And temper all, thou world-reviving sun,
Into the perfect year! Nor ye who live
In luxury and ease, in pomp and pride,
Think these lost themes unworthy of your ear:
Such themes as these the rural Maro sung
To wide-imperial Rome, in the full height
Of elegance and taste, by Greece refined.
In ancient times the sacred plough employ’d
The kings and awful fathers of mankind:
And some, with whom compared your insect-tribes
Are but the beings of a summer’s day,
Have held the scale of empire, ruled the storm
Of mighty war; then, with unwearied hand,
Disdaining little delicacies, seized
The plough, and greatly independent lived.
Ye generous Britons, venerate the plough!
And o’er your hills, and long withdrawing vales,
Let Autumn spread his treasures to the sun,
Luxuriant and unbounded: as the sea,
Far through his azure turbulent domain,
Your empire owns, and from a thousand shores
Wafts all the pomp of life into your ports;
So with superior boon may your rich soil,
Exuberant, Nature’s better blessings pour
O’er every land, the naked nations clothe,
And be the exhaustless granary of a world!
Nor only through the lenient air this change,
Delicious, breathes; the penetrative sun,
His force deep-darting to the dark retreat
Of vegetation, sets the steaming Power
At large, to wander o’er the verdant earth,
In various hues; but chiefly thee, gay green!
Thou smiling Nature’s universal robe!
United light and shade! where the sight dwells
With growing strength, and ever-new delight.
From the moist meadow to the wither’d hill,
Led by the breeze, the vivid verdure runs,
And swells, and deepens, to the cherish’d eye.
The hawthorn whitens; and the juicy groves
Put forth their buds, unfolding by degrees,
Till the whole leafy forest stands display’d,
In full luxuriance to the sighing gales;
Where the deer rustle through the twining brake,
And the birds sing conceal’d. At once array’d
In all the colours of the flushing year,
By Nature’s swift and secret working hand,
The garden glows, and fills the liberal air
With lavish fragrance; while the promised fruit
Lies yet a little embryo, unperceived,
Within its crimson folds. Now from the town
Buried in smoke, and sleep, and noisome damps,
Oft let me wander o’er the dewy fields,
Where freshness breathes, and dash the trembling drops
From the bent bush, as through the verdant maze
Of sweetbriar hedges I pursue my walk;
Or taste the smell of dairy; or ascend
Some eminence, Augusta, in thy plains,
And see the country, far diffused around,
One boundless blush, one white-empurpled shower
Of mingled blossoms; where the raptured eye
Hurries from joy to joy, and, hid beneath
The fair profusion, yellow Autumn spies.
If, brush’d from Russian wilds, a cutting gale
Rise not, and scatter from his humid wings
The clammy mildew; or, dry-blowing, breathe
Untimely frost; before whose baleful blast
The full-blown Spring through all her foliage shrinks,
From an 1825 pocket edition of Thomson’s: The Seasons and Castle of Indolence