237. Robert Bloomfield to James Montgomery, 26 May 1809


237. Robert Bloomfield to James Montgomery, 26 May 1809* 

London, May 26. 1809

Dear Sir,

Upbraid me not, if you can help it, for my extreme tardiness. I have had some of the world's cares to buffet with,—a long and severe rheumatic winter, and a total privation of the strength and resolution to attend to music or poetry;—add to this, my son with a broken leg, which, considering it was that which had been long lame, and must continue so, has been as far restored as reason could crave. He is well, and his father is alive again.

You know the nature of the instrument I send, and therefore I only observe, that if when placed under the lifted sash, or just inside, so as to conduct a current of air through the strings, it should not play satisfactorily, then take off the top board and place the harp alone on the broadest edge with the strings rising nearly perpendicularly over each other, and close to an inlet made by lifting the sash about an inch. I have no doubt that it will perform; but I should be glad to hear of any intimations to that effect, at any convenient time. I have been informed that you too have been out of health, or spirits, or both,—I know not which, but hope to hear a good account.

Your harp, I doubt, is too short to admit of larger strings; but you may possibly enjoy quite as much the extreme softness of the smaller ones: that you may, is my hope: and that you may find some amusement from a thing so frail, and not suffer it to be a 'Harp of Sorrow,' [1]  is my ardent desire. What is your Muse about? will not this delightful season set you a-going again? Whether it does, or not, I remain, Sir,

Your humble servant,

Rob. Bloomfield.

* MS untraced; published in John Holland and James Everett, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of James Montgomery, 6 vols. (London, 1855-56), II, pp. 209–10 BACK

[1] Bloomfield alludes to Montgomery's 1807 poem 'The Harp of Sorrow':

I gave my Harp to Sorrow's hand,
And she has ruled the chords so long,
They will not speak at my command;–––
They warble only to her song.

Of dear departed hours,
Too fondly loved to last,
The dew, the breath, the bloom of flowers,
Snapt in their freshness by the blast:

Of long, long years of future care,
Till lingering Nature yields her breath,
And endless ages of despair,
Beyond the judgment-day of death:–––

The weeping Minstrel sings;
And while her numbers flow,
My spirit trembles with the strings,
Responsive to the notes of woe.

Would gladness move a sprightlier strain,
And wake this wild Harp's clearest tones,
The chords, impatient to complain,
Are dumb, or only utter moans.

And yet, to soothe the mind
With luxury of grief,
The soul to suffering all resign'd
In Sorrow's music feels relief.

Thus o'er the light Æolian lyre
The winds of dark November stray,
Touch the quick nerve of every wire,
And on its magic pulses play;–––

Till all the air around,
Mysterious murmurs fill,
A strange bewildering dream of sound,
Most heavenly sweet,–––yet mournful still.

O! snatch the Harp from Sorrow's hand,
Hope! who hast been a stranger long;
O! strike it with sublime command,
And be the Poet's life thy song.

Of vanish'd troubles sing,
Of fears for ever fled,
Of flowers that hear the voice of Spring,
And burst and blossom from the dead;–––

Of home, contentment, health, repose,
Serene delights, while years increase;
And weary life's triumphant close
In some calm sunset hour of peace;–––

Of bliss that reigns above,
Celestial May of Youth,
Unchanging as Jehovah's love,
And everlasting as his truth:–––

Sing, heavenly Hope!–––and dart thine hand
O'er my frail Harp, untuned so long;
That Harp shall breathe, at thy command,
Immortal sweetness through thy song.

Ah! then, this gloom control,
And at thy voice shall start
A new creation in my soul,
A native Eden in my heart.