An Harvest Scene (1786)

AN HARVEST SCENE (1786)  [*] 

Now, not a shadow’s left; meek Twilight spreads
Her mantle o’er the meads, and scarce a cloud
Retains the sun’s low beams. The rural breeze—
How exquisitely sweet, the prospect fair!—
Resounds the winding way with voices loud,5
Where, blithe, from distant yellow fields to dales
Obscure, the village throng returns with loads
Of grain, the gift of Heaven, and the prop
Of life. On pendent boughs too lodg’d, ripe ears
Attract an infant, restless train, best form’d10
To drive thick wheeling clouds of dancing gnats,
Or wonder at their sound extremely shrill;
Or start, when bursts the pheasant from the brake,
Or timid field-mouse hurries o’er the path,
To where, beneath cool plantain leaves, the toad,15
Dire staring, shows his speckled head. See too
The blooming widow, the industrious dame,
And sweet engaging maid, whose potent smile
Cause many a deep-felt sigh, at church or
Fair—Tales often told, where waves the crop, and20
Where the morrow’s dawn their steps must light, their
Long discourse compose. Oft turn’d on such as
Far behind them creep, with burthens less, and
Looks of conscious knowledge, whose grey-grown locks
Significantly shake, when some one, with25
Unjust comparison, depreciate the
Conduct of the age. A sacred pleasure springs
At sight of home; welcome the cot’s warm walls—
Thrice welcome rest, by toil endear’d, each hard
Bed soft’ning, healing every care. Sleep on30
Ye gentle souls! Unapprehensive of
The midnight thief; and, [1]  if bereft of all
By industry [2]  acquir’d, your fall, to [3]  theirs
Compar’d, who sink from affluence, [4]  with hands
Unused to toil, [5]  how little felt, how soon repair’d!35


*Lines 28–35 from this poem were published by Capel Lofft (‘with a slight correction in a place or two where the distribution or mechanism of the lines was not exact’) as ‘a little Fragment in Blank verse’ in the Supplement to the 2nd edn of The Farmer’s Boy. Bloomfield later included the whole of the poem in the ‘Advertisement’ to the 8th edn, where the text was taken from the General Advertiser (pub. by John Almon, London) for 5 October 1786. Of the poem, Bloomfield noted there: ‘This was once thought to be blank verse; and though nineteen years have amended my judgment, rather than my proficiency in that kind of composition, the only just way in the present case, is to give the disjointed thing precisely as it was written’. Lines 28–35 were also included in The Remains of Robert Bloomfield (1824), where they were given the title ‘Happiness of Gleaners’. BACK

[1] and] or Farmer’s Boy 2nd edn; Remains BACK

[2] By industry] with pain Farmer’s Boy 2nd edn; Remains BACK

[3] to] With Farmer’s Boy 2nd edn; Remains BACK

[4] affluence] wealth Remains BACK

[5] toil] bend Farmer’s Boy 2nd edn; Remains BACK