On Seeing the Launch of the Boyne (1791)


Wednesday-night, Dec. 28–91.


It would have been a great pleasure to us both to have met you at Mr. Wyatt’s this time, and we were only prevented by visitors, who came quite unexpected. You would have liked to have seen our little one; and I hope you will yet, before long. We thank you for all your kindness, and as I am endeavouring to get into business for myself, I sincerely hope, to have it in my power, to entertain you better when you come. I have an undeniable chance. I have some good customers, and might have enough immediately, to provide a genteel living for my wife and child, if I could take advantage of it soon. If I could get three months credit at my leather-cutters, for five or six pounds only, it would enable me to give credit to that amount, as my custom lies among such, as are able and willing to improve it: but I am determined to carry it on as well as I can.

The underwritten lines, contain the sentiments, which always occur to my mind when I come to Woolwich; and as I put them into metre when the Boyne was launched, and they are still perfect on my mind, I write them now, because I think you have a relish for such things, particularly the devotional parts of them.

Before I was married, I often amused myself with such compositions, and had several pieces published in newspapers, magazines, &; but I find other employment now, which is of equal pleasure to me.

My Polly and the child are in good health, and I hope to hear from you soon; and remain yours, in duty and affection,

Robert Bloomfield

Whence comes the joy, which longest warms the heart?
Can mutual love, can friendship’s self impart
Raptures unmix’d—Thoughts constantly the same,
Like those which feed devotion’s sacred flame,
When glows the breast with more than mortal fires, 5
And boundless gratitude to heaven aspires?
Through the wide field of arts, with true delight,
Unceasing wonders crowd upon our sight!
—Lo, yon vast pile, [1]  for noblest ends supplied,
Majestic greets the slowly rising tide! 10
—While, less in bulk,—but more amazing far,
View, in her infant stage, that ship of war.
Who from the hills, this boundless prospect sees,
Must silent praise, or utter words like these:
Sweet child of heaven!—Thee, Gratitude, we bless, 15
Through life how lovely, in whatever dress;
Thou cheer’st the path, with care and peril trod,
And lift’st the soul, and point’st the way to God!
—Man sees with pleasure, and exulting rears
The shapely column, and the dome it bears;20
And thus confined, we view with conscious heart
The perfect symmetry of every part:
But scaped the walls, we look to earth and sky,
And all the wonders half-reveal’d on high,
Where the charm’d soul contemplates her abode, 25
And matchless order speaks th’ eternal God!
On that famed hill, where Flamstead’s vigorous mind,
By midnight meditations, taught mankind;
When gleam’d the moon, and silence reign’d around,
The scene was awful, and the thought profound;30
Heaven’s beaming orbs, which gild the fearful night,
Ten thousand lesser stars that ’scape the sight,
To him were clear, were intimately known,
And all his pleasure was a God to own:
Yet one step more improves the glorious thought, 35
God made the man, and made the stars he sought.
Show the inquiring mind,—which seeks to know,
Objects where men their utmost skill bestow;
—Show him (where Thames her swelling bosom heaves)
The tow’ring vessel, destined to the waves.40
See fix’d astonishment seize every power,
Like one short moment flies the favour’d hour;
And with what thrillings doth his heart attend
The vast design,—the purpose, and the end?
The forest mourns its largest, stateliest trees, 45
Here hewn and fashion’d with the greatest ease;
Enormous limbs of season’d, solid oak,
Yield their rough sides to labour’s sturdy stroke.
Exact proportion, rules in height and length,
That great first principle,—resistless strength;50
Strength well required, when o’er the foaming deeps,
Th’ undaunted mariner, his reckoning keeps.
Behold her, through the opposing billows cleave,
And far behind the land of freedom leave;
Triumphantly she bears to distant shores 55
A thousand men, with all their pond’rous stores.
Amazing thought!—Yet more amazing still—
—This complicated Mass of human skill,
When storms arise, is like a feather toss’d,
Her monstrous bulk comparatively lost.60
Waves roll her over, terror fills the skies,
She rends asunder!—every creature dies!
O God! by winds thou canst destroy or save
O Lord of life! Thy ocean is their grave!
Whate’er is great or awful, from Thee springs! 65
We, by imperfect, judge of perfect things.
—If works of art our admiration raise,
Thine be the worship—Thine the sacred praise.


*Sent by Bloomfield in a letter to his father-in-law, Joseph Church , who worked in Woolwich shipyard. Letter 4, 28 December [17]91. BACK

[1] [Bloomfield’s note:] Greenwich Hospital. BACK