Anti-Jacobin Review


Anti-Jacobin Review, 11 (1802), 394–97

Anti-Jacobin Review, 11 (1802), 394–97

[Review of] Rural Tales, Ballads, and Songs. By Robert Bloomfield. Author of the Farmer's Boy. Small 8vo. Pp. 119. 4s. Vernor and Hood. 1802.

In the ANTI-JACOBIN, for August, 1800, we had the pleasure of calling public attention to the unlettered muse of this 'second Burns'. We then beheld his rising genius with delight; listened, with pleasure, to the warbling of his 'native wood notes wild;' and we now hail, with increased satisfaction, the more matured flights of his well-fostered imagination.

In the Preface to this volume, which consists, principally, of Tales, Ballads, and Songs, we are informed that 'the poems here offered to the public were chiefly written during the interval between the concluding, and the publishing of "The Farmer's Boy," an interval of nearly two years.' Some pieces, however, are of a later date.—Mr. Capel Lofft has kindly anticipated our labours, by affixing his opinion to the tail of 'The Miller's Maid,' one of the most conspicuous articles before us, in the following words:

'I believe there has been no such poem in its kind as the MILLER'S MAID, since the days of Dryden, for ease and beauty of language; concise, clear and interesting narrative; sweet and full flow of verse; happy choice of the subject, and delightful execution of it.'

From this decision we do not mean to dissent; though we cannot help smiling at the self-importance of the man, who, throughout the volume, has tacked his criticism to the end of each piece. But the public, perhaps, may not be dissatisfied with this; as, with the poems, they have also the annotations of the critic, by the assistance of which they will certainly be competent to form an opinion of their own. A much smaller space, however, than the 'Miller's Maid' would occupy, will afford room for the sweetly-simple and affecting ballad of 'Market Night', which will fully enable our readers to appreciate the improved talents of our rustic bard.

'O winds, howl not so long and loud;
Nor with your vengeance arm the snow:
Bear hence each heavy-loaded cloud;
And let the twinkling star-beams glow.

'Now sweeping floods rush down the slope,
Wide scattering ruin.—Stars, shine soon!
No other light my love can hope;
Midnight will want the joyous moon.

'O guardian Spirits!—Ye that dwell
Where woods, and pits, and hollow ways,
The lone night trav'ller's fancy swell
With fearful tales, of older days,—

'Press round him:—guide his willing steed
Through darkness, dangers, currents, snows;
Wait where, from shelt'ring thickets freed,
The dreary Heath's rude whirlwind blows.

'From darkness rushing o'er his way,
The thorn's white load it bears on high!
Where the short furze all shrouded lay,
Mounts the dried grass;—Earth's bosom dry.

'Then o'er the Hill with furious sweep
It rends the elevated tree—
Sure-footed beast, thy road thou'lt keep:
Nor storm nor darkness startles thee!

'O blest assurance, (trusty steed)
To thee the buried road is known;
Home, all the spur thy footsteps need,
When loose the frozen rein is thrown.

'Between the roaring blasts that shake
The naked elder at the door,
Though not one prattler to me speak,
Their sleeping sighs delight me more.

'Sound is their rest:—they little know
What pain, what cold, their father feels;
But dream, perhaps, they see him now,
While each the promis'd orange peels.

'Would it were so!—the fire burns bright,
And on the warming trencher gleams;
In Expectation's raptur'd sight
How precious his arrival seems!

'I'll look abroad!—'tis piercing cold!
How the bleak wind assails his breast!
Yet some faint light mine eyes behold:
The storm is verging o'er the West.

'There shines a Star!—O welcome Sight!
Through the thin vapours bright'ning still!
Yet, 'twas beneath the fairest night
The murd'rer stain'd yon lonely hill.

'Mercy, kind Heav'n! such thoughts dispel!
No voice, no footstep can I hear!'
(Where Night and Silence brooding dwell,
Spreads thy cold reign, heart-chilling Fear.)

'Distressing hour! uncertain fate!
O Mercy, Mercy, guide him home!—
Hark!—then I heard the distant gate,—
Repeat it, Echo; quickly, come!'

'One minute now will ease my fears—
Or, still more wretched must I be?
No: surely Heaven has spar'd our tears:
I see him, cloath'd in snow;—'tis he.—

'Where have you stay'd? put down your load.
How have you borne the storm, the cold?
What horrors did I not forbode—
That beast is worth his weight in gold.'

Thus spoke the joyful Wife;—then ran
In grateful steams her head:
Dapple was hous'd, the hungry Man
With joy glanc'd o'er the children's bed.

'What, all asleep!—so best;' he cried:
O what a night I've travell'd through!
Unseen, unheard, I might have died;
But Heaven has brought me safe to you.

'Dear Partner of my nights and days,
That smile becomes thee!—Let us then
Learn, though mishap may cross our ways,
It is not ours to reckon when.'

'Richard and Kate' is a pleasing pastoral; 'The Widow to her Hour Glass' is a pathetic and interesting ode; 'The French Mariner' evinces a noble and magnanimous spirit; 'The Shepherd and his Dog Rover' is highly poetical; indeed, there is not a single poem in the volume from the perusal of which we have not derived pleasure.

Whether Mr. Lofft has exhausted his panegyrical epithets of concise, clear, simple, easy, natural, happy, pointed, characteristic, pleasing, singularly pleasing, animated, engaging, lively, spirited, solemn, generous, graceful, sweet, affectionate, poetical, tender, affecting, pathetic, charming, beautiful, delightful, exquisite, &c &c. or whether the printer have been guilty of an omission, we know not; but, on closer inspection, we now find that we were wrong in stating that that gentleman had favoured the public with a critique on every piece in the volume, for there is a 'Hunting Song' which, unfortunately, does not possess that valuable appendage.