Elegy on the Enclosure of Honington Green


'Elegy on the Enclosure of Honington Green', by Nathaniel Bloomfield* 


IMPROVEMENT extends its domain;
The Shepherds of Britain deplore
That the Coulter has furrow'd each plain,
And their calling is needful no more.
'Enclosing Land doubles its use;
'When cultur'd, the heath and the moor
'Will the Riches of Ceres produce,
'Yet feed as large flocks as before.'


Such a lucrative maxim as this
The Lords of the Land all pursue,
For who such advantage wou'd miss?
Self-int'rest we all keep in view.
By it, they still more wealth amass,
Who possess'd great abundance before;
It gives pow'r to the Great, but alas!
Still poorer it renders the Poor.


Taste spreads her refinements around,
Enriching her favourite Land
With prospects of beautified ground,
Where, cinctur'd, the spruce Villas stand;
On the causeways, that never are foul,
Marshal'd bands may with measur'd pace tread;
The soft Car of Voluptuousness roll,
And the proud Steed of Greatness parade.


Those fenc'd ways that so even are made,
The pedestrian trav'ller bemoans;
He no more the green carpet may tread,
But plod on, 'midst the gravel and stones:
And if he would rest with his load,
No green hillock presents him a seat,
But long, hard, tiresome sameness of road
Fatigues both the eye and the feet.


Sighs speak the poor Labourers' pain,
While the new mounds and fences they rear,
Intersecting their dear native plain,
To divide to each rich Man his share;
It cannot but grieve them to see,
Where so freely they rambled before,
What a bare narrow track is left free
To the foot of the unportion'd Poor.


The proud City's gay wealthy train,
Who nought but refinements adore,
May wonder to hear me complain
That Honington Green is no more;
But if to the Church you e'er went,
If you knew what the village has been,
You will sympathize, while I lament
The Enclosure of Honington Green.


That no more upon Honington Green
Dwells the Matron whom most I revere,
If by pert observation unseen,
I e'en now could indulge a fond tear.
E'er her bright Morn of Life was o'ercast,
When my senses first woke to the scene,
Some short happy hours she had past
On the margin of Honington Green.


Her Parents with Plenty were blest,
And nume'rous her Children, and young,
Youth's Blossoms her cheek yet possest,
And Melody woke when she sung:
A Widow so youthful to leave,
(Early clos'd the blest days he had seen)
My Father was laid in his grave,
In the Church-yard on Honington Green.


I faintly remember the Man,
Who died when I was but a Child;
But far as my young mind could scan,
His manners were gentle and mild:
He won infant ears with his lore,
Nor let young ideas run wild,
Tho' his hand the severe rod of pow'r
Never sway'd o'er a trembling Child.


Not anxiously careful for pelf,
Melancholic and thoughtful, his mind
Look'd inward and dwelt on itself,
Still pensive, pathetic, and kind;
Yet oft in despondency drown'd,
He from friends, and from converse would fly,
In weeping a luxury found,
And reliev'd others' woes with a sigh.


In solitude long would he stay,
And long lock'd in silence his tongue;
Then he humm'd an elegiac lay,
Or a Psalm penitential he sung:
But if with his Friends he regal'd,
His Mirth, as his Griefs, knew no bounds;
In no Tale of Mark Sargent he fail'd,
Nor in all Robin Hood's Derry-downs.


Thro' the poor Widow's long lonely years,
Her Father supported us all:
Yet sure she was loaded with cares,
Being left with six Children so small.
Meagre Want never lifted her latch;
Her cottage was still tight and clean;
And the casement beneath its low thatch
Commanded a view o'er the Green.


O'er the Green, where so often she blest
The return of a Husband or Son,
Coming happily home to their rest,
At night, when their labour was done:
Where so oft in her earlier years,
She, with transport maternal, has seen
(While plying her housewifely cares)
Her Children all safe on the Green.


The Green was our pride through the year,
For in Spring, when the wild flow'rets blew,
Tho' many rich pastures were near,
Where Cowslips and Daffodils grew;
And tho' such gallant flow'rs were our choice,
It was bliss interrupted by Fear—
The Fear of their Owner's dread voice,
Harshly bawling, 'You've no business here.'


While the Green, tho' but Daisies its boast,
Was free as the Flow'rs to the Bee;
In all seasons the Green we lov'd most,
Because on the Green we were free;
'Twas the prospect that first met my eyes,
And Memory still blesses the scene;
For early my heart learnt to prize
The Freedom of Honington Green.


No Peasant had pin'd at his lot,
Tho' new fences the lone Heath enclose:
For, alas! the blest days are forgot,
When poor Men had their Sheep and their Cows.
Still had Labour been blest with Content,
Still Competence happy had been,
Nor Indigence utter'd a plaint,
Had Avarice spar'd but the Green.


Not Avarice itself could be mov'd
By desire of a morsel so small:
It could not be lucre he lov'd;
But to rob the poor folk of their all.
He in wantonness ope'd his wide jaws,
As a Shark may disport with the Fry;
Or a Lion, when licking his paws,
May wantonly snap at a Fly.


Could there live such an envious Man,
Who endur'd not the halcyon scene?
When the infantine Peasantry ran,
And roll'd on the daisy-deck'd Green:
Ah! sure 'twas fell Envy's despite,
Lest Indigence tasted of Bliss,
That sternly decreed they've no right
To innocent pleasure like this.


Tho' the Youth of to-day must deplore
The rough mounds that now sadden the scene,
The vain stretch of Misanthropy's Power,
The Enclosure of Honington Green.
Yet when not a green turf is left free,
When not one odd nook is left wild,
Will the Children of Honington be
Less blest than when I was a Child?


No!…Childhood shall find the scene fair,
Then here let me cease my complaint;
Still shall Health be inhal'd with the Air,
Which at Honington cannot be taint:
And tho' Age may still talk of the Green,
Of the Heath, and free Commons of yore,
Youth shall joy in the new-fangled scene,
And boast of that change we deplore.


Dear to me was the wild-thorny Hill,
And dear the brown Heath's sober scene;
And Youth shall find Happiness still,
Tho' he roves not on Common or Green:
Tho' the pressure of Wealth's lordly hand
Shall give Emulation no scope,
And tho' all the appropriate Land
Shall leave Indigence nothing to hope.


So happily flexile Man's make,
So pliantly docile his mind,
Surrounding impressions we take,
And bliss in each circumstance find.
The Youths of a more polish'd Age
Shall not with these rude Commons to see;
To the Bird that's inur'd to the Cage,
It would not be Bliss to be free.

* Nathaniel Bloomfield, 'Elegy on the Enclosure of Honington Green' from An Essay on War, in Blank Verse; Honington Green, a Ballad . . . and Other Poems (London: Hurst, Vernor and Hood, 1803), pp. 29-40. BACK