TO A SPINDLE [*]
[Brayley’s note:] Bloomfield has favoured us with permission to copy the annexed portrait of his mother from a picture in his possession, and has himself subjoined the following account of the last stage of her life, together with his first essay in Blank verse, which he has addressed to the Spindle that she left half filled.
[Bloomfield’s note:] The portrait of my mother was taken on her last visit to London, in the summer of 1804, and about six months previous to her dissolution. During the period of evident decline in her strength and faculties, she conceived, in place of that patient resignation which she had before felt, an ungovernable dread of ultimate want, and observed to a relative, with peculiar emphasis, that ‘to meet Winter, Old Age, and Poverty, was like meeting three giants.’
To the last hour of her life she was an excellent spinner; and latterly, the peculiar kind of wool she spun, was brought exclusively for her, as being the only one in the village, who exercised their industry on so fine a sort. During the tearful paroxysms of her last depression she spun with the utmost violence, and with vehemence exclaimed —‘I must spin!’ A paralytic affection, struck her whole right side, while at work, and obliged her to quit her spindle when only half filled, and she died within a fortnight afterwards! I have that spindle now. She was buried on the last day of the year 1804. She returned from her visit to London, on Friday, the 29th of June, just to a day, twenty-three years after she brought me to London, which was also on a Friday, in the year 1781.
TO A SPINDLE.
[Brydges’ critical summary:] There is no reader of English poetry, who does not recollect Cowper’s exquisite lines on his Mother’s Picture. This fragment of Bloomfield forms a noble companion to them. It strikes me to be written in a loftier tone, and still more excellent manner than any of his other productions. Let him give new delight and astonishment to the world by a moral and descriptive poem in blank verse!
*First published in Edward Brayley, Views in Suffolk, Norfolk, and Northamptonshire; Illustrative of the Works of Robert Bloomfield; Accompanied with Descriptions: to which is annexed, A Memoir of the Poet’s Life (London: Vernor, Hood, and others, 1806), pp. 39–42; reprinted in Sir Samuel Egerton Brydges, ed., Censura Literaria, 8 (February 1809), 382–84. BACK