Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
Laurence Bloomfield in Ireland (Author: William Allingham)


chapter 1


  1. 1] Autumnal sunshine spread on Irish hills
    Imagination's bright'ning mirror fills,
    Wherein a Horseman on a handsome grey
    Along the high road takes his easy way,
    5] Saluted low by every ragged hat,
    Saluting kindly every Teague and Pat
    Who plods the mud or jolts on lazy wheels,
    Or loudly drives a patient ass with creels,1


    (Short pipe removed before obeisance made)
    10] Or checks, regardant, his potato-spade
  2. ‘Fine day,’ the young man says with friendly nod,
    ‘Fine day, year honour, glory be to God!’
    Then, too polite to stare, they talk their fill
    Of Minor Bloomfield (so they call him still,
    15] Though six-and-twenty now) come back of late
    From foreign countries to his own estate,
    And who in turn has no incurious eye
    For each, and all the world, in passing by;
    The cornstacks seen through rusty sycamores,
    20] Pigs, tatter' d children, pools at cabin doors,
    Unsheltered rocky hill-sides, browsed by sheep,
    Summer's last flow'rs that nigh some brooklet creep,
    Black flats of bog, stone-fences loose and rough,
    A thorn-branch in a gap thought gate enough,
    25] And all the wide and groveless landscape round,
    Moor, stubble, aftermath, or new-plough'd ground,
    Where with the crows white seagulls come to pick;
    Or many a wasteful acre crowded thick


    With docken, coltsfoot, and the hoary weed
    30] Call'd fairy-horse, and tufted thistle-seed
    Which for the farm, against the farmer tells;
    Or wrinkled hawthorns shading homestead wells,
    Or, saddest sight, some ruin'd cottage-wall,
    The roof-tree cut, the rafters forced to fall
    35] From gables with domestic smoke embrown' d,
    Where Poverty at worst a shelter found,
    The scene, perhaps, of all its little life,
    Its humble joys, and unsuccessful strife.
    Th' observant rider pass'd too many such;
    40] Let them do more (he thought) who do so much,
    or, where they've kill'd a human dwelling-place,
    Unburied leave the skeleton's disgrace.
    Though Irish, he was of the absentees,
    And unaccustomd yet to sights like these.

  3. 45]
  4. At twelve years old his birthplace he had left,
    A child endow'd with much, of much bereft;
    Returned a boy a lad the third time now
    Returns, a man, with broad and serious brow.
    A younger son (the better lot at first),
    50] And by a Celtic peasant fondly nurst,
    Bloomfield is Irish born and English bred,
    Surviving heir of both his parents dead;
    One who has studied, travell'd, lived, and thought,
    Is brave, and modest, as a young man ought;
    55] Calm—sympathetic; hasty—full of tact;
    Poetic, but insisting much on fact;
    A complex character and various mind,
    Where all, like some rich landscape, lies combined.
    From school to Ireland, Laurence first returned
    60] A patriot vow'd; his soul for Ireland burn'd.
    Oft did his schoolmates' taunts in combat end,
    And high his plans with one Hibernian friend,
    Who long'd like him for manhood, to set free
    Their emerald Inisfail from sea to sea,
    65] With army, senate, all a nation's life,
    Copartner in the great world's glorious strife,


    Peer in all arts, gay rival in each race,
    Illustrious, firm, in her peculiar place.
    The glories and the griefs of Erin fill'd
    70] Heart and imagination. How he thrill' d
    To every harp-note of her ancient fame,
    How, to her storied wounds, his cheek would flame!
    And hearing some great speaker, on a day,
    Whose urgent grasp held thousands under sway
    65] While thus he thunder' d, ‘Tis for slaves alone’
    ‘To live without a country of their own!’
    ‘Alas for Ireland! she whose sons are born’
    ‘The wide earth's pity and proud England's scorn,’
    ‘England whose fraud and guilt have sunk us low.’
    80] ‘Speak, Irishmen, shall this be always so?’
    Judge how young Laurence felt. ‘Like a young fool,’
    His guardian growl' d, and shipp'd him back to school.
  5. Not such was he at Cambridge; for he found
    Thought's new horizons daily opening round,
    85] While History spread her pictures grave and vast;


    And living Britain startled him at last
    To recognise the large imperial tone,
    And all the grandeur of a well-built throne.
    joy, a part in England's pride to claim,
    90] To flush with triumph in her force and fame,
    See distant powers confess with wondering awe
    Her martial strength, her majesty of law,
    And every child of hers throughout the world
    Stand safe beneath her banner, broad unfurl'd!

  6. 95]
  7. A beardless Burke of college parliament
    The loyal Laurence back to Ireland went,
    On visit to a rich relation's house;
    Where boldly to Sir Ulick he avows
    An alter' d mind, and sees with altered sight
    100] Reckless provincials, hating rule and right,
    Busy for mischief without aim or sense,
    Their politics mere factious turbulence,
    Drawn this and that way by the word or nod
    Of noisy rogues and stealthy men-of-God;


    105] And checks them with a small ideal band
    Who, brothers, round the British Ensign stand,
    To face rebellion, Papistry, and crime,
    With staunchness proved in many a perilous time.
    At twenty-one, his too a place shall hold
    110] With names ancestral in the Lodge enroll'd;
    Or thus at least resolved the young man, eager-soul' d.
  8. I then knew Laurence first, and could descry
    Keen intellect and generous sympathy
    In every look; life's fountain fresh and bright
    115] In him, for one man, freely sprang to light.
    Full was his nostril, sensitive his mouth,
    His candid brow capacious of the truth;
    Eyes, good Hibernian, warmest of all greys,
    Fervent and clear, or veil'd in thoughtful haze;
    120] Locks loosely curling, 'twixt a black and brown;
    His lips and chin, though but in boyhood's down,
    Were sculptured boldly, to confirm the face;
    A slender figure swayed with careless grace


    To every impulse, every varying mood;
    125] Nothing in him was formal, nothing rude.
    The first five minutes rank'd him as a friend,
    He still was new and rare at five years' end.
  9. Gowns, books, degrees, will leave a fool a fool,
    But wit is best when wit has gone to school.
    130] In busy leisure 'mid those cloisters grey,
    This young man communed many a happy day
    With thoughts perennial of the mighty dead,
    To which his soul, how often, whilst he redd,
    Sprang up with greeting; nor, in prose or rhyme,
    135] Fail'd he to mark the Spirit of the Time;
    Then wander'd forth, saw Germany and Greece,
    France, fairer Italy, with large increase
    For that eternal storehouse in the mind;
    Saw, too, earth's younger half, whose western wind
    140] Would bear across the sea, if wind could bear,
    To Ireland many a wish and filial pray'r.
    And now he treads again the shamrock shore,


    Of age, and half a fruitful decade more;
    By books, by travel, and by life matured,
    145] With words less ready, insight more assured,
    A student still, of all beneath the sun,
    And wishing good to each, and wrong to none.
  10. His life, the first great impulse falling slack,
    Has now begun to feel or fear a lack,
    150] Unknown, undreamt-of hitherto, a void,
    A need in truth for work; to rise employ'd
    Each morning-light on some progressive toil,
    Itself not all inadequate, the foil
    And clasp for ruby, pearl, and diamond hours,
    155] Or say, the root and stem for life's best flow'rs.
    Public ambitions are not to his mind,
    His nature's proper work seems hard to find,
    Grown sick of London's huge and flimsy maze,
    Polite, luxurious, ineffectual days.
    160] But no such turn suspect his English friends;
    This morning, Frederick Stanley's letter ends—


    Your blessed island I have also seen,
    At Galway Claddagh, Dublin Castle, been,
    And view'd the savage natives, high, and low,
    And semi-savage that is, high and low
    165] Not unamusing for a month or so;
    But fancy living in the place!—take care
    And don't get shot, old fellow, whilst you're there.
    So Stanley. Meanwhile, fain are other some
    To keep the youth in Ireland, now he's come.

  11. 170]
  12. Greatly his friends and relatives desire
    To colour staring blue the rich young Squire,
    With vivid streaks of orange, to describe
    A noble chieftain of their loyal tribe,
    That in such war-paint he may lead their van
    175] To fight the county with a fierce Green Man.
    But soon they find this Bloomfield less and more
    Than lived in their philosophy before;
    Direct and frank in motive, plan, and deed,
    Cautious and mild in theory and creed,
    180] There friendly, here reserved, but not by rule,


    Like those who send their cordial smile to school;
    Cold upon interests where the rest grow hot,
    Intent, where they have never given a thought;
    Too apt to lightly leap ‘the usual course,’
    185] Turn, look about,—he may perhaps do worse;
    He visits Phelim's farm, and Pat's, and Mike's,
    And questions Pigot more than Pigot likes;
    Each tenant's history fain would understand,
    Examines every corner of his land,
    190] Day after day has freely seen and heard,
    But of his general thought avows no word;
    Perhaps, in secret, striving to arrange
    Experiences so multiform and strange.
  13. Thus much of Laurence Bloomfield, on his way
    195] From Croghan Hall, this bright autumnal day,
    Quickly, by turns, and slowly, man and beast,
    To where Sir Ulick Harvey spreads the feast,
    Twice, a well-arm'd police patrol he met,
    To guard the dinner-party duly set.

  14. p.14

  15. Beyond the dirty town an Irish mile,
    Thick laurels round Sir Ulick's gateway smile;
    A mail'd arm cut on either pillar-stone
    Defends the Harvey motto, doubly shown,
    Meis, ut placet, utens; gravel-spread,
    205] And dusk with boughs that whisper overhead,
    A private drive at every turn displays
    The vista'd park where silky cattle graze,
    Through clumps of flow'rs and greensward sweeping wide
    Unfolds the heavy mansion's front of pride,
    210] And whirls, if such felicity be yours,
    Your chariot to the gently awful doors,
    Where men of soft address and portly frame,
    With gorgeous garments, wait to breathe your name.
    Lisnamoy House can see far summits rise
    215] In azure bloom, or cold on misty skies,
    Above the broad plantation set to screen
    Those dismal wastes of bog that stretch between;
    The Village, northward, only shows a spire,


    As humbly conscious of the haughty Squire,
    220] Whose Lady visits but the Vicar's wife,
    Each meaner building crouchant for its life;
    And groves yet thick, though change is on the trees,
    Their first light losses borne on every breeze,
    Shut out from view a thousand vulgar fields,
    225] Whose foison great Sir Ulick's grandeur yields,
    With many a roof of thatch, where daily toil
    Extorts the bread of man from earth's dull soil.
  16. This must be: and if Toil receive his share,
    Nor Gather' d Power be selfish and unfair,
    230] Toil will not grudge Inheritance or Gain,
    The part which these in manly mood sustain.
    Toil, Poverty, are tolerable things,—
    Injustice every human spirit wrings;
    Thence flows the bitter stream of discontent,
    235] For him that earns a wage or pays a rent,


    As through the patriot's pulses, born to feel
    His country's wounds, and glow with angry zeal.
    Thus meditated Bloomfield, while his horse
    Turn'd to familiar stableyard his course.
    240] A kind just man would make the poor his friends,
    And use his riches for no private ends;
    Till rich and poor, harmoniously conjoint,
    Form'd alto, basso, in a counterpoint,
    But could he so in this distracted isle?
    245] Traditionary wrongs each heart defile,
    Received, inflicted, rankling, arid renew' d;
    All passions shout the cries of ancient feud;
    God's worship is the pledge of endless hate:
    Who, linking class with class, these venoms can abate?
    250] How, once I quit the glorious world of dreams,
    Begin, where all a vile confusion seems?
    Perchance these Irish Captains, viewed aright,
    Sustain as best they may an ugly fight.


    So let them. I'll interrogate the Sphinx,
    255] And Him who sleeps at Philae, for the links
    Of past and future; and behold the while
    Great dawns and sunsets mirror' d in theNile.

  17. p.18