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Laurence Bloomfield in Ireland (Author: William Allingham)
Alas, you count me a prosaic bard,
Good reader! Think what Horace says, how hard
It is to sing of every-day affairs.
More willingly by far the minstrel dares
5] Three flaming dragons than a single pig;
Knights in full armour, giants church-tower big,
Are easy folk to handle, by the side
Of one policeman. I have sometimes cried,
Afford my verse a little touch of aid,
10] Thou grave, good-humour'd, venerable Shade,
Who once Comptroller of the Customs wast,
Edwardo Rege! but my pray'r is lost;
For though our modern telegraph extends
Into that Other World's extremest ends,
15] Old Chaucer deigns no syllable to say,
And I must only do the best I may.
Bloomfield is also Justice of the Peace,
But has not used his power, but for increase
Of knowledge; he lets Pigot go alone
20] To hear this case, its merits not yet known;
And meanwhile in the office musing sits,
Or glancing towards the Ribbon Roll by fits;
Yet, as it sometimes falls that when we meet
Some wondrous thing, the quest of high conceit,
25] See, touch, possess, we hardly care to look,
To other paths his thought itself betook;
And still the spy's Black List he chose to hold
As Pigot gave, unloosen'd from its fold.
What he must do, determined,Bloomfield now
30] Perplex'd is puzzling over when? and how?
The careful faces of the tenant throng
Sank with new sense of pity and of wrong
Deep in his heart, their anxious courtesies,
The timid movements of their watchful eyes,
35] Their air of suffering, which was no pretence,
Their piteous lack of manly confidence;
And most of all, Jack Doran's toilworn face,
Who knows that he has lost his Agent's grace.
Tight has he clung to that poor spot of earth
40] Which, sixty years since, saw his humble birth.
This patch first yielded to his father's spade;
Those barren hills his life's horizon made;
To this, a poor, and yet a happy home,
His kindly Maureen, fair young bride, had come;
45] Their children here were born, here long reposed
His mother's age, and here her eyes were closed.
Content with constant toil and slender gain,
If he and his might there in peace remain,
Old Jack has trudged this morning to the town
50] To meet bad news; his heart is sore cast down.
Jack had been noticed; 'twas a usual thing,
Familiar as a dash of hail in Spring;
A mode of keeping tenants under thumb:
To-day he hears his fate; his turn is come.
55] In short three weeks, Black Paddy tells him so,
The Mighty Man has will'd it,he must go.
In vain the tenant asks to learn his crime,
In vain seeks hope at least of winning time;
Paudheen is mild, and shakes his cunning pate,
60] You'll see himself,and sad old Jack must wait
In crowded hall, through many weary hours,
His mind, deserted now by half its powers,
Struggling to set itself in some array.
What can he do? first, what to Pigot say?
65] If every other hope and chance should fail,
May plea, perhaps, for longer time prevail?
Not wholly bare, as some do, must he fly,
Yet, seasons have been bad and taxes high,
Wasting away their little store; let all
70] Be gather'd, and 'tis pitifully small.
Not much has half a century's labour giv'n
This prudent man, who well has watch'd and striv'n,
Industrious, patient, peaceful; in a land
Less cruel to her sons, his strenuous hand
75] Had won some better comfort for old age;
The tedious fight he well knew how to wage
With wind and flood, with stubborn rock and clay;
But selfish men are fiercer foes than they.
Poor useful wrestlers with the rugged soil,
80] Children of narrow poverty and toil,
Who spread the waving plenty o'er the land,
And give the sumptuous palace room to stand.
How much ye do and suffer, to supply
Some easy man with careless luxury!
85] The wife, the babes, that Heavenly Bounty gave
Increase his load of fetters on the slave;
His sweat absorbed into a patch of earth,
His life-long labours held of little worth,
Dependent hourly on a rich man's whim,
90] Whose busy idleness regards not him.
No foot of ground, however wild, he owns,
Till in the graveyard rest his weary bones,
Too happy if beside his fathers laid,
Nor coldly cover'd by a poor-law spade.
O Ireland! home of hardship! why do yet
Thy children cling to thee? thin cheeks are wet,
Hearts long opprest with care feel poignant woe
As hence from gloom to brighter climes they go.
To each the country of his birth belongs,
100] Its landscapes, seasons, faces, memories, songs,
And he to it; removed to foreign scene,
Though fat in purse, his life is poor and lean;
Forget the past, and flourish as he may,
An exile now, his home is far away.
Shall Jack to Bloomfield speak?a tempting thought,
Dismiss'd with, terror; what could thus be wrought
But swift destruction of his every hope?
'Twere dragging tight around his neck the rope;
High-treasonable conduct, merely mad;
110] Training, experience, custom, all forbade.
No, the young Landlord neither would, nor could:
If Jack had only guess'd his Landlord's mood!
So there the Tenant stands disconsolate,
There sits the sturdy Bailiff, big with fate,
115] Within, the Landlord, thinking; all await,
These and the rest, their Agent's quick return,
With various minds, and faces sad or stern.
But Bloomfield hears a whispering in the hall,
An exclamation, and a sudden fall,
120] 'Tis oul' Jack Doran fainted, 'cause his son
Is taken up on Ribbon business. None
Was quick enough with help when th' old man's brain,
Quite overtroubled, strove no more in vain;
Anxiety, fatigue, and frugal fast
125] Had worn him; then this new blow, and at last
From all his limbs the vital vigour fled,
And on the flagstone smote his grey unconscious head.
Strange was the sight before the tenants' eyes:
Young Bloomfield, kneeling on the hall-floor, ties
130] His handkerchief, a bloodied bandage now,
To staunch the wound on old Jack Doran's brow;
Then to an arm-chair helps him; soon convey'd
To neighbouring house, where in a bed he's laid;
While Bloomfield calls to audience Paddy Dhu
135] In private, which was also something new.
When Pigot's eyes met Bloomfield's, instantly
Each felt a moment come, they knew not why.
What's accident? Aware or unaware,
We to a verge have drawn, reposing there,
140] Or balanced fine; until a moment flashes
Down from its level seat firm custom dashes;
Broken, destroy'd,imprison'd powers escape,
And lo! our life is in a different shape.
These two young men?Are on that Ribbon List.
145] Much better proof, a lawyer would insist,
Were needful, ere we clapt them into jail;
The present charge is trifling, take their bail.
Full informations will be laid to-night.
So be itmeanwhile, do them legal right.
150] Pigot, his landmarks of a sudden lost,
His mind with novel perturbation tost,
Consented to a message of release;
When more his rage and wonder to increase,
With quiet voice and look, but grave and steady,
155] Bloomfield spoke thus, and held his papers ready,
All things considered, it perhaps were best
This tenant Doran be not dispossess'd,
Nor any men of mine, in fact, but three,
And those are Mr. Bloomfield, pardon me,
160] I cannot be half-agent for your lands.
Unless you leave such business in my hands,
Allow me to resign the whole to you.
This I have long, indeed, desired to do.
I take your offer. Half an hour is flown,
165] And Pigot in his gig has left the town;
While Bloomfield, with his tenants face to face,
Sees hope and joy, unwonted in that place,
Alive in every look. They warmly felt
When by the poor old man their landlord knelt;
170] 'Tis known that Neal and Denis are set free;
And Pigot's gone,dismissed?but that could never be!
If Bloomfield were an angel from the skies
They could not hunger more with ears and eyes.
I am your Agent and no other man.
175] I'll try to do you justice if I can.
Easy for me to live abroad, content
To see of my estate the half-year's rent;
180] But with the help of Heaven I'll take in hand,
As mine it is by law, this piece of land,
Think first of men, think second of the soil,
Discourage lies and sloth, back honest toil,
The good folk ranged on my side, let me trust,
185] At war with knaves and fools, if so we must.
If threatening letters fly as thick as snow,
If murderers dog me every step I go,
They shall not turn me from a settled course,
Unless I fall, and then you may have worse.
190] Here are the names, within this folded sheet,
Of Ribbon Lodge Two-Sixty, all complete.
I have not redd itI'm not fond of spies
Now! see it burn: in ashes there it lies.
This paper is my list of tenants' names,
195] Their families, their holdings, debts, and claims.
Slowly we must proceed; but with good will
We may, perhaps, together climb the hill.
Pigot of late, in health or soul deprest,
Had felt a frequent wish for change or rest
200] As pictured by his wife, but would not yield
To her, still vanquish'd in discussion's field.
He will not own what sometimes he suspects,
'Tis but my wife's timidity infects.
Hard work these hyppish fogs will soon dispel;
205] I know my business, and I do it well.
Let others please their fancy and their taste,
Let others fling their idle days to waste,
This is no more than fog, by sleep or dinner chased.
Yet sometimes, in his own despite, began
210] The shrewd, experienced, unromantic man,
Since now the newness of success was fled,
And years were numbering thickly on his head,
And sense of power had lost its pungency,
To say, what profits it? what comes to me?
215] What is indeed accomplished by my life?
The fears and sad forebodings of his wife,
Renew'd by every tale of peasant crime,
Struck heavier on his spirit time by time:
Throw off this yokewe've money and to spare,
220] Come, let us travel, pitch our tent elsewhere,
And for our children and ourselves enjoy
A wider world, a life without annoy.
Still, Pigot knows, though discontentment lurk,
He's most at ease in his habitual work,
225] Within his line, courageous, strong, and tall,
Beyond it, even timid, weak, and small;
His narrow education, flowerless mind,
By no artistic faculty refined,
Are then exposed, himself can partly see.
230] Like ancient groom or stableman is he,
At home on horseback, spite of prance and bound,
A waddling cripple, place him on the ground.
And nowa vile vexation, bitter sting!
He, both of landlords and of tenants King,
235] Intending by-and-by to abdicate,
With fitting dignity, his power and state,
For private wealth and easeO sudden shame!
Dismiss'd by one he thought so mild and tame;
Dismiss'd, discharged, ejected as it were
240] On shortest noticethis was hard to bear.
Himself, no doubt, had in a moment's heat
Flung out the startling hint, but self-conceit
Expected never such response to meet.
Long years he has been shaping to his mind
245] The Harvey-Bloomfield properties combined:
Now all his plans are snapt, with bitter sense
Of broken powerof standing on defence.
True, the Young Man, with cautious words and kind,
Which well announced a gravely settled mind,
250] Left to his easy choice the time and mode:
But, all things alter'd, and with guard and goad
Tormenting him, can Pigot trace the threads
Of that intricate web that round him spreads,
And disengage it smoothly? well aware,
255] Amid his mind's perturbed and formless care,
Of many questions asking quick replies,
Of many dubious doings that arise
From dusty corners where they lay forgot.
Small days of judgment bring forth many a blot.
Yet here too came experience to his aid,
And whisper'd, this confusion once allay'd,
To-morrow's light a clearer path will show,
And all go well enough, as such things go.
Come up, old mare! with cheery voice he cried;
265] And Doyle the under-bailiff, by his side,
At Pigot's moody silence wondering much,
Felt comforted; as, to the light-thrown touch
Of whip and voice, the bay mare quickly stept,
And from the high-road to the bye-road swept.
Pigot had seen his fine new house arise,
With promise of an earthly paradise,
Amidst a broad, well-cultivated plain,
Trimm'd off with new plantation, fence, and drain;
Window and door in city-villa taste,
275] With stucco-ornaments and columns graced,
Square spacious rooms, fill'd full of splendid things,
Bright rosewood tables, gilded curtain-rings;
But, ten years old, the place shines rawly still,
Th' instinctive touch of strong yet tender skill
280] Quite absent, which we name artistic sense;
Glaring the want, for glaring the pretence;
Harsh lights upon discordant colours fall,
Large, costly, dull engravings deck the wall;
Chair, ottoman, by some unlucky doom,
285] Door, window, fire, stand wrong in every room;
Lawn, green-house, garden, wear no magic beauty,
Shrub, flower-bed, border, stand as though on duty;
Best thing the farm-yard, practical and neat,
With swine, calves, poultry, stacks of hay and wheat;
290] With huge farm horses, and sleek, patient cows,
Byres, sheds, and new machines, carts, tools, and ploughs.
See at the window Mrs. Pigot stand,
The latest empty novel in her hand;
A fading woman, but she once was fair,
295] Whose wealth and pride have many a thorn of care;
A full-dress visit to receive or pay,
Her chief engrossment,'tis a chalk-white day
That gives a chance to study well the style
Of Lady Harvey's toilette, tone, and smile.
300] Her servants plague her; and her children vex,
Tearing their clothes, imperilling their necks.
On shaggy Sheltie in and out through trees
Flits Percy at full gallop; now she sees
Bold Jem and little Ulick at the pond
305] Sailing forbidden ships; then looks beyond,
With sigh at such perversities, to catch
(Behind the time a full hour by her watch)
The coming gig. Her husband's jolly face,
Fond of his Bess, his children, and his place,
310] Good-humoured and indulgent for the most,
Nor tender pleasure from his glances lost,
Still makes for her the sweetness of her life;
In short, he is her husband, she his wife;
Whatever teasing troubles they endure,
315] The gentle bond is always firm and sure.
To Newbridge House the pretty bye-way goes,
'Tween scarlet-berried hawthorn and wild rose,
Rowan and woodbine; the dark-fruited briar
Beads to its bordering grass, through which aspire
320] The yellow hawk-weed and blue scabious-ball;
Grass full of grasshoppers, and flies, and small
Innumerable things. You sometimes hear
A distant voice, or warbling near and clear
Poor-Robin's plaintive melody, at one
325] With the mild glory of the sinking sun,
Which now, completing this autumnal day,
Looks from the great world's end with parting ray,
O'er all the golden landscape with its sheaves,
And through the curtain of the wayside leaves.
Across the road a new-cut holly lay.
Doyle must alight to drag it from their way.
Through Pigot's heart and brain a sudden gush
Whirl'd all his life to fever: mad thoughts rush.
Around their burning prison: I am caught!
335] And hasty fingers his revolver sought.
One terrible momentcourage all drawn dry
To earthquake-ebband ere the wave pour high
Returning, from the hedge beside him broke
Two sharp explosions, two white puffs of smoke;
340] The mare leap'd round, and gallop'd off pell-mell,
But heavily to earth her master fell.
No longer Mrs. Pigot bears to wait;
She sends a horseman by the lower gate;
Who rides not far. A man came running fast;
345] 'Twas bailiff Doyle, pale, breathless, all aghast;
He's shot! they've kill'd him!and the servants found,
Three furlongs distant, prostrate on the ground
Amidst a pool of blood, James Pigot's form,
A dreadful burden, lifeless, though still warm.
James Pigot's race is run: and shall we call
This man a victim, or a criminal?
Or one who with men's natures coarsely dealt,
Drew out their evil, and its fury felt?
He did so; but not his alone the blame.
355] Elsewhere he might in peace have lived the same,
And breathed away at last a quiet breath,
No worse than most men in his life and death.
But where the subtle powers of Circumstance,
Multiplex operations that advance
360] Out of the boundless Bygone World, and make
The Present with the flitting forms they take,
Are in an evil seethe like wizard's pot,
Who stirs the same, 'tis now and then his lot
To catch the spurted venom. Where one dies,
365] Hundreds escape; and danger ever tries
To wear a mask of innocence; no less,
They cook and finger a strong poison-mess.
Fair-evening as it was, no friendly hand
Lifted the dead; the people chose to stand
370] Far-off, or take the fields, or else turn back,
But not to follow on the murderers' track;
Not one made haste to give policemen word;
By special message first the news was heard.
For many weeks from every wall and gate
375] Stared MURDER and REWARD in letters great,
Two Hundred Pounds the Lord Lieutenant's bribe,
One Thousand which the gentry round subscribe,
But all in vain; for, his employer dead,
The Spy took mortal fear to heart, and fled.
380] Few even dared to read the bills, and they
Walk'd off in silence; if they said their say,
'Twas said with caution and in secrecy.
A huge converging crowd of low and high
Had swell' d the costly funeral, and flow'd
385] In solemn pomp, outstretch'd along the road.
The native press was vocal, and the Times
Anew said something old on Irish crimes.
And meanwhile, bringing softly night and day,
The round Earth roll'd on her appointed way,
390] With dead and living, 'mid the starry quire,
Brimm'd with material and celestial fire,
And to and fro, with emmets' briskness, ran
The shifting, multifarious brood of Man.