Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
Laurence Bloomfield in Ireland (Author: William Allingham)
Lord and Lady
Virgil, Tom Tusser after him, have sung
The rules of farming with melodious tongue;
And shall my Muse make venture? not afraid,
If need there were, to call a spade a spade.
5] Too oft, neglecting fashion, she incurs
The public's coldness and the publisher's;
Yet now she will not rival Martin Doyle
On farms, and drains, on light and heavy soil,
Clod-crushing, ploughing, and rotation meet
10] Of grass, potatoes, barley, turnips, wheat,
Ovine and bovine breedsThou youngest Grace!
Dear Maiden of the shy and eager face
In drooping darkness framed, or ripply gold,
And spirit like the fresh bud half unroll'd
15] To morning's light!Boy of many dreams,
Through sacred woods and by enchanted streams
Far wandering forth in reverie divine!
Ye cannot love such dismal verse as mine.
Sweet friends, forgive me! I have sung for you
20] Erewhile, if but a little song or two;
For you I dearly hope to sing again;
Though now, perhaps, with labour all in vain,
Striving to melt and mould of stubborn stuff
(It could be rounded, were there fire enough)
25] A living shape harmonious, part and whole
Completed fitly by th' informing soul.
And yet I will not rival Martin Doyle,
Mechi, or Stephens; 'twere a thankless toil.
For, every rule and detail strictly given
30] Whereby our Laurence in his course has thriven,
(With labour, and with stumbling, and mistake,
And disappointments and defeats, that break
The fragile purpose, but confirm the strong)
Another man were scarcely help'd along,
35] Who deals with different people, different facts.
Mere sons of action, piecing up their acts
Of work and life, incalculable deem
The soul, or quite omit it from their scheme,
Or, like Napoleon, use it, while they scorn:
40] A miracle as true as birth of morn,
As simple as the imperial sun's broad light
Bathing earth's planet; with as vast a might
It works in silence on the spaces vast
And crowds of things within its influence cast.
Bloomfield had plunged, as though into the sea;
But soon recover'd equanimity
Amidst the new demands and powers unknown,
Nor any force to help him save his own.
Confused, and dim, and dangerous appeared
50] His enterprise, but soon the prospect clear'd:
Most men can do as much for duty, gain,
Opinion, pleasure; call it a campaign
At worst, but that's too serious; travel brings
More toil and risk; or fifty other things.
55] Arithmetic's plain rules his purse shall guard,
And every lesser luxury he'll discard
Till this of playing king be fairly tried.
Of Indolence, for ever at our side,
Subtlest of demons, Laurence knew full well
60] The sleepy goblet, drugg'd and dregg'd with hell,
And hung upon his neck the counterspell
Of daily work sufficient for his force,
And so set bravely forward on his course,
With much to hinder, but with nought to stay,
65] Finding undreamt-of help along the way.
For still to him who on himself depends
The lumbering, veering world its succour lends;
The bold are help'd by poison, storm, and fire,
Against the weak, flow'rbuds and lambs conspire.
Thus, when young Bloomfield had survey'd his ground,
He certain chances in his favour found.
No legal right existed but his own,
He was the State, like Lewis, he alone,
Or rather raised to an autocracy
75] Temper'd with murder, as in Muscovy;
There, sole, stood he, there lay his subject lands,
To do, or not do, resting in his hands.
Moreover, if the Celt be rash and wild,
Quick, changeful, and impulsive, like a child,
80] He looks with somewhat of a childlike trust
To those above him, if they're kind and just;
Be tender to his moods, allow a whim,
No surly independence lurks in him;
Content with little, easy to persuade,
85] The man who knows him speaks and is obey'd.
If sprung from history, circumstance, or race,
Or all together, Bloomfield well could trace,
With aid from childhood's memory, manhood's thought
And into every plan his knowledge wrought
90] A special Irish character. With those
Of higher station, harder to oppose,
His even temper, frank and courteous speech,
And true unselfishness, with all and each,
His firmness and concession, sped him well;
95] His sense and knowledge soon began to tell;
Till all who dealt with public plans descried
The need to weigh him, on whatever side.
To men and books an open ear he lent,
He studied silent Nature much, and went
100] With careful tireless footstep after hers;
The cheer which knowledge flowing in confers
Was his, and then the artist's joy, to find
The rugged world take pressure from his mind.
His rental, even, to his own surprise,
105] Reach'd its old mark, and then began to rise;
A sort of proof he could have done without,
Yet good firm hold against the twitch of doubt.
Look round from Croghan Lodge, and not in vain
You seek the records of a seven years' reign;
110] So long have Laurence and his Queen borne rule,
The smoky hovel with its fetid pool
Has disappearedpoor Paddy's castle-moat,
Which kept the foulness, let the use run out;
White walls, gay rustic gardens meet your eyes,
115] Trim gates and fences, haggarts, barns and styes;
Down the wet slope a net of drainage spreads;
The level marsh waves wide with ozier-beds;
Among the barren folds of windy hills,
Bound solitary loughs, by rock-strewn rills,
120] And up to crags that crown the heathery steep,
Larch, pine, and sycamore begin to creep;
Old bog and scraggy moorland, parcell'd out,
Have busy hands at work,no fear or doubt
To dry up half their strength, for Bloomfield chose
125] The likeliest people, lent waste ground to those,
The first year so much doneso much in five
Push onwards, win the battle, you shall thrive
Rent-free so longso long at little rent
And then a lease that makes us both content.
130] New roads run round the hills, and to the shore;
By-lanes engulf the hapless wheel no more;
While certain paths defended tooth and nail
By Pigot, often sending men to jail,
Without another word of wrong or right
135] Lie free as air is to the swallow's flight.
Broad open too lies Bloomfield's own domain,
Park, fields, and wood, from mountain-top to plain;
The lough's green isles in wavy silver set;
The cool crypts of the rocky rivulet.
140] Sunk fence, light paling, leave the prospect free:
Fair run the road and path, by sward and tree;
No churlish prison-wall defeats your eye,
Robs of the landscape every passer-by,
Shuts up the great horizon in a box,
145] Boon Nature's beauty in a harem locks
For one rich Turk; no board devoid of shame
Tickets the world with one poor selfish claim;
For no proud porter must you ring and wait;
The stile is low, and easy swings the gate;
150] The devious wood-walk, far-commanding hill,
The ferny dingle, these are yours at will;
Or in that high fir-temple would you be,
Which makes perpetual music like the sea,
And on the sunset lifts its pillars black?
155] Across the lough, across the plain look back.
Look back: no single cottage-roof is there
In Bloomfield's charge, that knows not Bloomfield's care.
In spots the best for landscape or for shade
You find the solid rustic-benches laid;
160] And on the highroads, also, weary feet
Approach with grateful haste the new stone seat,
Here, nigh a well, or there, with slanting shed
To guard from rain or sun the traveller's head.
In Croghan Hall, when new, the famous Dean,
165] Upon his journeys, moody guest hath been.
Well-built at first, but mouldy with neglect,
Young Laurence as his own chief architect
Chose out the shrewdest workmen that he might,
And made the mansion safe and weather-tight,
170] Improving all, yet zealous to retain
Each stone and tile, each form, each weather-stain.
His own true touch alive on every part
Gave without cost the luxury of Art,
Which foolish Wealth on ostentation set
175] Can dearly pay for, but can rarely get.
'Tween lough and mountain, grove on either hand,
A solid, stately House you see it stand,
Of broad, low stairs, and windows deep recess'd;
In front, a boundless prospect to the west,
180] In rear, a terraced garden. Order reigns,
But not with costly and elaborate pains,
A disproportion of the means and end,
Whereby so often wealthy homes offend,
With vile adornment oft offending worse,
185] Slapping across our teeth a heavy purse.
Good sense, refinement, naivety, reconcile
Man's work and nature's, and the genial smile
Is brotherhood's, not condescension's, here;
No bitterness flows in, but strength and cheer
190] From every aspect; 'tis a kindly place,
That does not seem to taunt you with its grace,
But, somehow, makes you happy, stray or stay,
And pleased to recollect it when away;
For manners thus extend to house and field,
195] And subtle comfort or discomfort yield.
Enter: you find throughout the spacious rooms,
If bright, or mellow'd with delicious glooms,
Instead of gaudy paper, silk, and paint,
Statues and pictures, books, wood-carvings quaint,
200] Dim-splendid needlework of Hindostan,
Grave solid furniture of useful plan;
Here a soft blaze of flow'rs in full daylight,
There, ivied casement, shadowing aright
The mournful relics of the secret Past,
205] Waifs, liftings, from that ocean deep and vast,
The thought and work of many a vanish'd race;
The life of ancient Erin you may trace
In Druid's torque, moon-shaped, of thinnest gold,
Square bell that to St. Patrick's preaching toll'd,
210] Cups, coins, and fibulae, and ogham-stones,
Spear, axe, and arrow-heads, of flint or bronze.
Whatever knowledge (at the best but small)
Of such is extant, Laurence knows it all,
And sometimes to his neighbours far and near
215] Imparts a modest lecture, short and clear,
On things Hibernian, chiefly those around,
The Giant's Grave, the Fort, the Fairy-Mound,
The crumbling Abbey-wall, the Round-Tower grey,
Still rising smooth and firm as on the day
220] Its taper cap received the topmost stone;
The mountain Cairn, to distant counties shown;
The Norman-English Keep on river brink;
His light firm hand connecting link with link
Of Irish history, so that none complain
225] To find it gall them like a rusty chain.
This large room is for music; violin,
Piano, voice, at times the merry din
Of Bloomfield's rustic band, its echoes wake,
And rustic hearers oft an audience make.
Nay, all with ears to hear, with eyes to see,
To every sight and sound have welcome free.
To make our costly luxuries right and fair
All human beings who are fit must share.
So Bloomfield said, was laugh'd at, yet he tried,
235] Found all come easy, nor the rule too wide.
But haste we!'Tis that merry time of year,
Once more brought round upon our whirling sphere,
(The days of darkness and of snow gone past,
Of chilly sunbeams and the freezing blast),
240] When eager skylarks at the gate of morn
Keep singing to the sower of the corn
In his brown field below; the noisy rooks
Hold council in the grove-top; shelter'd nooks
Bring forth young primroses and violets;
245] The woodland swarms with buds, the ash-tree sets
Dark lace upon his bough,with tenderest green
The larch-spray tufted, pallid leaflets seen
Unfolding and uncrumpling day by day.
Nigh Croghan Hall the herons lean and grey
250] Hover and float upon those wide-spread wings
Around their lofty cradles, with the Spring's
Breath rocking slowly; braird is pushing through;
The clever mavis and the soft cuckoo
Untiring sing their olden songs anew;
255] In fields of freshest grass the bold young lambs
Jump lightly round their anxious bleating dams;
And little Mary Bloomfield, blithe as they,
Greeting a happy morn of holiday,
The sunshine glittering on her golden head,
260] Runs races through the lawn with brother Fred
(He's but a child, says Mary; he is four,
His comrade and protectress two years more,)
Among the clumps of yellow daffodils.
Light blows the breeze, a vernal freshness fills
265] The morning sky, green plain, and dappled hills,
As run the merry babes with floating hair,
Watch'd by their parents. After morning pray'r
And breakfast, and while busy hands complete
A children's banquet-hall with flow'r and sweet,
270] What say you, Jenny, young folk, shall we drive?
'Tis four long hours before our guests arrive.
Smoothly the simple carriage speeds along
Behind two chestnut ponies brisk and strong,
By Laurence guided: he looks older now,
275] But bears his candid, smooth, and open brow
Uncreased with petty cares, fine mouth unseam'd
With policy; the ripening years have spread
His tall and goodly frame; free lifts his head
Its brownish clusters. By him sits Queen Jane.
280] No queen?look closershe deserves to reign.
How is she drest? Madam, in shawl cream-white,
Straw bonnet, trimmed with purple, if I'm right.
She is not tall, and rather dark than fair,
Her forehead fitted close with soft black hair,
285] Brows sloped the right way, over eyes so true,
Eyes darkly clear, I cannot tell their hue,
That faith and courage kindle where they gaze,
Earth is not vulgar, lighted with those rays;
Fine ear, a nostril flexible and thin,
290] Lips mildly proud, a full but gentle chin,
Compact and firmly-moulded foot and hand,
Gesture and look accustom'd to command,
Or rather to be willingly obey'd
As having never o'er the boundary stray'd
295] Of others' rights and feelings,such is she;
A trustier human creature cannot be;
Mild, gracious, and undaunted, every line
Of soul and body nobly feminine.
Instinctive wisdom, humour swift and gay,
300] A simple greatness, sure to do and say
The best, belong to her, and in her voice
A tone to make the dullest heart rejoice.
No marvel if the servants of her home
Are humble friends, if cordial blessings come
305] To every peasant's lip that forms her name,
If my poor stumbling pen forebears for shame.
O happy Husband!happy Wife no less!
In perfect mutual trust and tenderness.
Whatever joys await the Blest above,
310] No boon below like happy wedded love.
Down the park-slope, Lough Braccan full in view,
Boss'd with green islands floating on the blue,
Through well-kept farms, by neat white cottages,
Boglands reclaimed, new belts of rising trees,
315] Paddock and croft, with many a feather'd brood,
Lambs, calves and foals, (life everywhere renew'd)
That send their voices on the lightsome air,
And of the vernal day enjoy their share,
Gay speed we. That's the steward's house,his name
320] Neal Doran (he's the same, and not the same);
His wife and he are up at Croghan Hall,
Best aids to trim our little festival.
There's Lisnamoy church-spire, and further down
The Romish steeple; midway in the town
325] Stands up the clock-tow'r, whose melodious tongue
Calls noon, a civic voice to old and young
To draw them in a circle, voice of Time
To each and allO hearken! says the chime:
Reckless, who will now and then respect
330] That preaching, if all others they neglect.
There, to new Market-place a pipe conveys
A cold perpetual water-vein, which plays
All day and night with cheerful soothing tone,
Falling into its shallow tank of stone
335] In curving crystal fringed with showery spray;
Where sometimes, doubtless, girls and dames delay
With rested pitchers, till a warning stroke
Cuts short at last the gossip and the joke.
Carved shamrocks, mixt with field-flow'rs, grass, and corn,
340] The stone rim of the dial-lace adorn;
Atop, a sleeping infant, left and right
Stout peasant-man and woman, holding tight
A sickle and a basket; rudely true,
The sculpture to a rustic hand is due
345] And Bloomfield's brain, who, whilst his neighbours smiled,
With jutting balcony and roof red-tiled,
Built his Town-hall at less than half the cost
(The which in sooth impress'd his neighbours most)
Of Pigot's plan, in classic British taste,
350] With sequences of scroll and bracket graced.
Each year the town receives improvements, plann'd
By no expensive, by no vulgar hand;
New house with window'd gable to the street,
Ruin displaced, and ragged wall made neat,
355] Good drains, and whitewash, footwalks, and young trees;
The change in Lisnamoy each traveller sees,
And almost sings aloud with joy to win
The Bloomfield Arms a clean and cosy inn,
Where Denis Coyle and Bridget welcome you;
360] Not as the dismal Royal wont to do,
With shabby waiter, old and drunk, proud host
And sluttish chambermaid, poor fare, high cost.
We drive through Lisnamoy. Who bows so low?
Father Adair: but well does Bloomfield know
365] Of Bloomfield's favourite School the deepest foe.
There stands the building, comely brick and stone,
A little backward from the causeway thrown,
Flower-beds and paths in orderly array,
And greensward for the noon's half-hour of play;
370] All empty now, for eldest child and least
Must share at Croghan Hall the Vernal Feast.
The School has prosper'd, and is prospering still,
Though absent every clergyman's good-will,
Who each would make a primer of his creed,
375] Since now the vulgar must be taught to read,
The bigot duly with the scholar train,
Weed out man's brotherhood from breast and brain,
Twist every thought and feeling as they grow,
Neighbour baptized to live his neighbour's foe.
380] Rome's churchmen seized the new scholastic dower,
Secure to swell by just so much their power,
While haughty shepherds of the legal rite
Declared this vulgar partnership a slight,
And loud demanding separate purse and place,
385] Flung a big Bible in the statesman's face,
Who handed back the volume with a bow.
So wrath was kindled, and is burning now,
In minds too Christian or perhaps too proud
To fill the legal hour for them allow'd,
390] Since Popish pastors that same right enjoy'd
With their own lambs, nor left it unemploy'd.
But now the people's alphabet in turn
Must from its first supporters feel the spurn.
How, for one day, could we, shrewd Men of Rome,
395] Forget th' experience, now again brought home,
That Knowledge acts as poison, if 'tis not
Cook'd in the black ecclesiastic pot,
From cardinals' and bishops' high discourse
Down to the abc of babes at nurse?
400] As Spain puts garlic into every mess,
So must the sacred flavour more or less
Be mix'd in every atom of the food,
To dye the bones and circle with the blood;
Arithmetic the one true Church must own,
405] And Grammar have its orthodoxy known;
Or else, keep free from learning's dangerous leaven,
Guided, in blessed ignorance, to Heaven.
But well the People know how great the boon:
We must not drive, but lead and coax them: soon,
410] Whene'er the wind political turns fair,
Help'd by our foes, who also seek their share,
We pull the pagan system down perforce,
Its wealth and strength made chiefly ours, of course.
Meanwhile, wherever possible, let schools
415] In strict accordance with our holy rules,
With every fitting gesture, form, and phrase,
Supplant these others, yet no war-cry raise.
Pigot, who did but little know or care,
Was wrought upon by Father John Adair,
420] Slighted the National and had almost
(For keeping with the clergy was his boast)
Promised the Christian Brotherhood a site.
But Bloomfield came, and alter'd things outright,
Obtain'd a Model School for Lisnamoy,
425] Built other schools, and saw that girl and boy
Who might go, did go, for he knew his ground,
And soon the People in his party found;
Whereon Adair, the smooth and patient man,
Howe'er he felt, lock'd up his favourite plan,
430] And neither bann'd nor bless'd the Model School,
Paying due visits, as by legal rule.
The parish was improved, his income raised;
He oft (perhaps sincerely) Bloomfield praised.
Inn, fountain, clock, we pass, and quit the town
435] Close by the Workhouse, where with Isaac Brown
Hath Bloomfield many a tedious battle fought,
And many a good reform full slowly wrought;
For weekly there, sat once a Guardian Board
To guard the landlords' purse from pauper horde,
440] To guard the bed where age and sickness lie
From touch of comfortlet them live or die,
What matter how their drop of life runs by?
To guard poor children, trembling little slaves,
Cast on our pity by misfortune's waves,
445] From spade and needle, watching lest they learn
The skill that might a scantest living earn,
Using, faith, hope and charity being dead,
Training with anxious negligence a race
450] To live their country's burden and disgrace.
Sad without guilt, and punish'd without crime,
Those joyless children dragg'd their weary time,
Or issuing from their prison two by two
Distress'd the road with cheeks of ghastly hue,
455] Unlike the brisk though tatter'd urchins there,
Not highly fed, but free from Guardians' care.
Now much is alter'd: it were long to tell,
But now both young and old are nourish'd well,
The Master's not a drunkard or a fool,
460] No roguish dunce pretends to teach the school,
Each boy or girl receives an honest trade,
And starts in life with small sufficient aid.
Nor is it found to swell the pauper list:
The Board on steady discipline insist,
465] Make all those work who can, and seldom fail
Where punishment is due. 'Tis worse than jail
For all the bad and lazy; but the child,
The sick, the hoary head, meet liberal hand and mild.
Next the neat Vicarage gate we swiftly reach,
470] Where Reverend Mr. Jones's little speech
Upon the weather gives a moment's pause,
Deliver'd sweetly with due hems and haws.
The gout one day despatch'd old Vicar Boyd;
Whereonsince craft had vainly been employ'd
475] To draw from Laurence Bloomfield what he meant,
For he, lay-rector, could his choice present,
And two far cousins of the reverend class,
And ten times more their lady wives, alas!
Had loathed each other on this ground for years
480] Behold an aguish time of hopes and fears.
What will you do, then?
Nothing!with a smile.
I leave it with the Bishop. (Is this guile,
Or idiot folly, or unfeeling jest?)
With him, entirely,Bishop must know best.
485] His Lordship sent a parson mild and tame,
Glad of the glebe; and when his Lordship came
On confirmation tour, with whom was he
So cordial as with Bloomfield, or so free?
At Croghan Hall, too, did the great man dine,
490] And made himself delightful o'er the wine.
But now for home. Our merry wheels forsake
Close hedgerows for the margin of the lake,
Edged with these water-gnawn fantastic stones
That show its winter level, white as bones.
495] The unimprison'd eye skims, miles on miles,
The silver distance, and the verdurous isles
That slumber on their shadows in the smooth,
And back to where fine lipping ripples soothe
Its nearer beach. High snort the ponies proud,
500] Fish leap, young Fred and Mary laugh aloud
For very joy of life. We quit the shore,
Wind up the hill, and halt at Croghan door.
At two all's ready. Gathering, trooping fast,
Bright happy faces, all are here at last;
505] Clad, boy and girl, blue, red or duffel-grey,
In homespun garments most, a trim array.
Their entertainers greet them, recognise
One here, one there: now break we, and devise
All merry games among the grass and trees,
510] Tig, Hide & Seek, High Windowswhat we please;
Till, like a bee-drum, sounds the welcome call
To tea and dainties in the music-hall;
Nor music silent, of the rustic band;
Laurence and Jane with friendliest eye and hand
515] To each in turn attentive. Banquet done,
Forth draws them once again the westering sun,
Some dancing in the many-circled mound,
Thick with primroses, others seated round;
And there they sing in chorus, till the light
520] At last begins to fade. Lo! rushing bright,
A culminating rocket bursts aloft
In gold and crimson meteors, drooping soft;
Another follows; wondrous wheel and gyre
Spin on the grovy background shapes of fire;
525] A blue ecstatic splendour, mildly strong,
Bathes tree and mansion, mound and gazing throng;
Then dusk, as of a sudden, wraps the scene,
All memory now; remembered well, I ween.
In careful cart and wagon home are sent
530] The smaller children, sleepily content;
The rest, drawn up in order at the door,
March with their trusty Captains as before.
All children can be govern'd: with the best
Much may be done; and something with the rest.
535] Of men, to help you or be help'd, choose first
The best you know of; and avoid the worst:
Thus Bloomfield,though, like Dunstan, he could dare
To pinch the Devil's nose, if need there were.
He found, being active yet averse from strife,
530] 'Twas not so hard to live a manly life;
Or call it godly life, and thereto read
The learn'd and holy necromantic Swede;
Wildest and wisest of the dreamers he.
All dream, but foolish visions most men see.