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The Letters of Robert Bloomfield and His Circle, Edited By Tim Fulford and Lynda Pratt
TEI

399. John Clare to Joseph Weston, 7 March 1825* 

Helpstone March 7. 1825

Dear Sir

In answer to yours of the third I am sorry to say that I posses but little of the corespondence of my departed 'brother bard' what I do posses you are welcome too & as to my letters to him you may do with them just as you please & make what use of them you like

I deeply regret that ill health prevented our corespondence & that death prevented us from being better acquainted I sincerely loved the man & admired his Genius & had a strong anxiety to make a journey to spend a day with him on my second visit to London & I intended to have stopt at Biggleswade on my return home for that purpose but my purse got too near the bottom for a stoppage on the road & as it was too great a distance to walk home this with other matters prevented me from seeing him as one of my family was very ill at the same time & hastened my return—Whatever cause his friends may have to regret the death of the Poet—Fame is not one [of] them for he dyed ripe for immortality & had he written nothing else but 'Richard & Kate' [1]  that fine picture of Rural Life were sufficient to establish his name as the English Theocritus & the first of rural Bards in this country & as Fashion (that feeble substitute for Fame) had nothing to do in his exaltation its neglect will have nothing to affect his memory it is built on a more solid foundation & time will bring its own reward to the 'Farmers Boy'—I beg you will have the kindness to take care of the M.S. & return it when you have done with it as I wish to preserve a scrap of his handwriting—the Copy on the other side is a note which accompanied his present of 'Mayday with the Muses' I gave the origional to Allan Cunningham the Poet [2]  who has a high respect for Bloomfields genius & whose request on that account to posses a scrap of his writing) I was proud & happy to gratifye—soon after the Poets death I wrote in a mellancholy feeling 3 Sonnets to his memory.

I was not aware that his 'Remains' woud have had such insertions or I shoud have sent them to his daughter—I shall fill this sheet with them for your perusal tho I expect they will come out in the Volume now in the press that will be published this Spring: with my best wishes that your kindly labours for the memory of the departed Poet may meet with the success it deserves

I remain yours very faithfully

John Clare

Three Sonnets on Bloomfield

1.

Some feed on living fame with conscious pride
& in that gay ship popularity
They stem with painted oars the hollow tide
Proud of the noise which flatterys aids supply
Joind with to days sun gilded butterflye
The breed of fashion haughtily they ride
As tho her breath was immortality
Which are but bladder puffs of common air
Or water bubbles that are blown to dye
Let not their fancys think tis muses fare
While feeding on the publics gross supplye
Times wave rolls on—mortality must share
A mortals fate—& many a fame shall lye
A dead wreck on the shore of dark posterity

2.

Sweet unasuming Minstrel not to thee
The dazzling fashions of the day belong
Natures mild pictures field & cloud & tree
& quiet brooks far distant from the throng
In murmurs tender as the toiling bee
Make the sweet music of thy gentle song
Well, nature owns thee let the crowd pass bye
The tide of fashion is a stream too strong
For pastoral brooks that gently flow & sing
But nature is their source & earth & sky
Their annual offerings to her current bring
Thy injurd muse & memory need no sigh
For thine shall murmur on to many a spring
When their proud streams is summer burnt & dry

3.

The shepherd musing oer his meadow dreams
The mayday wild flowers in the summer grass
The sunshine sparkling in the valley streams
The singing ploughman & hay making lass
These live the summer of thy rural themes
Thy green memorials these & they surpass
The cobweb praise of fashion—every May
Shall find a native 'Giles' beside his plough
Joining the skylarks song at early day
& summer rustling in the ripened corn
Shall find thy rustic loves as sweet as now
Offering to Mary's lips 'the brimming horn'
& seasons round thy humble grave shall be
Fond lingering pilgrims to remember thee [3] 

Address: Jos Weston Esqr / 12 Providence Row / Finsbury Square / London / March 8t

* BL Add. MS 30809, ff. 66–67 BACK

[1] 'Richard and Kate: or, Fair-Day. A Suffolk Ballad', published in Rural Tales, pp. 1–14. BACK

[2] Clare wrote to this effect on 9 September 1824 to his friend Cunningham, the labouring-class rural poet. See The Letters of John Clare, ed. Mark Storey (Oxford, 1985), pp. 321–24. For Bloomfield's note to Clare, see Letter 359 of the present edition. BACK

[3] Mark Storey, the editor of The Letters of John Clare (Oxford, 1985), notes (p. 322) that Weston, with a view to publishing the sonnets, asked Clare, in a letter of 20 April, to make some alterations. Clare noted in his journal for 30 April 'I shall not agree with either way Editors are troubled with nice amendings & if Doctors were as fond of Amputation as they are of altering & correcting the world woud have nothing but cripples'. Storey notes further that the sonnets appeared in The Scientific Receptacle, 1 (1825), 306–7, with variants. The second was included in Clare's collection The Rural Muse (London, 1835). All three are in his Midsummer Cushion manuscript collection. BACK

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Published @ RC

September 2009