Robert Bloomfield and the meaning of rural poetryShow full item record
|Robert Bloomfield and the meaning of rural poetry
|Lawson, Jonathan Nevin
|Doctor of Philosophy
|Now generally ignored by literary critics and historians alike, Robert Bloomfield was once one of England's most popular and influential poets. During boyhood on an uncle's farm and his years in London learning the shoemaker's trade, he gathered the experiences, strengths, and knowledge necessary for the composition of The Farmer's Boy (1800), his best remembered poem. His popularity continued with the publication of Rural Tales, Ballads, and Songs (1802), but declined with Wild Flowers (1806) and The Banks of the Wye (1811). Poverty, a continuing history of poor health, and the failure of his publisher all plagued Bloomfield in his later years. He continued writing, however, and published his last book of verse, May Day with the Muses in 1822, the year before his death. Bloomfield's limitations are those of the "peasant poet," but by the wise acceptance of those limitations, he manages an impressive accomplishment in The Farmer's Boy. His mode is celebrious and his major technique that of a structured emotional argument. Offering his experience and portrayal of rural life as a common ground to which the reader is invited, Bloomfield then arranges the elements of his portrait for the greatest emotional effect. He argues for the preservation of the structured, knowable way of life he encountered under the open-field system of agriculture. The general acceptance of his experiential, artistic, and personal limitations strengthens his argument by giving it an authentic voice. Bloomfield's awareness of the value of rural life and his argument for its preservation continues in Rural Tales and Wild Flowers. Some of his best and most persuasive poetry, in fact, appears in these volumes. The Banks of the Wye, a record of a brief journey along the river, is his weakest creation. The authenticity of his voice fades as Bloomfield strays from his carefully adopted limitations. May Day with the Muses is more successful because Bloomfield finds his old voice again, but it is not his best verse. From a corrected study of his life and of his poetry some conclusions about the nature of rural poets and poetry are possible. A sensitive man, knowledgeable within natural limitations, Bloomfield wrote a kind of poetry quite distinct from the pastoral. Although his rural poetry shares the anti-urban flavor of the pastoral, it is concerned with the people, customs, and things of the country in themselves and not as a medium to be neutralized then used for a greater aesthetic, moral, or philosophical purpose. The celebration of life within the natural order includes a recognition of the value of labor, the praise of responsible husbandry, and a concern with a literal and figurative common ground on which a man can come to understand and trust his neighbors. In Bloomfield's gentle and precise record, the meaning of life and labor within the natural order remains for technologic man a part of his inventive possibilities.
|Corder, Jim W.
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- Doctoral Dissertations