The Soldier's Return (1786)


Beat up my fond heart, the worn veteran soft cries,
His dear native village quick opening to view;
Here parents, here Anna, from love’s tender ties
Will sooth every care, every kindness renew.
Hail woodlands! Though leafless, ye [1]  streams so long lost!5
My home too; by friendship! the cottage in sight; [2] 
Ye [3]  mansion of bliss, screen my scars from the frost;
I’ve gold, which with love, is the zest of delight. [4] 
O’er kingdoms to thee rapid Fancy oft flew;
Thy low-mossy roof, in fond memory surviv’d;10
Oft homeward, at eve, when I took a long view,
I’ve sigh’d with a tear, for the hour [5]  now arriv’d.
Round Libya’s south point, when from toils so late freed,
Sweet Hope cheer’d my soul, whilst we clear’d [6]  the rough sea;
I strove, midst the tars, to improve the ship’s speed, 15
Nor thought I of ought [7]  but Anna [8]  and thee.
Here comes the dear girl! comes with kind arms extended
To welcome me. Limbs numb’d with age, fain would move; [9] 
My cheek feels the flow [10]  of rapture warm blended,
With answering drops; this the meed of chaste love.20
Come, friends, rouse the fire; joy enlivens each face;
The wild banks of Ganges ne’er feel a keen blast,
Yet, who’d not return to love, parents, and peace,
And hope to possess them as long as life last! [11] 


*Lines 13–21 from this piece were included by Capel Lofft in the Supplement to the 2nd edn of The Farmer’s Boy, where he remarked: ‘I think every Reader will be of opinion that it is indeed desirable the whole Song, of which this is a Fragment, should be recover’d. It will probably be found (according to the recollection of the Author) either in the General Advertiser, Gazetteer, or Courant’. The whole was later published in the ‘Advertisment’ to the 8th edn, where the text was based on that published in the General Advertiser (pub. by John Almon, London) for 11 November 1786, and, with a slightly different text, in The Remains of Robert Bloomfield (1824). BACK

[1] ye] Hail, Remains BACK

[2] My home … in sight] My friendships, my cottage, my Home full in sight! Remains BACK

[3] Ye] Thou Remains BACK

[4] I’ve gold … of delight] I’ve gold now—and love will give zest to delight Remains BACK

[5] hour] day Remains BACK

[6] clear’d] skimm’d Remains BACK

[7] ought] toils Remains BACK

[8] but Anna] but of Anna] Remains BACK

[9] me. Limbs numb’d with age, fain would move;] home, and my fondness to prove Remains BACK

[10] flow] glowing Remains [Bloomfield’s note on the poem included in the 8th edn of The Farmer’s Boy:] The above lines were suggested by the return of some regiments from the East Indies, as the verses themselves will evince. The word ‘flow,’ was substituted by the editor of the paper for the original word ‘offspring.’ This I remembered, and gave the original in the fragment I sent to Mr. Lofft. But, in the 4th stanza, the original word had escaped all recollection, until this unexpected sight of the piece, and of its connection, so that if ‘hardships’ be read for ‘ought,’ all the meaning I had will be seen. I perfectly remember feeling rather indignant, at seeing myself so badly corrected; and this feeling, perhaps, engraved those trifles on my mind much deeper than they deserved. BACK

[11] Come friends … as life last] omitted in Remains BACK