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for Robert Bloomfield


26,000 copies. Twenty-six thousand

sold within two years, The Farmer’s Boy

by Robert Bloomfield, Suffolk-born

self-taught peasant poet. Blum-field.

Too weak to work on the land, he left


for London to learn a trade and wrote

the verse that made his name. Hero to John Clare

who treasured a scrap of his handwriting,

for Byron he was The Cobbler Laureate

whose success robbed us of a great shoemaker.


Poor Bob. He couldn’t forget his poverty, writing

to brother George, The sunshine of fortune

may require an umbrella. And the downpour

was constant. He buried a daughter,

his family exploited his kindness, his wife


gave their money to a religious sect, his publisher

went bust, his income dried up, his health (never good)

grew worse – headaches, rheumatism, eyesight

failing. His words though, hammered out

to the rhythms and din of the workshop


were re-read for a century or more,

became poems people found on their tongue,

recited from, they memorised reams, lines

he had carried in his head, given his mind to

until he could nail them down for good.



from The Swan Machine (2016)




The Cobbler Laureate

o button 08 COBBLER Bloomfield