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West Country Poets

JOHN BRADFORD ('JOSIAS HOMELEY'), published 1843

The author of 'Songs of Devon,' etc. appears to have been a native of North Devon, but he settled down at Newton Abbot about the year 1839.  He was an Excise officer.  He was in no way related to the family of BRADFORD, one of whom, curiously enough, was the contemporary Rector of the parish (Wolborough) where he resided.  Bradford held views a little in advance of his time, and was stigmatized as a freethinker.  He dabbled in phrenology, had probably read Combe, and delivered lectures to the incipient 'Useful Knowledge Society' of Newton.  Practically he was, perhaps, as much of a Chartist as he dared to be, being an employe of Government.  He was fond of writing to the newspapers, and at one time tried to draw his namesake, the Rector, into a controversy with reference to the latter's refusal to read the Burial Service over an unbaptized child, but the Rector refused to be drawn.  His wife gave lessons in dancing.  He lived in East Street, Newton Abbot.  Soon after the publication of his book (in 1843) he left Newton, being removed to another station, either at Plymouth or in Cornwall.  What became of him we do not know, nor when he died.  CREWS, the printer of his book of poems, was the first to set up a printing-press in Newton; he afterwards went to Australia.   Bradford's 'Songs of Devon' was dedicated to Dr. BOWRING, M.P. (afterwards Sir John BOWRING).  His preface is somewhat jocular.  Some of his songs are very musical and contain happy conceits, while his more ambitious pieces prove him to have been possessed of considerable poetic power, and to have a great variety of themes.
 

TO A FLY

Go, get thee gone! ' tis not the summer coming,
  But my first fire, the winter's harbinger,
Which from thy crevice warm has sent thee roaming
  On the chill air thy little wing to stir.
Yet stay, I should be loath to see thee wander
  Forth to the gale, to face the surly blast;
Around my chair in playful flight meander,
  But seek they winter home again at last -
Yet I dislike thy race, nor them alone,
  But buzzing impudence among my own.
Still be my winter guest, till spring returning
  Shall bring the balmy zephyrs back again;
Then spread they pinion to the first fair morning,
  And humming water o'er the flowery plain,
Here fold thy fragile wing, and fix thy hermitage
  Where the bring blaze my cheerful cottage warms,
Till the keen 'biting north' has spent its rage.
  Lone homeless pilgrim in a world of storms,
I pity him who could not pity thee;
I scorn the man who'd crush thee wantonly.
 

SONNET
WRITTEN AT 'LOVERS LEAP' ON THE BANKS OF THE DART

I'd live a hermit on the craggy side
  Of this rude rock, which juts its rugged breast,
Where murmuring at delay the waters glide,
  Running the restless race in search of rest.
The rapid Dart with its own foam at play,
  Dashing and rippling as it speeds along,
As through the rocks its gushing waters stray,
  Should raise a chorus to my morning song.
And when at eve the moon in vain essays
  To view her likeness in the playful stream,
And the soft radiance of her smiling rays
  Strays o'er the wave in many a sparkling beam,
Pure would my vesper hymn ascend on high-
Meek could I live, and humbly trusting die.

Transcribed by Sandra Windeatt from: Wright, W.H.K., (1896) West-Country Poets:  Their Lives and Works. London: Elliot Stock, pp.47-48

Last updated 22 Jul 2011 - Brian Randell.

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