The Cross Roads; or, The Haymaker's Story (I)

Stopt by the storm, that long in sullen black
From the south-west stained its encroaching track,
Haymakers, hustling from the rain to hide,
Sought the grey willows by the pasture-side;
And there, while big drops bow the grassy stems,
And bleb the withering hay with pearly gems,
Dimple the brook, and patter in the leaves,
The song or tale an hour's restraint relieves.
And while the old dames gossip at their ease,
And pinch the snuff-box empty by degrees,
The young ones join in love's delightful themes,
Truths told by gipsies, and expounded dreams;
And mutter things kept secrets from the rest,
As sweethearts' names, and whom they love the best;
And dazzling ribbons they delight to show,
And last new favours of some veigling beau,
Who with such treachery tries their hearts to move,
And, like the highest, bribes the maidens' love.
The old dames, jealous of their whispered praise,
Throw in their hints of man's deluding ways;
And one, to give her counsels more effect,
And by example illustrate the fact
Of innocence oercome by flattering man,
Thrice tapped her box, and pinched, and thus began.

The Tramp

He eats (a moment's stoppage to his song)
The stolen turnip as he goes along;
And hops along and heeds with careless eye
The passing crowded stage coach reeling bye.
He talks to none but wends his silent way,
And finds a hovel at the close of day,
Or under any hedge his house is made.
He has no calling and he owns no trade.
An old smoaked blanket arches oer his head,
A whisp of straw or stubble makes his bed.
He knows a lawless law that claims no kin
But meet and plunder on and feel no sin—
No matter where they go or where they dwell
They dally with the winds and laugh at hell.

And yet another "Autumn" poem:

The thistle-down's flying, though the winds are all still,
On the green grass now lying, now mounting the hill,
The spring from the fountain now boils like a pot;
Through stones past the counting it bubbles red hot.

The ground parched and cracked is like overbaked bread,
The greensward all wracked is, bents dried up and dead.
The fallow fields glitter like water indeed,
And gossamers twitter, flung from weed unto weed.

Hill tops like hot iron glitter bright in the sun,
And the rivers we're eying burn to gold as they run;
Burning hot is the ground, liquid gold is the air;
Whoever looks round sees Eternity there.

The Shepherd's Calendar


The village sleeps in mist from morn till noon
And if the sun wades thro tis wi a face
Beamless and pale and round as if the moon
When done the journey of its nightly race
Had found him sleeping and supplyd his place
For days the shepherds in the fields may be
Nor mark a patch of sky-blindfold they trace
The plains that seem wi out a bush or tree
Whistling aloud by guess to flocks they cannot see

The timid hare seems half its fears to loose
Crouching and sleeping neath its grassy
And scarely startles tho the shepherd goes
Close by its home and dogs are barking there
The wild colt only turns around to stare
At passers bye then naps his hide again
And moody crows beside the road forbeer
To flye tho pelted by the passing swain
Thus day seems turned to night and trys to wake in vain

The Owlet leaves her hiding place at noon
And flaps her grey wings in the doubting light
The hoarse jay screams to see her out so soon
And small birds chirp and startle with affright
Much doth it scare the superstitious white
Who dreams of sorry luck and sore dismay
While cow boys think the day a dream of night
And oft grow fearful on their lonly way
Who fancy ghosts may wake and leave their graves byday

Sabbath Walks

Upon the sabbath, sweet it is to walk
'Neath wood-side shelter of oak's spreading tree,
Or by a hedge-row track, or padded balk;
Or stretch 'neath willows on the meadow lea,
List'ning, delighted, hum of passing bee,
And curious pausing on the blossom's head;
And mark the spider at his labour free,
Spinning from bent to bent his silken thread;
And lab'ring ants, by careful nature led
To make the most of summer's plenteous stay;
And lady-cow, beneath its leafy shed,
Call'd, when I mix'd with children, "clock-a-clay,"
Pruning its red wings on its pleasing bed,
Glad like myself to shun the heat of day.

The Maid of Ocram (Final)

He sought her east, he sought her west,
He sought through park and plain;
He sought her where she might have been
But found her not again.
I cannot curse thee, mother,
Though thine's the blame, said he
I cannot curse thee, mother,
Though thou'st done worse to me.
Yet do I curse thy pride that aye
So tauntingly aspires;
For my love was a gay knight's heir,
And my father was a squire's.

And I will sell my park and hall;
And if ye wed again
Ye shall not wed for titles twice
That made ye once so vain.
So if ye will wed, wed for love,
As I was fain to do;
Ye've gave to me a broken heart,
And I'll give nought to you.

Your pride has wronged your own heart's blood;
For she was mine by grace,
And now my lady love is gone
None else shall take her place.
I'll sell my park and sell my hall
And sink my titles too.
Your pride's done wrong enough as now
To leave it more to do.

She owneth none that owned them all
And would have graced them well;
None else shall take the right she missed
Nor in my bosom dwell.--
And then he took and burnt his will
Before his mother's face,
And tore his patents all in two,
While tears fell down apace--
But in his mother's haughty look
Ye nought but frowns might trace.

And then he sat him down to grieve,
But could not sit for pain.
And then he laid him on the bed
And ne'er got up again.

The Maid of Ocram (IV)

And must none close my dying feet,
And must none close my hands,
And will none do the last kind deeds
That death for all demands?—
Your sister, she may close your feet,
Your brother close your hands,
Your mother, she may wrap your waist
In death's fit wedding bands;
Your father, he may tie your locks
And lay you in the sands.—

My sister, she will weep in vain,
My brother ride and run,
My mother, she will break her heart;
And ere the rising sun
My father will be looking out—
But find me they will none.
I go to lay my woes to rest,
None shall know where I'm gone.
God must be friend and father both,
Lord Gregory will be none.—

Lord Gregory started up from sleep
And thought he heard a voice
That screamed full dreadful in his ear,
And once and twice and thrice.
Lord Gregory to his mother called:
O mother dear, said he,
I've dreamt the Maid of Ocram
Was floating on the sea.

Lie still, my son, the mother said,
Tis but a little space
And half an hour has scarcely passed
Since she did pass this place.—
O cruel, cruel mother,
When she did pass so nigh
How could you let me sleep so sound
Or let her wander bye?
Now if she's lost my heart must break—
I'll seek her till I die.

The Maid of Ocram (III)

O ask me no more tokens
For fast the snow doth fall.
Tis sad to strive and speak in vain,
You mean to break them all.--
If you are the Maid of Ocram,
As I take you not to be,
You must mention the third token
That passed with you and me.--

Twas when you stole my maidenhead;
That grieves me worst of all.--
Begone, you lying creature, then
This instant from my hall,
Or you and your vile baby
Shall in the deep sea fall;
For I have none on earth as yet
That may me father call.--

O must none close my dying feet,
And must none close my hands,
And may none bind my yellow locks
As death for all demands?
You need not use no force at all,
Your hard heart breaks the vow;
You've had your wish against my will
And you shall have it now.

The Maid of Ocram (II)

O pause not thus, you know me well,
Haste down my way to win.
The wind disturbs my yellow locks,
The snow sleeps on my skin.—
If you be the Maid of Ocram,
As much I doubt you be,
Then tell me of three tokens
That passed with you and me.—

O talk not now of tokens
Which you do wish to break;
Chilled are those lips you've kissed so warm,
And all too numbed to speak.
You know when in my father's bower
You left your cloak for mine,
Though yours was nought but silver twist
And mine the golden twine.—

If you're the lass of Ocram,
As I take you not to be,
The second token you must tell
Which past with you and me.—
O know you not, O know you not
Twas in my father's park,
You led me out a mile too far
And courted in the dark?

When you did change your ring for mine
My yielding heart to win,
Though mine was of the beaten gold
Yours but of burnished tin,
Though mine was all true love without,
Yours but false love within?

The Maid Of Ocram or, Lord Gregory

Over the next week a longer narrative poem from Clare's
early work, "The Maid of Ocram or, Lord Gregory"

Gay was the Maid of Ocram
As lady eer might be
Ere she did venture past a maid
To love Lord Gregory.
Fair was the Maid of Ocram
And shining like the sun
Ere her bower key was turned on two
Where bride bed lay for none.

And late at night she sought her love--
The snow slept on her skin--
Get up, she cried, thou false young man,
And let thy true love in.
And fain would he have loosed the key
All for his true love's sake,
But Lord Gregory then was fast asleep,
His mother wide awake.

And up she threw the window sash,
And out her head put she:
And who is that which knocks so late
And taunts so loud to me?
It is the Maid of Ocram,
Your own heart's next akin;
For so you've sworn, Lord Gregory,
To come and let me in.

Mary Bayfield

How beautiful the summer night
When birds roost on the mossy tree,
When moon and stars are shining bright
And home has gone the weary bee!
Then Mary Bayfield seeks the glen,
The white hawthorn and grey oak tree,
And nought but heaven can tell me then
How dear thy beauty is to me.

Dear is the dewdrop to the flower,
The old wall to the weary bee,
And silence to the evening hour,
And ivy to the stooping tree.
Dearer than these, than all beside,
Than blossoms to the moss-rose tree,
The maid who wanders by my side--
Sweet Mary Bayfield is to me.

Sweet is the moonlight on the tree,
The stars above the glassy lake,
That from the bottom look at me
Through shadows of the crimping brake.
Such are sweet things--but sweeter still
Than these and all beside I see
The maid whose look my heart can thrill,
My Mary Bayfield's look to me.

O Mary with the dark brown hair,
The rosy cheek, the beaming eye,
I would thy shade were ever near;
Then would I never grieve or sigh.
I love thee, Mary dearly love--
There's nought so fair on earth I see,
There's nought so dear in heaven above,
As Mary Bayfield is to me.

To an Angry Bee

Malicious insect, little vengeful bee,
With venom-sting thou'rt whirling round and round
A harmless head that ne'er meant wrong to thee,
And friendship's hand it is thou'dst wish to wound:
Cool thy revenge, and judge thy foes aright;
The harden'd neatherd and the sweet-tooth'd boy -
Thy moss-wrapp'd treasures, if but in their sight,
Soon would they all thy honey'd lives destroy:
But delve the cowslip-peep in labour free,
And dread no pilferer of thy hoards in me. -
Thus man to man oft takes a friend for foe,
And spurns a blessing when its in his power,
Mistakes real happiness for worldly woe,
Crops sorrow's weed, and treads on pleasure's flower.


And yet another of Clare's 'autumn' poems:

The thistle-down's flying, though the winds are all still,
On the green grass now lying, now mounting the hill,
The spring from the fountain now boils like a pot;
Through stones past the counting it bubbles red hot.

The ground parched and cracked is like overbaked bread,
The greensward all wracked is, bents dried up and dead.
The fallow fields glitter like water indeed,
And gossamers twitter, flung from weed unto weed.

Hill tops like hot iron glitter bright in the sun,
And the rivers we're eying burn to gold as they run;
Burning hot is the ground, liquid gold is the air;
Whoever looks round sees Eternity there.


... another of John's Autumn poems:

Autumn comes laden with her ripened load
Of fruitage and so scatters them abroad
That each fern-smothered heath and mole-hill waste
Are black with bramble berries--where in haste
The chubby urchins from the village hie
To feast them there, stained with the purple dye;
While painted woods around my rambles be
In draperies worthy of eternity.
Yet will the leaves soon patter on the ground,
And death's deaf voice awake at every sound:
One drops--then others--and the last that fell
Rings for those left behind their passing bell.
Thus memory every where her tidings brings
How sad death robs us of life's dearest things.

Excerpt from "The Village Minstrel"

Swamps of wild rush-beds and sloughs' squashy traces,
Grounds of rough fallows with thistle and weed.
Flats and low valleys of kingcups and daisies,
Sweetest of subjects are ye for my reed:
Ye commons left free in the rude rags of nature,
Ye brown heaths beclothed in furze as ye be,
My wild eye in rapture adores every feature,
Ye are dear as this heart in my bosom to me.

O native endearments! I would not forsake ye,
I would not forsake ye for sweetest of scenes:
For sweetest of gardens that Nature could make me
I would not forsake ye, dear valleys and greens:
Though Nature ne'er dropped ye a cloud-resting mountain,
Nor waterfalls tumble their music so free,
Had Nature denied ye a bush, tree, or fountain,
Ye still had been loved as an Eden by me.

A Confession of Faith

My creed may be different from other creeds, but the difference is nothing when the end is the same. If I did not expect and hope for eternal happiness I should be ever miserable; and as every religion is a rule leading to good by its professor, the religions of all nations and creeds, where that end is the aim, ought rather to be respected than scoffed at. A final judgment of men by their deeds and actions in life is inevitable, and the only difference between an earthly assize and the eternal one is, that the final one needs no counsellors to paint the bad or good better or worse than they are. The Judge knows the hearts of all men, and the sentence may be expected to be just as well as final, whether it be for the worst or the best. This ought to teach us to pause and think, and try to lead our lives as well as we can.

John Clare - Prose Fragments


One gloomy eve I roamed about
Neath Oxey's hazel bowers,
While timid hares were darting out,
To crop the dewy flowers;
And soothing was the scene to me,
Right pleased was my soul,
My breast was calm as summer's sea
When waves forget to roll.

But short was even's placid smile,
My startled soul to charm,
When Nelly lightly skipt the stile,
With milk-pail on her arm:
One careless look on me she flung,
As bright as parting day;
And like a hawk from covert sprung,
It pounced my peace away.


From a look at John's ladies, it's back to his
view of the seasons on this sunny November day
in England.

I love the fitful gust that shakes
The casement all the day,
And from the glossy elm tree takes
The faded leaves away,
Twirling them by the window pane
With thousand others down the lane.

I love to see the shaking twig
Dance till the shut of eve,
The sparrow on the cottage rig,
Whose chirp would make believe
That Spring was just now flirting by,
In Summer's lap with flowers to lie.

I love to see the cottage smoke
Curl upwards through the trees,
The pigeons nestled round the cote
On November days like these;
The cock upon the dunghill crowing,
The mill sails on the heath a-going.

The feather from the raven's breast
Falls on the stubble lea,
The acorns near the old crow's nest
Drop pattering down the tree;
The grunting pigs, that wait for all,
Scramble and hurry where they fall.

The Lass With the Delicate Air

Timid and smiling, beautiful and shy,
She drops her head at every passer bye.
Afraid of praise she hurries down the streets
And turns away from every smile she meets.
The forward clown has many things to say
And holds her by the gown to make her stay,
The picture of good health she goes along,
Hale as the morn and happy as her song.
Yet there is one who never feels a fear
To whisper pleasing fancies in her ear;
Yet een from him she shuns a rude embrace,
And stooping holds her hands before her face,--
She even shuns and fears the bolder wind,
And holds her shawl, and often looks behind.

My Bonny Alice and her Pitcher

There's a bonny place in Scotland,
Where a little spring is found;
There Nature shows her honest face
The whole year round.
Where the whitethorn branches, full of may,
Hung near the fountain's rim,
Where comes sweet Alice every day
And dips her pitcher in;
A gallon pitcher without ear,
She fills it with the water clear.

My bonny Alice she is fair;
There's no such other to be found.
Her rosy cheek and dark brown hair—
The fairest maid on Scotland's ground.
And there the heather's pinhead flowers
All blossom over bank and brae,
While Alice passes by the bowers
To fill her pitcher every day;
The pitcher brown without an ear
She dips into the fountain clear.

O Alice, bonny, sweet, and fair,
With roses on her cheeks!
The little birds come drinking there,
The throstle almost speaks.
He dips his wings and wimples makes
Upon the fountain clear,
Then vanishes among the brakes
For ever singing near;
While Alice, listening, stands to hear,
And dips her pitcher without ear.

O Alice, bonny Alice, fair,
Thy pleasant face I love;
Thy red-rose cheek, thy dark brown hair,
Thy soft eyes, like a dove.
I see thee by the fountain stand,
With the sweet smiling face;
There's not a maid in all the land
With such bewitching grace
As Alice, who is drawing near,
To dip the pitcher without ear.