From 'January'

"... unperceived, through key-holes creep,
When all around have sunk to sleep,
To feast on what the cotter leaves,--
Mice are not reckoned greater thieves.
They take away, as well as eat,
And still the housewife's eye they cheat,
In spite of all the folks that swarm
In cottage small and larger farm;
They through each key-hole pop and pop,
Like wasps into a grocer's shop,
With all the things that they can win
From chance to put their plunder in;--
As shells of walnuts, split in two
By crows, who with the kernels flew;
Or acorn-cups, by stock-doves plucked,
Or egg-shells by a cuckoo sucked;
With broad leaves of the sycamore
They clothe their stolen dainties oer:
And when in cellar they regale,
Bring hazel-nuts to hold their ale;
With bung-holes bored by squirrels well,
To get the kernel from the shell;
Or maggots a way out to win,
When all is gone that grew within;
And be the key-holes eer so high,
Rush poles a ladder's help supply.
Where soft the climbers fearless tread,
On spindles made of spiders' thread.
And foul, or fair, or dark the night,
Their wild-fire lamps are burning bright:
For which full many a daring crime
Is acted in the summer-time..."

The Firwood

The fir trees taper into twigs and wear
The rich blue green of summer all the year,
Softening the roughest tempest almost calm
And offering shelter ever still and warm
To the small path that towels underneath,
Where loudest winds--almost as summer's breath--
Scarce fan the weed that lingers green below
When others out of doors are lost in frost and snow.
And sweet the music trembles on the ear
As the wind suthers through each tiny spear,
Makeshifts for leaves; and yet, so rich they show,
Winter is almost summer where they grow.


The evening primrose is of course a late summer flower... but here we have Clare speaking of the first signs of Spring, and the primrose that I can see from my study across the garden, with its Devon banks and warm corners:

Where slanting banks are always with the sun
The daisy is in blossom even now;
And where warm patches by the hedges run
The cottager when coming home from plough
Brings home a cowslip root in flower to set.
Thus ere the Christmas goes the spring is met
Setting up little tents about the fields
In sheltered spots — Primroses when they get
Behind the wood's old roots, where ivy shields
Their crimpled, curdled leaves, will shine and hide.
Cart ruts and horses' footings scarcely yield
A slur for boys, just crizzled and that's all.
Frost shoots his needles by the small dyke side,
And snow in scarce a feather's seen to fall.

After posting this lovely poem, I came across Ronald Blythe's words in his weekly country diary "Word from Wormingford" for 21st January:

"Gulls, scores of them, take greedy flight over a bit of ploughing. Clumps of snowdrops reveal their presence in my woodland, white-tipped needles in the leaf mulch. And then that midwinter yet, at the same time, near-spring rustle of blackbirds kicking around in dry leaves, and the jewel-like glimpse of their shining eyes beneath the shrubs"

Evening Primrose

With the first primroses showing their faces across the garden,
and signs of spring everywhere, one of Clare's little gems:

When once the sun sinks in the west,
And dew-drops pearl the evening's breast;
Almost as pale as moonbeams are,
Or its companionable star,
The evening primrose opes anew
Its delicate blossoms to the dew;
And, shunning-hermit of the light,
Wastes its fair bloom upon the night;
Who, blindfold to its fond caresses,
Knows not the beauty he possesses.
Thus it blooms on till night is bye
And day looks out with open eye,
Abashed at the gaze it cannot shun,
It faints and withers, and is done.

The Invitation

Come hither, my dear one, my choice one, and rare one,
And let us be walking the meadows so fair,
Where on pilewort and daisies the eye fondly gazes,
And the wind plays so sweet in thy bonny brown hair.

Come with thy maiden eye, lay silks and satins by;
Come in thy russet or grey cotton gown;
Come to the meads, dear, where flags, sedge, and reeds appear,
Rustling to soft winds and bowing low down.

Come with thy parted hair, bright eyes, and forehead bare;
Come to the whitethorn that grows in the lane;
To banks of primroses, where sweetness reposes,
Come, love, and let us be happy again.

Come where the violet flowers, come where the morning showers
Pearl on the primrose and speedwell so blue;
Come to that clearest brook that ever runs round the nook
Where you and I pledged our first love so true.

Winter Walk

The holly bush, a sober lump of green,
Shines through the leafless shrubs all brown and grey,
And smiles at winter be it eer so keen
With all the leafy luxury of May.
And O it is delicious, when the day
In winter's loaded garment keenly blows
And turns her back on sudden falling snows,
To go where gravel pathways creep between
Arches of evergreen that scarce let through
A single feather of the driving storm;
And in the bitterest day that ever blew
The walk will find some places still and warm
Where dead leaves rustle sweet and give alarm
To little birds that flirt and start away.

A World for Love

Oh, the world is all too rude for thee, with much ado and care;
Oh, this world is but a rude world, and hurts a thing so fair;
Was there a nook in which the world had never been to sear,
That place would prove a paradise when thou and Love were near.

And there to pluck the blackberry, and there to reach the sloe,
How joyously and happily would Love thy partner go;
Then rest when weary on a bank, where not a grassy blade
Had eer been bent by Trouble's feet, and Love thy pillow made.

For Summer would be ever green, though sloes were in their prime,
And Winter smile his frowns to Spring, in beauty's happy clime;
And months would come, and months would go, and all in sunny mood,
And everything inspired by thee grow beautifully good.

And there to make a cot unknown to any care and pain,
And there to shut the door alone on singing wind and rain--
Far, far away from all the world, more rude than rain or wind,
Oh, who could wish a sweeter home, or better place to find?

Than thus to love and live with thee, thou beautiful delight!
Than thus to live and love with thee the summer day and night!
The Earth itself, where thou hadst rest, would surely smile to see
Herself grow Eden once again, possest of Love and thee.

From "January"

Supper removed, the mother sits,
And tells her tales by starts and fits.
Not willing to lose time or toil,
She knits or sews, and talks the while
Something, that may be warnings found
To the young listeners gaping round--
Of boys who in her early day
Strolled to the meadow-lake to play,
Where willows, oer the bank inclined
Sheltered the water from the wind,
And left it scarcely crizzled oer--
When one sank in, to rise no more!
And how, upon a market-night,
When not a star bestowed its light,
A farmer's shepherd, oer his glass,
Forgot that he had woods to pass:
And having sold his master's sheep,
Was overta'en by darkness deep.
How, coming with his startled horse,
To where two roads a hollow cross;
Where, lone guide when a stranger strays,
A white post points four different ways,
Beside the woodride's lonely gate
A murdering robber lay in wait.
The frightened horse, with broken rein,
Stood at the stable-door again;
But none came home to fill his rack,
Or take the saddle from his back;
The saddle--it was all he bore--
The man was seen alive no more!