The Village Minstrel

And he could tell how the shy squirrel far'd,
Who often stood its busy toils to see;
How against winter it was well prepar'd
With many a store in hollow root or tree,
As if being told what winter's wants would be:
Its nuts and acorns he would often find,
And hips and haws too, heaped plenteously
In snug warm corner that broke off the wind;
With leafy nest made nigh, that warm green mosses lin'd.

'Twas thus his fond inquiry us'd to trace
Through nature's secret with unwearied eye,
And watch the shifting seasons' changing grace;
Spring's first wild flower, and summer's painted sky,
The insect creeping, and the birds that fly;
The autumn's dying breeze; the winter-wind,
That bellow'd round his hut most mournfully:
And as his years increas'd his taste refin'd,
And fancy with new charms enlighten'd up his mind.

Ploughman Singing

Here morning in the ploughman's songs is met
Ere yet one footstep shows in all the sky,
And twilight in the east, a doubt as yet,
Shows not her sleeve of grey to know her bye.
Woke early, I arose and thought that first
In winter time of all the world was I.
The old owls might have hallooed if they durst,
But joy just then was up and whistled bye
A merry tune which I had known full long,
But could not to my memory wake it back,
Until the ploughman changed it to the song.
O happiness, how simple is thy track.
--Tinged like the willow shoots, the east's young brow
Glows red and finds thee singing at the plough.

Sudden Shower

Black grows the southern sky, betokening rain,
And humming hive-bees homeward hurry bye:
They feel the change; so let us shun the grain,
And take the broad road while our feet are dry.
Ay, there some dropples moistened on my face,
And pattered on my hat--tis coming nigh!
Let's look about, and find a sheltering place.
The little things around, like you and I,
Are hurrying through the grass to shun the shower.
Here stoops an ash-tree--hark! the wind gets high,
But never mind; this ivy, for an hour,
Rain as it may, will keep us dryly here:
That little wren knows well his sheltering bower,
Nor leaves his dry house though we come so near.

To Anna Three Years Old (2)

Thou’lt leave my hand with eager speed
The new discovered things to see--
The old pond with its water weed
And danger-daring willow tree,
Who leans an ancient invalid
O’er spots where deepest waters be.

In sudden shout and wild surprise
I hear thy simple wonderment,
As new things meet thy childish eyes
And wake some innocent intent;

As bird or bee or butterfly
Bounds through the crowd of merry leaves
And starts the rapture of thine eye
To run for what it ne’er achieves.

But thou art on the bed of pain,
So tells each poor forsaken toy.
Ah, could I see that happy hour
When these shall be thy heart's employ,
And see thee toddle oer the plain,
And stoop for flowers, and shout for joy.

To Anna Three Years Old (1)

My Anna, summer laughs in mirth,
And we will of the party be,
And leave the crickets in the hearth
For green fields' merry minstrelsy.

I see thee now with little hand
Catch at each object passing bye,
The happiest thing in all the land
Except the bee and butterfly.

And limpid brook that leaps along,
Gilt with the summer’s burnished gleam,
Will stop thy little tale or song
To gaze upon its crimping stream.

The Shepherd's Daughter

How sweet is every lengthening day,
And every change of weather,
When Summer comes, on skies blue grey,
And brings her hosts together,
Her flocks of birds, her crowds of flowers,
Her sunny-shining water!
I dearly love the woodbine bowers,
That hide the Shepherd's Daughter--
In gown of green or brown or blue,
The Shepherd's Daughter, leal and true.

How bonny is her lily breast!
How sweet her rosy face!
She'd give my aching bosom rest,
Where love would find its place.
While earth is green, and skies are blue,
And sunshine gilds the water,
While Summer's sweet and Nature true,
I'll love the Shepherd's Daughter--
Her nut brown hair, her clear bright eye,
My daily thought, my only joy.

She's such a simple, sweet young thing,
Dressed in her country costume.
My wits had used to know the Spring,
Till I saw, and loved, and lost 'em.
How quietly the lily lies
Upon the deepest water!
How sweet to me the Summer skies!
And so's the Shepherd's Daughter--
With lily breast and rosy face
The sweetest maid in any place.

My singing bird, my bonny flower,
How dearly could I love thee!
To sit with thee one pleasant hour,
If thou would'st but approve me!
I swear by lilies white and yellow,
That flower on deepest water,
Would'st thou but make me happy fellow,
I'd wed the Shepherd's Daughter!
By all that's on the earth or water,
I more than love the Shepherd's Daughter.

Love's Riddle

"Unriddle this riddle, my own Jenny love,
Unriddle this riddle for me,
And if ye unriddle the riddle aright,
A kiss your prize shall be,
And if ye riddle the riddle all wrong,
Ye're treble the debt to me:

I'll give thee an apple without any core;
I'll give thee a cherry where stones never be;
I'll give thee a palace, without any door,
And thou shalt unlock it without any key;
I'll give thee a fortune that kings cannot give,
Nor any one take from thee."

"How can there be apples without any core?
How can there be cherries where stones never be?
How can there be houses without any door?
Or doors I may open without any key?
How can'st thou give fortunes that kings cannot give,
When thou art no richer than me?"

"My head is the apple without any core;
In cherries in blossom no stones ever be;
My mind is love's palace without any door,
Which thou can'st unlock, love, without any key.
My heart is the wealth, love, that kings cannot give,
Nor any one take it from thee.

So there are love's riddles, my own Jenny love,
Ye cannot unriddle to me,
And for the one kiss you've so easily lost
I'll make ye give seven to me.
To kiss thee is sweet, but 't is sweeter by far
To be kissed, my dear Jenny, by thee.

Come pay me the forfeit, my own Jenny love;
Thy kisses and cheeks are akin,
And for thy three sweet ones I'll give thee a score
On thy cheeks, and thy lips, and thy chin."
She laughed while he gave her, as much as to say,
"T'were better to lose than to win."

The Shepherd's Calendar - April

[Detail from Carry Akroyd’s linocut illustrating April from “The Shepherd’s Calendar 2007” published by Carcanet Publications]

The shepherds on thy pasture walks
The first fair cowslip finds
Whose tufted flowers on slender stalks
Keep nodding to the winds
And tho thy thorns withold the may
Their shades the violets bring
Which childern stoop for in their play
As tokens of the spring

The time when daiseys bloom divine
With thy calm hours begun
And crowflowers blazing blooms are thine
Bright childern of the sun
Along thy woodlands shaded nooks
The primrose wanly comes
And shining in thy pebley brooks
The horse bleb gaily blooms

The long lost charm of sparkling dew
Thy gentle birth receives
And on thy wreathing locks we view
The first infolding leaves
And seeking firstling buds and flowers
The trials of thy skill
Were pastimes of my infant hours
And so they haunt me still