To a Primrose

According to his friend Octavius Gilchrist -- recorded in the “London Magazine” for January 1820 -- Clare composed the following sonnet “To a Primrose” at the age of sixteen:

Welcome, pale primrose, starting up between
Dead matted leaves of oak and ash, that strew
The every lawn, the wood, and spinney through,
Mid creeping moss and ivy's darker green!
How much thy presence beautifies the ground!
How sweet thy modest, unaffected pride
Glows on the sunny bank and wood's warm side!
And where thy fairy flowers in groups are found
The schoolboy roams enchantedly along,
Plucking the fairest with a rude delight,
While the meek shepherd stops his simple song,
To gaze a moment on the pleasing sight,
O'erjoyed to see the flowers that truly bring
The welcome news of sweet returning Spring.

At the Foot of Clifford Hill

Who loves the white-thorn tree,
And the river running free?
There a maiden stood with me
In Summer weather.
Near a cottage far from town,
While the sun went brightly down
O'er the meadows green and brown,
We loved together.
How sweet her drapery flowed,
While the moor-cock oddly crowed;
I took the kiss which love bestowed,
Under the white-thorn tree.
Soft winds the water curled,
The trees their branches furled;
Sweetest nook in all the world
Is where she stood with me.

Calm came the evening air,
The sky was sweet and fair,
In the river shadowed there,
Close by the hawthorn tree.
Round her neck I clasped my arms,
And kissed her rosy charms;
O'er the flood the hackle swarms,
Where the maiden stood with me.

O there's something falls so dear
On the music of the ear,
Where the river runs so clear,
And my lover met with me.
At the foot of Clifford Hill
Still I hear the clacking mill,
And the river's running still
Under the trysting tree.

Lassie, I love thee

Lassie, I love thee!
The heavens above thee
Look downwards to move thee,
And prove my love true.
My arms round thy waist, love,
My head on thy breast, love;
By a true man caressed love,
Ne'er bid me adieu.

Thy cheek's full o' blushes,
Like the rose in the bushes,
While my love ardent gushes
With over delight.
Though clouds may come o'er thee,
Sweet maid, I'll adore thee,
As I do now before thee:
I love thee outright.

It stings me to madness
To see thee all gladness,
While I'm full of sadness
Thy meaning to guess.
Thy gown is deep blue, love,
In honour of true love:
Ever thinking of you, love,
My love I'll confess.

My love ever showing,
Thy heart worth the knowing,
It is like the sun glowing,
And hid in thy breast.
Thy lover behold me;
To my bosom I'll fold thee,
For thou, love, thou'st just told me,
So here thou may'st rest.

Mary Bayfield

[Image: Edward Burne-Jones]

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 the Lark

Bird of the morn,
When roseate clouds begin
To show the opening dawn
Thou gladly sing'st it in,
And o'er the sweet green fields and happy vales
Thy pleasant song is heard, mixed with the morning gales.

Bird of the morn,
What time the ruddy sun
Smiles on the pleasant corn
Thy singing is begun,
Heartfelt and cheering over labourers' toil,
Who chop in coppice wild and delve the russet soil.

Bird of the sun,
How dear to man art thou!
When morning has begun
To gild the mountain's brow,
How beautiful it is to see thee soar so blest,
Winnowing thy russet wings above thy twitchy nest.

Bird of the Summer's day,
How oft I stand to hear
Thee sing thy airy lay,
With music wild and clear,
Till thou becom'st a speck upon the sky,
Small as the clods that crumble where I lie.

Thou bird of happiest song,
The Spring and Summer too
Are thine, the months along,
The woods and vales to view.
If climes were evergreen thy song would be
The sunny music of eternal glee.

The Haymaker's Story (excerpt)

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.

A Winters Day (III)

The shepherd too in great coat wrapt
And straw bands round his stockings lapt
Wi plodding dog that sheltering steals
To shun the wind behind his heels
Takes rough and smooth the winter weather
And paces thro the snow together
While in the fields the lonly plough
Enjoys its frozen sabbath now
And horses too pass time away
In leisures hungry holiday
Rubbing and lunging round the yard
Dreaming no doubt of summer sward
As near wi idle pace they draw
To brouze the upheapd cribs of straw
While whining hogs wi hungry roar
Crowd around the kitchen door
Or when their scanty meal is done
Creep in the straw the cold to shun
And old hens scratting all the day
Seeks curnels chance may throw away
Pausing to pick the seed and grain
Then dusting up the chaff again
While in the barn holes hid from view
The cats their patient watch pursue
For birds which want in flocks will draw
From woods and fields to pick the straw

A Winters Day (II)

He shakes his head and still proceeds
Neer doubting once of what he reads
All wonders are wi faith supplyd
Bible at once and weather guide
Puffing the while his red tipt pipe
Dreaming oer troubles nearly ripe
Yet not quite lost in profits way
He'll turn to next years harvest day
And winters leisure to regale
Hopes better times and sips his ale
While labour still pursues his way
And braves the tempest as he may
The thresher first thro darkness deep
Awakes the mornings winter sleep
Scaring the owlet from her prey
Long before she dreams of day
That blinks above head on the snow
Watching the mice that squeaks below
And foddering boys sojourn again
By ryhme hung hedge and frozen plain
Shuffling thro the sinking snows
Blowing his fingers as he goes
To where the stock in bellowings hoarse
Call for their meals in dreary close
And print full many a hungry track
Round circling hedge that guards the stack
Wi higgling tug he cuts the hay
And bares the forkfull loads away
And morn and evening daily throws
The little heaps upon the snows

The Shepherd's Calendar - January

(Carry Akroyd - January [detail])


Withering and keen the winter comes
While comfort flyes to close shut rooms
And sees the snow in feathers pass
Winnowing by the window glass
And unfelt tempests howl and beat
Above his head in corner seat
And musing oer the changing scene
Farmers behind the tavern screen
Sit-or wi elbow idly prest
On hob reclines the corners guest
Reading the news to mark again
The bankrupt lists or price of grain
Or old moores anual prophecys
That many a theme for talk supplys
Whose almanacks thumbd pages swarm
Wi frost and snow and many a storm
And wisdom gossipd from the stars
Of polities and bloody wars