Langley Bush

O Langley bush the shepherds sacred shade
Thy hollow trunk oft gaind a look from me
Full many a journey oer the heath Ive made
For such like curious things I love to see
What truth the story of the swain allows
That tells of honours which thy young days knew
Of ‘langley court’ being kept beneath thy boughs
I cannot tell—thus much I know is true
That thou art reverencd even the rude clan
Of lawless gipseys drove from stage to stage
Pilfering the hedges of the husband man
Leave thee as sacred in thy withering age
Both swains & gipseys seem to love thy name
Thy spots a favourite wi the smutty crew
& soon thou must depend on gipsey fame
Thy mulldering trunk is nearly rotten thro
My last doubts murmuring on the zephers swell
My last looks linger on thy boughs wi pain
To thy declining age I bid farwell
Like old companions neer to meet again

He [Clare] made Swordy Well protest. Bad enough for the villagers, now being pauperised, but quite terrible for the gypsies immemorially camped at Langley bush. The Vagrancy Act of 1824, swiftly following the Enclosure Act, made it an offence, among other things, 'to be in the open air, or under a tent, or in a cart or wagon, not having any visible means of subsistence, and not giving a good account of himself, or herself'.

Ronnie Blythe - 'Vagabondage in a Native Place: John Clare and the Gypsies'

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