From "The Last of March

[Image: Carry Akroyd’s ‘March’ from ‘The Shepherd’s Calendar’ (2007)]

Though floods of winter bustling fall
Adown the arches bleak and blea,
Though snow-storms clothe the mossy wall,
And hourly whiten o'er the lea;
Yet when from clouds the sun is free
And warms the learning bird to sing,
'Neath sloping bank and sheltering tree
'Tis sweet to watch the creeping spring.

Though still so early, one may spy
And track her footsteps every hour;
The daisy with its golden eye,
And primrose bursting into flower;
And snugly, where the thorny bower
Keeps off the nipping frost and wind,
Excluding all but sun and shower,
There children early violets find.

Here 'neath the shelving bank's retreat
The horse-blob swells its golden ball;
Nor fear the lady-smocks to meet
The snows that round their blossoms fall:
Here by the arch's ancient wall
The antique elder buds anew;
Again the bulrush sprouting tall
The water wrinkles, rippling through.

from The Woodman

[Image: Carry Akroyd's 'Deep Solitude']

The woods how gloomy in a winter's morn!
The crows and ravens even cease to croak,
The little birds sit chittering on the thorn,
The pies scarce chatter when they leave the oak,
Startled from slumber by the woodman's stroke;
The milk-maid's song is drown'd in gloomy care,
And, while the village chimneys curl their smoke,
She milks, and blows, and hastens to be there;
And nature all seems sad, and dying in despair.

The quirking rabbit scarcely leaves her hole,
But rolls in torpid slumbers all the day;
The fox is loth to 'gin a long patrole,
And scouts the woods, content with meaner prey;
The hare so frisking, timid once, and gay,
'Hind the dead thistle hurkles from the view,
Nor scarce is scar'd though in the traveller's way,
Though waffling curs and shepherd-dogs pursue;
So winter's rugged power affects all nature through.

The Fox

[Image: Carry Akroyd's 'Grey Fox']
The shepherd on his journey heard when nigh
His dog among the bushes barking high;
The ploughman ran and gave a hearty shout,
He found a weary fox and beat him out.
The ploughman laughed and would have ploughed him in
But the old shepherd took him for the skin.
He lay upon the furrow stretched for dead,
The old dog lay and licked the wounds that bled,
The ploughman beat him till his ribs would crack,
And then the shepherd slung him at his back;
And when he rested, to his dog's surprise,
The old fox started from his dead disguise;
And while the dog lay panting in the sedge
He up and snapt and bolted through the hedge.

He scampered to the bushes far away;
The shepherd called the ploughman to the fray;
The ploughman wished he had a gun to shoot.
The old dog barked and followed the pursuit.
The shepherd threw his hook and tottered past;
The ploughman ran but none could go so fast;
The woodman threw his faggot from the way
And ceased to chop and wondered at the fray.
But when he saw the dog and heard the cry
He threw his hatchet--but the fox was bye.
The shepherd broke his hook and lost the skin;
He found a badger hole and bolted in.
They tried to dig, but, safe from danger's way,
He lived to chase the hounds another day.

The Village Minstrel (XXX)

[Image: Carry Akroyd's 'Fen Red Fox']

Housewives discoursing 'bout their hens and cocks,
Spinning long stories, wearing half the day;
Sad deeds bewailing of the prowling fox;
How in the roost the thief had knav'd his way,
And made their market-profits all a prey.
And other losses too the dames recite,
Of chick, and duck, and gosling gone astray;
All falling prizes to the swopping kite:
And so the story runs both morning, noon, and night.

To my Wife -- A Valentine

O once I had a true love,
As blest as I could be:
Patty was my turtle dove,
And Patty she loved me.
We walked the fields together,
By roses and woodbine,
In Summer's sunshine weather,
And Patty she was mine.

We stopped to gather primroses,
And violets white and blue,
In pastures and green closes
All glistening with the dew.
We sat upon green mole-hills,
Among the daisy flowers,
To hear the small birds' merry trills,
And share the sunny hours.

The blackbird on her grassy nest
We would not scare away,
Who nuzzling sat with brooding breast
On her eggs for half the day.
The chaffinch chirruped on the thorn,
And a pretty nest had she;
The magpie chattered all the morn
From her perch upon the tree.

And I would go to Patty's cot,
And Patty came to me;
Each knew the other's very thought
Under the hawthorn tree.
And Patty had a kiss to give,
And Patty had a smile,
To bid me hope and bid me love,
At every stopping stile.

We loved one Summer quite away,
And when another came,
The cowslip close and sunny day,
It found us much the same.
We both looked on the selfsame thing,
Till both became as one;
The birds did in the hedges sing,
And happy time went on.

The brambles from the hedge advance,
In love with Patty's eyes:
On flowers, like ladies at a dance,
Flew scores of butterflies.
I claimed a kiss at every stile,
And had her kind replies.
The bees did round the woodbine toil,
Where sweet the small wind sighs.

Then Patty was a slight young thing;
Now she's long past her teens;
And we've been married many springs,
And mixed in many scenes.
And I'll be true for Patty's sake,
And she'll be true for mine;
And I this little ballad make,
To be her Valentine.

A Valentine

Here's a valentine nosegay for Mary,
Some of Spring's earliest flowers;
The ivy is green by the dairy,
And so are these laurels of ours.
Though the snow fell so deep and the winter was dreary,
The laurels are green and the sparrows are cheery.

The snowdrops in bunches grow under the rose,
And aconites under the lilac, like fairies;
The best in the bunches for Mary I chose,
Their looks are as sweet and as simple as Mary's.
The one will make Spring in my verses so bare,
The other set off as a braid thy dark hair.

Pale primroses, too, at the old parlour end,
Have bloomed all the winter 'midst snows cold and dreary,
Where the lavender-cotton kept off the cold wind,
Now to shine in my valentine nosegay for Mary;
And appear in my verses all Summer, and be
A memento of fondness and friendship for thee.

Here's the crocus half opened, that spreads into gold,
Like branches of sunbeams left there by a fairy:
I place them as such in these verses so cold,
But they'll bloom twice as bright in the presence of Mary,
These garden flowers crop't, I will go to the field,
And see what the valley and pasture land yield.

Here peeps the pale primrose from the skirts of the wild wood,
And violet blue 'neath the thorn on the green;
The wild flowers we plucked in the days of our childhood,
On the very same spot, as no changes have been--
In the very same place where the sun kissed the leaves,
And the woodbine its branches of thorns interweaves.

And here in the pasture, all swarming with rushes,
Is a cowslip as blooming and forward as Spring;
And the pilewort like sunshine grows under the bushes,
While the chaffinch there sitting is trying to sing;
And the daisies are coming, called "stars of the earth,"
To bring to the schoolboy his Springtime of mirth.

Here, then, is the nosegay: how simple it shines!
It speaks without words to the ear and the eye;
The flowers of the Spring are the best valentines;
They are young, fair, and simple, and pleasingly shy.
That you may remain so and your love never vary,
I send you these flowers as a valentine, Mary.

(14th February 1844 - Knight Transcript)

LP I 301

Maid of Walkherd

[Aerial Photo of Walk Farm from Google Earth]

Whilst in the Northampton Asylum, Clare handed to a member of the medical staff the following piece, which he called 'A Sonnet,' with the instruction that it should be sent to his wife Patty:

Maid of Walkherd, meet again,
By the wilding in the glen;
By the oak against the door,
Where we often met before.
By thy bosom's heaving snow,
By thy fondness none shall know;
Maid of Walkherd, meet again,
By the wilding in the glen.

By thy hand of slender make,
By thy love I'll ne'er forsake,
By thy heart I'll ne'er betray,
Let me kiss thy fears away!
I will live and love thee ever,
Leave thee and forsake thee never!
Though far in other lands to be,
Yet never far from love and thee.

Walkherd [or Walk Farm] still exists (see Google image above). It is an isolated farm, lying approximately midway between the villages of Great Casterton, Pickworth and Ryhall, well off the road. It has also been known as Walk Lodge and Walkherd Lodge. It lies about 10 miles north-east of Helpston.

It was the home of the Patty, John Clare’s wife. Martha "Patty" (born March 3rd 1799) was the daughter of Mr William Turner of Walk Lodge. The Turners had come down in the world but still considered a relationship with Clare to be beneath their daughter. However, as Patty “began to disclose dangers that which marriage alone could remedy” [i.e. she was pregnant] they were married on 16th March, 1820, with her uncle giving her away. The first of their eight children, Anna Maria, was born on 2nd June.

The old farmhouse is early 19th century, stone-built with a collyweston slate roof and is constructed in one range with a barn. The building is Grade II listed and very small; Clare refers to it as a cottage. I believe it was renovated some while ago, having been uninhabited for some years.


'Tis Spring, My Love, 'Tis Spring

'T is Spring, my love, 'tis Spring,
And the birds begin to sing:
If 'twas Winter, left alone with you,
Your bonny form and face
Would make a Summer place,
And be the finest flower that ever grew.

'T is Spring, my love, 'tis Spring,
And the hazel catkins hing,
While the snowdrop has its little blebs of dew;
But that's not so white within
As your bosom's hidden skin--
That sweetest of all flowers that ever grew.

The sun arose from bed,
All strewn with roses red,
But the brightest and the loveliest crimson place
Is not so fresh and fair,
Or so sweet beyond compare,
As thy blushing, ever smiling, happy face.

I love Spring's early flowers,
And their bloom in its first hours,
But they never half so bright or lovely seem
As the blithe and happy grace
Of my darling's blushing face,
And the happiness of love's young dream.

LP I 179 (Another Knight transcript)

Village Minstrel (excerpt)

[Image: 'Dark Ditch' -- Carry Akroyd]

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.

And long, my dear valleys, long, long may ye flourish,
Though rush-beds and thistles make most of your pride!
May showers never fail the green's daisies to nourish,
Nor suns dry the fountain that rills by its side!
Your skies may be gloomy, and misty your mornings,
Your flat swampy valleys unwholesome may be,
Still, refuse of Nature, without her adornings
Ye are dear as this heart in my bosom to me.