The Lament of Swordy Well

[Swaddywell -- Swordywell -- in July 2007]
I'm Swordy Well, a piece of land
That's fell upon the town,
Who worked me till I couldn't stand
And crush me now I'm down.
There was a time my bit of ground
Made freeman of the slave,
The ass no pounder'd dare to pound
When I his supper gave.

The gipsy's camp was not afraid,
I made his dwelling free,
Till vile enclosure came, and made
A parish slave of me.
Alas, dependence, thou'rt a brute
Want only understands;
His feelings wither branch and root
Who falls in parish hands.

The muck that clouts the ploughman's shoe,
The moss that hides the stone,
Now I'm become the parish due,
Is more than I can own.
The silver springs are naked dykes,
With scarce a clump of rushes;
When grain got nigh, the tasteless tykes
Grubbed up trees, banks, and bushes.

Though I'm no man, yet any wrong
Some sort of right may seek,
And I am glad if e'en a song
Give me the room to speak.
I've got among such grubbling gear
And such a hungry pack,
If I brought harvests twice a year,
They'd bring me nothing back.

And should the price of grain get high
—Lord help and keep it low!—
I shan't possess a butterfly
Nor get a weed to grow,
I shan't possess a yard of ground
To bid a mouse to thrive;
For gain has put me in a pound,
I scarce can keep alive.

Ah me!—they turned me inside out
For sand and grit and stones,
And turned my old green hills about
And picked my very bones.
The bees fly round in feeble rings
And find no blossom by,
Then thrum their almost weary wings
Upon the moss, and die.

Rabbits that find my hills turned o'er
Forsake my poor abode;
They dread a workhouse like the poor,
And nibble on the road.
If with a clover bottle now
Spring dares to lift her head,
The next day brings the hasty plough
And makes me misery's bed.

I've scarce a nook to call my own
For things that creep or fly;
The beetle hiding 'neath a stone
Does well to hurry by.
And if I could but find a friend
With no deceit to sham,
Who'd send me some few sheep to tend,
And leave me as I am.

To keep my hills from cart and plough
And strife of mongrel men,
And as spring found me find me now,
I should look up agen.
And save his Lordship's woods, that past
The day of danger dwell,

Of all the fields I am the last
That my own face can tell,
Yet what with stone-pits' delving holes,
And strife to buy and sell,
My name will quickly be the whole
That's left of Swordy Well.

1 comment:

LordCrashingbore said...

iPoor John Clare; he saw it all. So far as he was concerned, the worst thing one could do was build a wall around one's possessions: farmers and land. Robert Frost felt more protective about walls; decent wholesome defences, but he owned far more than Clare.