The Mock Bird

I've often tried, when tending sheep and cow,
With bits of grass and peels of oaten straw,
To whistle like the birds. The thrush would start
To hear her song, and pause, and fly away;
The blackbird never cared, but sang again;
The nightingale's fine song I could not try;
And when the thrush would mock her song, she paused,
And sang another song no bird could do!
She sang when all were done, and beat them all.
I've often sat and mocked them half the day,
Behind the hedge-row, thorn, or bullace tree:
I thought how nobly I could act in crowds.
The woods and fields were all the books I knew,
And every leisure thought was Love and Fame.

When gentle even oer the wild scene creeping

When gentle even oer the wild scene creeping
Lays labour down free from his care
& the moons silver pencil nights landscape is sweeping
On the tree heads & thro mountains tops peeping
As fair as sweet woman is fair

When the lone night bird his love song is breathing
& his sorrow melts sweet on the ear
& the blew mist round the horison wreathing
On the moist cheek & the still bough is [sweep]ing
As sweetly as kind warming tear

While the wild night wind his love tidings hushes
As a watch nurse oer her childs [closing eye]
Whispering soft thro the trees & the bushes
While the brooke oer its [mountain] bed murmuring gushes
As soft as a sweet womans sigh

O blest at that hour when the [doves tribes] are snoozing
[As morn] with sweet [blushes o] care
When the Nights fears in the moon light is loosing
& gilds sweet the snow of her soft heaving bosom
Sure never seems woman so fair

But sad at that hour is fond lovers meeting
& fate frowning fate [hovers] near
Forcd from each other fond vows soft repeating
To part & perchance never more to be meeting
How dearer then life is sweet womans tear

When gentle eve in nights lap is desarting
& sinking moon dims in the eye
When modesty wispers its leave to be parting
When love seals a vow on their lips at departing
How sweet is the good womans sigh

Native Scenes (click here)

[Near Torpel Manor Field just outside Helpston]

O native scenes for ever ever dear
So blest so happy where I long have been
So charmd with nature in each varied scene
To leave ye all is cutting & severe
Ye hanging bushes that from winds woud screen
Where oft Ive shelterd from an aprils shower
In youths past bliss in Childhoods happy hour
Ye Woods Ive wanderd searching out the nest
Ye Meadows gay that reard me many a flower
Culling my cow slips Ive been doubly blest
Huming gay fancies As I bound the prize
O Fate unkind beloved scenes adieu
Your vanishd pleasures crowd my swimming eyes
& makes this wounded heart to bleed anew

To Anna, three years old

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 by,
The happiest thing in all the land
Except the bee and butterfly.

The weed-based arches' walls that stride
O'er where the meadow water falls
Will turn thee from thy path aside
To gaze upon the mossy walls.

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.

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.

The simple reasoning arguments
Shaped to thy fancy's little view,
The joys and rapturous intents
That everywhere pursue.

So dreamed I over hope's young boon,
When merry summer was returning,
And little thought that time so soon
Would change my early hope to mourning.

I thought to have heard thee mid the bowers
To mock the cuckoo's merry song,
And see thee seek thy daisy flowers
That's been thy anxious choice so long.

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 o'er the plain,
And stoop for flowers, and shout for joy.

When with our little ones we spent

When with our little ones we spent
Each Sunday after tea,
And up the wood's dark side we went
Or pasture's rushy lea,
To look among the woodland boughs
To find the bird's retreat,
Or crop the cowslip for the cows;
Then sat to rest the little feet
In many a pleasant place,
And see the lambs, who tried to bleat,
Come first in every race,
Then laugh'd the children's joys to view,
Who ran across the lea
At birds that from the rushes flew,
And many a wandering bee.

Great Casterton

Ronald Blythe deep in conversation with David Rowe in the garden of the Crown Inn, Great Casterton just opposite the church in which Clare and Patty were married in March 1820. David sang two of Clare's poems - 'Maid of Walkherd' and 'The Courtship' as part of the presentation of poems, songs and readings in the Church. It is hoped that these songs will form part of a Clare CD in the near future. At present I can offer a 'Demo' recording of David's settings of 9 of Clare's poems for the princely sum of £3-00.

A womans is the dearest love
Theres nought on earth sincerer
The leisure upon beautys breast
Can any thing be dearer

I saw her love in beauty’s face
I saw her in the rose
I saw her in the fairest flowers
In every weed that grows

(from 'The Courtship')

Summer Heat at Helpston

Back from Helpston and lovely three days of Festival. Although the heat was quite oppressive, the programme and fellow Society members were at their stimulating best.

Theres beauty in the intercourse of nature with her kind
Then come my dear Miss W--- and hear the sueing wind
That will not let thy hair alone, for all its glossy curls
But blows it in disorder like a string of broken pearls
That winnows round thy snowy neck to cool the summer heat
I wish I was the wind myself that kisses one so sweet
(from "To Miss W---") excerpt.

My love's like a lily my love's like a rose

For my final posting before the Festival starts on Friday lunchtime in Helpston, a lovely poem from Clare's youthful courting of Patty. Published in "Poems Descriptive of Rural Life & Scenery" in the Spring of 1820. Clare and Patty were married on the 20th March, 1820 in Bridge Casterton Church. On Saturday afternoon, the 10th July, we will be re-visiting the church in the village -- now called Great Casterton.

My love’s like a lily my loves like a rose
My love’s like a smile the spring morning’s disclose
And sweet as the rose on her cheek—her love glows
When sweetly she smileth on me

& as cold as the snow of the lily—my rose
Behaves to pretenders who ever they be
In vain higher stations their passions disclose
To win her affections from me

My love’s like the lily my love’s like the rose
My love’s like the smile the spring morning’s disclose
& fine as the lily & sweet as the rose
My loves beauty bloometh to me

& smiles of more pleasure my heart only knows
To think that pretenders who ever they be
But vainly their love & their passions disclose
My love remains constant to me

July - The Shepherds Calendar

Image: “Summer Parish” by Carry Akroyd*

The weary thresher leaves his barn
And emptys from his shoes the corn

That gatherd in them thro the day
And homward bends his weary way

The gardener he is sprinkling showers
From watering pans on drooping flowers

And set away his hoe and spade
While goody neath the cottage shade

Sits wi a baskett tween her knees
Ready for supper shelling peas

And cobler chatting in the town
Hath put his window shutter down

And the knowing parish clerk
Feign to do his jobs ere dark

Hath timd the church clock to the sun
And wound it up for night and done

And turnd the hugh kee in the door
Chatting his evening story oer

Up the street the servant maid
Runs wi her errands long delayd

And ere the door she enters in
She stops to right a loosend pin

And smooth wi hasty fingers down
The crumpling creases in her gown

Which Rogers oggles rudly made
For may games forfeit never paid

And seizd a kiss against her will
While playing quoits upon the hill

Wi other shepherds laughing nigh
That made her shoy and hurry bye

(lines 621-650)

* Carry Akroyd will be signing her new book “Landscape Change, John Clare and me” at Annakin’s Art Shop in Helpston on the 10th July -- during the John Clare Festival]