[Image: The Shepherd’s Calendar (January) – Carry Akroyd]

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

John Clare – The Shepherd’s Calendar (January - excerpt)

Twelfth Night is over and Plough Monday is past. Now it is Tuesday and work resumes and hard labour wastes no time in wiping the slate clean of the sweets of holiday and all the misrule of the day before, leaving only the aching limbs, the numbed fingers and the harsh coughs of winter.

Yesterday, Plough Monday, is the day that custom dictates that all men return to work and the season of ploughing begin. But custom is long-since beggared by usage, for the ploughs have been working the fields since October. And there are few men under thirty who, on Plough Monday, have their eyes on anything but the pint pot and the pie?

All is white with snow, and has been since Christmas night when the sky opened and the snow settled like feathers on the frozen ground, so that every battered, tattered, familiar place is become strange and beautiful, softened by the white fall that has folded its cold bright coverlet over match, stack, stable, street and field.

Hugh Lupton – The Ballad of John Clare (Chapter 13 - Plough Monday)

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