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

The snow is gone from cottage tops
The thatch moss glows in brighter green
And eaves in quick succession drops
Where grinning icicles hath been
Pit patting wi a pleasant noise
In tubs set by the cottage door
And ducks and geese wi happy joys
Douse in the yard pond brimming oer
The sun peeps thro the window pane
Which childern mark wi laughing eye
And in the wet street steal again
To tell each other spring is nigh

Thus nature of the spring will dream
While south winds thaw but soon again
Frost breaths upon the stiffening stream
And numbs it into ice—the plain
Soon wears its merry garb of white
And icicles that fret at noon
Will eke their icy tails at night
Beneath the chilly stars and moon
Nature soon sickens of her joys
And all is sad and dumb again

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

Snow has given way to rain again and everywhere is mud. In the fields the men at their ploughs, or hedging and ditching, curse the cold wet that lashes their faces and the cloying mud that clogs their boots and drags them to a standstill. The shepherds set their backs to the wind as the winter lambing begins. The enclosure teams, at their fence-setting and stone-breaking, listen for the chiming of the church clock and count the hours until dusk when spades and hammers can be dropped and forgotten. The women, hurrying from dairy to coop, from kitchen to midden, lift their gowns and scold the wet that soaks their feet and the puddles that stain and bedraggle the hems of their petticoats. They curse the splashing horses and carts that throw up their stinking mud from the street. Only the ducks and geese in the yard-ponds rejoice at the wetness of the world.

Under the trees in the skirts of Oxey Wood and Royce Wood and beneath the blackthorn bushes on the commons the nodding snowdrops are come, that with the first crying lambs signal that the winter season is beginning to slacken its hold.

Hugh Lupton – The Ballad of John Clare 
(Chapter 14 – St. Valentine’s Day)

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