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

Come queen of months in company
Wi all thy merry minstrelsy
The restless cuckoo absent long
And twittering swallows chimney song
And hedge row crickets notes that run
From every bank that fronts the sun
And swathy bees about the grass
That stops wi every bloom they pass
And every minute every hour
Keep teazing weeds that wear a flower
And toil and childhoods humming joys
For there is music in the noise

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

This fortnight last John has worked the gardens of John Close's farm. Thistle, campion, poppy, fumitory, yellow charlock, pimpernel, groundsel, all must yield to the hoe before they bloom and seed and overwhelm, for all they're the common flowers that he loves best. But a man must work and John must sentence them as weeds and condemn them to have their green grip upon the soil scratched away. And having served his time as executioner, must trudge back to Close's yard, clean his hoe and take his place in line to receive his paltry wage.

And now, his pocket lined with pennies, he sought his solace.

Once inside the woods and shaken free of the ceaseless gossip and the women's shrill laughter and the hacking cough of poor Jem Farrar. Once he was free of the tireless scratching of iron to stony soil and the day's slate had been wiped clean by sweet solitude, John Clare set his mind to the next day's holiday.

From the willows bordering Round Oak Water he cut slim withies and wound them together into a loop. From the may the wood's margin he found sprays that were breaking into early white blossom...

Hugh Lupton – The Ballad of John Clare (Chapter 2)

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