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

Still may be seen the mowing swain
On balks between the fields of grain
Who often stops his thirst to ease
To pick the juicy pods of pease
And oft as chances bring to pass
Stoops oer his scythe stick in the grass
To suck the brimming honey comb
Which bees so long were toiling home
And rifld from so many flowers
And carried thro so many hours
He tears their small hives mossy ball
Where the brown labourers hurded all
Who gather homward one by one
And see their nest and honey gone
Humming around his rushy toil
Their mellancholly wrongs awhile
Then oer the sweltering swaths they stray
And hum disconsolate away
And oft neath hedges cooler screen
Where meadow sorrel lingers green
Calld ‘sour grass’ by the knowing clown
The mower gladly chews it down
And slakes his thirst the best he may
When singing brooks are far away

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

Poor John. He is the creature of his joys and sorrows. He's one moment thinking of Wisdom and fancying the rasp of the noose about his throat, the next remembering Mary, and then all of a sudden some text or tract will come into his mind, and then some sharp sound will startle him, and then he will be soothed by a line of verse he's learned. All day he is at the mercy of his wayward thoughts and at night he tosses and turns and finds but little rest. He is unsettled, and though he works at the hay harvest with the other men and women - mowing or raking or helping build the stacks - he swings with nervous thought like the weather-cock on Glinton Spire, turning with each interior wind. His eyes and ears, by habit so fine-tuned to all sensation, are drawn inward. He does not take his accustomed delight in the horses, their heads bowed as they pull the wains to the yards, the loaded hay rising up behind them like new-risen loaves; or the fly-crazed cattle flicking their tails; or the sudden regiments of purple-headed thistles grown shoulder high by the hedge-rows.

And sometimes, forgetting himself or thinking himself alone, he mutters his monologue aloud, to the delight of any village boys who chance to hear him.

John's one stay and anchor is Mary Joyce, She is become his solace. Every Sabbath when the village is at prayer he walks to Glinton and waits at the lych-gate.

This last Sabbath past when Mary came out of the church porch she whispered a word into her father's ear, pushed her prayer book into his pocket and slipped away across the churchyard. She ran to the lych-gate and took John's arm. They followed North Fen Lane to the bridge over Brook Drain. It was a hot, close morning and the warm wind that they could feel on their faces as they stood on the hump of the bridge was a sweet relief.

Hugh Lupton – The Ballad of John Clare (Chapter 6 – July Storm)

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