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

With wicker basket swinging on her arm
Searching the hedges of home close or farm
Where brashy eldern trees to autumn fade
Wild shines the hedge in autumns gay parade
The glossy berrys picturesquely weaves
Their swathy bunches mid the yellow leaves
Where the pert sparrow stains his little bill
And tutling robin picks his meals at will
Black ripening to the wan suns misty ray
Here the industrious hus wives wend their way
Pulling the brittle branches carefull down
And hawking loads of berrys to the town
While village dames as they get ripe and fine
Repair to pluck them for their ‘eldern wine’
That bottld up becomes a rousing charm
To kindle winters icy bosom warm
That wi its merry partner nut brown beer
Makes up the peasants christmass keeping cheer

(lines 71-88)

John Clare – The Shepherd’s Calendar (October)

There has been a fermentation too in the mind of John Clare, a fever almost, a frenzy of scribbling. Since first he learned his ABCs he has scratched with his nib at whatever scrap of paper he could lay his hands upon. Most have been scrunched in his fist and thrown into the fire. Some he has folded most careful into the pages of his few precious books. But since Bridge Fair he has writ as one possessed. Whether it was that tattered volume that woke in him something that had long been slumbering. Or whether it is to sharpen and sweeten his tongue for Mary…

Each morning, along with the bread and cheese in his dinner bag, he must carry his paper and pencil stub. When the other men rest from their fencing or hedge-setting or stone-breaking and settle down for their baggin he sits apart and sets down the rhymes he has whispered to himself as he laboured. There are those that mock, and those that shrug, and those that say ‘Good luck to ye', but John is indifferent to them all. He is in a maze of words that will not let him be, they come spilling and rhyming from his tongue and he delights in the pictures they summon. And then, when a poem is done, he will doubt it also.

Hugh Lupton – The Ballad of John Clare (Chapter 10 – All Hallows’ Eve)

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