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

Harvest awakes the morning still
And toils rude groups the valleys fill
Deserted is each cottage hearth
To all life save the crickets mirth
Each burring wheel their sabbath meets
Nor walks a gossip in the streets
The bench beneath its eldern bough
Lined oer with grass is empty now
Where black birds caged from out the sun
Would whistle while their mistress spun
All haunt the thronged fields still to share
The harvests lingering bounty there
As yet no meddling boys resort
About the streets in idle sport
The butterflye enjoys his hour
And flirts unchaced from flower to flower
And humming bees that morning calls
From out the low huts mortar walls
Which passing boy no more controuls
Flye undisturbed about their holes
And sparrows in glad chirpings meet
Unpelted in the quiet street

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

Today has been the last of the harvest. The day broke with but one small stand of wheat still waiting on Lolham Bridge Field. But though it should have been a day of ease and joy with the promise of largesse and horkey writ large in every heart, it was a sombre village that woke to the harvest horn.

Dick and Bob Turnill had been leading a loaded cart back to their yard from Lolham Bridge Field when the bank beside Green Dyke gave way and the piled load lurched out of true. The cart tipped its grain into the dyke and one of the horses fell with his full weight upon his collar. He was struggling so fierce that none could get close enough to cut him free. Soon he was strangled, his tongue lolling between his teeth. Many had rallied to rake the soaked straw from the dyke and lay it to dry again, but a broken cart, a dead gelding and half a wagon-load of corn are a higher toll than Bob Turnill can afford to pay, as all the parish knows. It is a harsh God that he prays to so avid.

And there is a third sorrow too in the fence-posts and quick-thorn seedlings that wait on the moment when the harvest largesse is finished and autumn comes riding across the fields in her russets and ochres, red as the leaves of the dock and brown as its steeples of seed.

John and Parker Clare walked silently out to the field this morning. The other men were muted too, avoiding John's eye. For although most believed that the gypsy had reaped his just deserts, the transportation of a known man puts a quiet on the busiest tongue. There was not the usual babble of talk among the women either, rather a whispered, subdued gossiping. The children, though, ran and whooped as oblivious to care as the barking village dogs.

When they reached the stand of wheat the old rhythms of harvest that have governed these months of high summer were a balm to John's heart, for they demanded no more than the song of whet-stone to blade and the mindless drudgery of hard labour. Yesterday's sharp sorrow was numbed by an aching shoulder and a sweating back. Slowly and steadily as the morning progressed the wheat diminished in front of him and the stooks gathered behind.

It was mid-morning, when the wheat was all but taken, that a hare leapt out from between the stalks and dodged between the legs of the men. It was one of this year's leverets, full grown but gangly still, sleek and brown…

Hugh Lupton – The Ballad of John Clare (Chapter 8 – Harvest)

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