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

The hedger soakd wi the dull weather chops
On at his toils which scarcly keeps him warm
And every stroke he takes large swarms of drops
Patter about him like an april storm
The sticking dame wi cloak upon her arm
To guard against a storm walks the wet leas
Of willow groves or hedges round the farm
Picking up aught her splashy wanderings sees
Dead sticks the sudden winds have shook from off the trees
Dull for a time the slumbering weather flings
Its murky prison round then winds wake loud
Wi sudden start the once still forest sings
Winters returning song cloud races cloud
And the orison throws away its shrowd
And sweeps its stretching circle from the eye
Storm upon storm in quick succession crowd
And oer the samness of the purple skye
Heaven paints its wild irregularity

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

Charlie Turner's half-wit daughter Isabel is fallen sick. Every morning he's in Royce's Wood gathering wet sticks. He-mixes sawdust with flour for the grey scones he bakes in the-ashes, and pulls leaves and grass and begs an onion to make her a bowl of thin green soup. Jem Ferrar limes the hedgerows with trembling hands for little birds to give meat to his broth. And Joseph Dolby drinks away his wage and sleeps in one of Ralph Wormstall’s lambing sheds while his wife and boys lift stones in the fields.

Parker, John, Dick Turnill, Jem Johnson, Will Mash and all the enclosure team, after four weeks cursing the bitter, slanting rain that soaked their clothes and turned the soil to mire; now curse the cold frost that stiffens earth to stone.

And there is a new sound that echoes and redounds across the parish — the sound of axe to wood. All the streams are to be straightened into dykes and drains, and the willows and alders and dotterels that border Rhyme Dyke and Green Dyke and Round Oak Spring and Eastwell Spring and all the winding river banks are to be felled. The water must run now to the constraints of the ruled line.

With every stroke of iron to timber there is a sudden veering in the flight of a bird; a sudden start in the winter-sleep of badger, hedgehog, mole; a sudden shift in the deep droning note of the bees in their skeps against the church wall. The parish is set a-quiver and every fibre trembles. John knows it too, whose strings are tight-tuned to all sensation, though he is asleep to its cause and knows only a hollow ache of sorrow us the felling troubles his ears from across the fields as he works.

Hugh Lupton – The Ballad of John Clare (Chapter 11 – St. Thomas’ Eve)

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