A Valentine

[Click on the title for the illustrations to the poem]

Here's a valentine nosegay for Mary,
Some of spring’s early flowers;
The ivy is green by the dairy,
And so are these laurels of ours.

Though the snow fell so deep, and the winter was dreary,
The laurels are green, and the sparrows are cheery.
The snowdrops in bunches grow under the rose;
And aconites under the lilac like fairies;

The best in the bunches for Mary I chose;
Their looks are as sweet, and as simple as Mary's;
The one will make spring, in my verses so bare,
The other will set off, and braid thy dark hair.

Red primroses too, at the old parlour end,
Have bloom'd all the winter, ‘mid’ snow's cold and dreary,
Where the lavender cotton kept off the cold wind
Now to shine in my Valentine nosegay for Mary.

And shine in my verses all summer and be,
A memento of fondness, and friendship for thee.
Here's the crocus half opened, that spreads into gold;
Like branches of sunbeams left there by a fairy,

I pluck them as such, in these verses so cold,
But they'll bloom twice as bright, in the presence of Mary.
These garden flowers cropt, I will go to the fields,
And see what the valleys and pasture land yields.

Here's the pale primrose, on the skirts of the wild wood,
And violet blue, 'neath the thorn on the green:
The wild flowers we pluck't, in the days of our childhood,
On the very same spot, as no changes had been!

In the very same place, where the sun kiss'd the leaves,
And the woodbine its branches, with thorns interweaves.
And here in the pasture all swarming with rushes,
Is a cowslip, as blooming and forward as spring,

And the pilewort like sunshine, glows under the bushes
While the chaffinch there sitting is trying to sing.
And the daisies are comeing, called ‘stars of the earth’;
To bring to the school-boy his spring time of mirth.

Here is the nosegay—how simple it shines,
It speaks without words, to the ear and the eye:
The flowers of the spring, are the best Valentines,
They are young, fair, and simple, and pleasingly shy.
That you may remain so, and ne'er act contrary,
I send you these flowers, as a Valentine Mary.

The Poems of John Clare, ed. J. W. Tibble
(2 volumes, Dent, 1935)

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