Song: I peeled bit o straws..."

I peeled bits o straws and I got switches too
From the grey peeling willow as idlers do
And I switched at the flies as I sat all alone
Till my flesh, blood & marrow wasted to the dry bone;
My illness was love though I knew not the smart
But the beauty o love was the blood o my heart.

Crowded places I shunned them as noises too rude
And flew to the silence of sweet solitude;
Where the flower in green darkness, buds, blossoms & fades
Unseen of a shepherds & flower loving maids
The hermit bees find them but once & away
There I'll burry alive & in silence decay

I looked on the eyes of fair woman too long
Till silence and shame stole the use of my tongue
When I tried to speak to her I’d nothing to say
So I turned myself round & she wandered away;
When she got too far off—why Id. something to tell
So I sent sighs behind her & talked to my sell.

Willow switches I broke, & I peeled bits o straws
Ever lonely in crowds in natures own laws.
My ballroom the pasture, my music the bees
My drink was the fountain, my church the tall trees
Whoever would love or be tied to a wife
When it makes a man mad all the days of his life.

John Clare, Selected Poems,
ed. Elaine Feinstein (1968)

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