from "A Sunday with Shepherds and Herdboys"


















The shepherds and the herding swains
Keep their sabbaths on the plains;
For them the church bells vainly call;
Fields are their church and house and all;
They'll lie and catch the passing sound
That comes from steeples shining round,
Enjoying in the service time
The happy bells' delightful chime,
And, if they sit on rising ground,
To view the landscape spreading round,
Swimming from the following eye
In greens and stems of every dye
O'er wood and vale and fen's smooth lap
Like a richly coloured map;
Square plots of clover red and white
Scented with summer's warm delight,
And cinquefoil of a fresher stain,
And different greens of warm├Ęd grain;
Wheat spindles bursting into ear
And browning gently; grasses sere
In swathy seed-pods dried by heat,
Rustling when brushed by passing feet;
And beans and peas of deadening green,
And cornland's ribbon strips between,
And stretching villages that lie
Like light spots in a deeper sky.
And from the fields they'll often steal
The green peas for a Sunday meal,
And in snug nooks, their huts beside,
The gipsy blazes they provide,
Shaking the rotten from the trees,
While some sit round to shell the peas,
Or pick from hedges pilfered wood
To boil on props their stolen food;
Sitting on stones or heaps of brakes,
Each of the wild repast partakes,
Telling to pass the hours along
Tales that to fitter days belong,
While one within his scrip contains
A shattered Bible's thumbed remains,
O'er whose blank leaf with pious care
A host of names is scribbled there.

(lines 1 - 42)
The Poems of John Clare,
ed. J. W. Tibble (2 volumes, Dent, 1935)

Listened to a programme -- "Costing the Earth" on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday where they opined that it was not possible to know much about what 'weeds' grew in England much before the 1900s.  The programme makers had obviously never heard of John Clare -- a wealth of such information and all 'just in passing'.  As well as all sorts of other minute details of ordinary life from an agricultural labourer who was there.  This post is dedicated to them (!)

1 comment:

DEI-EX said...

I had an email back from the producer of the programme:

Thank you - Clare's a great source that we should have thought of.

Alasdair Cross
BBC Radio Four

(One up for us)!