The Shy Lover

I often longed, when wandering up and down,
To hear the rustle of thy Sunday gown;
And when we met, I passed, and let thee go,
And felt I loved, but dare not tell thee so:
Snares are so thickly spread on woman's way,
The common ballad teaches, men betray.
I thought and felt it rudeness if I tried,
And well-meant kindness might be misapplied.
I longed to walk with thee, where waters play
And lined with water-cresses all the way;
And read the poets as I went along
And thought they knew thy name in every song.
The mind on thee and beauty's music dwells,
And listens to the sound of Glinton bells.

John Clare, Northborough Sonnets,
ed. Eric Robinson, David Powell and P.M.S. Dawson
(Ashington/Manchester: Mid-NAG/Carcanet, 1995)

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