The Milking Hour

The sun had grown on lessening day
A table large & round
& in the distant vapours grey
Seemed leaning on the ground
When Mary like a lingering flower
Did tenderly agree
To stay beyond her milking hour
& talk awhile with me

We wandered till the distant town
Had silenced nearly dumb
& lessened on the quiet ear
Small as a beetles hum
She turned her buckets upside & down
& made us each a seat
& there we talked the evening brown
Beneath the rustling wheat

& while she milked her breathing cows
I sat beside the streams
In musing oer our evening joys
Like one in pleasant dreams
The bats & owls to meet the night
From hollow trees had gone
& een the flowers had shut for sleep
& still she lingered on

We mused in rapture side by side
Our wishes seemed as one
We talked of times retreating tide
& sighed to find it gone
& we had sighed more deeply still
Oer all our pleasures past
If we had known what now we know
That we had met the last

Selected Poems and Prose of John Clare
ed. Eric Robinson and Geoffrey Summerfield
(Oxford, 1967, 1978)

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