Harvest, Clare and Ronnie Blythe

Turning my John Clare lectures into a book, I don't have to wonder what happened in his day; for there it is, every exhausting moment of it, every custom, every ritual joy and pain. And I can just see a Helpston farmer apologising for the inconvenience. Those who brought the harvest home would have swayed across their own thresholds at a moonlit midnight, scratched to bits, a little drunk, as they deserved to be.

Upon the waggon now, with eager bound, 
The lusty picker whirls the rustling sheaves; 
Or, resting ponderous creaking fork aground, 
Boastful at once whole shocks of barley heaves: 
The loading boy revengeful inly grieves 
To find his unmatched strength and power decay; 
The barley horn his garments interweaves; 
Smarting and sweating 'neath the sultry day, 
With muttering curses stung, he mauls the heaps away.

Ronald Blythe - Word from Wormingford - 19th August 2005
(excerpt - lines 29 to 37 of 'The Harvest Morning')

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