“& you ye poor ragd out casts of the land”

[Image: William McTaggart 'The Gipsy Camp']

Continuing my season of Clare works about the poor and marginalised in society.

The perceptive reader will notice differences between the text below and the verses published in 1821.  The reason?  I have taken the text from Clare’s original manuscript –- with Clare’s spellings and lack of punctuation -- not the published version.  However to aid the reader I have used the verse breaks Taylor/Hessey inserted.

& you ye poor ragd out casts of the land
That hug your shifting camps from green to green
He lovd to see your humble dwelling stand
& thought your groups did beautify the scene
Tho blamd for many a petty theft yeve been
Poor wandering souls to fates hard want decreed
Doubtless too oft such acts your ways bemean
& oft in wrong your foes 'gen you proceed
& brand a gipseys camp when others do the deed

Lubin woud love to list their gibberish talk
& view the oddity such ways display
& oft wi boys pursud his sunday walk
Where warpt the camp beneath the willows grey
& its black tennants on the green sward lay
While on two forked sticks wi cordage tyd
Their pot oer pilferd fuel boils away
Wi food of sheep that of red water dyd
Or any nauceous thing their frowning fates provide

Tho oft they gather money by their trade
& on their fortune telling art subsist
Where her long hurded groat oft brings the maid
& secret slives it in the sybils fist
To buy good luck & happiness—to list
What occupys a wenches every thought
Who is to be the man—while as she wist
The gipsies tale wi swains & wealth is fraught
The lass returns well pleasd & thinks all cheaply bought

Full oft in summer lubins markt & seen
How eagerly the village maids pursue
Their sunday rambles where the camps have been
& how they gi' their money to the crew
For idle stories they believe as true
Crossing their hands wi coin or magic stick
How quakt the young to hear what things they knew
While old experiencd dames knew all the trick
Who said that all their skill was borrowd from old nick

& thus the superstitious dread their harm
& neer dare fail relieving their distress
Lest they wi in their cot shoud leave a charm
To let nought prosper & bring on distress
Great depth of cunning gipseys do posses
& when such weakness in a dame they find
Forsooth they prove most terryfying guess
& tho not one to charity inclind
They mutter black revenge & force her to be kind

The Village Minstrel, and Other Poems (2 volumes, 1821)
(lines 1138 to 1182)

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