Ronnie, musing in bed.

[Image: Peter de Wint (1784-1849)]

It is July 1827; so what would be happening?  The bedroom is centuries older than this.  It is about six o’clock, and, outside, the white cat lifts up her face piteously.  She thinks she is passing away due to starvation.  Three horses take turns to gulp water at the tank, and the oaks promise heat. All this could have been happening.

I check in John Clare’s The Shepherd’s Calendar, and am relieved to find that the shepherd is flat on his back reading a book, for our view of the past is one of incessant labour.  But what work there is, is a romp, for the meadows “are mad with noise / Of laughing maids and shouting boys / Making up the withering hay”.  I stare down on the farmyard, now a sea of tall nettles, in whose depths lie the footings of pigsties, barns, and the stackyard itself.  Not a murmur.  Not a bird.  Just a cat praying for a last bite.

(From Ronnie Blythe’s ‘Word from Wormingford’, sometime in 2009)

The poem?
July, from the Shepherds Calendar :

July the month of summers prime
Again resumes her busy time
Scythes tinkle in each grassy dell
Where solitude was wont to dwell
& meadows they are mad with noise
Of laughing maids & shouting boys
Making up the withering hay
With merry hearts as light as play
The very insects on the ground
So nimbly bustle all around
Among the grass or dusty soil
They seem partakers in the toil
The very landscap reels with life
While mid the busy stir & strife
Of industry the shepherd still
Enjoys his summer dreams at will
Bent oer his hook or listless laid
Beneath the pastures willow shade
Whose foliage shines so cool & grey
Amid the sultry hues of day
As if the mornings misty veil
Yet lingered in their shadows pale
Or lolling in a musing mood
On mounds where saxon castles stood

(lines 1-24)

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