Tis Midsummer Eve

I've been gleaning again.  Working through my old notebooks from several years of searching the Clare manuscripts in the Peterborough Archive for little known or unpublished (as far as I know) work.  I noticed, only when typing them up, the links between these three short poems transcribed on three seperate visits in 2017.  Not the most eloquent of Clare's output, but they do have a real charm.

Heres the old fairey rings by this dark thickets side
Where the owl rests in fear & the foxes abide
Where fairys dance round them more still than a sigh
Yet the shepherd when late hears the noise passing bye –
& oer his snug fire in his cottage at night
Hell talk till the candle turns blue with affright
Of the pranks that they play & the sports they pursue
& the mischief when vexed that they venture to do
How they steal into barns & fall thrashing the corn
Till the cock on the dunghill gins sounding his horn
Then all in an instant flye silent away
With an ear in their hands & so many are they
That the old startled farmer with anguish & awe
When he comes in the morning finds nothing but straw
& why shouldnt we of our troubles take leave
& with nature make merry at midsummers eve
(lines 84-99)

Pet MS A49 p32
(Unpublished save MP II 207)

Do but look what a beautiful midsummer night
The fairys are dancing [no] doubt by moon light
In the dark beaten rings by the old forrest side
Where the owl roosts with fear and the fairies abide
Grass & flowers seem oerjoyed in the merry moonlight
& dress to impress in gay partys at night
For the pasture is free from the rude heavy cow
& they walk with no fear to be trampled on now
The bee with his load of red dust on his thigh
No longer to teaze them for kisses comes nigh
Tho the Moth a coy lover for chances doth creep
His kisses to steal now he thinks them asleep

Pet MS A39 p11

The Moth a coy lover now ventures to creep
Out at night to steal kisses from flowers when asleep
But the Butterflye bold as the Bee for a plot
Kisses the flowers all the day whether willing or not
Now no longer able his sports to pursue
He lay neath a leaf to get out of the dew
Heres the Cockchaffer to with his old sullen drone
Sings as if he thought no song sweet as his own
The Bee too with grains of red dust on each thigh
Who had drained thro the day all the honey flowers dry
& in vain he attempted straight forward to drive
He reeled and mistook the way home to his hive
Till lost on this spot in a considerable fright
He makes on this thistle a bed for the night
Heres the rope dancing spider a trusting his threads
From his web on the branches high over their heads
Ah well may you laugh at the sports he doth make
While he dances away in no fears for his neck
The rest were all coupled & happy & they
Song the old merry songs which they sang at his day

Pet MS A31 p9
‘Hidden Treasures’ - Arbour Editions – 2016 (2nd edition 2019)

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