The Lout

For Sunday's play he never makes excuse,
But plays at taw, and buys his Spanish juice.
Hard as his toil, and ever slow to speak,
Yet he gives maidens many a burning cheek;
For none can pass him but his witless grace
Of bawdry brings the blushes in her face.
As vulgar as the dirt he treads upon
He calls his cows or drives his horses on;
He knows the lamest cow and strokes her side
And often tries to mount her back and ride,
And takes her tail at night in idle play,
And makes her drag him homeward all the way.
He knows of nothing but the football match,
And where hens lay, and when the duck will hatch.
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The March Nosegay

The bonny March morning is beaming
In mingled crimson and grey,
White clouds are streaking and creaming
The sky till the noon of the day;
The fir deal looks darker and greener,
And grass hills below look the same;
The air all about is serener,
The birds less familiar and tame.

Here's two or three flowers for my fair one,
Wood primroses and celandine too;
I oft look about for a rare one
To put in a posy for you.
The birds look so clean and so neat,
Though there's scarcely a leaf on the grove;
The sun shines about me so sweet,
I cannot help thinking of love.

So where the blue violets are peeping,
By the warm sunny sides of the woods,
And the primrose, 'neath early morn weeping,
Amid a large cluster of buds,
(The morning it was such a rare one,
So dewy, so sunny, and fair,)
I sought the wild flowers for my fair one,
To wreath in her glossy black hair.
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The Stranger (excerpt)

His presence was a peace to all,
He bade the sorrowful rejoice.
Pain turned to pleasure at his call,
Health lived and issued from his voice.
He healed the sick and sent abroad
The dumb rejoicing in the Lord.

The blind met daylight in his eye,
The joys of everlasting day;
The sick found health in his reply;
The cripple threw his crutch away.
Yet he with troubles did remain
And suffered poverty and pain.

Yet none could say of wrong he did,
And scorn was ever standing bye;
Accusers by their conscience chid,
When proof was sought, made no reply.
Yet without sin he suffered more
Than ever sinners did before.
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Providence, right understood

Your blinded eyes, worst foes to you,
Can't see the good which sparrows do.
Did not poor birds with watching rounds
Pick up the insects from your grounds,
Did they not tend your rising grain,
You then might sow to reap in vain.
Thus Providence, right understood,
Whose end and aim is doing good,
Sends nothing here without its use;
Though ignorance loads it with abuse,
And fools despise the blessing sent,
And mock the Giver's good intent.--
O God, let me what's good pursue,
Let me the same to others do
As I'd have others do to me,
And learn at least humanity.

(From 'Summer Evening')
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Approaching Night (II)

Go with your tauntings, go;
Neer think to hurt me so;
I'll scoff at your disdain.
Cold though the winter blow,
When hills are free from snow
It will be spring again.

So go, and fare thee well,
Nor think ye'll have to tell
Of wounded hearts from me,
Locked up in your hearts cell.
Mine still at home doth dwell
In its first liberty.

Bees sip not at one flower,
Spring comes not with one shower,
Nor shines the sun alone
Upon one favoured hour,
But with unstinted power
Makes every day his own.

And for my freedom's sake
With such I'll pattern take,
And rove and revel on.
Your gall shall never make
Me honied paths forsake;
So prythee get thee gone.

And when my toil is blest
And I find a maid possest
Of truth that's not in thee,
Like bird that finds its nest
I'll stop and take my rest;
And love as she loves me.
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Word from Wormingford

I make no apology for featuring Ronald Blythe once again on this Blog. Ronnie is the President of the Clare Society, and writes weekly for the Church Times. Below is this week's wonderful essay.

To Keswick for the literature festival. To get into the train at Euston and to remain in it until Penrith, what happiness! Nearby, a Scottish woman reads to her little son Oscar just loud enough for me to enjoy the tale.

There is Staffordshire, there is Lancaster, there is Penrith, and there, getting out of a rear carriage is the poet A. Alvarez waving his stick in greeting. And here suddenly are the mountains in their endless permutation of shadows. On a March day in 1801, Coleridge's small son "Looking out of my study window fixed his eyes steadily & for some time on the opposite prospect, & then said - Will yon Mountains always be?"

They were in freezing Greta Hall. I am in a snug hotel where snowy Skiddaw rises behind an enclosed swimming pool in which a novelist splashes up and down, making the most of this outing, for, as everyone knows, we writers tend to be penned up, as one might say, immured from each other for most of the time. Now we mix and identify. So that is what Deborah Moggach looks like.

After dinner, Louis de Bernières stands up to recite "What gat ye to your dinner, Lord Randal, my son?". "Now your turn," somebody insists, turning to me. But in the first place I am suddenly empty-headed, and in the second place poor poisoned Lord Randal "fain wald lie doon" and must not be disturbed. Also, I am thinking how like Coleridge Louis looks, a large rumpled figure with a searching gaze.

With a couple of hours to spare before I give my talk, I make the most of Derwent Water, first strolling along its edge, then striding off recklessly towards a muddy wood where huge machines are doing a bit of felling. It comes on to snow, and then to rain, and then both.

I take shelter beneath a boat, and take heart from Coleridge, although he was only in his late 20s when he climbed and skidded around Keswick. And he was so ill! How ill folk were then. Those authors up at the hotel, how healthy they look. He used his aches and pains "as a Storehouse of wild Dreams for poems, or intellectual Facts for metaphysical Speculation".

I look at my watch and see that I have to be on stage in half an hour. But I have lost my way. The snowstorm has blinded me. I hurry along in the wrong direction. An old lady appears. She stares at my feet to see if my shoes are fit for a short-cut across a drenched hill, and they are, and in minutes I am at the Theatre by the Water reading from my novel The Assassin. Coleridge named his son Derwent after my Lake. It means a river where oaks are common.

Then home to readings and music at Little Horkesley in a full yet cold church, for there come winter days in these buildings when their heating is no match for the determined low temperatures that they have inherited from the Middle Ages, and one might be cosier in the churchyard.

The music includes Trevor Hold's settings of John Clare, who loved the Lakeland poets. I find it moving that all our storytellers, from whoever it was who wrote Lord Randal to those who make their way to 21st-century literature festivals, have seen the same scenery, breathed much the same air. Looked into much the same faces.

Just before evensong, a quarter-peal was rung for Henry our new Priest-in-Charge, and we sang beautiful words about going from strength to strength, and about nesting birds finding protection on altars, and about "Through the hours in darkness shrouded Let me see thy face unclouded," as we called it a day.

(Ronald Blythe - Church Times [18th March 2005]) Posted by Hello

Approaching Night (I)

O take this world away from me;
Its strife I cannot bear to see,
Its very praises hurt me more
Than een its coldness did before,
Its hollow ways torment me now
And start a cold sweat on my brow,
Its noise I cannot bear to hear,
Its joy is trouble to my ear,
Its ways I cannot bear to see,
Its crowds are solitudes to me.
O, how I long to be agen
That poor and independent man,
With labour's lot from morn to night
And books to read at candle light;
That followed labour in the field
From light to dark when toil could yield
Real happiness with little gain,
Rich thoughtless health unknown to pain:
Though, leaning on my spade to rest,
I've thought how richer folks were blest
And knew not quiet was the best.
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Love and Solitude

I hate the very noise of troublous man
Who did and does me all the harm he can.
Free from the world I would a prisoner be
And my own shadow all my company;
And lonely see the shooting stars appear,
Worlds rushing into judgment all the year.
O lead me onward to the loneliest shade,
The darkest place that quiet ever made,
Where kingcups grow most beauteous to behold
And shut up green and open into gold.
Farewell to poesy--and leave the will;
Take all the world away--and leave me still
The mirth and music of a woman's voice,
That bids the heart be happy and rejoice.
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The Wood-cutter's Night Song

Welcome, red and roundy sun,
Dropping lowly in the west;
Now my hard day's work is done,
I'm as happy as the best.

Joyful are the thoughts of home,
Now I'm ready for my chair,
So, till morrow-morning's come,
Bill and mittens, lie ye there!

Though to leave your pretty song,
Little birds, it gives me pain,
Yet to-morrow is not long,
Then I'm with you all again.

If I stop, and stand about,
Well I know how things will be,
Judy will be looking out
Every now-and-then for me.

So fare ye well! and hold your tongues,
Sing no more until I come;
They're not worthy of your songs
That never care to drop a crumb.

All day long I love the oaks,
But, at nights, yon little cot,
Where I see the chimney smokes,
Is by far the prettiest spot.

Wife and children all are there,
To revive with pleasant looks,
Table ready set, and chair,
Supper hanging on the hooks.

Soon as ever I get in,
When my faggot down I fling,
Little prattlers they begin
Teasing me to talk and sing.

Welcome, red and roundy sun,
Dropping lowly in the west;
Now my hard day's work is done,
I'm as happy as the best.

Joyful are the thoughts of home,
Now I'm ready for my chair,
So, till morrow-morning's come,
Bill and mittens, lie ye there!
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The Sleep of Spring

O for that sweet, untroubled rest
That poets oft have sung!--
The babe upon its mother's breast,
The bird upon its young,
The heart asleep without a pain--
When shall I know that sleep again?

When shall I be as I have been
Upon my mother's breast
Sweet Nature's garb of verdant green
To woo to perfect rest--
Love in the meadow, field, and glen,
And in my native wilds again?

The sheep within the fallow field,
The herd upon the green,
The larks that in the thistle shield,
And pipe from morn to e'en--
O for the pasture, fields, and fen!
When shall I see such rest again?

I love the weeds along the fen,
More sweet than garden flowers,
For freedom haunts the humble glen
That blest my happiest hours.
Here prison injures health and me:
I love sweet freedom and the free.

The crows upon the swelling hills,
The cows upon the lea,
Sheep feeding by the pasture rills,
Are ever dear to me,
Because sweet freedom is their mate,
While I am lone and desolate.

I loved the winds when I was young,
When life was dear to me;
I loved the song which Nature sung,
Endearing liberty;
I loved the wood, the vale, the stream,
For there my boyhood used to dream.

There even toil itself was play;
Twas pleasure een to weep;
Twas joy to think of dreams by day,
The beautiful of sleep.
When shall I see the wood and plain,
And dream those happy dreams again?
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The Snowdrop

SWEET type of innocence, snow-clothed blossom,
Seemly, though vainly, bowing down to shun
The storm hard-beating on thy wan white bosom,
Left in the swail, and little cheer'd by sun;
Resembling that frail jewel, just begun
To ope on vice's eye its witcheries blooming,
Midst all its storms, with little room to shun -
Ah, thou art winter's snowdrop, lovely Woman!
In this world dropt, where every evil's glooming
With killing tempests o'er its tender prey,
Watching the opening of thy beauties coming,
Its every infant charm to snatch away:
Then come the sorrows thou'rt too weak to brave,
And then thy beauty-cheek digs ruin's early grave.

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