Ploughman Singing

Here morning in the ploughman's songs is met
Ere yet one footstep shows in all the sky,
And twilight in the east, a doubt as yet,
Shows not her sleeve of grey to know her bye.
Woke early, I arose and thought that first
In winter time of all the world was I.
The old owls might have hallooed if they durst,
But joy just then was up and whistled bye
A merry tune which I had known full long,
But could not to my memory wake it back,
Until the ploughman changed it to the song.
O happiness, how simple is thy track.
--Tinged like the willow shoots, the east's young brow
Glows red and finds thee singing at the plough.

Young Jenny

The cockchafer hums down the rut-rifted lane
Where the wild roses hang and the woodbines entwine,
And the shrill squeaking bat makes his circles again
Round the side of the tavern close by the sign.
The sun is gone down like a wearisome queen,
In curtains the richest that ever were seen.

The dew falls on flowers in a mist of small rain,
And, beating the hedges, low fly the barn owls;
The moon with her horns is just peeping again,
And deep in the forest the dog-badger howls;
In best bib and tucker then wanders my Jane
By the side of the woodbines which grow in the lane.

On a sweet eventide I walk by her side;
In green hoods the daisies have shut up their eyes.
Young Jenny is handsome without any pride;
Her eyes (O how bright!) have the hue of the skies.
O 'tis pleasant to walk by the side of my Jane
At the close of the day, down the mossy green lane.

We stand by the brook, by the gate, and the stile,
While the even star hangs out his lamp in the sky;
And on her calm face dwells a sweet sunny smile,
While her soul fondly speaks through the light of her eye.
Sweet are the moments while waiting for Jane;
'T is her footsteps I hear coming down the green lane.

From 'Home Yearnings'

[Carry's 'Woodwalton Fen' in all its glory - click on the image for the full effect]

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.

[Woodwalton Fen from 'The Great Fen Project website]
Examining this map in details shows that Carry's painting is rather more accurate a portrayal than most folk realise, and shows her wonderful way of capturing the nature of a place in a few brush-strokes. She is to be congratulated... I am sure that Clare would have approved.

The Fens (III)

Woodwalton Fen [Detail] – Carry Akroyd

Here's little save the river scene
And grounds of oats in rustling green
And crowded growth of wheat and beans,
That with the hope of plenty leans
And cheers the farmer's gazing brow,
Who lives and triumphs in the plough--
One sometimes meets a pleasant sward
Of swarthy grass; and quickly marred
The plough soon turns it into brown,
And, when again one rambles down
The path, small hillocks burning lie
And smoke beneath a burning sky.
Green paddocks have but little charms
With gain the merchandise of farms;
And, muse and marvel where we may,
Gain mars the landscape every day--
The meadow grass turned up and copt,
The trees to stumpy dotterels lopt,
The hearth with fuel to supply
For rest to smoke and chatter bye;
Giving the joy of home delights,
The warmest mirth on coldest nights.
And so for gain, that joy's repay,
Change cheats the landscape every day,
Nor trees nor bush about it grows
That from the hatchet can repose,
And the horizon stooping smiles
Oer treeless fens of many miles.
Spring comes and goes and comes again
And all is nakedness and fen.

The Fens (II)

[Woodwalton Fen [Detail] – Carry Akroyd]

Among the tawny tasselled reed
The ducks and ducklings float and feed.
With head oft dabbing in the flood
They fish all day the weedy mud,
And tumbler-like are bobbing there,
Heels topsy turvy in the air.

The geese in troops come droving up,
Nibble the weeds, and take a sup;
And, closely puzzled to agree,
Chatter like gossips over tea.
The gander with his scarlet nose
When strife's at height will interpose;
And, stretching neck to that and this,
With now a mutter, now a hiss,
A nibble at the feathers too,
A sort of "pray be quiet do,"
And turning as the matter mends,
He stills them into mutual friends;
Then in a sort of triumph sings
And throws the water oer his wings.

Ah, could I see a spinney nigh,
A puddock riding in the sky
Above the oaks with easy sail
On stilly wings and forked tail,
Or meet a heath of furze in flower,
I might enjoy a quiet hour,
Sit down at rest, and walk at ease,
And find a many things to please.
But here my fancy's moods admire
The naked levels till they tire,
Nor een a molehill cushion meet
To rest on when I want a seat.


The Fens (I)

The Great Fen Project aims to restore over 3000 hectares of fenland habitat between Huntingdon and Peterborough. In doing so it will connect Woodwalton Fen National Nature Reserve with Holme Fen National Nature Reserve to create a very large site with conservation benefits for wildlife and socio-economic benefits for people. Woodwalton Fen is an internationally important site for its communities of wetland plants and animals and this is reflected in its designation as a Special Area of Conservation.
[Image : Woodwalton Fen [Detail] – Carry Akroyd]

Clare too wrote extensively about the fens, which in his time reached almost to Helpston.
Wandering by the river's edge,
I love to rustle through the sedge
And through the woods of reed to tear
Almost as high as bushes are.
Yet, turning quick with shudder chill,
As danger ever does from ill,
Fear's moment ague quakes the blood,
While plop the snake coils in the flood
And, hissing with a forked tongue,
Across the river winds along.
In coat of orange, green, and blue
Now on a willow branch I view,
Grey waving to the sunny gleam,
Kingfishers watch the ripple stream
For little fish that nimble bye
And in the gravel shallows lie.

Eddies run before the boats,
Gurgling where the fisher floats,
Who takes advantage of the gale
And hoists his handkerchief for sail
On osier twigs that form a mast--
While idly lies, nor wanted more,
The spirit that pushed him on before.

There's not a hill in all the view,
Save that a forked cloud or two
Upon the verge of distance lies
And into mountains cheats the eyes.
And as to trees the willows wear
Lopped heads as high as bushes are;
Some taller things the distance shrouds
That may be trees or stacks or clouds
Or may be nothing; still they wear
A semblance where there's nought to spare.

I Pluck Summer Blossoms

I pluck Summer blossoms,
And think of rich bosoms --
The bosoms I've leaned on, and worshipped, and won.
The rich valley lilies,
The wood daffodillies,
Have been found in our rambles when Summer begun.

Where I plucked thee the bluebell,
'T was where the night dew fell,
And rested till morn in the cups of the flowers;
I shook the sweet posies,
Bluebells and brere roses,
As we sat in cool shade in Summer's warm hours.

Bedlam-cowslips and cuckoos,
With freck'd lip and hooked nose,
Growing safe near the hazel of thicket and woods,
And water blobs, ladies' smocks,
Blooming where haycocks
May be found, in the meadows, low places, and floods.

And cowslips a fair band
For May ball or garland,
That bloom in the meadows as seen by the eye;
And pink ragged robin,
Where the fish they are bobbing
Their heads above water to catch at the fly.

Wild flowers and wild roses!
'T is love makes the posies
To paint Summer ballads of meadow and glen.
Floods can't drown it nor turn it,
Even flames cannot burn it;
Let it bloom till we walk the green meadows again.

Among the Green Bushes

Among the green bushes the songs of the thrushes
Are answering each other in music and glee,
While the magpies and rooks, in woods, hedges, near brooks,
Mount their Spring dwellings on every high tree.
There meet me at eve, love, we'll on grassy banks lean love,
And crop a white branch from the scented may tree,
Where the silver brook wimples and the rosy cheek dimples,
Sweet will the time of that courting hour be.

We'll notice wild flowers, love, that grow by thorn bowers, love,
Though sinful to crop them now beaded with dew;
The violet is thine, love, the primrose is mine, love,
To Spring and each other so blooming and true.
With dewdrops all beaded, the feather grass seeded,
The cloud mountains turn to dark woods in the sky;
The daisy bud closes, while sleep the hedge roses;
There's nothing seems wakeful but you love and I.

Larks sleep in the rushes, linnets perch on the bushes,
While mag's on her nest with her tail peeping out;
The moon it reveals her, yet she thinks night conceals her,
Though birdnesting boys are not roving about.
The night winds won't wrong her, nor aught that belong her,
For night is the nurse of all Nature in sleep;
The moon, love, is keeping a watch o'er the sleeping,
And dews for real pleasure do nothing but weep.

Among the green bushes we'll sit with the thrushes,
And blackbirds and linnets, an hour or two long,
That are up at the dawning, by times in the morning,
To cheer thee when milking with music and song.
Then come at the eve, love, and where the banks lean, love,
By the brook that flows on in its dribbles of song;
While the moon looks so pale, love, and the trees look so hale,
I will tell thee a tale, love, an hour or two long.

from 'Summer Images'

Rich music breathes in summer's every sound;
And in her harmony of varied greens,
Woods, meadows, hedge-rows, corn-fields, all around
Much beauty intervenes,
Filling with harmony the ear and eye;
While oer the mingling scenes
Far spreads the laughing sky.