Helpston Green (IV - last)

Farwell thou favorite spot farwell
Since every efforts vain
All I can do is still to tell
Of thy delightful plain
But that pro[v]es short—increasing years
That did my youth presage
Will now as each new day appears
Bring on declining age
Reflection pierces deadly keen
While I the moral scan
As are the changes of the green
So is the life of man
Youth brings age with faultering tongue
That does the exit crave
There's one short scene presents the throng
Another shows the grave

Helpston Green (III)

The greens gone too—ah lovely scene
No more the kingcup gay
Shall shine in yellow oer the green
And shed its golden ray
No more the herdsmans early call
Shall bring the cows to feed
Nor more the milkmaids evening brawl
In ‘come-mull’ tones succeed
Both milkmaids shouts and herdsmans call
Have vanish'd with the green
The kingcups yellow shades and all
Shall never more be seen
But the thick culterd tribes that grow
Will so efface the scene
That after times will hardly know
It ever was a green

Helpston Green (II)

When ere I muse along the plain
And mark where once they grew
Rememb'rance wakes her busy train
And brings past scenes to view
The well known brook the favorite tree
In fancys eye appear
And next that pleasant green I see
That green for ever dear
Oer its green hills I've often stray'd
In childhoods happy hour
Oft sought the nest along the shade
And gatherd many a flower
And there with playmates often join'd
In fresher sports to plan
But now increasing years have coin'd
These childern into man

Helpston Green (I)

[A Helpston field in 2007]
Ye injur'd fields ye once where gay
When natures hand displayd
Long waving rows of willows grey
And clumps of awthorn shade
But now alas your awthorn bowers
All desolate we see
The woodmans axe their shade devours
And cuts down every tree
Not trees alone have ownd their force
Whole woods beneath them bowd
They turnd the winding riv'lets course
And all thy pastures plough'd
To shrub nor tree throughout thy fields
They no compassion show
The uplifted axe no mercy yields
But strikes a fatal blow

To a Red Clover Blossom

Sweet bottle shaped flower of lushy red
Born when the summer wakes her warmest breeze
Among the meadows waving grasses spread
Or neath the shade of hedge or clumping trees
Bowing on slender stem thy heavy head
In sweet delight I view thy summer bed
& hark the drone of heavy humble bees
Along thy honeed garden gailey led
Down corn field striped balks & pasture leas—
Fond warmings of the soul that long has fled
Revives my bosom wi their sweetness still
As I bend musing oer thy ruddy pride
Recalling days I dropt upon a hill
& cut my oaten trumpets by thy side

Damon and Collin (excerpt)

[A view of Swaddywell]

I search the meadows and as well as you
I bind up posies and sweet garlands too
And if I unawares can hear exprest
What flower she fancies finer than the rest
Grow where it will I search the fields about
And search for't daily till I find it out
And when I've found 'em,—O'—what tongue can tell
The fear and doubts with which my breast does swell
The schemes contriving and the plans I lay
How I to her the garland must convey
And various indeed.—sometimes I start
Resolv'd to tell the secrets of my heart
Vowing to make the gather'd garland prove
How much I languish and how much I love

Ballad [A faithless shepherd]

[Image: ‘The Hireling Shepherd’ by William Holman Hunt]

A faithless shepherd courted me,
He stole away my liberty.
When my poor heart was strange to men,
He came and smiled and stole it then.

When my apron would hang low,
Me he sought through frost and snow.
When it puckered up with shame,
And I sought him, he never came.

When summer brought no fears to fright,
He came to guard me every night.
When winter nights did darkly prove,
None came to guard me or to love.

I wish, I wish, but all in vain,
I wish I was a maid again.
A maid again I cannot be,
O when will green grass cover me?
John Clare, Poems: Chiefly from Manuscript, ed. Edmund Blunden and Alan Porter (London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1920). Later collected by Percy Grainger (1908), but with all sorts of variation to the verses and words.

There is an interesting discussion in Mark Storey’s (ed.) Clare: The Critical Heritage, by Maurice Howlett (1921) mentioning this early poem, often marked in collections as ‘anon’ with other verses added.

In George Deacon’s John Clare and the Folk Tradition this song has two versions. The first with 11 verses and the second with 6 verses. Both appear in Clare’s Northampton manuscript, cited by Deacon, as ‘Old song from my mothers singing’. It seems that Clare, recalling his mother’s song, used it as the basis for additional verses… hence the 11 verses in Deacon’s collection.

Remembrances (part)

Summer pleasures they are gone like to visions every one
And the cloudy days of autumn and of winter cometh on
I tried to call them back but unbidden they are gone
Far away from heart and eye and for ever far away
Dear heart and can it be that such raptures meet decay
I thought them all eternal when by Langley bush I lay
I thought them joys eternal when I used to shout and play
On its bank at 'clink and bandy' 'chock' and 'taw' and ducking stone
Where silence sitteth now on the wild heath as her own
Like a ruin of the past all alone

By Langley bush I roam but the bush hath left its hill
On cowper green I stray tis a desert strange and chill
And spreading lea close oak ere decay had penned its will
To the axe of the spoiler and self interest fell a prey
And cross berry way and old round oaks narrow lane
With its hollow trees like pulpits I shall never see again
Inclosure like a Buonaparte let not a thing remain
It levelled every bush and tree and levelled every hill
And hung the moles for traitors—though the brook is running still
It runs a naked brook cold and chill

Langley Bush

O Langley bush the shepherds sacred shade
Thy hollow trunk oft gaind a look from me
Full many a journey oer the heath Ive made
For such like curious things I love to see
What truth the story of the swain allows
That tells of honours which thy young days knew
Of ‘langley court’ being kept beneath thy boughs
I cannot tell—thus much I know is true
That thou art reverencd even the rude clan
Of lawless gipseys drove from stage to stage
Pilfering the hedges of the husband man
Leave thee as sacred in thy withering age
Both swains & gipseys seem to love thy name
Thy spots a favourite wi the smutty crew
& soon thou must depend on gipsey fame
Thy mulldering trunk is nearly rotten thro
My last doubts murmuring on the zephers swell
My last looks linger on thy boughs wi pain
To thy declining age I bid farwell
Like old companions neer to meet again

He [Clare] made Swordy Well protest. Bad enough for the villagers, now being pauperised, but quite terrible for the gypsies immemorially camped at Langley bush. The Vagrancy Act of 1824, swiftly following the Enclosure Act, made it an offence, among other things, 'to be in the open air, or under a tent, or in a cart or wagon, not having any visible means of subsistence, and not giving a good account of himself, or herself'.

Ronnie Blythe - 'Vagabondage in a Native Place: John Clare and the Gypsies'