[Image: The Shepherd’s Calendar (June) – Carry Akroyd]

The hay time butterflyes dance up and down
And gads that teaze like whasps the timid maid
And drive the herdboys cows to pond and shade
Who when his dogs assistance fails to stop
Is forcd his half made oaten pipes to drop
And start and halloo thro the dancing heat
To keep their gadding tumult from the wheat
Who in their rage will dangers overlook
And leap like hunters oer the pasture brook
Brushing thro blossomd beans in maddening haste
And stroying corn they scarce can stop to taste
Labour pursues its toil in weary mood
And feign woud rest wi shadows in the wood
The mowing gangs bend oer the beeded grass
Where oft the gipseys hungry journeying ass
Will turn its wishes from the meadow paths
Listning the rustle of the falling swaths

John Clare – The Shepherd’s Calendar (June - excerpt)

Bright June has come, and the barley's silken beard grows long and green, and on Lolham Bridge Field it nods and dances to every shifting whim of the wind.

From dawn to dusk the frantic bees wallow in fox-glove and bean flower as though no glut of labour or journeying could fill their store with honey enough for all. And from dawn to dusk, when the sun shines, the mowing teams are out upon Heath Field. The swish of their curved scythes is the sound of June breathing and the rasp of the whet-stones against the iron blades is the sound of June coughing. For sickness and health are as rain and shine, and all men know that for every week of fine weather there will be a debt to pay in slanting showers. And a closer look betrays the rotten teeth, the small-pox scars, the twisted spines, the swollen joints and all the curses that hard labour and a scant wage bring.

Parker Clare swings his blade in the mowing line, as ready as any though stiffer than some. From time to time he calls a halt to mop his face. Around him the cut swathes sweeten the air. Behind him the raking women turn and toss yesterday's labour and at the far end of the field the lifted hay-cocks wait upon the wain.

On Woodcroft Field Ann and Sophie Clare have been gathering and shelling beans with the other women in John Close's employ, Sophie's ears acute to the rise and fall of the gossip that surrounds her, gleaning what she can.

John has joined a shearing team, working his way from farm to farm these last five weeks.

Such is the timeless round of summer labour upon the face of the parish, an old, hard, familiar melody. But there is a new sound alongside the sighing of the scythe, the bleating of the sheep and the rising and falling of the talk. It is the sound of posts being hammered into the ground and measuring chains pulled tight between. The sound of ropes being stretched across fields and commons where new boundaries will fall, of men shouting from mark to mark where roads will be cut or streams straightened, of splashes of red paint being daubed onto trees that are to be felled. The Earl of Fitzwilliam has sent surveyors out to mark the lie of the land for enclosure. Slowly, from day to day, a new pattern of squares, fine as the web of a net or a snare, is set across the looping, winding limbs of the parish.

Hugh Lupton – The Ballad of John Clare (Chapter 4)

Farewell to love...

Farewell to love and all I see
In these dull English skies
For all the world turns round wi' me
Lost in thy two bright eyes

So fare-thee-well—a lover lost
I go where none can blame
And dearly shall I rue the cost
And scarcely keep a name

The little flowers and wild birds song
I leave them far away
In other lands and other tongues
A lonely bard to stray

In other lands I'll think of thee
Nor mortal love adore
The north star must its temple be
Where nought can change no more

The Pansy

It does me good, thou flower of spring,
Thy blossoms to behold;
Thou bloom'st when birds begin to sing,
In purple and in gold.

Along the garden-beds so neat
Thy flowers their blooms display,
When sparrows chirp and lambkins bleat
And hopes look up for May.

Then Emma thinks the heart's-ease blooms
When she the pansy sees;
But I see sleep among the tombs,
With heart that's ill at ease,

That asks for what it's lost and loved—
A quiet home and friends,
Where nature's feelings were approved
And peace made life amends;

Where love was all I had to sing,
And there these pansy flowers
Came shining in the dews of spring
To cheer the sunny hours.

But years may pass, as they have passed,
And I may hope in vain,
With hopes that linger to the last,
To see them bloom again.

The fairest flower that ever bloomed,
Or garden ever blest,
Looks cold to care, and ne'er was doomed
To ease the heart's unrest.

The heart's-ease in her happy hour
Might Emma's fancy please,
But life will often pluck the flower
And feel but ill at ease.

The memory of Love

Her face to me was memory for life
Her looks her ways in winning forms would steal
& left a pain I never ceased to feel
Her very voice would memory’s partner be
& music lingered in the sound with me
Her troubling form was long about my sight
O’er day dreams dozing or in sleep by night
My dreams wore constantly that pleasing pain
The face of her I loved & could not gain

An Acroustic

Matchless the maid whom I so highly prize
In whom my evry hope encenter'd lies
She seems to me the fairest of the fair
She's more to me then hurds to mizards are
But O alas my love can't meet return
Eternally in secresy I burn
Taught by those friends to Silence.—Fear & shame
Secret I sigh for what I durst not name
Yet when that form appears which all excels
Nature my love by conscious blushes tells
E'en when her lovly face from sight retires
Wish after wish in fruitles hopes expires
But now I will (tho fearfull) tell my mind
O then sweet maiden tender prove & kind
Nor treat my humble suit with slight disdain
A smart most piercing to a love-sick swain
So lovly maid if you will tender prove
Hear him who fond (tho truley) tells his love
Trust swains no more who oft in outward shew
On lies depend to gain the point in view
No turn from these to him that loves thee true

from "Solitude"

NOW as even's warning bell
Rings the day's departing knell,

Leaving me from labour free,
Solitude, I'll walk with thee:

Whether 'side the woods we rove,
Or sweep beneath the willow grove;

Whether sauntering we proceed
'Cross the green, or down the mead;

Whether, sitting down, we look
On the bubbles of the brook;

Whether, curious, waste an hour,
Pausing o'er each tasty flower;

Or, expounding nature's spells,
From the sand pick out the shells;

Or, while lingering by the streams,
Where more sweet the music seems,

Listen to the soft'ning swells
Of some distant chiming bells

Mellowing sweetly on the breeze,
Rising, falling by degrees,

Dying now, then wak'd again
In full many a 'witching strain,

Sounding, as the gale flits by,
Flats and sharps of melody.

(lines 1 - 24)

The Gardener's Bonny Daughter (Click here)

A live recording of 'The Gardener's Bonny Daughter' from the Albion Band.  There have of course been many of Clare's songs and poems set to music, but few in the idiom that he would have known and loved.  Here, in a live album, Vikki Clayton sings her own arrangement of the song.

Slight changes from Clare's 'lyrics', but a treat!

The chaffinch in the hedgerow sings, by a brown and naked thorn
By it's tail the titmouse hings searching the buds at morn
I'll wish dirty roads away and the meadows flooded water
And court before I end the day the Gardner's bonny daughter

She's sweeter than the first of spring , more fair than Christmas roses
When Robins by the hovel sings sweet smiles this maid discloses
Her hair so brown her eyes so bright as clear as meadow water
I'll go and have a word tonight with the gardners bonny daughter

Her cheeks they're like a coloured rose, oh a kiss would surely burn ye
Her lips are gems more red than those for love I'll go the journey
When the white thorn comes in bloom and the chaffinch lays it's lauter
I'll walk where singing birds are brief with the gardners bonny daughter

I passed the gardeners house one night my heart burned to a cinder
I saw her face and her eyes so bright she was looking through the window
But when I passed the house again I'd been pounded in a mortar
But she smiled and looked upon me then, so I love the gardeners daughter

I love the gardners daughter -- Ooh that sweet daughter

from "The Pasture"

I think when the glad shepherd lay
On the velvet sward stretched, for a bed,
On the bosom of sunshiny May,
While a hillock supported his head.

I think when, in weeding, the maid
Made choice of a hill for her seat;
When the winds so deliciously played
In her curls, 'mid her blushes so sweet.

I think of gay groups in the shade,
In hay-time, with noise never still,
When the short sward their gay cushions made.
And their dinner was spread on a hill.

I think when, in harvest, folks lay
Underneath the green shade of a tree,
While the children were busy at play,
Running round the huge trunk in their glee.

Joy shouted wherever I went;
And e'en now such a freshness it yields,
I could fancy, with books and a tent,
What delight we could find in the fields.

A Walk on High Beach, Loughton

I loved the Forest walks and beechen woods,
Where pleasant Stockdale showed me far away
Wild Enfield Chase, and pleasant Edmonton;
While Giant London, known to all the world,
Was nothing but a guess among the trees,
Though only half a day from where we stood.
Such is ambition! only great at home,
And hardly known to quiet and repose.
I loved the Forest walk, and often stood
To hear boys halloo to their wilder sheep;
While quiet Turner sat upon a hill,
And gentle Howard cut his sticks and sang.
The Sticker trailed her faggot on the ground,
And all the Forest seemed to live with joy.


[Image: The Shepherd’s Calendar (May) – Carry Akroyd]

Come queen of months in company
Wi all thy merry minstrelsy
The restless cuckoo absent long
And twittering swallows chimney song
And hedge row crickets notes that run
From every bank that fronts the sun
And swathy bees about the grass
That stops wi every bloom they pass
And every minute every hour
Keep teazing weeds that wear a flower
And toil and childhoods humming joys
For there is music in the noise

John Clare – The Shepherd’s Calendar (May - excerpt)

This fortnight last John has worked the gardens of John Close's farm. Thistle, campion, poppy, fumitory, yellow charlock, pimpernel, groundsel, all must yield to the hoe before they bloom and seed and overwhelm, for all they're the common flowers that he loves best. But a man must work and John must sentence them as weeds and condemn them to have their green grip upon the soil scratched away. And having served his time as executioner, must trudge back to Close's yard, clean his hoe and take his place in line to receive his paltry wage.

And now, his pocket lined with pennies, he sought his solace.

Once inside the woods and shaken free of the ceaseless gossip and the women's shrill laughter and the hacking cough of poor Jem Farrar. Once he was free of the tireless scratching of iron to stony soil and the day's slate had been wiped clean by sweet solitude, John Clare set his mind to the next day's holiday.

From the willows bordering Round Oak Water he cut slim withies and wound them together into a loop. From the may the wood's margin he found sprays that were breaking into early white blossom...

Hugh Lupton – The Ballad of John Clare (Chapter 2)