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

With wicker basket swinging on her arm
Searching the hedges of home close or farm
Where brashy eldern trees to autumn fade
Wild shines the hedge in autumns gay parade
The glossy berrys picturesquely weaves
Their swathy bunches mid the yellow leaves
Where the pert sparrow stains his little bill
And tutling robin picks his meals at will
Black ripening to the wan suns misty ray
Here the industrious hus wives wend their way
Pulling the brittle branches carefull down
And hawking loads of berrys to the town
While village dames as they get ripe and fine
Repair to pluck them for their ‘eldern wine’
That bottld up becomes a rousing charm
To kindle winters icy bosom warm
That wi its merry partner nut brown beer
Makes up the peasants christmass keeping cheer

(lines 71-88)

John Clare – The Shepherd’s Calendar (October)

There has been a fermentation too in the mind of John Clare, a fever almost, a frenzy of scribbling. Since first he learned his ABCs he has scratched with his nib at whatever scrap of paper he could lay his hands upon. Most have been scrunched in his fist and thrown into the fire. Some he has folded most careful into the pages of his few precious books. But since Bridge Fair he has writ as one possessed. Whether it was that tattered volume that woke in him something that had long been slumbering. Or whether it is to sharpen and sweeten his tongue for Mary…

Each morning, along with the bread and cheese in his dinner bag, he must carry his paper and pencil stub. When the other men rest from their fencing or hedge-setting or stone-breaking and settle down for their baggin he sits apart and sets down the rhymes he has whispered to himself as he laboured. There are those that mock, and those that shrug, and those that say ‘Good luck to ye', but John is indifferent to them all. He is in a maze of words that will not let him be, they come spilling and rhyming from his tongue and he delights in the pictures they summon. And then, when a poem is done, he will doubt it also.

Hugh Lupton – The Ballad of John Clare (Chapter 10 – All Hallows’ Eve)

Sun-rising in September

How delightfuly pleasant when the cool chilling air
By september is thrown oer the globe
When each morning both hedges and bushes do wear
Instead of their green—a grey robe.
To see the sun rise thro the skirts of the wood
In his mantle so lovley and red
It cheers up my spirits and does me much good
As thro the cold stubbles I tred.
Tho not that his beams more advances the scene
Or adds to the Landscape a charm
But all that delights me by him may be seen
That the ensuing hours will be warm.
And this with the poet as yet in the world
In a parrarel sence will comply
For when he does view the gay scenes there unfurl'd
Tis only to light him on high.

Song - O aince I loved the lily

O aince I loved the lily
As the first & fairest flower
& aince I luved the rose
On simmers hedge row bower
& I luv'd the white thorn bower
Clad softly green at spring
But sweeter then the flower
Is my luv' Mary King

I luved her in her childhood
In sorrow & in joy
Red as blossoms i' the wildwood
& brown as any boy
As the linnet luv's its young
I' the green leaves o' the spring
So I've often said & sung
Of my true luv' Mary King

Sae I've often said & sung
When her links o' flaxen hair
Oer her fair shoulders hung
& her little breast was bare
I luved her more & more
Till she got a fair young thing
Fond & tender as before
Was the bonny Mary King

& now she's ripe & blooming
I' the prime o' rosey may
& her bosoms luv' untombing
Bursts lace & pins away
‘All sueing to be prest’
White as snow drops o' the spring
Love warms the lily breast
O sweet bonny Mary King
My bonny Mary King

Ripe & rosey Mary King
Sweetest flower o' a' the spring
Is my ain true luv' Mary King
Sae I luv' her night & day
A ripe & bonny thing
Till lifes sands waste away
Young handsome Mary King

from "The Harvest Morning"

Cocks wake the early morn wi' many a Crow
Loud ticking village clock has counted four
The labouring rustic hears his restless foe
& weary bones & pains complaining sore
Hobbles to fetch his horses from the moor
Some busy 'gin to team the loaded corn
Which night throng'd round the barns becrouded door
Such plentious scenes the farmers yards adorn
Such busy bustling toils now mark the harvest morn
The birdboy's pealing horn is loudly blow'd
The waggons jostle on wi' rattling sound
& hogs & geese now throng the dusty road
Grunting & gabbling in contension round
The barley ears that litter on the ground—
What printing traces mark the waggons way
What busy bustling wakens echo round
How drives the suns warm beams the mist away
How labour sweats & toils & dreads the sultry day

(lines 1 to 18)


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

Harvest awakes the morning still
And toils rude groups the valleys fill
Deserted is each cottage hearth
To all life save the crickets mirth
Each burring wheel their sabbath meets
Nor walks a gossip in the streets
The bench beneath its eldern bough
Lined oer with grass is empty now
Where black birds caged from out the sun
Would whistle while their mistress spun
All haunt the thronged fields still to share
The harvests lingering bounty there
As yet no meddling boys resort
About the streets in idle sport
The butterflye enjoys his hour
And flirts unchaced from flower to flower
And humming bees that morning calls
From out the low huts mortar walls
Which passing boy no more controuls
Flye undisturbed about their holes
And sparrows in glad chirpings meet
Unpelted in the quiet street

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

Today has been the last of the harvest. The day broke with but one small stand of wheat still waiting on Lolham Bridge Field. But though it should have been a day of ease and joy with the promise of largesse and horkey writ large in every heart, it was a sombre village that woke to the harvest horn.

Dick and Bob Turnill had been leading a loaded cart back to their yard from Lolham Bridge Field when the bank beside Green Dyke gave way and the piled load lurched out of true. The cart tipped its grain into the dyke and one of the horses fell with his full weight upon his collar. He was struggling so fierce that none could get close enough to cut him free. Soon he was strangled, his tongue lolling between his teeth. Many had rallied to rake the soaked straw from the dyke and lay it to dry again, but a broken cart, a dead gelding and half a wagon-load of corn are a higher toll than Bob Turnill can afford to pay, as all the parish knows. It is a harsh God that he prays to so avid.

And there is a third sorrow too in the fence-posts and quick-thorn seedlings that wait on the moment when the harvest largesse is finished and autumn comes riding across the fields in her russets and ochres, red as the leaves of the dock and brown as its steeples of seed.

John and Parker Clare walked silently out to the field this morning. The other men were muted too, avoiding John's eye. For although most believed that the gypsy had reaped his just deserts, the transportation of a known man puts a quiet on the busiest tongue. There was not the usual babble of talk among the women either, rather a whispered, subdued gossiping. The children, though, ran and whooped as oblivious to care as the barking village dogs.

When they reached the stand of wheat the old rhythms of harvest that have governed these months of high summer were a balm to John's heart, for they demanded no more than the song of whet-stone to blade and the mindless drudgery of hard labour. Yesterday's sharp sorrow was numbed by an aching shoulder and a sweating back. Slowly and steadily as the morning progressed the wheat diminished in front of him and the stooks gathered behind.

It was mid-morning, when the wheat was all but taken, that a hare leapt out from between the stalks and dodged between the legs of the men. It was one of this year's leverets, full grown but gangly still, sleek and brown…

Hugh Lupton – The Ballad of John Clare (Chapter 8 – Harvest)

The Last of Summer (I)

A beauty on the scene attends
Ere autumn comes and summer ends,
When summer's glory first we see
As stained with its mortality.

Each morn wakes wan, its sunlight wanes
On yellowing leaves and fading plains;
Green fields no more the summer views,
All sickened into ripened hues

Of brown and grey and darksome glooms
That mark the path where autumn comes;
And in each woodland's buried way
The dewdrop lives for half the day.

Dank mists oft creep 'twixt earth and sky,
And dreaming dim the morning's eye,
And dullness wears along the while
As if the sun was loath to smile.

Yet at midday his feebled powers
Will brighten up in sultry hours,
And sweating toil, that often stops
To wipe aside the falling drops.

Pierced with his downward daily ray,
Wishes the lagging hours away.
By swallows we may plain perceive
When summer's on the point to leave.

(to be continued...)

The Nightingale

This is the month the nightingale, clod brown,
Is heard among the woodland shady boughs:
This is the time when in the vale, grass-grown,
The maiden hears at eve her lover's vows,
What time the blue mist round the patient cows
Dim rises from the grass and half conceals
Their dappled hides. I hear the nightingale,
That from the little blackthorn spinney steals
To the old hazel hedge that skirts the vale,
And still unseen sings sweet. The ploughman feels
The thrilling music as he goes along,
And imitates and listens; while the fields
Lose all their paths in dusk to lead him wrong,
Still sings the nightingale her soft melodious song.