from "Jockey & Jinney or First Love"

Wereover many a stile neeth willows grey
The winding footpath leaves the public way
Free from the dusty din & ceasless chime
Of bustling waggons in the summer time
Crossing a brook—were braving storms in vain
Two willows fell & still for brigs remain
Corn field & clover closes leading down
In peacful windings to the neighbouring town

Were on bridge wall or rail or trees smooth bark
The passing eye is often stopt to mark
The artless vanity of village swains
Who spend a leisure hour with patient pains
& put to sculptors purposes the knife
To spin a cobweb for an after life
Nicking the letters of their little names
In rudest forms that untaught science frames

Pleasd with the feeblest shadow of renown
That warms alike the noble and the clown
Nigh to that path a sheltering hedge beside
A Cottage stands in solitary pride
Whose thatch with housleek flowers is yellowd oer
Where flock the bees from hives agen the door
Lonly & sweet as ever welcome spring
Neer fails its pleasant visitors to bring

Trees sheltering round it hide returning rooks
& twittering swallows seek its chimney nooks
In peace the sparrow chirps its joyous calls
& takes the feather to the crevisd walls
Nor fails the harmless robin & the wren
To seek such sweet secluded haunts agen
Beneath the eaves the martins still repair
& yearly build their mortard dwelling there

(Lines 1 - 32)

Cottage Tales, ed. Eric Robinson, David Powell and P.M.S. Dawson
(Ashington and Manchester: Mid-NAG and Carcanet, 1993)

Hen's Nest

Among the orchard weeds, from every search,
Snugly and sure, the old hen's nest is made,
Who cackles every morning from her perch
To tell the servant girl new eggs are laid;
Who lays her washing by, and far and near
Goes seeking all about from day to day,
And stung with nettles tramples everywhere;
But still the cackling pullet lays away.
The boy on Sundays goes the stack to pull
In hopes to find her there, but naught is seen,
And takes his hat and thinks to find it full,
She's laid so long so many might have been.
But naught is found and all is given o'er
Till the young brood come chirping to the door.

Northborough Sonnets, (Ashington/Manchester: Mid-NAG/Carcanet, 1995)
ed. Eric Robinson, David Powell and P.M.S. Dawson

from "Holywell"

A distant prospect cheer'd my eye,
Of closes green and fallows brown,
And distant glimpse of cot and town,
And steeple beck'ning on the sight,
By morning sunbeams painted white,
And darksome woods with shadings sweet,
To make the landscape round complete,
And distant waters glist'ning by,
As if the ground were patch'd with sky;
While on the blue horizon's line
The far-off things did dimly shine,
Which wild conjecture only sees,
And fancy moulds to clouds and trees,
Thinking, if thither she could fly,
She'd find the close of earth and sky.

But as we turn to look again
On nearest objects, wood and plain,
(So truths than fiction lovelier seem),
One warms as wak'ning from a dream.
From covert hedge, on either side,
The blackbirds flutter'd terrified,
Mistaking me for pilfering boy
That doth too oft their nests destroy;
And ‘prink, prink, prink,’ they took to wing,
In snugger shades to build and sing.
From tufted grass or bush, the hare
Oft sprung from her endanger'd lair;
Surprise was startled on her rout,
So near one's feet she bolted out.
The sun each tree-top mounted o'er,
And got church-steeple height or more:
And as I soodled on and on,
The ground was warm to look upon.

The Village Minstrel, and Other Poems (2 volumes, 1821)

The Flight of Birds

[Images: Carry Akroyd]

The crow goes flopping on from wood to wood,
The wild duck wherries to the distant flood,
The starnels hurry o'er in merry crowds,
And overhead whew by like hasty clouds;
The wild duck from the meadow-water plies
And dashes up the water as he flies;
The pigeon suthers by on rapid wing,
The lark mounts upward at the call of spring.
In easy flights above the hurricane
With doubled neck high sails the noisy crane.
Whizz goes the pewit o'er the ploughman's team,
With many a whew and whirl and sudden scream;
And lightly fluttering to the tree just by,
In chattering journeys whirls the noisy pie;
From bush to bush slow swees the screaming jay,
With one harsh note of pleasure all the day.

John Clare, Selected Poems,
ed. J.W. and Anne Tibble (Everyman, 1965)


Welcome gentle breathing Spring
Now the birds are heard to sing
And the budding tree is seen
Putting forth her tender green
O delightful season hail
May my footsteps never fail
When time permits to visit thee
And view thy new born scenery

Welcome gentle breathing spring
Now the birds begin to sing
Now the Swelling shade is seen
Putting forth its tender green
While the Suns extended way
Sweetly shows the lengthend day
O delightful Season hail
May my footsteps never fail
When I've time to trample where
All thy beauties reappear

The Early Poems of John Clare 1804-1822,
ed. Eric Robinson, David Powell and Margaret Grainger
(Oxford, 2 volumes, I-II, 1989)


The insect world, now sunbeams higher climb,
Oft dream of spring, and wake before their time:
Bees stroke their little legs across their wings,
And venture short flights where the snowdrop hings
Its silver bell, and winter aconite
Its buttercup-like flowers that shut at night,
With green leaf furling round its cup of gold,
Like tender maiden muffled from the cold;
They sip and find their honey-dreams are vain,
Then feebly hasten to their hives again.
The butterflies, by eager hopes undone,
Glad as a child come out to greet the sun,
Beneath the shadows of a sunny shower
Are lost, nor see to-morrow's April flower.

Selected Poems of John Clare (ed. James Reeves), London: Heinemann, 1954

from "The Shepherd's Calendar - March"

Where the stunt bank fronts the southern sky
By lanes or brooks where sunbeams love to lye
A cowslip peep will open faintly coy
Soon seen and gatherd by a wandering boy

A tale of spring around the distant haze
Seems muttering pleasures wi the lengthning days
Morn wakens mottld oft wi may day stains
And shower drops hang the grassy sprouting plains

And on the naked thorns of brassy hue
Drip glistning like a summer dream of dew
While from the hill side freshning forest drops
As one might walk upon their thickening tops

And buds wi young hopes promise seemly swells
Where woodman that in wild seclusion dwells
Wi chopping toil the coming spring deceives
Of many dancing shadows flowers and leaves

And in his pathway down the mossy wood
Crushes wi hasty feet full many a bud
Of early primrose yet if timely spied
Shelterd some old half rotten stump beside

The sight will cheer his solitery hour
And urge his feet to stride and save the flower
Muffld in baffles leathern coat and gloves
The hedger toils oft scaring rustling doves

The Shepherd's Calendar, with Village Stories, and Other Poems (1827)