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Title: Poems
Author: Clare, John
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Poems" ***

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                              JOHN CLARE

                          PUBLISHER’S NOTICE.

The Publisher desires to express his regret that, owing to an oversight,
the proofs of the Introduction were not submitted to the Editor, who is
in no way responsible for the following

                   ERRATA (corrected in this etext)

Page xvii., line 6, for “been” read “being”; page xxii., first line, for
“Reynerdson” read “Reynardson”; page xxiv., for “tête-á-tête” read
“tête-à-tête”; page xxviii., 2nd line, for “compliments.” read
“compliments,”; page xxx., line 11, for “Dick Suivelles” read “Dick
Swiveller”; page xxxi., in the last line but two, for “to” read “of”;
page xxxix., in line 6 of second paragraph for “widey” read “widely.”

                         POEMS _by_ JOHN CLARE

                      SELECTED AND INTRODUCED BY
                       NORMAN GALE (AUTHOR OF “A
                    COUNTRY MUSE,” &C. &C.) WITH A

                      RUGBY: GEORGE E. OVER, 1901

                      Printed at The Rugby Press



A Spring Morning                                                     138

A World for Love                                                     120

Address to Plenty                                                      3

Approach of Spring, The                                               76

Autumn                                                                99

Autumn Robin, The                                                    132

Ballad                                                                42

Crab Tree, The                                                       139

Decay                                                                125

December                                                              70

Effusion                                                              39

Gipsy Camp, The                                                       45

Graves of Infants                                                    144

Harvest Morning, The                                                  18

Home Yearnings                                                       145

I am! Yet what I am                                                  157

June                                                                  65

Love                                                                 123

Love Lives beyond the Tomb                                           147

Meeting, The                                                          37

Milton, To John                                                      154

My Early Home                                                        149

My Love, thou art a Nosegay Sweet                                     36

Nightingale’s Nest, The                                              114

Noon                                                                  14

Pastoral Fancies                                                     129

Patty                                                                 32

Patty of the Vale                                                     34

Old Poesy                                                            141

On an Infant’s Grave                                                  22

Rural Evening                                                         55

Rustic Fishing                                                        61

Song                                                                  44

Song                                                                 122

Summer Evening                                                        25

Summer Images                                                         89

Tell-Tale Flowers, The                                               150

Thoughts in a Churchyard                                             112

’Tis Spring, my Love, ’Tis Spring                                    142

To an April Daisy                                                     23

To P * * * *                                                         118

To the Clouds                                                         47

To the Rural Muse                                                     82

Universal Epitaph, The                                                17

Vanities of Life, The                                                105

What is Life?                                                          1

Winter                                                               140

Woodman, The                                                          48


In tracing the origin of JOHN CLARE it is not necessary to go very far
back, reference to his grandfather and grandmother being a sufficient
acknowledgement of the claims of genealogy. Following the road at
haphazard, trusting himself entirely to the guidance of fortune, and
relying for provender upon his skill in drawing from a violin tunes of
the battle and the dance, about thirty years before Helpstone heard the
first wail of its infant poet, there arrived at the village the vagabond
and truculent Parker. Born under a wandering star, this man had footed
it through many a country of Europe, careless whether daily necessity
required from him an act of bloodshed or the scraping of a harum-scarum
reel designed to set frolic in the toes of man and maid. At the time of
his reaching Helpstone, a Northamptonshire village, destined to come
into prominence because of the lyrics of its chief son, it happened that
the children were without a schoolmaster. In his time the adventurer
had played many parts. Why should he not add to the list? Effrontery,
backed up by an uncertain amount of superficial attainment, won the day,
and this fiddling Odysseus obtained the vacant position. Of his
boastings, his bowings, his drinkings, there is no need to make history,
but his soft tongue demands a moment of attention. We may take it for
granted that he picked out the fairest flower among the maids of
Helpstone as the target for all the darts at his disposal, each of
which, we may be sure, was polished by use. The daughter of the parish
clerk was a fortress easy to capture. Depicted by himself, the rascal
loomed as a hero; till at last the affair proceeded beyond a mere kiss,
and the poor girl pleaded for the offices of a priest in order to save
her child from the stain of illegitimacy. However, the schoolmaster
proved glib of promises, but fleet of foot, for on the day following his
sweetheart’s revelations he was nowhere to be found. In the course of
time JOHN CLARE’S father was born. In his turn, he grew into the want of
a mate, found her, married her, and begot an honour for England.

JOHN CLARE was born at Helpstone, on the 13th day of July, 1793, and
born into a heritage of handicaps. To say nothing of the fruits of
exposure to rough weathers which were ripening in his father’s system,
the boy had the disadvantage of being one of twins, a sister
accompanying him into the world. His mother suffered from dropsy, and we
may well believe that what life the children sucked from her breast
contained elements threatening their future health. Small and frail, the
lad had the additional misfortune to open his eyes in the cottage of a
pauper, instead of in some abode where his natural weakness could have
been nourished by foods giving inward encouragement, and of a sort sure
to result in the building up of hearty fibre. Despite all these early
rebuffs, JOHN CLARE kept hold of life. When still very young he set out
full of faith to explore the junction of earth and heaven, for on the
horizon he could see the point of their meeting. In this incident, as
well as in many another of his childhood, it is easy to detect signs of
a spirit triumphantly unfitted for residence in a clay hovel at
Helpstone. As luck would have it, a kind of rough-and-ready poetry was
not altogether out of the boy’s reach, for his father’s head was stuffed
with innumerable odds-and-ends of rhyme, some of which he was in the
habit of reciting to his son. Entertainment of the same sort was
obtainable from old Granny Bains, a weather-worn cow-herd, to whom the
future poet was attracted by her store of ditties; whose especial
cronies were the wind and rain. Under such illiterate tutors little JOHN
CLARE moved closer and closer to the soul of poetry, musing while he put
a limit to the vagrancy of the geese and sheep for which he had been
appointed guardian as soon as the main part of his schooling was over.
His departure from the scholastic bench took place when his years had
reached a very unripe total, for with only seven birthdays entered in
his book of life, at an age when a child is usually at the commencement
of historical and geographical perplexities, he was turned out into the
fields as a wage-earner. Instead of feeling elated at his escape from
the scholastic coils of Dame Bullimore, as many a lad would have done,
JOHN CLARE, being aware of his budding wits, although unable to
comprehend the motive force from within, looked round his small district
in search of fresh educational territories to be conquered by his brain.
Having saved a few pence he made overtures to Mr. James Merrishaw, the
schoolmaster of Glinton, and in the duller months of the year, when days
were short, he attended certain evening classes, notwithstanding the
fact that the journeys involved taxed his boot-leather severely; for
Glinton is nearly five miles away from Helpstone. Here he learned well,
but not altogether wisely, if we may agree that the boy’s struggles with
the intricacies of algebra were conspicuous for mis-applied energy. But
something more valuable than baffling equations resulted from JOHN
CLARE’S connection with the sage of Glinton, for Mr. Merrishaw made him
free of his books, thus feeding more and more that desire for knowledge
which sprang up in him not less rapidly than a mushroom grows in a

Even in such a loose piece of biography as this--an essay which has no
other aim than to glance in passing at the salient features of CLARE’S
career--a little space must be spared for mention of the boy’s year of
service as factotum at the “Blue Bell” at Helpstone, where he had almost
as much leisure as work, because it was here that his hermitical notions
and moods of dream increased at an extraordinary rate. Served by
travelling pedlars, whose packs let him share in fancy the terror of Red
Riding Hood, the adventures of Valentine and Orson, to say no word of
Sinbad’s amazements, the small student entered for the first time into
the recesses of fairy land, there to lave his hands in its abundant
jewels, while making extortionate demands upon the swiftness of genies.
Little by little, algebra went to the wall, yielding as much to the
boy’s spreading passion for Nature’s feast of grass and flowers, as for
the limitless enchantments born of imagination, since at this period the
list of impulses communicated to him by wayside blossoms, by clouds, by
winds, and by the easy ballads of thrushes, daily grew longer. The boy
began to appreciate the largeness of God’s school as compared with the
limits reigned over by Dame Bullimore and the pedagogue of Glinton; and
his increasing sense of hearing enabled him to receive into his
understanding fragments of those sermons which are preached by stones.
Hunger for expansion lived and lusted in his heart. No better example of
this fury of craving could be adduced than the story of how the young
poet entered into a combat with circumstances in order that he might
obtain a copy of Thomson’s “Seasons.” Mental agony, as well as a
superlative degree of hoarding, went to the purchase of that coveted
volume, the history of which is fully set forth in Mr. Frederick
Martin’s stimulating “Life of John Clare.” During these glowing months
the boy of genius had not ceased from utilising every chance scrap of
paper for the purpose of jotting down his exercises in rhyme. By means
of a forgivable trick he secured the verbal patronage of his father and
mother, who could not see any merit in his verses till he pretended
that they were the compositions of others. As poem after poem was
written their author stored them in a cranny in the wall, a retreat at
last invaded by Mrs. Clare, with the result that she was wont to help
the boiling of the kettle by burning underneath it the early pipings of
her son.

At this point, the youth in whose story the interest lies being sixteen
years old, Cupid, with no loss of his bright qualities after so many
centuries of exercise, comes into the recital. To JOHN CLARE, who was
moving rapidly towards the full worship of all things lovely, Mary Joyce
appeared to be nobody less bewildering and enchanting than a stray from
heaven; and though he was prevented from wearing her, the dice of
Fortune falling adverse from the box, he never ceased to regard her as
his ideal. Of the many pathetic incidents of his life not the least
touching is the fact that in his years of a broken brain he cherished as
a chief delusion the belief that Mary Joyce was indeed his wife. What
the feelings of a nature so intense were when the father of his
sweetheart intervened as the proverbial slip between the cup and the
lip, we can only conjecture, though the tracing of results is easy
enough. After leaving the tankards and the horses of the “Blue Bell,”
JOHN CLARE cast about him for some other form of employment. Escaping
the pains of stone-cutting and cobbling, he succeeded in becoming a
gardener’s apprentice at Burghley Park, the seat of the Marquis of
Exeter. Parker Clare began to think that his son was born with an
invisible silver spoon in his mouth, while to JOHN eight shillings a
week, with lodging free, smacked of the robbers’ cave in the “Arabian
Nights.” In reality, this position was altogether undesirable, for the
head gardener, not content to degrade himself alone by an excessive
swallowing of stimulants, actually devoted his best efforts to make
drunkards of his pupils. Unfortunately temptation loomed large at the
very moment when CLARE was ripe for mischief. Romance was worsted by
swipes (the indignity of the episode may be held to excuse the slang);
by means of such thin nepenthe, regret for the loss of Mary Joyce grew
less and less; and it not infrequently occurred that the new apprentice
slept off his potations by the hedge-side, with no better blanket than a
mist, and with the damp turf for sole mattress, thus unconsciously
taking in a cargo of ague and fever for future unloading. At last CLARE,
in company with another lad who was anxious to show a clean pair of
heels to the abstract and concrete brutalities of his master, fled to
Grantham, and thence to Newark-upon-Trent, where both the runaways
obtained work under a nurseryman. But CLARE was homesick; his mother’s
face was as a magnet pulling him to the familiar hovel at Helpstone; no
longer could he obey that decree of divorce from his native scenes
pronounced against him by the impalpable judge and jury of circumstance.
One day, after a terrible journey on foot, he burst into the hut of his
parents, weeping for joy to gain for his body the residence which his
spirit had occupied so long.

No sooner had CLARE returned his muscles to the various tasks of a farm
labourer than he harked back with a love greater than ever to Thomson’s
“Seasons,” reading it as he went to and from his work. The chief part of
his leisure he used for the composition of verses, an occupation which
served to fix upon him habits of timidity and shyness, especially as he
was without a single sympathiser. Because of his strange manners, his
fits of abstraction as well as of uttered enthusiasm, his appetite for
solitude, the neighbours passed from mere mockery to whispers of a mind
diseased, and even of a nature beset by the black ministers of magic.
The fact that about this time his mother, for the purposes of fuel, made
a clean sweep of his poetic accumulations did its share to loosen his
moral control; and when his attempts at gaining encouragement from Mr.
Thomas Porter, and patronage from Lord Milton, to whom the parish clerk
of Helpstone displayed the rustic poet, failed, he betook himself, this
time of his own accord, to the drunken company of the worst livers in
the village. Much of CLARE’S future misery proceeded from this lapse.
Before bad example had done its utmost to ruin him, Providence, in the
somewhat unusual disguise of a recruiting sergeant, came to the rescue.
JOHN’S period of military service was brief, for after being instructed
at Oundle in the goose-step--that foundation of a glorious career under
arms--the corps of which he was a member was disbanded, and he was
enabled once more to assume the civilian smock at Helpstone. For all
booty he had a second-rate copy of “Paradise Lost” and “The Tempest.” A
matter of more importance, however, was the fact that he had departed
from the pernicious influence of the roysterers who were leading him to
destruction. A number of small adventures were not slow to follow his
short intimacy with the clothes and tools of war, what with his trial of
a gipsy’s life, and his courting of several girls, one of whom,
Elizabeth Newton by name, drove him into a fit of melancholy by playing
the part of a jilt. In this state of mind nothing could have suited him
better than change of scene, and his departure to Bridge Casterton,
there to learn the details of a lime-burner’s trade, happened at a
moment fortunate for heart and head alike. It was while he resided in
this neighbourhood that he confided to Mr. Henson, a bookseller of
Market Deeping, the fact of his colloquy with the Muse, following the
avowal by a display of his powers. This confession was the germ of a
wide circulation.

And now we are arrived at a fresh, and, as far as matrimony is
concerned, a final love. CLARE being now twenty-four years of age, it
was high time for him to nurse an established affection, and he was
lucky to win the heart of Martha Turner, the “Patty” of several poems to
be found in the collected works of the poet. To him Martha was another
waif from the skies, even though she tortured her poetical admirer by
the time-honoured practice of appearing to waver between two suitors.
The conduct of this episode was made up of petty events prosaic enough
to the onlooker, but sufficiently lethal for the parties most
interested. Tiffs, sour looks from parents, despairs, showers, rainbows,
were the constituents of CLARE’S courtship. A flat and always fortunate
wooing would doubtless have been hostile to poetry. Because of his
longing to supply two mouths with the necessaries of life, and because
it was clearly proved that Cupid would not even be able to munch a
satisfactory portion of crust if the lovers founded their faith solely
on the wage of a lime-burner, CLARE conceived the idea of publishing a
volume of song, his mind appointing Mr. Henson, of Market Deeping, a
comrade for his project. A month devoted to the base uses of the
treadmill would not have cost the poet more labour than did the
composition of his prospectus, three hundred copies of which the
bookseller agreed to print, as well as a specimen sonnet, for one pound.
But this trap for subscribers was baited with too much candour. If ever
a poet met with a crushing response to his first appeal for a hearing,
surely JOHN CLARE was that man. Seven patrons came forward, more, we may
guess, in kindness than in hope of literary luxury. CLARE, of course,
experienced the superlatives of disgust; and when the printer of the
artless prospectus wrote to inform him that the adventure must drop
unless fifteen pounds appeared to back it up, he could not withhold
himself from replying in a strain to the last degree impolitic. To add
to his griefs, a rather wide gulf was at this time yawning between
Martha Turner and himself, the bridging of which was a feat of
engineering extremely hard to accomplish. Moreover, and here is an
illustration of the proverb that it never rains but it pours, the owner
of the limekilns discharged his lyrical servant on the score of his
inattention to business. The whole neighbourhood being somewhat
scandalised at what was considered presumption, for labourers of CLARE’S
type were not required to assert themselves in prose, much less in
poetry, the disappointed lime-burner, with a heart given up to aching,
returned once more to Helpstone, where he would have starved but for
parochial relief. So genius sat down to eat the parish loaf.

However tightly twisted the rosebud may be, windy and sunny fingers will
unpack it at last. At the very moment when CLARE was reading himself as
the peculiar prey of disaster, he was destined to behold the bright back
of the cloud which had confronted him with such ominous persistence. By
strange approaches the news of _Clare’s_ devotion to and production of
poetry arrived at Mr. Drury, a bookseller who was on the point of taking
over a business at Stamford from Mr. Thompson, of that town. In company
with a friend, Mr. Drury proceeded to Helpstone, interviewed the
astonished poet, glanced through some rhymed samples, and finally
declared his intention to publish a volume at his own risk, hearing
which intelligence CLARE once more rose heavenward in the balloon of
hope, forgetting how certain it was that impediments to free flight
would make themselves manifest. Owing to the offices of Mr. Drury, CLARE
became acquainted with Mr. Gilchrist, of Stamford, a gentlemen with an
Oxford education and a grocer’s shop, who played the part of a true
friend to the poet, if we except his action in making public some verses
of CLARE’S which had more wine than inspiration in them. It has been
contended that Mr. Gilchrist filled the post of patron with a want of
reserve which made CLARE feel his position acutely; for the eating of
humble-pie has never been a really popular amusement. Be this as it may,
lovers of “Poems descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery” have a great
deal for which to thank Mr. Gilchrist. After promising CLARE to
undertake the publication of his first book, Mr. Drury experienced a few
bad hours. To begin with, the ill-spelt, rope-tied, unpunctuated mass of
manuscript entrusted to him by its author had a most unpromising aspect.
He tested it as best he could, but, as the glow of the adventure had
already faded a little, found no particular reasons for comfort. In this
strait he enlisted the acumen of an acquaintance, a clergyman, whose
name was, somewhat appropriately, Twopenny, in order to see how the
verses might strike a contemporary. The prophetic Twopenny, with brutal
candour, described CLARE’S bundle of reeds to be so much twaddle. When
Mr. Drury delivered this oracle, the grief of the poet was such that the
bookseller was shocked. Had it not been for the anguish of the singer,
it is quite possible that the bookseller of Stamford would have
departed, with decent circuity, from his bargain; as it was, he
determined to procure yet another opinion. He happened to be a relative
of Mr. John Taylor, the London publisher, to whom he despatched the
uncouth manuscript in question. Mr. Taylor’s were not as Mr. Twopenny’s
eyes. He knew diamonds when he saw them, even though a polisher had not
exerted his craft upon them.

Before proceeding to describe the effect made on the public by the
appearance of “Poems descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery,” it will be
necessary to revert for a moment to the affairs of love. No sooner was
the first quarrel between the sweethearts swept away by the broom of
reconciliation than the flame of passion, burning to a conquering
height, made a bonfire out of the broken materials of virtue. This
disaster was followed by fresh bickerings. Martha Turner found it
impossible to be for ever displaying a cheerful front. Her tears, her
reproaches, her simple tricks to make CLARE jealous, resulted in a
serious breach. CLARE, listening far too readily to glib and evil
persuasions from within, appears to have convinced himself that he was
the injured party; whereupon he began to wound Martha by flirting
outrageously with Betty Sell, the daughter of a Southorp labourer. This
inglorious behaviour received a sudden check, just after the publication
of CLARE’S book, by reason of a letter from Martha Turner, in which she
spoke of her coming motherhood, and implored the author of her shame to
cleanse her in so far as he was able. Truth to tell, CLARE was by this
time wellnigh assured that Betty was his favourite, but he had the
manliness to follow the right star, and on the 16th of March, 1820, was
united to Martha at Great Casterton Church. A month after the wedding
Anna Maria Clare was born to him. As this marriage would hardly have
been possible but for the stir occasioned by the poems, we may now give
a short history of the events immediately following their issue.

Although the art of preliminary puffing was as yet in swaddling clothes,
so to speak, Mr. Taylor contrived to interest a large number of his
acquaintances, some of whom had access to the columns of certain
periodicals. Moreover, Mr. Gilchrist’s magazine article had proved a
useful forerunner. The book itself was born into a golden clime. The
reading world happening to be sick of Metropolitan and modish fare,
CLARE’S birds and mayblossoms came as a tonic to all who were desirous
of a change. The triumph of the country over the town was of the
completest sort; customers poured into Mr. Taylor’s shop in their
anxiety to purchase copies of the labourer’s poems; for once the critics
and the public were agreed. Journals of fine stature joined with
insignificant prints in praising CLARE to the skies, and when this new
writer actually succeeded in carrying the defences of the “Quarterly,”
it was allowed on all sides that lion-hunters were in luck’s way. CLARE
was fortunate in some of his advertisers. Rossini and Madame Vestris
brought him into further prominence by means of a musical setting and of
recitations at Covent Garden. Genius in hobnailed boots and a
smock-frock shouldered aside the more usual figures of literary London.
While all this was taking place in Fleet Street, as well as in the
aristocratic sections of the capital, rumours of CLARE’S amazing success
reached the county residences in the neighbourhood of Helpstone.
General Birch Reynardson gave him to eat with his lackeys, and Viscount
Milton flung seventeen guineas into his lap with as much feeling as he
might have thrown seventeen crumbs to a cur. In great contrast to
blue-blooded vulgarity of this stamp was the Marquis of Exeter’s
treatment of the poet, although a more liberal display of tact upon his
part would have enabled CLARE to leave his mansion with a heart given
over completely to joy and gratitude. Friends of _Clare_ are not likely
to forget the generosity of the Marquis. An annuity of fifteen guineas
for life was indeed a handsome backing of the Muse. Because of this gift
Anna Maria Clare was born in wedlock; without it her parents would not
have been able to marry as soon as they did. Foolish folk spared the
poet none of the customary agonies. He was pestered by inquisitive
visitors; collectors of autographs bullied him for his signature, and
the owners of albums plagued him to encourage them in their whim. Some
persons of the goody-goody type improved the shining hour by sending him
an assortment of tracts, the fate of which is wrapped in impenetrable
mystery. CLARE was a simple child of nature, certainly, but we may
almost take it for granted that he left these precious effusions

The news that CLARE was about to trust his bones to London almost
paralysed his rustic intimates. Generations of romancers had made
strange impressions upon the provincial mind. Particularly full of
odious vaticinations was James Burridge, an old farm labourer whose head
was stuffed to the bursting point with stories horrifying enough to make
CLARE’S flesh creep. According to this authority, London thoroughly
deserved the doubtful compliment of being compared with Babylon. He
declared that there were trap-doors in the streets, down which wayfarers
flopped into cauldrons of boiling water amid the plaudits of ministering
cut-throats! CLARE quailed, his parents wept, and his wife approached
within measurable distance of hysterics. But even the prospect of being
cooked in this casual manner did not suffice to deter the poet from
visiting Mr. Taylor, of Fleet Street. That he set some value upon the
legends of James Burridge is proved by his adoption of a small device to
baffle the trapdoor operators. Believing safety to be resident in a
smock-frock and in boots the soles of which sustained grinning rows of
hobnails, he set forth upon his journey thus attired. He was not long in
regretting his precautions, for he soon perceived that his costume
evoked from onlookers merry comments and derisive glances. In the end,
Mr. Taylor supplied him with an overcoat which covered the defects of
his attire. Whatever the heat of theatre or drawing-room, whether among
lords or commoners, JOHN CLARE clung to this garment with the courage of
despair. What his agonies were, because of his raiment, when driven into
a corner by a countess for a _tête-à-tête_, we can do no more than dimly
conjecture. In the course of this visit CLARE was introduced to Admiral
Lord Radstock, who took a great fancy to him and remained a firm friend,
and to Mrs. Emmerson, a lady who, seeing that her purse and sympathies
were always ready to alleviate the mischances of young poets and
artists, might be described as a female Maecenas. To this rather gushing
and sentimental patroness of the arts CLARE from time to time addressed
letters which were not devoid of the elements of wildness and Platonic
passion. At last his emphasis became so absurd that Mrs. Emmerson
requested him to send back her portrait. Had a jug of cold water been
poured down the poet’s neck he could not have been more cooled than he
was by this piece of diplomacy. The shrine was despoiled. The picture
was despatched by the next carrier; and doubtless Martha, who must have
hated the sight of Mrs. Emmerson’s face, congratulated herself in
secret. There is no need to say more about CLARE’S first visit to
London, if we except mention of the fact that the mighty city’s chief
effect upon him was to fill his breast with yearning for the oaks and
rivulets round about his native village. A week in the Metropolis had
been more than enough for the countryman. As he rumbled homeward in the
coach, he had dreams of unsullied waters and unsmoked rainbows; and he
counted over his country joys as a miser adds up the total of his
various coins. At the top of his treasures stood his wife and baby, for,
with all his Platonic declensions from the state most comfortable to
Martha, he was an affectionate husband and father. About this time
several hearty friends strove with might and main to secure a competence
for the poet. A sum of four hundred and twenty pounds was the result of
their earnestness; but when it is remembered that Earl Fitzwilliam and
CLARE’S publishers were between them responsible for no less than two
hundred of this amount, the harvest of solicitation is not notable for
bounteousness. Dr. Bell--a friend of the right complexion--extracted an
annual ten pounds from Earl Spencer, so that, what with this gift, the
Marquis of Exeter’s donation, and the fund, the genius of Helpstone was
possessed of an income of forty-five pounds per annum. CLARE felt a
very mendicant throughout all these transactions, and even went so far
as to disavow them in letters despatched to his noble helpers. Had it
not been for the persuasions of Mr. Gilchrist and the amusing invectives
of Dr. Bell, he would have kicked with greater persistence against the
pricks of charity.

As soon as the harvest was over, CLARE made an end of labouring in the
fields. He was under agreement to hand over another volume of poetry to
Messrs. Taylor and Hessey for publication early in 1821. It was now his
earnest endeavour to fulfil his share of the bargain, and he bared his
forehead to inspiration. CLARE always felt himself cheated and empty of
ideas when shut up within four walls. The Muse would not follow him to
his fireside, but she would frolic with him the live-long day in the
open air, filling him with buoyancy, kissing his lips, and smoothing out
his wrinkles. Seated inside an old oak, whose heart had gradually passed
into the atmosphere, CLARE was wont to pour his soul in song, and so
fruitful were the hints of his unseen companion that he soon had a great
collection of new verses. All that he approved he desired to publish,
but Mr. Taylor spoke a few strong words in favour of weeding,
suggesting to CLARE that he should play the part of Herod toward some of
the children of his imagination. A deadlock ensued. For a time the poet
was adamant, the publishers marble. In this difficulty CLARE bethought
himself of Mr. Gilchrist as an excellent agent for the casting of oil on
the troubled waters. This gentleman, however, was thick in a squabble of
his own, and when CLARE appeared unsympathetic he displayed a spirit
very much huffed. At last the tension between poet and publishers became
less, with the result that in the middle of September “The Village
Minstrel” was ready for purchasers. The two volumes were handsomely
presented; the type was beautiful, and a couple of steel engravings made
a brave show. Despite the attractions of genius, despite the various
ornaments, “The Village Minstrel” met with rather an icy greeting. Among
the several explanations of this coldness put forward by the publishers
and by certain friends, the likeliest is that the season of issue was
not wisely chosen. In this year such gods of the pen as Scott, Byron,
Shelley, Wordsworth, Keats, and Lamb distributed joy to many a reader,
so that poor JOHN CLARE naturally ran a great risk of being overlooked.
It was now proved how dangerous had been the heat of his first welcome.
Superlatives had been done to death; the lion-hunters had exhausted
their treacly compliments, and were now eagerly scanning the literary
horizon in the hope of seeing approach a fresh victim. Moreover, some
injudicious persons had descanted more upon CLARE’S poverty than upon
his remarkable powers. It was the general opinion, as Mr. Martin points
out in his biography, that a really capable poet should be able to
support himself. If he did not succeed in so doing, then he was but a
dabbler while pretending to be a priest. The logic was of the sort to
shrink from scrutiny, but it contented the shallow sufficiently well. To
my thinking, the charge of twelve shillings for these two volumes was a
factor in the neglect which overtook them. Be this as it may, a
collection of verse containing some exquisite and lovely pieces, and
marking in some respects an advance upon the forerunning book, fell upon
the stony patch of indifference, there to remain while verse of fifty
times less merit enjoyed a vogue out of proportion to its worth. In a
word, CLARE’S second luck was the exact opposite of his first. In days
saddened by the reflection that he had failed to hold by the glory which
he obtained at his first venture, it was balm to CLARE to know that
Robert Bloomfield at least warmly approved of what lukewarm triflers
failed to appreciate.

In the summer of 1821, not long after the meteoric appearance at
Helpstone of a minor poet, who presented CLARE with a sonnet and a
one-pound note in a glorious burst of bounty and condescension, Mr. John
Taylor passed a few hours in the little Northamptonshire village. Under
the guidance of CLARE he reviewed many of the spots which the poet had
celebrated in song, and, in some cases, he was amazed to find how CLARE
had compelled dull localities to yield strains both abundant and
beautiful. But to gather roses in a desert is child’s play for a genius.
Upon taking leave, Mr. Taylor invited CLARE to spend a few weeks in
Fleet Street. Luckily the poet decided to avail himself of this offer,
for about this time he was far too frequent a visitor at the “Blue
Bell,” where he had his corner reserved, and passed for the chief of the
assembly. This meant more than sufficient exercise for the gullet. The
bad habit contracted at Burghley Hall was strengthened at these
sittings, and CLARE, deplorably unstable in some mental particulars,
approached nearer and nearer to that abyss which has engulfed so many
great wits. The winter being over, CLARE departed for London. He was
something of a bolt from the blue to Mr. Taylor, but that gentleman was
not slow in welcoming his client, though he looked askance at the gay
pocket handkerchief in which was contained the whole of his friend’s
luggage. As the publisher was very busy, he delivered CLARE into the
keeping of Thomas Hood, who, in turn, handed him over to the head porter
of the firm. The poet was not long in finding his way to the house of
Mrs. Emmerson, whose hospitality was as frank and unstinted as ever.
Here CLARE met Mr. Rippingille, a young artist with a dash of Dick
Swiveller in him, who had a strong appetite for noisy pranks. In company
with this unreflective spirit the peasant from the Midlands attended
some very dubious functions, penetrating to quarters of the Metropolis
which were famous for the topmost achievements of rascality, where he
ran riot among various intoxicants. After besieging a certain beauteous
actress with all the languishing glances at their command, these foolish
comrades would pledge her in pale ale till, like Byron, they seemed to
walk upon the ceiling. Thus were buttresses added to CLARE’S unfortunate
predilection. Those who revel by gaslight are not fond of returning home
before midnight, and CLARE was no exception to the rule. But the hours
of his choice were not grateful to Mr. Taylor, whose sense of the
fitness of things was offended by his visitor’s conduct. Therefore,
Thomas Hood was deputed to inform CLARE that he was vexing his host, an
intimation which resulted in the poet carrying his handkerchief full of
belongings to Mrs. Emmerson’s house, where his manners did not improve.
Under the accomplished tuition of Mr. Rippingille he found how easy the
descent of Avernus was. His next move was to Chiswick, where the Rev. H.
T. Cary entertained him. His stay here was brief, owing to an amusing
episode. Strangely enough CLARE was ignorant of the fact that his
elderly host had a young and handsome wife. In the belief that he was
doing homage to the charms of one of Mr. Cary’s grown-up daughters, he
addressed several poems, which were not without the quality of ardour,
to the wife of the translator’s bosom. After this, although his
explanation was accepted and understood, CLARE thought he had better
depart from Chiswick. During this stay in London the Northamptonshire
poet was introduced to William Gifford and Charles Lamb, the latter of
whom, if report may be trusted, was guilty of a rather coarse jape at
his expense. Not long after this, CLARE returned to Helpstone. It is
worthy to note that, whereas his first visit to London had only
accentuated his country raptures, the village minstrel now actually
pined for the fatted calves, the theatres, the glitter, and the merry
companions of the city. The taint of Rippingille was upon him. Reaction
came in time; the meadows captured him again; but this small piece of
history is significant of much.

As soon as he was once more in possession of his best self, CLARE began
to face his troubles--most of which sprang from insufficient means at
this time--with as much courage as he could summon. He was rather slow
in being convinced that he could not derive a steady income from the
composition of poetry; but when this truth was driven home his mind at
once became agile in devising numberless plans for the betterment of his
state, for he suffered from a torturing anxiety when he remembered for
how many his fate had appointed him the bread-winner. He was now
fighting hand to hand with poverty, valorous in behalf of his aged
mother, his wife, and his little children, who enjoyed the fruits of
whatsoever victories were gained far more than did their defender--since
he secretly starved himself in order to increase the tale of loaves
presided over by Patty. In the year 1823, worn out by his failures to
extract a supporting flow of guineas from either poetry or agriculture,
he fell very ill, just after the shock occasioned by the death of Mr.
Gilchrist. His recovery was of the slowest, and it was not till he was
put by Mr. Taylor under the care of Dr. Darling, in London, that the
poet mended in a manner to satisfy his friends. It was during this third
visit to the Metropolis that CLARE came in contact with De Quincey,
Coleridge, William Hazlitt, and Allan Cunningham, to mention only four
of the prominent men whom Mr. Taylor delighted to make members of his
evening parties. CLARE found his imaginary portraits to be very
deceptive, especially so in the case of De Quincey. The bulk and dull
appearance of Coleridge also surprised, as well as disappointed, him,
for he had pictured the great man in a guise completely opposite to
reality. There is little need to say that in Mr. Taylor’s house nothing
of a bacchanalian tinge was likely to occur; but even the moderate
pleasures of the publisher’s entertainments threatened to destroy the
good brought about by the skill and care of Dr. Darling, and therefore
Clare was induced to return to Helpstone, where he once more renewed his
search for employment, encountered thoughtless snubs from the high and
mighty of the district, and gradually approached the line which
separates mental health from mental disease. He was for ever engaged in
keeping the wolf from the door. He did not eat a due share of what his
means supplied, denying himself from day to day with a rigidity which
could not fail to injure both body and brain. At the end of the year
1825, after working in the cornfields throughout the harvest, CLARE
turned to the composition of poetry, and produced “The Shepherd’s
Calendar,” a volume in which he used the file to excellent purpose.
Already bruised and wounded by the rough edges of life, the poet found
an additional hardship in the fact that Mr. Taylor long delayed to
publish this third book of verse; for to make both ends meet was now a
miracle beyond his accomplishing. Although several editors of those
elegant annuals which were then so much in favour had asked CLARE to
assist in making their sugary volumes attractive, they were by no means
quick to send him the money he had earned. He had only his annuity and a
few shillings gained by doing odd jobs for the farmers of the
neighbourhood. At this juncture Patty bore him a third child.

In 1828 CLARE went to London again at the invitation of Mrs. Emmerson,
and it was then that he discovered how completely the “Shepherd’s
Calendar” had failed to stir the interest of the public. It was during
this visit that Mr. Taylor, doubtless believing the open-air exercise
would be most beneficial to the poet, suggested to CLARE the
advisability of his attempting to dispose of his works by carrying them
from house to house in Northamptonshire and the adjoining counties.
Allan Cunningham was furious at the idea, but in the end CLARE embraced
it, though it had been better for him had he held the same opinion as
his friend, for the adventure was prolific of more kicks than halfpence.
The history of this part of CLARE’S career makes very sad reading.
Hungry and footsore he tramped from rebuff to rebuff, pondering misery
and dreading the workhouse. But though the record of his travels is, for
the most part, a document of disaster, there are a few proofs of
kindliness contained in its pages. For example, when he returned to
Helpstone from Boston, where certain of the leading inhabitants had done
their best to render him extremely uncomfortable, he found ten
sovereigns in his wallet. A few young men had treated him as Joseph
treated his brethren. For three months after his experiences at Boston,
CLARE was exceedingly ill, and it looked as if there was to be no ebbing
of that tide of misfortune which had flowed in his direction for so
long. Better luck, however, was in store. CLARE got some regular work to
do, and was thus prevented from poring over foolscap. Little by little
he reduced his debts; his body throve in the sunshine of content; and he
was able to comfort himself with the belief that, after all, he would
escape the degradation of becoming a pauper. Unfortunately a hard winter
followed the summer and autumn during which he had been so happy, and
illness once more caused him to renew acquaintance with those bitter
familiars of his--want and despair. About this time he chanced to have a
conversation with Earl Fitzwilliam, with the result that his patron
promised to build him a cottage somewhere near Helpstone. The exact
place decided upon by his lordship was Northborough, a hamlet three
miles distant from Helpstone. This situation was chosen in a spirit of
kindness, the earl believing that the many natural beauties to be found
almost at the door of the cottage would please the eye as well as
stimulate the genius of the poet. But the prospect of being severed from
the bleak surroundings of his native place filled CLARE with sensations
of terror acute enough to make a severe effect upon his mind. For days
before the final wrench came he strode about the lanes and fields,
outwardly exhibiting symptoms of a deranged intellect; but when the hour
for departure struck he allowed himself to be led to his new home as
placidly as a tired horse to the pasture. So far from proving a blessing
to CLARE, the cottage at Northborough was the immediate cause of fresh
perplexities. Expenditure was necessary to furnish it and to keep it in
repair; debts were quickly piled one upon the other; among strangers it
was harder to obtain employment than it had been at Helpstone; and in
the January of 1833 Patty bore her seventh child. At the thought that he
could scarcely provide his dear ones with bread enough to keep body and
soul together, CLARE, shortly after hearing the news of his boy’s birth,
rushed out into the fields to give his sorrow vent. Late in the evening
his eldest daughter found him lying insensible on an embankment. A month
of bed followed this collapse. In the spring, although his vital forces
were now sufficient to carry him in search of the early flowers, he
showed no inclination to leave the little room where he kept his books
and papers. The irresistible magnets of former years--blossoms, birds,
greenery and sunshine--had all lost their pulling power. CLARE himself
perceived that he was in danger of ceasing to be his own master, and
accordingly wrote to Mr. Taylor begging him to secure Dr. Darling’s
help. In reply, his old publisher invited him to London. But the poet
neither had money in his purse nor a single chance of raising the amount
necessary to defray the costs of the journey. Messrs. Whittaker & Co.,
who were responsible for the appearance of the “Rural Muse,” declined
to send him even a small sum on account, so that he was tied fast to
Northborough, where his mental malady had everything in its favour. Had
it not been for the untiring exertions of Dr. Smith, of Peterborough,
who mingled poetry and pills in his advice to patients, thus obtaining a
goodly list of subscribers, it is doubtful whether the “Rural Muse”
would have made its appearance before CLARE was overcome by permanent
imbecility. In the summer of 1835 this beautiful collection of rustic
reeds was put forward as a candidate for the affection of those
professing a love for music and wholesomeness in verse. The reception
accorded to the book proved conclusively what important parts fashion
and hypocrisy play in the concerns of the lyre. CLARE was out of vogue;
he was a stale lion; the parasites upon genius could no longer hope to
gain a temporary notoriety by displaying his peculiarities in their
saloons. The idea of reading poetry for the sake of poetry appears never
to have occurred to the members of a society as ponderable, in the
matter of intellect, as thistledown, and as variable as the sheen of an
opal. It is a moot point whether or no the reviewers wrote notices of
the “Rural Muse.” If they did their duty, the editors certainly did not
back them up by granting space for the criticisms, for scarcely a
paragraph of commendation saw the light. If CLARE did not fall among
thieves, he at least fell among blind bats. Literary England blotted her
own escutcheon in this respect, but Scotland was saved from a similar
disgrace by a noble outburst of praise for the poet, and scorn for his
frigid countrymen, from the pen of Professor Wilson, in the course of
which he adjured the Southrons to hold their tongues about the fate of
Burns. Let them remember Bloomfield. Had he but known all the evil
circumstances which were combining to push JOHN CLARE in the direction
of a lunatic asylum, his retort would have been strengthened to a degree
melancholy to contemplate.

Mental derangement advanced upon CLARE with rapidity. In the spring of
1836 there was a brief period when the flowers made him a clear-minded
partaker of their magic, but the improvement was not maintained, and
little by little the condition of the poet became more widley known,
till at last it reached the ears of several patrons. These advised his
immediate removal to the asylum at Northampton, a plan to which Patty
refused her consent, for she still had hopes that if her husband were
allowed to range at his will and seek a cure from the pharmacy of
nature, he would beat the disease. But Patty’s love only delayed the
inevitable. CLARE, it is true, escaped from the control suggested by
Earl Fitzwilliam, who endeavoured to place the poet at Northampton,
where a weekly dole from the nobleman’s purse would secure for the
patient some additional comforts; but he had nowhither to fly from the
severe benefactions of the friends of former days. Mr. John Taylor and
others, willing to heed now that the catastrophe to which their silence
had contributed was come by its full dimensions, clubbed together and
sent CLARE to Dr. Allen’s private lunatic asylum in Epping Forest, where
all the resources of a humane treatment were brought to bear upon his
case. He wrote a great quantity of verse, some of which was of real
worth; tended the flowers in the garden beds; wandered about the woods
hour after hour, smoking, musing, or conversing with some companion. In
the middle of July, 1841, he escaped, and eventually reached Werrington,
a hamlet lying beyond Peterborough. His chief food had been grass; blood
was trickling from his feet when Patty took the wanderer into her arms
on the roadside at Werrington. After a day’s rest at Northborough, the
poet asked for pen and ink. When these were supplied he commenced to
write his Odyssey. It is almost safe to say that no more extraordinary
a document belongs to the personal history of any genius born within our
boundaries. It is of a character to draw tears from the unsympathetic;
your Scrooge, your Quilp, could scarcely withstand its pathos. Well
might Christopher North request us to be done with our comments upon
Scotland’s usage of Burns!

The rest is soon told. CLARE, though quite harmless, was not allowed to
pass free among the country sights and sounds. For some reason or other
he was haled to the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum, where he
remained for twenty-two years, neglected alike by kindred, by friends,
and by the educated mob which had once made an idol of him. At the
Asylum he was treated with unvarying mildness by the authorities, who
refused to regulate the comforts of the poet by the eleven shillings a
week supplied by Earl Fitzwilliam. That their natures were not
subservient to coinage they proved by placing CLARE--poor,
eleven-shillings-a-week JOHN CLARE--among private patients in the best

The end came in 1864, and on the 25th of May in that year the mortal
remnant of JOHN CLARE, peasant and poet, was interred at Helpstone. When
Earl Fitzwilliam was asked for a grant of the few pounds necessary for
the burial of the poet in the churchyard so beloved by him during his
lifetime, he responded by suggesting that the funeral should be that of
a pauper at Northampton. However, a few friends of the right heart
prevented this disgrace, and the body rested where the soul had marked
out for it a spot of greenery and quietude.

That some of CLARE’S poems belong of right to the excellent things of
this earth admits of no dispute. A worshipper of Nature, by whom he was
surely appointed to be one of her chief historians, he revelled in her
manifestations, whether they showed in the higher heaven of blue or in
the lower heaven of green. He was, if the phrases may pass muster, a
gossip of the rainbow, a crony of the flowers. His heart was not less
slow than that of Wordsworth to leap up with joy when he beheld standing
across the sky, its feet treading the horizon, the most splendid
triumphal arch ever devised; and though it was not granted him to render
homage to his mistress in such large accents as those which fell from
the lips of his great brother in song, he paid for her love and favours
in music far from perishable, as may be noted by all who will read the
pieces that have been selected for this volume from the “Rural Muse.”
Who passes by any one of these poems because he early finds a flaw, does
so at his own danger, for each of them belongs, as I venture to assert,
so indubitably to the particular treasures of pastoral poetry that I
doubt whether the contradiction of our greatest critics could frighten
me from the attitude of admiration. To influences other than those of
the countryside, CLARE remained unimpressionable. To be in London was to
long for Helpstone, the commons and pools of which were more precious to
the poet than all the glories of Westminster Abbey, and the expanses of
the artificial lakes. While he sojourned in the Metropolis the right
spark would not fall from heaven, but as soon as he wandered once more
among the scenes so long familiar to him, the Muse was his unfailing
companion. Brooks glided in his songs; birds and clouds and leafage were
foundations without which he had been well-nigh powerless. He
understood, and was content with, his limits; and so perfectly did he
accomplish his duty as Nature’s cherished amanuensis, that it is no hard
task for a man with an ounce of imagination in his being to hear the
trickle of streams, and to fancy his study carpeted with grass, while
reading JOHN CLARE’S poems within four walls. As this volume of
selections is designed for the purpose of attracting readers to a poet
whose appreciative receipts from his posterity are sadly deficient in
quantity, the publisher has thought well to ask from me the tale of
CLARE’S life, rather than my views of the poet’s work and its effect
upon his successors in the production of poetry dealing almost
exclusively with the vowels and consonants in Nature’s mighty alphabet.
Enough has been said to prove the writer no half-hearted advocate; and
if these few pages serve to increase the number of CLARE’S friends, he
will be more than satisfied, happy in the thought that he has been the
means of introducing readers to poetry as gentle as it is healing, as
simple as it is sincere. Touching its wholesomeness, how could it fail
to delight in this respect when the chief of its constituent parts were
the large and lovely expressions of Nature’s handicraft? JOHN CLARE’S
gift fell upon him direct from the skies. It came clean; and clean he
kept it from the beginning to the end of his stewardship.


            WHAT IS LIFE?

    And what is Life?--An hour-glass on the run,
    A mist retreating from the morning sun,
      A busy, bustling, still repeated dream.--
    Its length?--A minute’s pause, a moment’s thought.
      And happiness?--A bubble on the stream,
    That in the act of seizing shrinks to nought.

    What is vain Hope?--The puffing gale of morn,
      That robs each flow’ret of its gem,--and dies;
    A cobweb hiding disappointment’s thorn,
      Which stings more keenly through the thin disguise.

  --And thou, O Trouble?--nothing can suppose
    (And sure the Power of Wisdom only knows),
      What need requireth thee:
    So free and liberal as thy bounty flows,
      Some necessary cause must surely be.
    But disappointments, pains, and every woe
      Devoted wretches feel,
    The universal plagues of life below,
      Are mysteries still ’neath Fate’s unbroken seal.

    And what is Death? is still the cause unfound?
    That dark, mysterious name of horrid sound?--
      A long and lingering sleep, the weary crave.
    And Peace? where can its happiness abound?--
      No where at all, save heaven, and the grave.

    Then what is Life?--When stripp’d of its disguise,
      A thing to be desir’d it cannot be;
    Since every thing that meets our foolish eyes
      Gives proof sufficient of its vanity.
    ’Tis but a trial all must undergo;
      To each unthankful mortals how to prize
    That happiness vain man’s denied to know,
      Until he’s call’d to claim it in the skies.



    O thou Bliss! to riches known,
    Stranger to the poor alone;
    Giving most where none’s requir’d,
    Leaving none where most’s desir’d;
    Who, sworn friend to miser, keeps
    Adding to his useless heaps
    Gifts on gifts, profusely stor’d,
    Till thousands swell the mouldy hoard:
    While poor, shatter’d Poverty,
    To advantage seen in me,
    With his rags, his wants, and pain,
    Waking pity but in vain,
    Bowing, cringing at thy side,
    Begs his mite, and is denied.
    O, thou blessing! let not me
    Tell, as vain, my wants to thee;
    Thou, by name of Plenty stil’d
    Fortune’s heir, her favourite child.
    ’Tis a maxim--hunger feed,
    Give the needy when they need;
    He, whom all profess to serve,
    The same maxim did observe:
    Their obedience here, how well,
    Modern times will plainly tell.
    Hear my wants, nor deem me bold,
    Not without occasion told:
    Hear one wish; nor fail to give;
    Use me well, and bid me live.

      ’Tis not great, what I solicit:
    Was it more, thou couldst not miss it:
    Now the cutting Winter’s come,
    ’Tis but just to find a home,
    In some shelter, dry and warm,
    That will shield me from the storm.
    Toiling in the naked fields,
    Where no bush a shelter yields,
    Needy Labour dithering stands,
    Beats and blows his numbing hands;
    And upon the crumping snows
    Stamps, in vain, to warm his toes.
    Leaves are fled, that once had power
    To resist a summer shower;
    And the wind so piercing blows,
    Winnowing small the drifting snows,
    The summer shade of loaded bough
    Would vainly boast a shelter now:
    Piercing snows so searching fall,
    They sift a passage through them all.
    Though all’s vain to keep him warm,
    Poverty must brave the storm.
    Friendship none, its aid to lend:
    Health alone his only friend;
    Granting leave to live in pain,
    Giving strength to toil in vain;
    To be, while winter’s horrors last,
    The sport of every pelting blast.

      Oh, sad sons of Poverty!
    Victims doom’d to misery;
    Who can paint what pain prevails
    O’er that heart which Want assails?
    Modest Shame the pain conceals:
    No one knows, but he who feels.
    O thou charm which Plenty crowns:
    Fortune! smile, now Winter frowns:
    Cast around a pitying eye!
    Feed the hungry, ere they die.
    Think, oh! think upon the poor,
    Nor against them shut thy door:
    Freely let thy bounty flow,
    On the sons of Want and Woe.

      Hills and dales no more are seen
    In their dress of pleasing green;
    Summer’s robes are all thrown by,
    For the clothing of the sky;
    Snows on snows in heaps combine,
    Hillocks, rais’d as mountains, shine,
    And at distance rising proud,
    Each appears a fleecy cloud.
    Plenty! now thy gifts bestow;
    Exit bid to every woe:
    Take me in, shut out the blast,
    Make the doors and windows fast;
    Place me in some corner, where,
    Lolling in an elbow chair,
    Happy, blest to my desire,
    I may find a rouzing fire;
    While in chimney-corner nigh,
    Coal or wood, a fresh supply,
    Ready stands for laying on,
    Soon as t’other’s burnt and gone.
    Now and then, as taste decreed
    In a book a page I’d read;
    And, inquiry to amuse,
    Peep at something in the news;
    See who’s married, and who’s dead,
    And who, through bankrupt, beg their bread:
    While on hob, or table nigh,
    Just to drink before I’m dry,
    A pitcher at my side should stand,
    With the barrel nigh at hand,
    Always ready as I will’d,
    When ’twas empty, to be fill’d;
    And, to be possess’d of all,
    A corner cupboard in the wall,
    With store of victuals lin’d complete,
    That when hungry I might eat.
    Then would I, in Plenty’s lap,
    For the first time take a nap;
    Falling back in easy lair,
    Sweetly slumbering in my chair;
    With no reflective thoughts to wake
    Pains that cause my heart to ache,
    Of contracted debts, long made,
    In no prospect to be paid;
    And, to Want, sad news severe,
    Of provisions getting dear:
    While the Winter, shocking sight,
    Constant freezes day and night,
    Deep and deeper falls the snow,
    Labour’s slack, and wages low.
    These, and more, the poor can tell,
    Known, alas, by them too well,
    Plenty! oh, if blest by thee,
    Never more should trouble me.
    Hours and weeks will sweetly glide,
    Soft and smooth as flows the tide,
    Where no stones or choaking grass
    Force a curve ere it can pass:
    And as happy, and as blest,
    As beasts drop them down to rest,
    When in pastures, at their will,
    They have roam’d and eat their fill;
    Soft as nights in summer creep,
    So should I then fall asleep;
    While sweet visions of delight,
    So enchanting to the sight,
    Sweetly swimming o’er my eyes,
    Would sink me into extacies.
    Nor would pleasure’s dream once more,
    As they oft have done before,
    Cause be to create a pain,
    When I woke, to find them vain:
    Bitter past, the present sweet,
    Would my happiness complete.
    Oh; how easy should I lie,
    With the fire up-blazing high,
    (Summer’s artificial bloom,)
    That like an oven keeps the room,
    Or lovely May, as mild and warm:
    While, without, the raging storm
    Is roaring in the chimney-top,
    In no likelihood to drop;
    And the witchen-branches nigh,
    O’er my snug box towering high,
    That sweet shelter’d stands beneath,
    In convulsive eddies wreathe.
    Then while, tyrant-like, the storm
    Takes delight in doing harm.
    Down before him crushing all,
    Till his weapons useless fall;
    And as in oppression proud
    Peal his howlings long and loud,
    While the clouds, with horrid sweep,
    Give (as suits a tyrant’s trade)
    The sun a minute’s leave to peep,
    To smile upon the ruin’s made;
    And to make complete the blast,
    While the hail comes hard and fast,
    Rattling loud against the glass;
    And the snowy sleets, that pass,
    Driving up in heaps remain
    Close adhering to the pane,
    Stop the light and spread a gloom,
    Suiting sleep, around the room:--
    Oh, how blest ’mid these alarms,
    I should bask in Fortune’s arms,
    Who, defying every frown,
    Hugs me on her drowny breast,
    Bids my head lie easy down,
    And on Winter’s ruins rest.
    So upon the troubled sea,
    Emblematic simile,
    Birds are known to sit secure,
    While the billows roar and rave,
    Slumbering in their safety sure,
    Rock’d to sleep upon the wave.
    So would I still slumber on,
    Till hour-telling clocks had gone,
    And, from the contracted day,
    One or more had click’d away.
    Then with sitting wearied out,
    I for change’s sake, no doubt,
    Just might wish to leave my seat,
    And, to exercise my feet,
    Make a journey to the door,
    Put my nose out, but no more:
    There to village taste agree;
    Mark how times are like to be;
    How the weather’s getting on;
    Peep in ruts where carts have gone;
    Or, by stones, a sturdy stroke,
    View the hole the boys have broke,
    Crizzling, still inclin’d to freeze;--
    And the rime upon the trees.
    Then to pause on ills to come,
    Just look upward on the gloom;
    See fresh storms approaching fast,
    View them busy in the air,
    Boiling up the brewing blast,
    Still fresh horrors scheming there.
    Black and dismal, rising high,
    From the north they fright the eye:
    Pregnant with a thousand storms,
    Huddled in their icy arms,
    Heavy hovering as they come,
    Some as mountains seem--and some
    Jagg’d as craggy rocks appear
    Dismally advancing near:
    Fancy, at the cumbrous sight,
    Chills and shudders with affright,
    Fearing lest the air, in vain,
    Strive her station to maintain,
    And wearied, yeilding to the skies,
    The world beneath in ruin lies.
    So may Fancy think and feign;
    Fancy oft imagines vain:
    Nature’s laws, by wisdom penn’d,
    Mortals cannot comprehend;
    Power almighty Being gave,
    Endless Mercy stoops to save;
    Causes, hid from mortals’ sight,
    Prove “whatever is, is right.”

      Then to look again below,
    Labour’s former life I’d view,
    Who, still beating through the snow,
    Spite of storms their toils pursue,
    Forc’d out by sad Necessity
    That sad fiend that forces me.
    Troubles, then no more my own,
    Which I but too long had known,
    Might create a care, a pain;
    Then I’d seek my joys again:
    Pile the fire up, fetch a drink,
    Then sit down again and think;
    Pause on all my sorrows past,
    Think how many a bitter blast,
    When it snow’d, and hail’d, and blew,
    I have toil’d and batter’d through.
    Then to ease reflective pain,
    To my sports I’d fall again,
    Till the clock had counted ten;
    When I’d seek my downy bed,
    Easy, happy, and well fed.

      Then might peep the morn, in vain,
    Through the rimy misted pane;
    Then might bawl the restless cock,
    And the loud-tongued village clock;
    And the flail might lump away,
    Waking soon the dreary day:
    They should never waken me,
    Independent, blest, and free;
    Nor, as usual, make me start,
    Yawning sigh with heavy heart,
    Loth to ope my sleepy eyes,
    Weary still, in pain to rise,
    With aching bones and heavy head,
    Worse than when I went to bed.
    With nothing then to raise a sigh,
    Oh, how happy should I lie
    Till the clock was eight, or more,
    Then proceed as heretofore.
    Best of blessings! sweetest charm!
    Boon these wishes while they’re warm;
    My fairy visions ne’er despise;
    As reason thinks, thou realize:
    Depress’d with want and poverty
    I sink, I fall, denied by thee.


    All how silent and how still;
    Nothing heard but yonder mill:
    While the dazzled eye surveys
    All around a liquid blaze;
    And amid the scorching gleams,
    If we earnest look, it seems
    As if crooked bits of glass
    Seem’d repeatedly to pass.
    Oh, for a puffing breeze to blow!
    But breezes are all strangers now;
    Not a twig is seen to shake,
    Nor the smallest bent to quake;
    From the river’s muddy side
    Not a curve is seen to glide;
    And no longer on the stream
    Watching lies the silver bream,
    Forcing, from repeated springs,
    “Verges in successive rings.”
    Bees are faint, and cease to hum;
    Birds are overpower’d and dumb.
    Rural voices all are mute,
    Tuneless lie the pipe and flute:
    Shepherds, with their panting sheep,
    In the swaliest corner creep;
    And from the tormenting heat
    All are wishing to retreat.
    Huddled up in grass and flowers,
    Mowers wait for cooler hours;
    And the cow-boy seeks the sedge,
    Ramping in the woodland hedge,
    While his cattle o’er the vales
    Scamper, with uplifted tails;
    Others not so wild and mad,
    That can better bear the gad,
    Underneath the hedge-row lunge,
    Or, if nigh, in waters plunge.
    Oh! to see how flowers are took,
    How it grieves me when I look:
    Ragged-robins, once so pink,
    Now are turn’d as black as ink,
    And the leaves, being scorch’d so much,
    Even crumble at the touch;
    Drowking lies the meadow-sweet,
    Flopping down beneath one’s feet
    While to all the flowers that blow,
    If in open air they grow,
    Th’ injurious deed alike is done
    By the hot relentless sun.
    E’en the dew is parched up
    From the teasel’s jointed cup:
    O poor birds! where must ye fly,
    Now your water-pots are dry?
    If ye stay upon the heath,
    Ye’ll be choak’d and clamm’d to death:
    Therefore leave the shadeless goss,
    Seek the spring-head lin’d with moss;
    There your little feet may stand,
    Safely printing on the sand;
    While, in full possession, where
    Purling eddies ripple clear,
    You with ease and plenty blest,
    Sip the coolest and the best.
    Then away! and wet your throats;
    Cheer me with your warbling notes:
    T’will hot noon the more revive;
    While I wander to contrive
    For myself a place as good,
    In the middle of a wood:
    There aside some mossy bank,
    Where the grass in bunches rank
    Lifts its down on spindles high,
    Shall be where I’ll choose to lie;
    Fearless of the things that creep,
    There I’ll think, and there I’ll sleep;
    Caring not to stir at all,
    Till the dew begins to fall.


    No flattering praises daub my stone,
      My frailties and my faults to hide;
    My faults and failings all are known--
      I liv’d in sin--in sin I died.

    And oh! condemn me not, I pray,
      You who my sad confession view;
    But ask your soul, if it can say,
      That I’m a viler man than you.


    Cocks wake the early morn with many a crow;
    Loud-striking village clock has counted four;
    The labouring rustic hears his restless foe,
    And weary, of his pains complaining sore,
    Hobbles to fetch his horses from the moor:
    Some busy ’gin to teem the loaded corn,
    Which night throng’d round the barn’s becrowded door;
    Such plenteous scenes the farmer’s yard adorn,
    Such noisy, busy toils now mark the Harvest Morn.

    The bird-boy’s pealing horn is loudly blow’d;
    The waggons jostle on with rattling sound;
    And hogs and geese now throng the dusty road,
    Grunting, and gabbling, in contention, round
    The barley ears that litter on the ground.
    What printing traces mark the waggon’s way;
    What busy bustling wakens echo round;
    How drive the sun’s warm beams the mist away;
    How labour sweats and toils, and dreads the sultry day!

    His scythe the mower o’er his shoulder leans,
    And whetting, jars with sharp and tinkling sound;
    Then sweeps again ’mong corn and crackling beans,
    And swath by swath flops lengthening o’er the ground;
    While ’neath some friendly heap, snug shelter’d round
    From spoiling sun, lies hid the heart’s delight;
    And hearty soaks oft hand the bottle round,
    Their toils pursuing with redoubled might--
    Great praise to him is due that brought its birth to light.

    Upon the waggon now, with eager bound,
    The lusty picker whirls the rustling sheaves;
    Or, resting ponderous creaking fork aground,
    Boastful at once whole shocks of barley heaves:
    The loading boy revengeful inly grieves
    To find his unmatch’d strength and power decay;
    The barley horn his garments interweaves;
    Smarting and sweating ’neath the sultry day,
    With muttering curses stung, he mauls the heaps away.

    A motley group the clearing field surround;
    Sons of Humanity, oh ne’er deny
    The humble gleaner entrance in your ground;
    Winter’s sad cold, and Poverty are nigh.
    Grudge not from Providence the scant supply:
    You’ll never miss it from your ample store.
    Who gives denial--harden’d, hungry hound,--
    May never blessings crowd his hated door!
    But he shall never lack, that giveth to the poor.

    Ah, lovely Emma! mingling with the rest,
    Thy beauties blooming in low life unseen,
    Thy rosy cheeks, thy sweetly swelling breast;
    But ill it suits thee in the stubs to glean.
    O Poverty! how basely you demean
    The imprison’d worth your rigid fates confine:
    Not fancied charms of an Arcadian queen
    So sweet as Emma’s real beauties shine:
    Had Fortune blest, sweet girl, this lot had ne’er been thine.

    The sun’s increasing heat now mounted high,
    Refreshment must recruit exhausted power;
    The waggon stops, the busy tool’s thrown by,
    And ’neath a shock’s enjoy’d the bevering hour.
    The bashful maid, sweet health’s engaging flower
    Lingering behind, o’er rake still blushing bends;
    And when to take the horn fond swains implore,
    With feign’d excuses its dislike pretends.
    So pass the bevering hours, so Harvest Morning ends.

    O Rural Life! what charms thy meanness hide;
    What sweet descriptions bards disdain to sing;
    What loves, what graces on thy plains abide:
    Oh, could I soar me on the Muse’s wing,
    What rifled charms should my researches bring!
    Pleas’d would I wander where these charms reside;
    Of rural sports and beauties would I sing;
    Those beauties, Wealth, which you in vain deride,
    Beauties of richest bloom, superior to your pride.

            ON AN INFANT’S GRAVE

    Beneath the sod where smiling creep
      The daisies into view,
    The ashes of an Infant sleep,
      Whose soul’s as smiling too;
    Ah! doubly happy, doubly blest,
      (Had I so happy been!)
    Recall’d to heaven’s eternal rest,
      Ere it knew how to sin.

    Thrice happy Infant! great the bliss
      Alone reserv’d for thee;
    Such joy ’twas my sad fate to miss,
      And thy good luck to see;
    For oh! when all must rise again,
      And sentence then shall have,
    What crowds will wish with me, in vain,
      They’d fill’d an infant’s grave.

            TO AN APRIL DAISY

    Welcome, old Comrade! peeping once again;
      Our meeting ’minds me of a pleasant hour:
    Spring’s pencil pinks thee in that blushy stain,
      And Summer glistens in thy tinty flower.

    Hail, Beauty’s Gem! disdaining time nor place;
      Carelessly creeping on the dunghill’s side;
    Demeanour’s softness in thy crimpled face
      Decks thee in beauties unattain’d by pride.

    Hail, ’Venturer! once again that fearless here
      Encampeth on the hoar hill’s sunny side;
    Spring’s early messenger! thou’rt doubly dear;
      And winter’s frost by thee is well supplied.

    Now winter’s frowns shall cease their pelting rage,
      But winter’s woes I need not tell to thee;
    Far better luck thy visits well presage,
      And be it thine and mine that luck to see.

    Ah, may thy smiles confirm the hopes they tell
      To see thee frost-bit I’d be griev’d at heart;
    I meet thee happy, and I wish thee well,
      Till ripening summer summons us to part.

    Then like old mates, or two who’ve neighbours been,
      We’ll part, in hopes to meet another year;
    And o’er thy exit from this changing scene
      We’ll mix our wishes in a tokening tear.

            SUMMER EVENING

    The sinking sun is taking leave,
    And sweetly gilds the edge of Eve,
    While huddling clouds of purple dye
    Gloomy hang the western sky.
    Crows crowd croaking over-head,
    Hastening to the woods to bed.
    Cooing sits the lonely dove,
    Calling home her absent love.
    With “Kirchup! kirchup!” ’mong the wheats,
    Partridge distant partridge greets;
    Beckoning hints to those that roam,
    That guide the squander’d covey home.
    Swallows check their winding flight,
    And twittering on the chimney light.
    Round the pond the martins flirt,
    Their snowy breasts bedaub’d with dirt,
    While the mason, ’neath the slates,
    Each mortar-bearing bird awaits:
    By art untaught, each labouring spouse
    Curious daubs his hanging house.
    Bats flit by in hood and cowl;
    Through the barn-hole pops the owl;
    From the hedge, in drowsy hum,
    Heedless buzzing beetles bum,
    Haunting every bushy place,
    Flopping in the labourer’s face.
    Now the snail hath made his ring;
    And the moth with snowy wing
    Circles round in winding whirls,
    Through sweet evening’s sprinkled pearls
    On each nodding rush besprent;
    Dancing on from bent to bent:
    Now to downy grasses clung,
    Resting for a while he’s hung;
    Strong to ferry o’er the stream,
    Vanishing as flies a dream:
    Playful still his hours to keep,
    Till his time has come to sleep;
    In tall grass, by fountain-head,
    Weary then he drops to bed.
    From the hay-cock’s moisten’d heaps
    Startled frogs take vaunting leaps;
    And along the shaven mead,
    Jumping travellers, they proceed:
    Quick the dewy grass divides,
    Moistening sweet their speckled sides;
    From the grass or flowret’s cup,
    Quick the dew-drop bounces up.
    Now the blue fog creeps along,
    And the bird’s forgot his song:
    Flowers now sleep within their hoods;
    Daisies button into buds;
    From soiling dew the butter-cup
    Shuts his golden jewels up;
    And the rose and woodbine they
    Wait again the smiles of day.
    ’Neath the willow’s wavy boughs,
    Dolly, singing, milks hers cows;
    While the brook, as bubbling by,
    Joins in murmuring melody.
    Dick and Dob, with jostling joll,
    Homeward drag the rumbling roll;
    Whilom Ralph, for Doll to wait,
    Lolls him o’er the pasture gate.
    Swains to fold their sheep begin;
    Dogs loud barking drive them in.
    Hedgers now along the road
    Homeward bend beneath their load;
    And from the long furrow’d seams,
    Ploughmen loose their weary teams:
    Ball, with urging lashes weal’d.
    Still so slow to drive a-field,
    Eager blundering from the plough,
    Wants no whip to drive him now;
    At the stable-door he stands,
    Looking round for friendly hands
    To loose the door its fast’ning pin,
    And let him with his corn begin.
    Round the yard, a thousand ways
    Beasts in expectation gaze,
    Catching at the loads of hay
    Passing fodd’rers tug away.
    Hogs with grumbling, deaf’ning noise
    Bother round the server boys;
    And, far and near, the motley group
    Anxious claim their suppering-up.
    From the rest, a blest release,
    Gabbling home, the quarrelling geese
    Seek their warm straw-litter’d shed,
    And, waddling, prate away to bed.
    ’Nighted by unseen delay,
    Poking hens, that lose their way,
    On the hovel’s rafters rise,
    Slumbering there, the fox’s prize.
    Now the cat has ta’en her seat,
    With her tail curl’d round her feet;
    Patiently she sits to watch
    Sparrows fighting on the thatch.
    Now Doll brings th’ expected pails.
    And dogs begin to wag their tails;
    With strokes and pats they’re welcom’d in
    And they with looking wants begin:
    Slove in the milk-pail brimming o’er,
    She pops their dish behind the door.
    Prone to mischief boys are met,
    ’Neath the eaves the ladder’s set,
    Sly they climb in softest tread,
    To catch the sparrow on his bed,
    Massacred, O cruel pride!
    Dash against the ladder’s side.
    Curst barbarians! pass me by:
    Come not, Turks, my cottage nigh;
    Sure my sparrow’s are my own,
    Let ye then my birds alone.
    Come poor birds! from foes severe
    Fearless come, you’re welcome here;
    My heart yearns at fate like yours,
    A sparrow’s life’s as sweet as ours.
    Hardy clowns! grudge not the wheat
    Which hunger forces birds to eat:
    Your blinded eyes, worst foes to you,
    Can’t see the good which sparrows do.
    Did not poor birds with watching rounds
    Pick up the insects from your grounds,
    Did they not tend your rising grain,
    You might then sow to reap in vain.
    Thus Providence, right understood,
    Whose end and aim is doing good,
    Sends nothing here without its use;
    Though ignorance loads it with abuse;
    And fools despise the blessing sent,
    And mock the Giver’s good intent--
    O God! let me what’s good pursue,
    Let me the same to others do
    As I’d have others do to me,
    And learn at least humanity.

      Dark and darker glooms the sky;
    Sleep ’gins close the labourer’s eye:
    Dobson leaves his greensward seat,
    Neighbours where they neighbours meet
    Crops to praise and work in hand,
    And battles tell from foreign land.
    While his pipe is puffing out,
    Sue he’s putting to the rout,
    Gossiping, who takes delight
    To shool her knitting out at night,
    And back-bite neighbours ’bout the town--
    Who’s got new caps, and who a gown,
    And many a thing, her evil eye
    Can see they don’t come honest by.
    Chattering at a neighbour’s house,
    She hears call out her frowning spouse
    Prepar’d to start, she soodles home,
    Her knitting twirling o’er her thumb,
    As, loth to leave, afraid to stay,
    She bawls her story all the way:
    The tale so fraught with ’ticing charms.
    Her apron folded o’er her arms,
    She leaves the unfinished tale, in pain,
    To end as evening comes again;
    And in the cottage gangs with dread
    To meet old Dobson’s timely frown,
    Who grumbling sits, prepar’d for bed,
    While she stands chelping ’bout the town.

      The night-wind now, with sooty wings,
    In the cotter’s chimney sings;
    Now, as stretching o’er the bed,
    Soft I raise my drowsy head,
    Listening to the ushering charms
    That shake the elm tree’s mossy arms;
    Till sweet slumbers stronger creep,
    Deeper darkness stealing round,
    Then, as rock’d, I sink to sleep,
    ’Mid the wild wind’s lulling sound.


    Ye swampy falls of pasture ground,
      And rushy spreading greens;
    Ye rising swells in brambles bound,
      And freedom’s wilder’d scenes;
    I’ve trod ye oft, and love ye dear,
      And kind was fate to let me;
    On you I found my all, for here
      ’Twas first my Patty met me.

    Flow on, thou gently plashing stream,
      O’er weed-beds wild and rank;
    Delighted I’ve enjoy’d my dream
      Upon thy mossy bank:
    Bemoistening many a weedy stem,
      I’ve watched thee wind so clearly;
    And on thy bank I found the gem
      That makes me love thee dearly.

    Thou wilderness, so rudely gay;
      Oft as I seek thy plain,
    Oft as I wend my steps away,
      And meet my joys again,
    And brush the weaving branches by
      Of briars and thorns so matty;
    So oft Reflection warms a sigh,--
      Here first I meet my Patty.

            PATTY OF THE VALE

    Where lonesome woodlands close surrounding
      Mark the spot a solitude,
    And nature’s uncheck’d scenes abounding
      Form a prospect wild and rude,
    A cottage cheers the spot so glooming,
      Hid in the hollow of the dale,
    Where, in youth and beauty blooming
      Lives sweet Patty of the Vale.

    Gay as the lambs her cot surrounding,
      Sporting wild the shades among,
    O’er the hills and bushes bounding,
      Artless, innocent, and young,
    Fresh, as blush of morning roses
      Ere the mid-day suns prevail,
    Fair as lily-bud uncloses,
      Blooms sweet Patty of the Vale.

    Low and humble though her station,
      Dress though mean she’s doom’d to wear,
    Few superiors in the nation
      With her beauty can compare.
    What are riches?--not worth naming,
      Though with some they may prevail;
    Their’s be choice of wealth proclaiming,
      Mine is Patty of the Vale.

    Fools may fancy wealth and fortune
      Join to make a happy pair,
    And for such the god importune,
      With full many a fruitless prayer:
    I, their pride and wealth disdaining
      Should my humble hopes prevail,
    Happy then, would cease complaining,
      Blest with Patty of the Vale.


    My love, thou art a nosegay sweet,
      My sweetest flower I prove thee;
    And pleas’d I pin thee to my breast,
      And dearly do I love thee.

    And when, my nosegay, thou shalt fade,
      As sweet a flower thou’lt prove thee;
    And as thou witherest on my breast,
      For beauty past I’ll love thee.

    And when, my nosegay, thou shalt die,
      And heaven’s flower shalt prove thee;
    My hopes shall follow to the sky,
      And everlasting love thee.

            THE MEETING

    Here we meet, too soon to part,
    Here to leave will raise a smart,
    Here I’ll press thee to my heart,
      Where none have place above thee:
    Here I vow to love thee well,
    And could words unseal the spell,
    Had but language strength to tell,
      I’d say how much I love thee.

    Here, the rose that decks thy door,
    Here, the thorn that spreads thy bow’r,
    Here, the willow on the moor,
      The birds at rest above thee,
    Had they light of life to see,
    Sense of soul like thee and me,
    Soon might each a witness be
      How doatingly I love thee.

    By the night-sky’s purple ether,
    And by even’s sweetest weather,
    That oft has blest us both together,--
      The moon that shines above thee,
    And shews thy beauteous cheek so blooming,
    And by pale age’s winter coming,
    The charms, and casualties of woman,
      I will for ever love thee.


    Ah, little did I think in time that’s past,
    By summer burnt, or numb’d by winter’s blast,
    Delving the ditch a livelihood to earn,
    Or lumping corn out in a dusty barn;
    With aching bones returning home at night,
    And sitting down with weary hand to write;
    Ah, little did I think, as then unknown,
    Those artless rhymes I even blush’d to own
    Would be one day applauded and approv’d,
    By learning notic’d, and by genius lov’d.
    God knows, my hopes were many, but my pain
    Damp’d all the prospects which I hop’d to gain;
    I hardly dar’d to hope.--Thou corner-chair,
    In which I’ve oft slung back in deep despair,
    Hadst thou expression, thou couldst easy tell
    The pains and all that I have known too well:
    ’Twould be but sorrow’s tale, yet still ’twould be
    A tale of truth, and passing sweet to me.
    How oft upon my hand I’ve laid my head,
    And thought how poverty deform’d our shed;
    Look’d on each parent’s face I fain had cheer’d
    Where sorrow triumph’d, and pale want appear’d;
    And sigh’d, and hop’d, and wish’d some day would come,
    When I might bring a blessing to their home,--
    That toil and merit comforts had in store,
    To bid the tear defile their cheeks no more.
    Who that has feelings would not wish to be
    A friend to parents, such as mine to me,
    Who in distress broke their last crust in twain,
    And though want pinch’d, the remnant broke again,
    And still, if craving of their scanty bread,
    Gave their last mouthful that I might be fed?
    Nor for their own wants tear-drops follow’d free,
    Worse anguish stung--they had no more for me,
    And now hope’s sun is looking brighter out,
    And spreading thin the clouds of fear and doubt,
    That long in gloomy sad suspense to me
    Hid the long-waited smiles I wish’d to see.
    And now, my parents, helping you is sweet,--
    The rudest havoc fortune could complete;
    A piteous couple, little blest with friends,
    Where pain and poverty have had their ends.
    I’ll be thy crutch, my father, lean on me;
    Weakness knits stubborn while its bearing thee;
    And hard shall fall the shock of fortune’s frown
    To eke thy sorrows, ere it breaks me down.
    My mother, too, thy kindness shall be met,
    And ere I’m able will I pay the debt;
    For what thou’st done, and what gone through for me,
    My last-earn’d sixpence will I break with thee:
    And when my dwindled sum won’t more divide,
      Then take it all--to fate I’ll leave the rest;
    In helping thee I’ll always feel a pride,
      Nor think I’m happy till ye both are blest.


    A weedling wild, on lonely lea,
    My evening rambles chanc’d to see;
    And much the weedling tempted me
          To crop its tender flower:
    Expos’d to wind and heavy rain,
    Its head bow’d lowly on the plain;
    And silently it seem’d in pain
          Of life’s endanger’d hour.

    “And wilt thou bid my bloom decay,
    And crop my flower, and me betray?
    And cast my injur’d sweets away,”--
          Its silence seemly sigh’d--
    “A moment’s idol of thy mind?
    And is a stranger so unkind,
    To leave a shameful root behind,
          Bereft of all its pride?”

    And so it seemly did complain;
    And beating fell the heavy rain;
    And how it droop’d upon the plain,
          To fate resign’d to fall:
    My heart did melt at its decline,
    And “Come,” said I, “thou gem divine,
    My fate shall stand the storm with thine:”
          So took the root and all.


    One gloomy eve I roam’d about
      ’Neath Oxey’s hazel bowers,
    While timid hares were darting out,
      To crop the dewy flowers;
    And soothing was the scene to me,
      Right pleased was my soul,
    My breast was calm as summer’s sea
      When waves forget to roll.

    But short was even’s placid smile,
      My startled soul to charm,
    When Nelly lightly skipt the stile,
      With milk-pail on her arm:
    One careless look on me she flung,
      As bright as parting day:
    And like a hawk from covert sprung,
      It pounc’d my peace away.

            THE GIPSY’S CAMP

    How oft on Sundays, when I’d time to tramp,
    My rambles led me to a gipsy’s camp,
    Where the real effigy of midnight hags,
    With tawny smoked flesh and tatter’d rags,
    Uncouth-brimm’d hat, and weather-beaten cloak,
    ’Neath the wild shelter of a knotty oak,
    Along the greensward uniforming pricks
    Her pliant bending hazel’s arching sticks;
    While round-topt bush or briar-entangled hedge,
    Where flag-leaves spring beneath, or ramping sedge,
    Keep off the bothering bustle of the wind,
    And give the best retreat she hopes to find.
    How oft I’ve bent me o’er her fire and smoke,
    To hear her gibberish tale so quaintly spoke,
    While the old Sybil forg’d her boding clack,
    Twin imps the meanwhile bawling at her back;
    Oft on my hand her magic coin’s been struck,
    And hoping chink, she talk’d of morts of luck:
    And still, as boyish hopes did first agree,
    Mingled with fears to drop the fortune’s fee,
    I never fail’d to gain the honours sought,
    And Squire and Lord were purchas’d with a groat.
    But as man’s unbelieving taste came round,
    She furious stampt her shoeless foot aground,
    Wip’d bye her soot-black hair with clenching fist,
    While through her yellow teeth the spittle hist,
    Swearing by all her lucky powers of fate,
    Which like as footboys on her actions wait,
    That fortune’s scale should to my sorrow turn
    And I one day the rash neglect should mourn;
    That good to bad should change, and I should be
    Lost to this world and all eternity;
    That poor as Job I should remain unblest;--
        (Alas, for fourpence how my die is cast!)
    Of not a hoarded farthing be possest,
        And when all’s done, be shov’d to hell at last!

            TO THE CLOUDS

    O painted clouds! sweet beauties of the sky,
      How have I view’d your motion and your rest
    When like fleet hunters ye have left mine eye,
      In your thin gauze of woolly-fleecing drest;
    Or in your threaten’d thunder’s grave black vest,
      Like black deep waters slowly moving by,
    Awfully striking the spectator’s breast
      With your Creator’s dread sublimity,
    As admiration mutely views your storms.
      And I do love to see you idly lie,
    Painted by heav’n as various as your forms,
      Pausing upon the eastern mountain high,
    As morn awakes with spring’s wood-harmony;
      And sweeter still, when in your slumbers sooth
    You hang the western arch o’er day’s proud eye:
      Still as the even-pool, uncurv’d and smooth,
    My gazing soul has look’d most placidly;
      And higher still devoutly wish’d to strain,
    To wipe your shrouds and sky’s blue blinders by,
      With all the warmness of a moon-struck brain,--
    To catch a glimpse of Him who bids you reign,
      And view the dwelling of all majesty.

            THE WOODMAN


    The beating snow-clad bell, with sounding dead,
    Hath clanked four--the woodman’s wak’d again;
    And, as he leaves his comfortable bed,
    Dithers to view the rimy feather’d pane,
    And shrugs, and wishes--but ’tis all in vain:
    The bed’s warm comforts he most now forego;
    His family that oft till eight hath lain,
    Without his labour’s wage could not do so.
    And glad to make them blest he shuffles through the snow.

    The early winter’s morn is dark as pitch,
    The wary wife from tinder brought at night
    With flint and steel, and may a sturdy twitch,
    Sits up in bed to strike her man a light;
    And as the candle shows the rapturous sight,
    Aside his wife his rosy sleeping boy,
    He smacks his lips with exquisite delight,
    With all a father’s feelings, father’s joy,
    Then bids his wife good-bye, and hies to his employ.
    His breakfast water-porridge, humble food;
    A barley-crust he in his wallet flings;
    On this he toils and labours in the wood,
    And chops his faggot, twists his band, and sings,
    As happily as princes and as kings
    With all their luxury:--and blest is he,
    Can but the little which his labour brings
    Make both ends meet, and from long debts keep free,
    And neat and clean preserve his numerous family.

    Far o’er the dreary fields the woodland lies,
    Rough is the journey which he daily goes;
    The woolly clouds, that hang the frowning skies,
    Keep winnowing down their drifting sleet and snows,
    And thro’ his doublet keen the north wind blows;
    While hard as iron the cemented ground,
    And smooth as glass the glibbed pool is froze;
    His nailed boots with clenching tread rebound,
    And dithering echo starts and mocks the clamping sound.

    The woods how gloomy in a winter’s morn!
    The crows and ravens even cease to croak,
    The little birds sit chittering on the thorn,
    The pies scarce chatter when they leave the oak,
    Startled from slumber by the woodman’s stroke;
    The milk-maid’s song is drown’d in gloomy care,
    And while the village chimneys curl their smoke,
    She milks, and blows, and hastens to be there;
    And nature all seems sad, and dying in despair.

    The quirking rabbit scarcely leaves her hole,
    But rolls in torpid slumbers all the day;
    The fox is loth to ’gin a long patrol,
    And scouts the woods, content with meaner prey;
    The hare so frisking, timid once and gay,
    ’Hind the dead thistle hurkles from the view,
    Nor scarce is scar’d though in the traveller’s way,
    Though waffling curs and shepherd-dogs pursue:
    So winter’s ragged power affects all nature through.

    What different changes winter’s frowns supply:
    The clown no more a loitering hour beguiles,
    Nor gaping tracks the clouds along the sky,
    As when buds blossom, and the warm sun smiles,
    And “Lawrence wages bids” on hills and stiles;
    Banks, stiles, and flowers, and skies, no longer charm;
    Deep drifting snow each summer-seat defiles;
    With hasty blundering step and folded arm
    He glad the stable seeks, his frost-nip nose to warm.
    The shepherd haunts no more his spreading oak,
    Nor on the sloping pond-head lies at lair;
    The arbour he once wattled up is broke,
    And left unworthy of his future care;
    The ragged plundering stickers have been there,
    And pilfer’d it away; he passes by
    His summer dwelling, desolate and bare,
    And ne’er so much as turns a conscious eye,
    But gladly seeks his fire, and shuns th’ inclement sky.

    The scene is cloth’d in snow from morn till night,
    The woodman’s loth his chilly tools to seize;
    The crows unroosting as he comes in sight
    Shake down the feathery burden from the trees;
    To look at things around he’s fit to freeze:
    Scar’d from her perch the fluttering pheasant flies:
    His hat and doublet whiten by degrees,
    He quakes, looks round, and pats his hands and sighs,
    And wishes to himself that the warm sun would rise.

    The robin, tamest of the feather’d race,
    Soon as he hears the woodman’s sounding chops,
    With ruddy bosom and a simple face
    Around his old companion fearless hops,
    And there for hours in pleas’d attention stops:
    The woodman’s heart is tender and humane
    And at his meals he many a crumble drops.
    Thanks to thy generous feelings, gentle swain;
    And what thy pity gives, shall not be given in vain.

    The woodman gladly views the closing day,
    To see the sun drop down behind the wood,
    Sinking in clouds deep blue or misty grey,
    Round as a football and as red as blood:
    The pleasing prospect does his heart much good,
    Though ’tis not his such beauties to admire;
    He hastes to fill his bags with billet-wood,
    Well-pleas’d from the chill prospect to retire,
    To seek his corner chair, and warm snug cottage fire.

    And soon as dusky even hovers round,
    And the white frost ’gins crizzle pond and brook,
    The little family are glimpsing round,
    And from the door dart many a wistful look;
    The supper’s ready stewing on the hook:
    And every foot that clampers down the street
    Is for the coming father’s step mistook;
    O’erjoy’d are they when he their eyes doth meet,
    Bent ’neath his load, snow-clad, as white as any sheet.

    I think I see him seated in his chair,
    Taking the bellows up the fire to blow;
    I think I hear him joke and chatter there,
    Telling his children news they wish to know;
    With leather leggings on, that stopt the snow,
    And broad-brimm’d hat uncouthly shapen round:
    Nor would he, I’ll be bound, if it were so,
    Give twopence for the chance, could it be found,
    At that same hour to be the king of England crown’d.

    The woodman smokes, the brats in mirth and glee,
    And artless prattle, even’s hour beguile,
    While love’s last pledge runs scrambling up his knee,
    The nightly comfort from his weary toil,
    His chuff cheeks dimpling in a fondling smile;
    He claims his kiss, and says his scraps of prayer;
    Begging his daddy’s pretty song the while,
    Playing with his jacket-buttons and his hair;--
    And thus in wedlock’s joys the labourer drowns his care.

    And as most labourers knowingly pretend
    By certain signs to judge the weather right,
    As oft from “Noah’s ark” great floods descend,
    And “buried moons” foretell great storms at night,
    In such-like things the woodman took delight;
    And ere he went to bed would always ken
    Whether the sky was gloom’d or stars shone bright,
    Then went to comfort’s arms till morn, and then
    As cheery as the sun resum’d his toils agen.

    And ere he slept he always breath’d a prayer,
    “I thank Thee, Lord, that Thou to-day didst give
    Sufficient strength to toil; and blest Thy care,
    And thank Thee still for what I may receive:
    And, O Almighty God! while I still live,
    Ere my eyes open on the last day’s sun,
    Prepare Thou me this wicked world to leave,
    And fit my passage ere my race is run;
    ’Tis all I beg, O Lord! Thy heavenly will be done.”

    Holland; to thee this humble ballad’s sent,
    Who for the poor man’s welfare oft hast pray’d;
    Whose tongue did ne’er belie its good intent,
    Preacher, as well in practice, as in trade--
    Alas, too often money’s business made!
    O may the wretch, that’s still in darkness living,
    The Bible’s comforts hear by thee display’d;
    And many a woodman’s family, forgiven,
    Have cause for blessing thee that led their way to heaven.

            RURAL EVENING

    The sun now sinks behind the woodland green,
    And twittering spangles glow the leaves between,
    So bright and dazzling on the eye it plays
    As if noon’s heat had kindled to a blaze,
    But soon it dims in red and heavier hues,
    And shows wild fancy cheated in her views.
    A mist-like moisture rises from the ground,
    And deeper blueness stains the distant round.
    The eye each moment, as it gazes o’er,
    Still loses objects which it mark’d before;
    The woods at distance changing like to clouds,
    And spire-points croodling under evening’s shrouds;
    Till forms of things, and hues of leaf and flower,
    In deeper shadows, as by magic power,
    With light and all, in scarce-perceiv’d decay,
    Put on mild evening’s sober garb of grey.

    Now in the sleepy gloom that blackens round
    Dies many a lulling hum of rural sound,
    From cottage door, farm-yard and dusty lane,
    Where home the cart-house tolters with the swain.
    Or padded holm, where village boys resort,
    Bawling enraptur’d o’er their evening sport,
    Till night awakens superstition’s dread
    And drives them prisoners to a restless bed.
    Thrice happy eve of days no more to me!
    Whoever thought such change belong’d to thee?
    When, like to boys whom now thy gloom surrounds,
    I chas’d the stag, or play’d at fox-and-hounds,
    Or wander’d down the lane with many a mate
    To play at see-saw on the pasture-gate,
    Or on the threshold of some cottage sat
    To watch the flittings of the shrieking bat,
    Who, seemly pleas’d to mock our treacherous view,
    Would even swoop and touch us as he flew,
    And vainly still our hopes to entertain
    Would stint his route, and circle us again,--
    Till, wearied out with many a coaxing call
    Which boyish superstition loves to bawl,
    His shrill song shrieking he betook to flight,
    And left us puzzled in short-sighted night.
    Those days have fled me, as from them they steal:
    And I’ve felt losses they must shortly feel;
    But sure such ends make every bosom sore,
    To think of pleasures we must meet no more.

    Now from the pasture milking-maidens come,
    With each a swain to bear the burden home,
    Who often coax them on their pleasant way
    To soodle longer out in love’s delay;
    While on a mole-hill, or a resting stile,
    The simple rustics try their arts the while
    With glegging smiles, and hopes and fears between,
    Snatching a kiss to open what they mean:
    And all the utmost that their tongues can do,
    The honey’d words which nature learns to woo,
    The wild-flower sweets of language, “love” and “dear,”
    With warmest utterings meet each maiden’s ear;
    Who as by magic smit, she knows not why,
    From the warm look that waits a wish’d reply
    Droops fearful down in love’s delightful swoon
    As slinks the blossom from the suns of noon;
    While sighs half-smother’d from the throbbing breast,
    And broken words sweet trembling o’er the rest,
    And cheeks, in blushes burning, turn’d aside,
    Betray the plainer what she strives to hide.
    The amorous swain sees through the feign’d disguise,
    Discerns the fondness she at first denies,
    And with all passions love and truth can move
    Urges more strong the simpering maid to love;
    More freely using toying ways to win--
    Tokens that echo from the soul within--
    Her soft hand nipping, that with ardour burns,
    And, timid, gentlier presses its returns;
    Then stealing pins with innocent deceit,
    To loose the ’kerchief from its envied seat;
    Then unawares her bonnet he’ll untie,
    Her dark-brown ringlets wiping gently by,
    To steal a kiss in seemly feign’d disguise,
    As love yields kinder taken by surprise:
    While nearly conquer’d she less disapproves,
    And owns at last, mid tears and sighs, she loves.
    With sweetest feelings that this world bestows
    Now each to each their inmost souls disclose,
    Vow to be true; and to be truly ta’en,
    Repeat their loves, and vow it o’er again;
    And pause at loss of language to proclaim
    Those purest pleasures, yet without a name:
    And while, in highest ecstacy of bliss
    The shepherd holds her yielding hand in his
    He turns to heaven to witness what he feels,
    And silent shows what want of words conceals;
    Then ere the parting moments hustle nigh,
    And night in deeper dye his curtain dips,
    Till next day’s evening glads the anxious eye,
    He swears his truth, and seals it on her lips.

    At even’s hour, the truce of toil, ’tis sweet
    The sons of labour at their ease to meet,
    On piled bench, beside the cottage door,
    Made up of mud and stones and sodded o’er;
    Where rustic taste at leisure trimly weaves
    The rose and straggling woodbine to the eaves,--
    And on the crowded spot that pales enclose
    The white and scarlet daisy rears in rows,--
    Training the trailing peas in bunches neat,
    Perfuming evening with a luscious sweet,--
    And sun-flowers planting for their gilded show,
    That scale the window’s lattice ere they blow,
    Then sweet to habitants within the sheds,
    Peep through the diamond pane their golden heads:
    Or at the shop where ploughs and harrows lie,
    Well-known to every child that passes by
    From shining fragments littering on the floor;
    And branded letter burnt upon the door,
    Where meddling boys, the torment of the street,
    In hard-burnt cinders ready weapons meet,
    To pelt the martins ’neath the eves at rest
    That oft are wak’d to mourn a ruin’d nest;
    Or sparrows, that delight their nests to leave,
    In dust to flutter at the cool of eve.
    For such-like scenes the gossip leaves her home,
    And sons of labour light their pipes, and come
    To talk of wages, whether high or low,
    And mumble news that still as secrets go;
    When, heedless then to all the rest may say,
    The beckoning lover nods the maid away,
    And at a distance many an hour they seem
    In jealous whisperings o’er their pleasing theme;
    While children round them teasing sports prolong,
    To twirl the top, or bounce the hoop along,
    Or shout across the street their “one catch all,”
    Or prog the hous’d bee from the cotter’s wall.

    Now at the parish cottage wall’d with dirt,
    Where all the cumber-grounds of life resort,
    From the low door that bows two props between,
    Some feeble tottering dame surveys the scene;
    By them reminded of the long-lost day
    When she herself was young, and went to play;
    And, turning to the painful scenes again,
    The mournful changes she has meet since then,
    Her aching heart, the contrast moves so keen,
    E’en sighs a wish that life had never been.
    Still vainly sinning, while she strives to pray,
    Half-smother’d discontent pursues its way
    In whispering Providence, how blest she’d been
    If life’s last troubles she’d escap’d unseen;
    If, ere want sneak’d for grudg’d support from pride,
    She had but shar’d of childhood’s joys, and died.
    And as to talk some passing neighbours stand,
    And shove their box within her tottering hand,
    She turns from echoes of her younger years,
    And nips the portion of her snuff with tears.

            RUSTIC FISHING

    On Sunday mornings, freed from hard employ,
    How oft I mark the mischievous young boy
    With anxious haste his pole and lines provide,
    For make-shifts oft crook’d pins to thread were tied;
    And delve his knife with wishes ever warm
    In rotten dunghills for the grub and worm,
    The harmless treachery of his hooks to bait;
    Tracking the dewy grass with many a mate,
    To seek the brook that down the meadows glides,
    Where the grey willow shadows by its sides,
    Where flag and reed in wild disorder spread,
    And bending bulrush bows its taper head;
    And, just above the surface of the floods,
    Where water-lilies mount their snowy buds,
    On whose broad swimming leaves of glossy green
    The shining dragon-fly is often seen:
    Where hanging thorns, with roots wash’d bare, appear,
    That shield the moor-hen’s nest from year to year;
    While crowding osiers mingling wild among
    Prove snug asylums to her brood when young,
    Who, when surpris’d by foes approaching near,
    Plunge ’neath the weeping boughs and disappear.
    There far from terrors that the parson brings,
    Or church bell hearing when its summons rings,
    Half hid in meadow-sweet and keck’s high flowers,
    In lonely sport they spend the Sunday hours.
    Though ill supplied for fishing seem the brook,
    That breaks the mead in many a stinted crook,
    Oft choak’d in weeds, and foil’d to find a road,
    The choice retirement of the snake and toad,
    Then lost in shallows dimpling restlessly,
    In fluttering struggles murmuring to be free,--
    O’er gravel stones its depth can scarcely hide
    It runs remnant of its broken tide,
    Till, seemly weary of each choak’d control,
    It rests collected in some gulled hole
    Scoop’d by the sudden floods when winter’s snow
    Melts in confusion by a hasty thaw;
    There bent in hopeful musings on the brink
    They watch their floating corks that seldom sink,
    Save when a wary roach or silver bream
    Nibbles the worm as passing up the stream,
    Just urging expectation’s hopes to stay
    To view the dodging cork, then slink away;
    Still hopes keep burning with untir’d delight,
    Still wobbling curves keep wavering like a bite:
    If but the breezy wind their floats should spring,
    And move the water with a troubling ring,
    A captive fish still fills the anxious eyes
    And willow-wicks lie ready for the prize;
    Till evening gales awaken damp and chill,
    And nip the hopes that morning suns instil;
    And resting flies have tired their gauzy wing,
    Nor longer tempt the watching fish to spring,
    Who at the worm no nibbles more repeat,
    But lunge from night in sheltering flag-retreat.
    Then disappointed in their day’s employ,
    They seek amusement in a feebler joy.
    Short is the sigh for fancies prov’d untrue:
    With humbler hopes still pleasure they pursue
    Where the rude oak-bridge scales the narrow pass
    Half hid in rustling reeds and scrambling grass,
    Or stepping stones stride o’er the narrow sloughs
    Which maidens daily cross to milk their cows;
    There they in artless glee for minnows run,
    And wade and dabble past the setting sun;
    Chasing the struttle o’er the shallow tide,
    And flat stones turning up where gudgeons hide.
    All former hopes their ill success delay’d,
    In this new change they fancy well repaid.
    And thus they wade, and chatter o’er their joys
    Till night, unlook’d-for, young success destroys,
    Drives home the sons of solitude and streams,
    And stops uncloy’d hope’s ever-fresh’ning dreams.
    They then, like school-boys that at truant play,
    In sloomy fear lounge on their homeward way,
    And inly tremble, as they gain the town,
    Where chastisement awaits with many a frown,
    And hazel twigs, in readiness prepar’d,
    For their long absence brings a meet reward.


    Now Summer is in flower, and Nature’s hum
    Is never silent round her bounteous bloom;
    Insects, as small as dust, have never done
    With glitt’ring dance, and reeling in the sun;
    And green wood-fly, and blossom-haunting bee,
    Are never weary of their melody.
    Round field and hedge, flowers in full glory twine,
    Large bind-weed bells, wild hop, and streak’d woodbine,
    That lift athirst their slender throated flowers,
    Agape for dew-fall, and for honey showers;
    These o’er each bush in sweet disorder run,
    And spread their wild hues to the sultry sun.
    The mottled spider, at eve’s leisure, weaves
    His webs of silken lace on twigs and leaves,
    Which ev’ry morning meet the poet’s eye,
      Like fairies’ dew-wet dresses hung to dry.
    The wheat swells into ear, and hides below
    The May-month wild flowers and their gaudy show,
    Leaving, a school-boy’s height, in snugger rest,
    The leveret’s seat, and lark, and partridge nest.
    The mowers now bend o’er the beaded grass,
    Where oft the gipsy’s hungry journeying ass
    Will turn his wishes from the meadow paths,
    List’ning the rustle of the falling swaths.
    The ploughman sweats along the fallow vales
    And down the sun-crack’d furrow slowly trails;
    Oft seeking, when athirst, the brook’s supply,
    Where, brushing eagerly the bushes by
    For coolest water, he disturbs the rest
    Of ring-dove, brooding o’er its idle nest.
    The shepherd’s leisure hours are over now;
    No more he loiters ’neath the hedge-row bough,
    On shadow-pillowed banks and lolling stile;
    The wilds must lose their summer friend awhile.
    With whistle, barking dogs, and chiding scold,
    He drives the bleating sheep from fallow fold
    To wash-pools, where the willow shadows lean,
    Dashing them in, their stained coats to clean,
    Then, on the sunny sward, when dry again,
    He brings them homeward to the clipping pen,
    Of hurdles, form’d where elm or sycamore
    Shut out the sun--or to some threshing-floor.
    There with the scraps of songs, and laugh, and tale,
    He lightens annual toil, while merry ale
    Goes round, and glads some old man’s heart to praise
    The threadbare customs of his early days:
    How the high bowl was in the middle set
    At breakfast time, when clippers yearly met,
    Fill’d full of furmety, where dainty swum
    The streaking sugar and the spotting plum.
    The maids could never to the table bring
    The bowl, without one rising from the ring
    To lend a hand; who, if ’twere ta’en amiss,
    Would sell his kindness for a stolen kiss.
    The large stone pitcher in its homely trim
    And clouded pint-horn with its copper rim,
    Were there; from which were drunk, with spirits high
    Healths of the best the cellar could supply;
    While sung the ancient swains, in uncouth rhymes,
      Songs that were pictures of the good old times.
    Thus will the old man ancient ways bewail,
    Till toiling shears gain ground upon the tale,
    And break it off,--for now the timid sheep,
    His fleece shorn off, starts with a fearful leap,
    Shaking his naked skin with wond’ring joys,
    While others are brought in by sturdy boys.
      Though fashion’s haughty frown hath thrown aside
    Half the old forms simplicity supplied,
    Yet there are some pride’s winter deigns to spare,
    Left like green ivy when the trees are bare.
    And now, when shearing of the flocks is done
    Some ancient customs, mix’d with harmless fun,
    Crown the swain’s merry toils. The timid maid,
    Pleased to be praised, and yet of praise afraid,
    Seeks the best flowers; not those of woods and fields,
    But such as every farmer’s garden yields--
    Fine cabbage-roses, painted like her face;
    The shining pansy, trimm’d with golden lace;
    The tall topp’d larkheels, feather’d thick with flowers;
    The woodbine, climbing o’er the door in bowers;
    The London tufts, of many a mottled hue;
    The pale pink pea, and monkshood darkly blue;
    The white and purple gilliflowers, that stay
    Ling’ring, in blossom, summer half away;
    The single blood-walls, of a luscious smell,
    Old-fashion’d flowers which housewives love so well;
    The columbine, stone-blue, or deep night-brown,
    Their honeycomb-like blossoms hanging down,
    Each cottage-garden’s fond adopted child,
    Though heaths still claim them, where they yet grow wild;
    With marjoram knots, sweet-brier, and ribbon-grass,
    And lavender, the choice of ev’ry lass,
    And sprigs of lad’s-love--all familiar names,
    Which every garden through the village claims.
    These the maid gathers with a coy delight,
    And ties them up, in readiness for night;
    Then gives to ev’ry swain, ’tween love and shame,
    Her “clipping-posies” as his yearly claim.
    He rises, to obtain the custom’d kiss:--
    With stifled smiles, half hankering after bliss,
    She shrinks away, and blushing, calls it rude;
    Yet turns to smile, and hopes to be pursued;
    While one, to whom the hint may be applied,
    Follows to gain it, and is not denied.
    The rest the loud laugh raise, to make it known,--
    She blushes silent, and will not disown!
    Thus ale, and song, and healths, and merry ways,
    Keep up a shadow still of former days;
    But the old beechen bowl, that once supplied
    The feast of furmety, is thrown aside;
    And the old freedom that was living then,
    When masters made them merry with their men;
    When all their coats alike were russet brown,
    And his rude speech was vulgar as their own--
    All this is past, and soon will pass away
    The time-torn remnant of the holiday.


    Glad Christmas comes, and every hearth
      Makes room to give him welcome now,
    E’en want will dry its tears in mirth,
      And crown him with a holly bough;
    Though tramping ’neath a winter sky,
      O’er snowy paths and rimy stiles,
    The housewife sets her spinning by
      To bid him welcome with her smiles.

    Each house is swept the day before,
      And windows stuck with evergreens,
    The snow is besom’d from the door,
      And comfort crowns the cottage scenes.
    Gilt holly, with its thorny pricks,
      And yew and box, with berries small,
    These deck the unused candlesticks,
      And pictures hanging by the wall.

    Neighbours resume their annual cheer,
      Wishing, with smiles and spirits high,
    Glad Christmas and a happy year,
      To every morning passer-by;
    Milkmaids their Christmas journeys go,
      Accompanied with favour’d swain;
    And children pace the crumping snow
      To taste their granny’s cake again.

    The shepherd, now no more afraid,
      Since custom doth the chance bestow,
    Starts up to kiss the giggling maid
      Beneath the branch of mistletoe
    That ’neath each cottage beam is seen,
      With pearl-like berries shining gay;
    The shadow still of what hath been,
      Which fashion yearly fades away.

    The singing wates, a merry throng,
      At early morn, with simple skill,
    Yet imitate the angel’s song,
      And chant their Christmas ditty still;
    And ’mid the storm that dies and swells
      By fits--in hummings softly steals
    The music of the village bells,
      Ringing round their merry peals.

    When this is past, a merry crew,
      Bedeck’d in masks and ribbons gay,
    The “Morris-dance,” their sports renew,
      And act their winter evening play.
    The clown turn’d king, for penny-praise,
      Storms with the actor’s strut and swell;
    And Harlequin, a laugh to raise,
      Wears his hunch-back and tinkling bell.

    And oft for pence and spicy ale,
      With winter nosegays pinn’d before,
    The wassail-singer tells her tale,
      And drawls her Christmas carols o’er.
    While ’prentice boy, with ruddy face,
      And rime-bepowder’d, dancing locks,
    From door to door with happy pace,
      Runs round to claim his “Christmas box.”

    The block upon the fire is put,
      To sanction custom’s old desires;
    And many a fagot’s bands are cut,
      For the old farmers’ Christmas fires;
    Where loud-tongued Gladness joins the throng,
      And Winter meets the warmth of May,
    Till feeling soon the heat too strong,
      He rubs his shins, and draws away.

    While snows the window-panes bedim,
      The fire curls up a sunny charm,
    Where, creaming o’er the pitcher’s rim,
      The flowering ale is set to warm;
    Mirth, full of joy as summer bees,
      Sits there, its pleasures to impart
    And children, ’tween their parent’s knees,
      Sing scraps of carols o’er by heart.

    And some, to view the winter weathers,
      Climb up the window-seat with glee.
    Likening the snow to falling feathers,
      In Fancy’s infant ecstasy;
    Laughing, with superstitious love,
      O’er visions wild that youth supplies,
    Of people pulling geese above,
      And keeping Christmas in the skies.

    As tho’ the homestead trees were drest,
      In lieu of snow, with dancing leaves;
    As tho’ the sun-dried martin’s nest,
      Instead of i’cles hung the eaves;
    The children hail the happy day--
      As if the snow were April’s grass,
    And pleas’d, as ’neath the warmth of May,
      Sport o’er the water froze to glass.

    Thou day of happy sound and mirth,
      That long with childish memory stays,
    How blest around the cottage hearth
      I met thee in my younger days!
    Harping, with rapture’s dreaming joys,
      On presents which thy coming found,
    The welcome sight of little toys,
      The Christmas gifts of cousins round.

    The wooden horse with arching head,
      Drawn upon wheels around the room;
    The gilded coach of gingerbread,
      And many-colour’d sugar plum;
    Gilt cover’d books for pictures sought,
      Or stories childhood loves to tell,
    With many an urgent promise bought,
      To get to-morrow’s lesson well.

    And many a thing, a minute’s sport,
      Left broken on the sanded floor,
    When we would leave our play, and court
      Our parent’s promises for more.
    Tho’ manhood bids such raptures die,
      And throws such toys aside as vain,
    Yet memory loves to turn her eye,
      And count past pleasures o’er again.

    Around the glowing hearth at night,
      The harmless laugh and winter tale
    Go round, while parting friends delight
      To toast each other o’er their ale;
    The cotter oft with quiet zeal
      Will musing o’er his Bible lean;
    While in the dark the lovers steal
      To kiss and toy behind the screen.

    Old customs! Oh! I love the sound:
      However simple they may be:
    Whate’er with time have sanction found,
      Is welcome, and is dear to me.
    Pride grows above simplicity,
      And spurns them from her haughty mind,
    And soon the poet’s song will be
      The only refuge they can find.


    Now once again, thou lovely Spring,
      Thy sight the day beguiles;
    For fresher greens the fairy ring,
      The daisy brighter smiles:
    The winds, that late with chiding voice
      Would fain thy stay prolong,
    Relent, while little birds rejoice,
      And mingle into song.

    Undaunted maiden, thou shalt find
      Thy home in gleaming woods,
    Thy mantle in the southern wind,
      Thy wreath in swelling buds:
    And may thy mantle wrap thee round,
      And hopes still warm and thrive,
    And dews with every morn be found
      To keep thy wreath alive.

    May coming suns, that tempt thy flowers,
      Smile on as they begin;
    And gentle be succeeding hours
      As those that bring thee in;
    Full lovely are thy dappled skies,
      Pearl’d round with promised showers,
    And sweet thy blossoms round thee rise
      To meet the sunny hours.

    The primrose bud, thy early pledge,
      Sprouts ’neath each woodland tree,
    And violets under every hedge
      Prepare a seat for thee:
    As maids just meeting woman’s bloom
      Feel love’s delicious strife,
    So Nature warms to find thee come,
      And kindles into life.

    Through hedge-row leaves, in drifted heaps
      Left by the stormy blast,
    The little hopeful blossom peeps,
      And tells of winter past:
    A few leaves flutter from the woods,
      That hung the season through,
    Leaving their place for swelling buds
      To spread their leaves anew.

    ’Mong withered grass upon the plain,
      That lent the blast a voice,
    The tender green appears again,
      And creeping things rejoice;
    Each warm bank shines with early flowers,
      Where oft a lonely bee
    Drones, venturing on in sunny hours,
      Its humming song to thee.

    The birds are busy on the wing,
      The fish play in the stream;
    And many a hasty curdled ring
      Crimps round the leaping bream;
    The buds unfold to leaves apace,
      Along the hedge-row bowers,
    And many a child with rosy face
      Is seeking after flowers.

    The soft wind fans the violet blue,
      Its opening sweets to share,
    And infant breezes, waked anew,
      Play in the maidens’ hair--
    Maidens that freshen with thy flowers,
      To charm the gentle swain,
    And dally, in their milking hours,
      With lovers’ vows again.

    Bright dews illume the grassy plain,
      Sweet messengers of morn,
    And drops hang glistening after rain
      Like gems on every thorn;
    What though the grass is moist and rank
      Where dews fall from the tree,
    The creeping sun smiles on the bank
      And warms a seat for thee.

    The eager morning earlier wakes
      To glad thy fond desires,
    And oft its rosy bed forsakes
      Ere night’s pale moon retires;
    Sweet shalt thou feel the morning sun
      To warm thy dewy breast,
    And chase the chill mist’s purple dun
      That lingers in the west.

    Her dresses Nature gladly trims,
      To hail thee as her queen,
    And soon shall fold thy lovely limbs
      In modest garb of green:
    Each day shall like a lover come
      Some gifts with thee to share,
    And swarms of flowers shall quickly bloom
      To dress thy golden hair.

    All life and beauty warm and smile
      Thy lovely face to see,
    And many a hopeful hour beguile
      In seeking joys with thee;
    The sweetest hours that ever come
      Are those which thou dost bring,
    And sure the fairest flowers that bloom
      Are partners of the Spring.

    I’ve met the Winter’s biting breath
      In nature’s wild retreat,
    When Silence listens as in death,
      And thought its wildness sweet;
    And I have loved the Winter’s calm
      When frost has left the plain,
    When suns that morning waken’d warm
      Left eve to freeze again.

    I’ve heard in Autumn’s early reign
      Her first, her gentlest song;
    I’ve mark’d her change o’er wood and plain,
      And wish’d her reign were long;
    Till winds like armies, gather’d round,
      And stripp’d her colour’d woods,
    And storms urged on, with thunder-sound
      Their desolating floods.

    And Summer’s endless stretch of green,
      Spread over plain and tree,
    Sweet solace to my eyes has been,
      As it to all must be;
    Long I have stood his burning heat,
      And breathed the sultry day,
    And walk’d and toil’d with weary feet,
      Nor wish’d his pride away.

    But oft I’ve watch’d the greening buds
      Brush’d by the linnet’s wing,
    When, like a child, the gladden’d woods
      First lisp the voice of Spring;
    When flowers, like dreams, peep every day,
      Reminding what they bring;
    I’ve watch’d them, and am warn’d to pay
      A preference to Spring.

            TO THE RURAL MUSE.

    Muse of the Fields! oft have I said farewell
      To thee, my boon companion, loved so long,
    And hung thy sweet harp in the bushy dell,
      For abler hands to wake an abler song.
      Much did I fear my homage did thee wrong:
    Yet, loth to leave, as oft I turned again;
      And to its wires mine idle hands would cling,
    Torturing it into song. It may be vain;
      Yet still I try, ere Fancy droops her wing,
      And hopeless Silence comes to numb its ev’ry string.

    Muse of the Pasture Brooks! on thy calm sea
      Of poesy I’ve sailed; and though the will
    To speed were greater than my prowess be,
      I’ve ventur’d with much fear of usage ill,
      Yet more of joy. Though timid be my skill,
    As not to dare the depths of mightier streams;
      Yet rocks abide in shallow ways, and I
    Have much of fear to mingle with my dreams.
      Yet, lovely Muse, I still believe thee by,
      And think I see thee smile, and so forget I sigh.

    Muse of the Cottage Hearth! oft did I tell
      My hopes to thee, nor feared to plead in vain;
    But felt around my heart thy witching spell,
      That bade me as thy worshipper remain:
      I did so, and still worship. Oh! again
    Smile on my offerings, and so keep them green!
      Bedeck my fancies like the clouds of even,
    Mingling all hues which thou from heaven dost glean!
      To me a portion of thy power be given,
      If theme so mean as mine may merit aught of heaven.

    For thee in youth I culled the simple flower,
      That on thy bosom gained a sweeter hue,
    And took thy hand along life’s sunny hour,
      Meeting the sweetest joys that ever grew:
      More friends were needless, and my foes were few.
    Though freedom then be deemed as rudeness now.
      And what once won thy praise now meets disdain,
    Yet the last wreath I braided for thy brow,
      Thy smiles did so commend, it made me vain
      To weave another one, and hope for praise again.

    With thee the spirit of departed years
      Wakes that sweet voice which time hath rendered dumb;
    And freshens, like to spring, loves, hopes, and fears,
      That in my bosom found an early home,
      Wooing the heart to ecstasy.--I come
    To thee, when sick of care, of joy bereft,
      Seeking the pleasures that are found in bloom.
    O happy hopes, that Time hath only left
      Around the haunts where thou didst erst sojourn!
      Then smile, sweet Muse, again, and welcome my return.

    With thee the raptures of life’s early day
      Appear, and all that pleased me when a boy.
    Though pains and cares have torn the best away,
      And winter creeps between us to destroy,
      Do thou commend, the recompence is joy:
    The tempest of the heart shall soon be calm.
      Though sterner Truth against my dreams rebel,
    Hope feels success; and all my spirits warm,
      To strike with happier mood thy simple shell,
      And seize thy mantle’s hem--O! say not fare-thee-well.

    Still, sweet Enchantress! youth’s strong feelings move,
      That from thy presence their existence took:--
    The innocent idolatry and love,
      Paying thee worship in each secret nook,
      That fancied friends in tree, and flower, and brook,
    Shaped clouds to angels and beheld them smile,
      And heard commending tongues in ev’ry wind.
    Life’s grosser fancies did these dreams defile,
      Yet not entirely root them from the mind;
      I think I hear them still, and often look behind.

    Aye, I have heard thee in the summer wind,
      As if commending what I sung to thee;
    Aye, I have seen thee on a cloud reclined,
      Kindling my fancies into poesy;
      I saw thee smile, and took the praise to me.
    In beauties, past all beauty, thou wert drest;
      I thought the very clouds around thee knelt:
    I saw the sun to linger in the west,
      Paying thee worship; and as eve did melt
      In dews, they seemed thy tears for sorrows I had felt.

    Sweeter than flowers on beauty’s bosom hung,
      Sweeter than dreams of happiness above,
    Sweeter than themes by lips of beauty sung,
      Are the young fancies of a poet’s love.
      When round his thoughts thy trancing visions move.
    In floating melody no notes may sound,
      The world is all forgot and past his care,
    While on thy harp thy fingers lightly bound,
      As winning him its melody to share;
      And heaven itself, with him, where is it then but there?

    E’en now my heart leaps out from grief, and all
      The gloom thrown round by Care’s o’ershading wing;
    E’en now those sunny visions to recall,
      Like to a bird I quit dull earth and sing:
      Life’s tempest swoon to calms on every string.
    Ah! sweet Enchantress, if I do but dream,
      If earthly visions have been only mine,
    My weakness in thy service woos esteem,
      And proves my truth as almost worthy thine:
      Surely true worship makes the meanest theme divine.

    And still, warm courage, calming many a fear,
      Heartens my hand once more thy harp to try
    To join the anthem of the minstrel year:
      For summer’s music in thy praise is high;
      The very winds about thy mantle sigh
    Love-melodies; thy minstrel bards to be,
      Insects and birds, exerting all their skill,
    Float in continued song for mastery,
      While in thy haunts loud leaps the little rill,
      To kiss thy mantle’s hem; and how can I be still?

    There still I see thee fold thy mantle grey,
      To trace the dewy lawn at morn and night;
    And there I see thee, in the sunny day,
      Withdraw thy veil and shine confest in light;
      Burning my fancies with a wild delight,
    To win a portion of thy blushing fame.
      Though haughty Fancy treat thy power as small,
    And Fashion thy simplicity disclaim,
      Should but a portion of thy mantle fall
      O’er him who woos thy love, ’tis recompense for all.

    Not with the mighty to thy shrine I come,
      In anxious sighs, or self applauding mirth,
    On Mount Parnassus as thine heir to roam:
      I dare not credit that immortal birth;
      But mingling with the lesser ones on earth--
    Like as the little lark from off its nest,
      Beside the mossy hill awakes in glee,
    To seek the morning’s throne a merry guest--
      So do I seek thy shrine, if that may be,
    To win by new attempts another smile from thee.

    If without thee ’neath storms, and clouds, and wind,
      I’ve roam’d the wood, and field, and meadow lea;
    And found no flowers but what the vulgar find,
      Nor met one breath of living poesy,
      Among such charms where inspirations be;
    The fault is mine--and I must bear the lot
      Of missing praise to merit thy disdain.
    To feel each idle plea though urged, forgot;
      I can but sigh--though foolish to complain
      O’er hopes so fair begun, to find them end so vain.

    Then will it prove presumption thus to dare
      To add fresh failings to each faulty song,
    Urging thy blessings on an idle prayer,
      To sanction silly themes: it will be wrong
      For one so lowly to be heard so long.
    Yet, sweet Enchantress, yet a little while
      Forego impatience, and from frowns refrain;
    The strong are ne’er debarr’d thy cheering smile,
      Why should the weak, who need them most, complain
      Alone, in solitude, soliciting in vain?

    But if my efforts on thy harp prove true,
      Which bashful youth at first so feared to try;
    If aught of nature be in sounds I drew
      From hope’s young dreams, and doubt’s uncertainty,
      To these late offerings, not without their sigh;
    Then on thine altar shall these themes be laid,
      And past the deeds of graven brass remain,
    Filling a space in time that shall not fade;
      And if it be not so--avert disdain,
      Till dust shall feel no sting, nor know it toil’d in vain.

            SUMMER IMAGES

    Now swarthy Summer, by rude health embrowned,
      Precedence takes of rosy fingered Spring;
    And laughing Joy, with wild flowers prank’d, and crown’d,
      A wild and giddy thing,
    And Health robust, from every care unbound,
      Come on the zephyr’s wing,
          And cheer the toiling clown.

    Happy as holiday-enjoying face,
      Loud tongued, and “merry as a marriage bell,”
    Thy lightsome step sheds joy in every place;
      And where the troubled dwell,
    Thy witching charms wean them of half their cares:
      And from thy sunny spell,
          They greet joy unawares.

    Then with thy sultry locks all loose and rude,
      And mantle laced with gems of garish light,
    Come as of wont; for I would fain intrude,
      And in the world’s despite,
    Share the rude wealth that thy own heart beguiles;
      If haply so I might
          Win pleasure from thy smiles.

    Me not the noise of brawling pleasure cheers,
      In nightly revels or in city streets;
    But joys which soothe, and not distract the ears,
      That one at leisure meets
    In the green woods, and meadows summer-shorn,
      Or fields, where bee-fly greets
          The ear with mellow horn.

    The green-swathed grasshopper, on treble pipe,
      Sings there, and dances, in mad-hearted pranks;
    The bees go courting every flower that’s ripe,
      On baulks and sunny banks;
    And droning dragon-fly, on rude bassoon,
      Attempts to give God thanks
          In no discordant tune.

    The speckled thrush, by self-delight embued,
      There sings unto himself for joy’s amends,
    And drinks the honey dew of solitude.
      There Happiness attends
    With inbred Joy until the heart o’erflow,
      Of which the world’s rude friends.
          Nought heeding, nothing know.

    There the gay river, laughing as it goes,
      Plashes with easy wave its flaggy sides,
    And to the calm of heart, in calmness shows
      What pleasure there abides,
    To trace its sedgy banks, from trouble free:
      Spots, Solitude provides
          To muse, and happy be.

    There ruminating ’neath some pleasant bush,
      On sweet silk grass I stretch me at mine ease,
    Where I can pillow on the yielding rush;
      And, acting as I please,
    Drop into pleasant dreams; or musing lie,
      Mark the wind-shaken trees,
          And cloud-betravelled sky.

    There think me how some barter joy for care,
      And waste life’s summer-health in riot rude,
    Of nature, nor of nature’s sweets aware.
      When passions vain intrude,
    These, by calm musings, softened are and still;
      And the heart’s better mood
          Feels sick of doing ill.

    There I can live, and at my leisure seek
      Joys far from cold restraints--not fearing pride
    Free as the winds, that breathe upon my cheek
      Rude health, so long denied.
    Here poor Integrity can sit at ease,
      And list self-satisfied
          The song of honey bees;

    The green lane now I traverse, where it goes
      Nought guessing, till some sudden turn espies
    Rude batter’d finger post, that stooping shows
      Where the snug mystery lies;
    And then a mossy spire, with ivy crown,
      Cheers up the short surprise,
          And shows a peeping town.

    I see the wild flowers, in their summer morn
      Of beauty, feeding on joy’s luscious hours;
    The gay convolvulus, wreathing round the thorn,
      Agape for honey showers;
    And slender kingcup, burnished with the dew
      Of morning’s early hours,
          Like gold minted new.

    And mark by rustic bridge, o’er shallow stream,
      Cow-tending boy, to toil unreconciled,
    Absorbed as in some vagrant summer dream;
      Who now, in gestures wild,
    Starts dancing to his shadow on the wall,
      Feeling self-gratified,
          Nor fearing human thrall.

    Or thread the sunny valley laced with streams,
      Or forests rude, and the o’ershadow’d brims
    Of simple pond, where idle shepherd dreams,
      Stretching his listless limbs;
    Or trace hay-scented meadows, smooth and long
      Where joy’s wild impulse swims
          In one continued song.

    I love at early morn, from new mown swath,
      To see the startled frog his route pursue;
    To mark while, leaping o’er the dripping path,
      His bright sides scatter dew,
    The early lark that, from its bustle flies,
      To hail his matin new;
          And watch him to the skies.

    To note on hedgerow baulks, in moisture sprent,
      The jetty snail creep from the mossy thorn,
    With earnest heed, and tremulous intent,
      Frail brother of the morn,
    That from the tiny bent’s dew-misted leaves
      Withdraws his timid horn,
          And fearful vision weaves.

    Or swallow heed on smoke-tanned chimney top,
      Wont to be first unsealing Morning’s eye,
    Ere yet the bee hath gleaned one wayward drop
      Of honey on his thigh;
    To see him seek morn’s airy couch to sing,
      Until the golden sky
          Bepaint his russet wing.

    Or sauntering boy by tanning corn to spy,
      With clapping noise to startle birds away,
    And hear him bawl to every passer by
      To know the hour of day;
    While the uncradled breezes, fresh and strong,
      With waking blossoms play,
          And breathe Æolian song.

    I love the south-west wind, or low or loud,
      And not the less when sudden drops of rain
    Moisten my glowing cheek from ebon cloud,
      Threatening soft showers again,
    That over lands new ploughed and meadow grounds,
      Summer’s sweet breath unchain,
          And wake harmonious sounds.

    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 o’er the mingling scenes
          Far spreads the laughing sky.

    See, how the wind-enamoured aspin leaves
      Turn up their silver lining to the sun!
    And hark! the rustling noise, that oft deceives
      And makes the sheep-boy run;
    The sound so mimics fast-approaching showers,
      He thinks the rain’s begun,
          And hastes to sheltering bowers.

    But now the evening curdles dank and grey,
      Changing her watchet hue for sombre weed;
    And moping owls, to close the lids of day,
      On drowsy wing proceed;
    While chickering crickets, tremulous and long,
      Light’s farewell inly heed,
          And give it parting song.

    The pranking bat its flighty circlet makes;
      The glow-worm burnishes its lamp anew;
    O’er meadows dew-besprent, the beetle wakes
      Inquiries ever new,
    Teazing each passing ear with murmurs vain,
      As wanting to pursue
          His homeward path again.

    Hark! ’tis the melody of distant bells
      That on the wind with pleasing hum rebounds
    By fitful starts, then musically swells
      O’er the dim stilly grounds;
    While on the meadow-bridge the pausing boy
      Listens the mellow sounds,
          And hums in vacant joy.

    Now homeward-bound, the hedger bundles round
      His evening faggot, and with every stride
    His leathern doublet leaves a rustling sound,
      Till silly sheep beside
    His path start tremulous, and once again
      Look back dissatisfied,
          And scour the dewy plain.

    How sweet the soothing calmness that distills
      O’er the heart’s every sense its opiate dews,
    In meek-eyed moods and ever balmy trills!
      That softens and subdues,
    With gentle Quiet’s bland and sober train,
      Which dreamy eve renews
          In many a mellow strain!

    I love to walk the fields, they are to me
      A legacy no evil can destroy;
    They, like a spell, set every rapture free
      That cheer’d me when a boy.
    Play--pastime--all Time’s blotting pen conceal’d,
      Comes like a new-born joy,
          To greet me in the field.

    For Nature’s objects ever harmonize
      With emulous Taste, that vulgar deed annoys;
    Which loves in pensive moods to sympathize,
      And meet vibrating joys
    O’er Nature’s pleasing things; nor slighting, deems
      Pastimes, the Muse employs,
          Vain and obtrusive themes.


    Syren of sullen moods and fading hues,
    Yet haply not incapable of joy,
        Sweet Autumn! I thee hail
        With welcome all unfeigned;

    And oft as morning from her lattice peeps
    To beckon up the sun, I seek with thee
        To drink the dewy breath
        Of fields left fragrant then,

    In solitudes, where no frequented paths
    But what thy own foot makes betray thine home,
        Stealing obtrusive there
        To meditate thy end:

    By overshadowed ponds, in woody nooks,
    With ramping sallows lined, and crowding sedge,
        Which woo the winds to play,
        And with them dance for joy;

    And meadow pools, torn wide by lawless floods,
    Where water-lilies spread their oily leaves,
        On which, as wont, the fly
        Oft battens in the sun;

    Where leans the mossy willow half way o’er,
    On which the shepherd crawls astride to throw
        His angle, clear of weeds
        That crowd the water’s brim;

    Or crispy hills, and hollows scant of sward,
    Where, step by step, the patient lonely boy
        Hath cut rude flights of stairs
        To climb their steepy sides;

    Then track along their feet, grown hoarse with noise,
    The crawling brook, that ekes its weary speed,
        And struggles through the weeds
        With faint and sullen brawl.--

    These haunts I long have favoured, more as now
    With thee thus wandering, moralizing on;
        Stealing glad thoughts from grief,
        And happy, though I sigh.

    Sweet Vision, with the wild dishevelled hair,
    And raiment shadowy of each wind’s embrace,
        Fain would I win thine harp
        To one accordant theme.

    Now not inaptly craved, communing thus,
    Beneath the curdled arms of this stunt oak,
        While pillowed on the grass,
        We fondly ruminate

    O’er the disordered scenes of woods and fields,
    Ploughed lands, thin travelled with half-hungry sheep,
        Pastures tracked deep with cows,
        Where small birds seek for seed:

    Marking the cow-boy that so merry trills
    His frequent, unpremeditated song,
        Wooing the winds to pause,
        Till echo brawls again;

    As on with plashy step, and clouted shoon,
    He roves, half indolent and self-employed,
        To rob the little birds
        Of hips and pendant haws,

    And sloes, dim covered as with dewy veils,
    And rambling bramble-berries, pulpy and sweet,
        Arching their prickly trails
        Half o’er the narrow lane:

    Noting the hedger front with stubborn face
    The dank bleak wind, that whistles thinly by
        His leathern garb, thorn proof,
        And cheek red hot with toil;

    While o’er the pleachy lands of mellow brown,
    The mower’s stubbling scythe clogs to his foot
        The ever ekeing whisp,
        With sharp and sudden jerk,

    Till into formal rows the russet shocks
    Crowd the blank field to thatch time-weather’d barns,
        And hovels rude repair,
        Stript by disturbing winds.

    See! from the rustling scythe the haunted hare
    Scampers circuitous, with startled ears
        Prickt up, then squat, as by
        She brushes to the woods,

    Where reeded grass, breast-high and undisturbed,
    Forms pleasant clumps, through which the soothing winds
        Soften her rigid fears,
        And lull to calm repose.

    Wild Sorceress! me thy restless mood delights,
    More than the stir of summer’s crowded scenes,
        Where, jostled in the din,
        Joy palled my ear with song;

    Heart-sickening for the silence, that is here
    Not broken inharmoniously, as now
        That lone and vagrant bee
        Booms faint with weary chime.

    Now filtering winds thin winnow through the woods
    In tremulous noise, that bids, at every breath,
        Some sickly cankered leaf
        Let go its hold, and die.

    And now the bickering storm, with sudden start,
    In flirting fits of anger carps aloud,
        Thee urging to thine end,
        Sore wept by troubled skies.

    And yet, sublime in grief! thy thoughts delight
    To show me visions of most gorgeous dyes,
        Haply forgetting now
        They but prepare thy shroud;

    Thy pencil dashing its excess of shades,
    Improvident of waste, till every bough
        Burns with thy mellow touch
        Disorderly divine.

    Soon must I view thee as a pleasant dream
    Droop faintly, and so reckon for thine end,
        As sad the winds sink low
        In dirges for their queen;

    While in the moment of their weary pause,
    To cheer thy bankrupt pomp, the willing lark
        Starts from his shielding clod,
        Snatching sweet scraps of song.

    Thy life is waning now, and Silence tries
    To mourn, but meets no sympathy in sounds,
        As stooping low she bends,
        Forming with leaves thy grave;

    To sleep inglorious there mid tangled woods,
    Till parched-lipped Summer pines in drought away
        Then from thine ivy’d trance
        Awake to glories new.


    What are life’s joys and gains,
      What pleasures crowd its ways,
    That man should take such pains
      To seek them all his days?
    Sift this untoward strife
      On which thy mind is bent--
    See if this chaff of life
      Be worth the trouble spent.

    Is pride thy heart’s desire?
      Is power thy climbing aim?
    Is love thy folly’s fire?
      Is wealth thy restless game?--
    Pride, power, love, wealth, and all,
      Time’s touchstone shall destroy;
    And, like base coin, prove all
      Vain substitutes for joy.

    Dost think thy pride exalts
      Thyself in others’ eyes,
    And hides thy folly’s faults,
      Which reason will despise?
    Dost strut, and turn, and stride,
      Like walking weathercocks?
    The shadow, by thy side,
      Becomes thy ape, and mocks.

    Dost think that power’s disguise
      Can make thee mighty seem?
    It may in folly’s eyes,
      But not in worth’s esteem.
    When all that thou canst ask,
      And all that she can give,
    Is but a paltry mask,
      Which tyrants wear and live.

    Go, let thy fancies range,
      And ramble where they may
    View power in every change,
      And what is its display?--
    The country magistrate,
      The lowest shade in power,
    To rulers of the state?--
      The meteors of an hour.

    View all, and mark the end
      Of every proud extreme,
    Where flattery turns a friend,
      And counterfeits esteem;
    Where worth is aped in show,
      That doth her name purloin--
    As toys of golden glow,
      Are sold for copper coin.

    Ambition’s haughty nod
      With fancies may deceive--
    Nay, tell thee thou’rt a god;
      And wilt thou such believe?
    Go, bid the seas be dry;
      Go, hold earth like a ball;
    Or throw thy fancies by,
      For God can do it all.

    Dost thou possess the dower
      Of laws, to spare or kill?
    Call it not heavenly power,
      When but a tyrant’s will.
    Know what a god will do,
      And know thyself a fool;
    Nor tyrant-like pursue,
      Where he alone should rule.

    O put away thy pride,
      Or be ashamed of power
    That cannot turn aside
      The breeze that waves a flower;
    Or bid the clouds be still--
      Though shadows, they can brave
    Thy poor power-mocking will,
      Then make not man a slave.

    Dost think, when wealth is won,
      Thy heart has its desire?
    Hold ice up to the sun,
      And wax before the fire;
    Nor triumph o’er the reign
      Which they so soon resign,
    In this world’s ways they gain
      Insurance safe as thine.

    Dost think life’s peace secure
      In houses and in land?
    Go, read the fairy lure--
      To twist a cord of sand,
    Lodge stones upon the sky,
      Hold water in a sieve;
    Nor give such tales the lie,
      And still thine own believe.

    Whoso with riches deals,
      And thinks peace bought and sold,
    Will find them slippery eels,
      That slide the firmest hold;
    Though sweet as sleep with health
      Thy lulling luck may be,
    Pride may o’erstride thy wealth,
      And check prosperity.

    Dost think that beauty’s power
      Life’s sweetest pleasure gives?
    Go, pluck the summer flower,
      And see how long it lives:
    Behold the rays glide on
      Along the summer plain,
    ’Ere thou canst say, “They’re gone!”
      And measure beauty’s reign.

    Look on the brightest eye,
      Nor teach it to be proud,
    But view the clearest sky,
      And thou shalt find a cloud;
    Nor call each face you meet
      An angel’s, ’cause it’s fair,
    But look beneath your feet,
      And think of what they are.

    Who thinks that love doth live
      In beauty’s tempting show,
    Shall find his hopes misgive,
      And melt in reason’s thaw;
    Who thinks that pleasure lies
      In every fairy bower,
    Shall oft, to his surprise,
      Find poison in the flower.

    Dost lawless passions grasp?--
      Judge not thou deal’st in joy;
    Its flowers but hide the asp,
      Thy revels to destroy.
    Who trusts a harlot’s smile,
      And by her wiles is led,
    Plays with a sword the while,
      Hung dropping o’er his head.

    Dost doubt my warning song?--
      Then doubt the sun gives light;
    Doubt truth to teach the wrong,
      And wrong alone as right;
    And live as lives the knave,
      Intrigue’s deceiving guest;
    Be tyrant or be slave,
      As suits thy ends the best.

    Or pause amid thy toils
      For visions won and lost,
    And count the fancied spoils,
      If ’ere they quit the cost;
    And if they still possess,
      Thy mind as worthy things;
    Plat straws with bedlam Bess,
      And call them diamond rings.

    Thy folly’s past advice,
      Thy heart’s already won,
    Thy fall’s above all price,
      So go and be undone:
    For all who thus prefer
      The seeming great for small,
    Shall make wine vinegar,
      And sweetest honey gall.

    Would’st heed the truths I sing,
      To profit wherewithal?
    Clip Folly’s wanton wing,
      And keep her within call.
    I’ve little else to give,
      What thou canst easy try;
    The lesson how to live,
      Is but to learn to die.


    Ah! happy spot, how still it seems
      Where crowds of buried memories sleep;
    How quiet Nature o’er them dreams,
      ’Tis but our troubled thoughts that weep.
    Life’s book shuts here--its page is lost
      With them, and all its busy claims,
    The poor are from its memory crost,
      The rich leave nothing but their names.

    There rest the weary from their toil;
      There lie the troubled, free from care;
    Who through the strife of life’s turmoil
      Sought rest, and only found it there.
    With none to fear his scornful brow,
      There sleeps the master with the slave;
    And heedless of all titles now,
      Repose the honoured and the brave.

    There rest the miser and the heir,
      Both careless who their wealth shall reap;
    E’en love finds cure for heart-aches here,
      And none enjoy a sounder sleep.
    The fair one far from folly’s freaks,
      As quiet as her neighbour seems,
    Unconscious now of rosy cheeks,
      Without a rival in her dreams.

    Strangers alike to joy and strife,
      Heedless of all its past affairs.
    They’re blotted from the list of life,
      And absent from its teazing cares.
    Grief, joy, hope, fear, and all their crew
      That haunt the memory’s living mind,
    Ceased, when they could no more pursue,
      And left a painless blank behind.

    Life’s _ignis fatuus_ light is gone,
      No more to lead their hopes astray;
    Care’s poisoned cup is drain’d and done,
      And all its follies past away.
    The bill’s made out, the reck’ning paid,
      The book is cross’d, the business done;
    On them the last demand is made,
      And heaven’s eternal peace is won.


    Up this green woodland-ride let’s softly rove,
    And list the nightingale--she dwells just here.
    Hush! let the wood-gate softly clap, for fear
    The noise might drive her from her home of love;
    For here I’ve heard her many a merry year--
    At morn, at eve, nay, all the live-long day,
    As though she lived on song. This very spot,
    Just where that old-man’s-beard all wildly trails
    Rude arbours o’er the road, and stops the way--
    And where that child its blue-bell flowers hath got,
    Laughing and creeping through the mossy rails--
    There have I hunted like a very boy,
    Creeping on hands and knees through matted thorn
    To find her nest, and see her feed her young.
    And vainly did I many hours employ:
    All seemed as hidden as a thought unborn.
    And where those crimping fern-leaves ramp among
    The hazel’s under boughs, I’ve nestled down,
    And watched her while she sung; and her renown
    Hath made me marvel that so famed a bird
    Should have no better dress than russet brown.
    Her wings would tremble in her ecstasy,
    And feathers stand on end, as ’twere with joy,
    And mouth wide open to release her heart
    Of its out-sobbing songs. The happiest part
    Of summer’s fame she shared, for so to me
    Did happy fancies shapen her employ;
    But if I touched a bush, or scarcely stirred,
    All in a moment stopt. I watched in vain;
    The timid bird had left the hazel bush,
    And at a distance hid to sing again.
    Lost in a wilderness of listening leaves,
    Rich Ecstasy would pour its luscious strain,
    Till envy spurred the emulating thrush
    To start less wild and scarce inferior songs;
    For while of half the year Care him bereaves,
    To damp the ardour of his speckled breast;
    The nightingale to summer’s life belongs,
    And naked trees, and winter’s nipping wrongs,
    Are strangers to her music and her rest.
    Her joys are evergreen, her world is wide--
    Hark! there she is as usual--let’s be hush--
    For in this black-thorn clump, if rightly guest,
    Her curious house is hidden. Part aside
    These hazel branches in a gentle way,
    And stoop right cautious ’neath the rustling boughs,
    For we will have another search to-day,
    And hunt this fern-strewn thorn-clump round and round;
    And where this reeded wood-grass idly bows,
    We’ll wade right through, it is a likely nook:
    In such like spots, and often on the ground,
    They’ll build, where rude boys never think to look--
    Aye, as I live! her secret nest is here,
    Upon this white-thorn stump! I’ve searched about
    For hours in vain. There! put that bramble by--
    Nay, trample on its branches and get near.
    How subtle is the bird! she started out,
    And raised a plaintive note of danger nigh,
    Ere we were past the brambles; and now, near
    Her nest, she sudden stops--as choking fear,
    That might betray her home. So even now
    We’ll leave it as we found it; safety’s guard
    Of pathless solitude shall keep it still.
    See there; she’s sitting on the old oak bough,
    Mute in her fears; our presence doth retard
    Her joys, and doubt turns every rapture chill.
    Sing on, sweet bird! may no worse hap befall
    Thy visions, than the fear that now deceives.
    We will not plunder music of its dower,
    Nor turn this spot of happiness to thrall;
    For melody seems hid in every flower,
    That blossoms near thy home. These harebells all
    Seem bowing with the beautiful in song;
    And gaping cuckoo-flowers, with spotted leaves,
    Seems blushing of the singing it has heard.
    How curious is the nest; no other bird
    Uses such loose materials, or weaves
    Its dwelling in such spots: dead open leaves
    Are placed without, and velvet moss within,
    And little scraps of grass, and, scant and spare,
    What scarcely seem materials, down and hair;
    For from men’s haunts she nothing seems to win.
    Yet Nature is the builder, and contrives
    Homes for her children’s comfort, even here;
    Where Solitude’s disciples spend their lives
    Unseen, save when a wanderer passes near
    That loves such pleasant places. Deep adown,
    The nest is made a hermit’s mossy cell.
    Snug lie her curious eggs in number five,
    Of deadened green, or rather olive brown;
    And the old prickly thorn-bush guards them well.
    So here we’ll leave them, still unknown to wrong,
    As the old woodland’s legacy of song.

            TO P****

    Fair was thy bloom, when first I met
      Thy summer’s maiden-blossom;
    And thou art fair and lovely yet,
      And dearer to my bosom.
    O thou wert once a wilding flower,
      All garden flowers excelling,
    And still I bless the happy hour
      That led me to thy dwelling.

    Though nursed by field, and brook, and wood,
      And wild in every feature,
    Spring ne’er unsealed a fairer bud,
      Nor found a blossom sweeter.
    Of all the flowers the Spring hath met,
      And it has met with many,
    Thou art to me the fairest yet,
      And loveliest, of any.

    Though ripening summers round thee bring
      Buds to thy swelling bosom,
    That wait the cheering smiles of spring
      To ripen into blossom;
    These buds shall added blessings be,
      To make our loves sincerer:
    For as their flowers resemble thee,
      They’ll make thy memory dearer.

    And though thy bloom shall pass away,
      By winter overtaken,
    Thoughts of the past will charms display,
      And many joys awaken.
    When time shall every sweet remove,
      And blight thee on my bosom--
    Let beauty fade--to me, my love,
      Thou’lt ne’er be out of blossom!

            A WORLD FOR LOVE

    Oh, the world is all too rude for thee, with much ado and care;
    Oh, this world is but a rude world, and hurts a thing so fair;
    Was there a nook in which the world had never been to sear,
    That place would prove a paradise when thou and Love were near.

    And there to pluck the blackberry, and there to reach the sloe,
    How joyously and happily would Love thy partner go;
    Then rest when weary on a bank, where not a grassy blade
    Had e’er been bent by Trouble’s feet, and Love thy pillow made.

    For Summer would be ever green, though sloes were in their prime,
    And Winter smile his frowns to Spring, in beauty’s happy clime;
    And months would come, and months would go, and all in sunny mood,
    And everything inspired by thee grow beautifully good.

    And there to make a cot unknown to any care and pain,
    And there to shut the door alone on singing wind and rain--
    Far, far away from all the world, more rude than rain or wind,
    Oh who could wish a sweeter home, or better place to find?

    Than thus to love and live with thee, thou beautiful delight!
    Than thus to live and love with thee the summer day and night!
    The Earth itself, where thou hadst rest, would surely smile to see
    Herself grow Eden once again, possest of Love and thee.


    O the voice of woman’s love!
      What a bosom-stirring word!
    Was a sweeter ever uttered,
      Was a dearer ever heard,
        Than woman’s love?

    How it melts upon the ear,
      How it nourishes the heart!
    Cold, ah! cold, must his appear,
      Who hath never shared a part
        Of woman’s love.

    ’Tis pleasure to the mourner,
      ’Tis freedom to the thrall;
    The pilgrimage of many,
      And resting place of all,
        Is woman’s love.

    ’Tis the gem of beauty’s birth,
      It competes with joys above;
    What were angels upon earth,
      If without a woman’s love--
        A woman’s love?


    Love, though it is not chill and cold,
      But burning like eternal fire,
    Is yet not of approaches bold,
      Which gay dramatic tastes admire.
    Oh! timid love, more fond than free,
      In daring song is ill pourtrayed,
    Where, as in war, the devotee
      By valour wins each captive maid;--

    Where hearts are prest to hearts in glee,
      As they could tell each other’s mind;
    Where ruby lips are kissed as free,
      As flowers are by the summer wind.
    No! gentle love, that timid dream,
      With hopes and fears at foil and play,
    Works like a skiff against the stream,
      And thinking most finds least to say.

    It lives in blushes and in sighs,
      In hopes for which no words are found;
    Thoughts dare not speak but in the eyes,
      The tongue is left without a sound.
    The pert and forward things that dare
      Their talk in every maiden’s ear,
    Feel no more than their shadows there--
      Mere things of form, with nought of fear.

    True passion, that so burns to plead,
      Is timid as the dove’s disguise;
    ’Tis for the murder-aiming gleed
      To dart at every thing that flies.
    True love, it is no daring bird,
      But like the little timid wren,
    That in the new-leaved thorns of spring
      Shrinks farther from the sight of men.

    The idol of his musing mind,
      The worship of his lonely hour,
    Love woos her in the summer wind,
      And tells her name to every flower;
    But in her sight, no open word
      Escapes, his fondness to declare;
    The sighs, by beauty’s magic stirred,
      Are all that speak his passion there.


    O Poesy is on the wane,
      For Fancy’s visions all unfitting;
    I hardly knew her face again,
      Nature herself seems on the flitting.
    The fields grow old and common things,
      The grass, the sky, the winds a-blowing;
    And spots, where still a beauty clings,
      Are sighing “going! all a-going!”
        O Poesy in on the wane,
        I hardly know her face again.

    The bank with brambles overspread,
      And little molehills round about it,
    Was more to me than laurel shades,
      With paths of gravel finely clouted;
    And streaking here and streaking there,
      Through shaven grass and many a border,
    With rutty lanes had no compare,
      And heaths were in a richer order.
        But Poesy is on the wane,
        I hardly know her face again.

    I sat beside the pasture stream,
      When Beauty’s self was sitting by
    The fields did more than Eden seem,
      Nor could I tell the reason why.
    I often drank when not a-dry,
      To pledge her health in draughts divine;
    Smiles made it nectar from the sky,
      Love turned e’en water into wine.
        O Poesy is on the wane,
        I cannot find her face again.

    The sun those mornings used to find,
      Its clouds were other-country mountains,
    And heaven looked downward on the mind,
      Like groves, and rocks, and mottled fountains.
    Those heavens are gone, the mountains grey
      Turned mist--the sun, a homeless ranger,
    Pursues alone his naked way,
      Unnoticed like a very stranger.
        O Poesy is on the wane,
        Nor love nor joy is mine again.

    Love’s sun went down without a frown,
      For very joy it used to grieve us;
    I often think the West is gone,
      Ah, cruel Time, to undeceive us.
    The stream it is a common stream,
      Where we on Sundays used to ramble,
    The sky hangs o’er a broken dream,
      The bramble’s dwindled to a bramble!
        O Poesy is on the wane,
        I cannot find her haunts again.

    Mere withered stalks and fading trees,
      And pastures spread with hills and rushes,
    Are all my fading vision sees;
      Gone, gone are rapture’s flooding gushes!
    When mushrooms they were fairy bowers,
      Their marble pillars over-swelling,
    And Danger paused to pluck the flowers,
      That in their swarthy rings were dwelling.
        Yes, Poesy is on the wane,
        Nor joy, nor fear is mine again.

    Aye, Poesy hath passed away,
      And Fancy’s visions undeceive us;
    The night hath ta’en the place of day,
      And why should passing shadows grieve us?
    I thought the flowers upon the hill
      Were flowers from Adam’s open gardens;
    But I have had my summer thrills,
      And I have had my heart’s rewardings.
        So Poesy is on the wane,
        I hardly know her face again.

    And Friendship it hath burned away,
      Like to a very ember cooling,
    A make-believe on April day,
      That sent the simple heart a fooling;
    Mere jesting in an earnest way,
      Deceiving on and still deceiving;
    And Hope is but a fancy-play,
      And Joy the art of true believing;
        For Poesy is on the wane,
        O could I feel her faith again!


    Sweet pastime here my mind so entertains,
      Abiding pleasaunce, and heart-feeding joys,
    To meet this blithsome day these painted plains,
      These singing maids, and chubby laughing boys,
      Which hay-time and the summer here employs,--
    My rod and line doth all neglected lie;
      A higher joy my former sport destroys:
    Nature this day doth bait the hook, and I
    The glad fish am, that’s to be caught thereby.

    This silken grass, these pleasant flowers in bloom,
      Among these tasty molehills that do lie
    Like summer cushions, for all guests that come;
      Those little feathered folk, that sing and fly
      Above these trees, in that so gentle sky,
    Where not a cloud dares soil its heavenly light;
      And this smooth river softly grieving bye--
    All fill mine eyes with so divine a sight,
    As makes me sigh that it should e’er be night.

    In sooth, methinks the choice I most should prize
      Were in these meadows of delight to dwell,
    To share the joyaunce heaven elsewhere denies,
      The calmness that doth relish passing well,
      The quiet conscience, that aye bears the bell,
    And happy musing Nature would supply,
      Leaving no room for troubles to rebel:
    Here would I think all day, at night would lie,
    The hay my bed, my coverlid the sky.

    So would I live, as nature might command,
      Taking with Providence my wholesome meals;
    Plucking the savory peascod from the land,
      Where rustic lad oft dainty dinner steals.
      For drink, I’d his me where the moss conceals
    The little spring so chary from the sun,
      Then lie, and listen to the merry peals
    Of distant bells--all other noises shun;
    Then court the Muses till the day be done.

    Here would high joys my lowly choice requite;
      For garden plot, I’d choose this flow’ry lea;
    Here I in culling nosegays would delight,
      The lambtoe tuft, the paler culverkey:
      The cricket’s mirth were talk enough for me,
    When talk I needed; and when warmed to pray,
      The little birds my choristers should be,
    Who wear one suit for worship and for play,
    And make the whole year long one sabbath-day.

    A thymy hill should be my cushioned seat;
      An aged thorn, with wild hops intertwined,
    My bower, where I from noontide might retreat;
      A hollow oak would shield me from the wind,
      Or, as might hap, I better shed might find
    In gentle spot, where fewer paths intrude,
      The hut of shepherd swain, with rushes lined:
    There would I tenant be to Solitude,
    Seeking life’s gentlest joys, to shun the rude.

    Bidding a long farewell to every trouble,
      The envy and the hate of evil men;
    Feeling cares lessen, happiness redouble,
      And all I lost as if ’twere found again.
      Vain life unseen; the past alone known then:
    No worldly intercourse my mind should have
      To lure me backward to its crowded den;
    Here would I live and die, and only crave
    The home I chose might also be my grave.

            THE AUTUMN ROBIN

    Sweet little bird in russet coat,
      The livery of the closing year!
    I love thy lonely plaintive note,
      And tiny whispering song to hear.
    While on the stile or garden seat,
      I sit to watch the falling leaves,
    The song thy little joys repeat,
      My loneliness relieves.

    And many are the lonely minds
      That hear, and welcome thee anew;
    Not Taste alone, but humble hinds,
      Delight to praise, and love thee too.
    The veriest clown, beside his cart,
      Turns from his song with many a smile,
    To see thee from the hedgerow start,
      To sing upon the stile.

    The shepherd on the fallen tree
      Drops down to listen to thy lay,
    And chides his dog beside his knee,
      Who barks, and frightens thee away.
    The hedger pauses, ere he knocks
      The stake down in the meadow-gap--
    The boy, who every songster mocks,
      Forbears the gate to clap.

    When in the hedge that hides the post
     Thy ruddy bosom he surveys,--
    Pleased with thy song, in transport lost,
      He pausing mutters scraps of praise.
    The maiden marks, at day’s decline,
      Thee in the yard, on broken plough,
    And stops her song, to listen thine,
      Milking the brindled cow.

    Thy simple faith in man’s esteem,
      From every heart hath favour won;
    Dangers to thee no dangers seem--
     Thou seemest to court them more than shun.
    The clown in winter takes his gun,
      The barn-door flocking birds to slay,
    Yet should’st thou in the danger run
      He turns the tube away.

    The gipsy boy, who seeks in glee
      Blackberries for a dainty meal,
    Laughs loud on first beholding thee,
      When called, so near his presence steal.
    He surely thinks thou know’st the call;
      And though his hunger ill can spare
    The fruit, he will not pluck it all,
      But leaves some to thy share.

    Upon the ditcher’s spade thou’lt hop,
      For grubs and wreathing worms to search;
    Where woodmen in the forest chop,
      Thou’lt fearless on their faggots perch;
    Nay, by the gipsies’ camp I stop,
      And mark thee dwell a moment there,
    To prune thy wing awhile, then drop,
      The littered crumbs to share.

    Domestic bird! thy pleasant face
      Doth well thy common suit commend;
    To meet thee in a stranger-place
      Is meeting with an ancient friend.
    I track the thicket’s glooms around,
      And there, as loth to leave, again
    Thou comest, as if thou knew the sound
      And loved the sight of men.

    The loneliest wood that man can trace
      To thee a pleasant dwelling gives;
    In every town and crowded place
      The sweet domestic robin lives.
    Go where one will, in every spot
      Thy little welcome mates appear;
    And, like the daisy’s common lot,
      Thou’rt met with every where.

    The swallow in the chimney tier,
      Or twittering martin in the eaves,
    With half of love and half of fear
      His mortared dwelling shily weaves;
    The sparrows in the thatch will shield;
      Yet they, as well as e’er they can,
    Contrive with doubtful faith to build
      Beyond the reach of man.

    But thou’rt less timid than the wren,
      Domestic and confiding bird!
    And spots, the nearest haunts of men,
      Are oftenest for thy home preferred.
    In garden-walls thou’lt build so low,
      Close where the bunch of fennel stands,
    That e’en a child just taught to go
      May reach with tiny hands.

    Sweet favoured bird! thy under-notes
      In summer’s music grow unknown,
    The concert from a thousand throats
      Leaves thee as if to pipe alone;
    No listening ear the shepherd lends,
      The simple ploughman marks thee not,
    And then by all thy autumn friends
      Thou’rt missing and forgot.

    The far-famed nightingale, that shares
      Cold public praise from every tongue,
    The popular voice of music heirs,
      And injures much thy under-song:
    Yet then my walks thy theme salutes;
      I find thee autumn’s favoured guest,
    Gay piping on the hazel-roots
      Above thy mossy nest.

    ’Tis wrong that thou shouldst be despised,
      When these gay fickle birds appear;
    They sing when summer flowers are prized--
      Thou at the dull and dying year.
    Well! let the heedless and the gay
      Bepraise the voice of louder lays,
    The joy thou steal’st from Sorrow’s day
      Is more to thee than praise.

    And could my notes win aught from thine,
      My words but imitate thy lay,
    Time could not then his charge resign,
      Nor throw the meanest verse away,
    But ever at this mellow time,
      He should thy autumn praise prolong,
    As they would share the happy prime
      Of thy eternal song.

            A SPRING MORNING

    The Spring comes in with all her hues and smells,
    In freshness breathing over hills and dells;
    O’er woods where May her gorgeous drapery flings,
    And meads washed fragrant by their laughing springs.
    Fresh are new opened flowers, untouched and free
    From the bold rifling of the amorous bee.
    The happy time of singing birds is come,
    And Love’s lone pilgrimage now finds a home;
    Among the mossy oaks now coos the dove,
    And the hoarse crow finds softer notes for love.
    The foxes play around their dens, and bark
    In joy’s excess, ’mid woodland shadows dark.
    The flowers join lips below; the leaves above;
    And every sound that meets the ear is Love.

            THE CRAB-TREE

    Spring comes anew, and brings each little pledge
      That still, as wont, my childish heart deceives;
    I stoop again for violets in the hedge,
      Among the ivy and old withered leaves;
    And often mark, amid the clumps of sedge,
      The pooty-shells I gathered when a boy:
    But cares have claimed me many an evil day,
      And chilled the relish which I had for joy.
    Yet when Crab-blossoms blush among the May,
      As erst in years gone by, I scramble now
    Up ’mid the bramble for my old esteems,
      Filling my hands with many a blooming bough;
    Till the heart-stirring past as present seems,
      Save the bright sunshine of those fairy dreams.


    Old January, clad in crispy rime,
      Comes limping on, and often makes a stand;
    The hasty snow-storm ne’er disturbs his time,
      He mends no pace, but beats his dithering hand.
    And February, like a timid maid,
      Smiling and sorrowing follows in his train;
    Huddled in cloak, of miry roads afraid,
      She hastens on to meet her home again.
    Then March, the prophetess, by storms inspired,
      Gazes in rapture on the troubled sky,
    And now in headlong fury madly fired,
      She bids the hail-storm boil and hurry by.
    Yet ’neath the blackest cloud, a Sunbeam flings
    Its cheering promise of returning Springs.

            OLD POESY

    Sweet is the poesy of the olden time,
    In the unsullied infancy of rhyme,
    When Nature reigned omnipotent to teach,
    And Truth and Feeling owned the powers of speech.
    Rich is the music of each early theme,
    And sweet as sunshine in a summer dream,
    Giving to stocks and stones, in rapture’s strife,
    A soul of utterance and a tongue of life.
    Sweet are these wild flowers in their disarray,
    Which Art and Fashion fling as weeds away,
    To sport with shadows of inferior kind,
    Mere magic-lanthorns of the shifting mind,
    Automatons of wonder-working powers,
    Shadows of life, and artificial flowers.


            ’Tis Spring, my love, ’tis Spring,
            And the birds begin to sing:
    If ’t was Winter, left alone with you,
            Your bonny form and face,
            Would make a Summer place,
    And be the finest flower that ever grew.

            Tis Spring, my love, ’tis Spring,
            And the hazel catkins hing,
    While the snowdrop has its little blebs of dew;
            But that’s not so white within
            As your bosom’s hidden skin--
    That sweetest of all flowers that ever grew.

            The sun arose from bed,
            All strewn with roses red,
    But the brightest and the loveliest crimson place
            Is not so fresh and fair,
            Or so sweet beyond compare,
    As thy blushing, ever smiling, happy face.

            I love Spring’s early flowers,
            And their bloom in its first hours,
    But they never half so bright or lovely seem
            As the blithe and happy grace
            Of my darling’s blushing face,
    And the happiness of loves young dream.


      Infants’ gravemounds are steps of angels, where
      Earth’s brightest gems of innocence repose.
      God is their parent, so they need no tear;
      He takes them to his bosom from earth’s woes,
      A bud their lifetime and a flower their close.
      Their spirits are the Iris of the skies,
      Needing no prayers; a sunset’s happy close.
      Gone are the bright rays of their soft blue eyes;
    Flowers weep in dew-drops o’er them, and the gale gently sighs.

      Their lives were nothing but a sunny shower,
      Melting on flowers as tears melt from the eye.
      Each death * * *
      Was tolled on flowers as Summer gales went by.
      They bowed and trembled, yet they heaved no sigh,
      And the sun smiled to show the end was well.
      Infants have nought to weep for ere they die;
      All prayers are needless, beads they need not tell,
    White flowers their mourners are, Nature their passing bell.

            HOME YEARNINGS

    O for that sweet, untroubled rest,
                That poets oft have sung!--
    The babe upon its mother’s breast,
                The bird upon its young,
    The heart asleep without a pain--
    When shall I know that sleep again?

    When shall I be as I have been
                Upon my mother’s breast--
    Sweet Nature’s garb of verdant green
                To woo to perfect rest--
    Love in the meadow, field, and glen,
    And in my native wilds again?

    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.

    The crows upon the swelling hills,
                The cows upon the lea,
    Sheep feeding by the pasture rills,
                Are ever dear to me,
    Because sweet freedom is their mate,
    While I am lone and desolate.

    I loved the winds when I was young,
                When life was dear to me;
    I loved the song which Nature sung,
                Endearing liberty;
    I loved the wood, the vale, the stream,
    For there my boyhood used to dream.

    There even toil itself was play;
                ’Twas pleasure e’en to weep;
    ’Twas joy to think of dreams by day,
                The beautiful of sleep.
    When shall I see the wood and plain,
    And dream those happy dreams again?


    Love lives beyond the tomb,
    And earth, which fades like dew!
          I love the fond,
    The faithful, and the true.

          Love lives in sleep;
    ’Tis happiness of healthy dreams;
          Eve’s dews may weep,
    But love delightful seems.

          ’Tis seen in flowers,
    And in the morning’s pearly dew;
          In earth’s green hours,
    And in the heaven’s eternal blue.

          ’Tis heard in Spring,
    When light and sunbeams, warm and kind,
          On angel’s wings
    Bring love and music to the mind.

          And where’s the voice,
    So young, so beautiful, and sweet
          As Nature’s choice,
    Where Spring and lovers meet?

          Love lives beyond the tomb,
    And earth, which fades like dew!
          I love the fond,
    The faithful, and the true.

            MY EARLY HOME

    Here sparrows build upon the trees,
            And stockdove hides her nest;
    The leaves are winnowed by the breeze
            Into a calmer rest;
    The black-cap’s song was very sweet,
            That used the rose to kiss;
    It made the Paradise complete:
            My early home was this.

    The redbreast from the sweetbriar bush
            Dropt down to pick the worm;
    On the horse-chesnut sang the thrush,
            O’er the house where I was born;
    The moonlight, like a shower of pearls,
            Fell o’er this “bower of bliss,”
    And on the bench sat boys and girls:
            My early home was this.

    The old house stooped just like a cave,
            Thatched o’er with mosses green;
    Winter around the walls would rave,
            But all was calm within;
    The trees are here all green agen,
            Here bees the flowers still kiss,
    But flowers and trees seemed sweeter then:
            My early home was this.


    And has the Spring’s all-glorious eye
              No lesson to the mind?
    The birds that cleave the golden sky--
              Things to the earth resigned--
    Wild flowers that dance to every wind--
    Do they no memory leave behind?

    Aye, flowers! The very name of flowers,
              That bloom in wood and glen,
    Brings Spring to me in Winter’s hours,
              And childhood’s dreams again.
    The primrose on the woodland lea
    Was more than gold and lands to me.

    The violets by the woodland side
              Are thick as they could thrive;
    I’ve talked to them with childish pride
              As things that were alive:
    I find them now in my distress--
    They seem as sweet, yet valueless.

    The cowslips on the meadow lea,
              How have I run for them!
    I looked with wild and childish glee
              Upon each golden gem:
    And when they bowed their heads so shy
    I laughed, and thought they danced for joy.

    And when a man, in early years,
              How sweet they used to come,
    And give me tales of smiles and tears,
              And thoughts more dear than home:
    Secrets which words would then reprove--
    They told the names of early love.

    The primrose turned a babbling flower
              Within its sweet recess:
    I blushed to see its secret bower,
              And turned her name to bless.
    The violets said the eyes were blue:
    I loved, and did they tell me true?

    The cowslips, blooming everywhere,
              My heart’s own thoughts could steal:
    I nip’t them that they should not hear:
              They smiled, and would reveal;
    And o’er each meadow, right or wrong,
    They sing the name I’ve worshipped long.

    The brook that mirrored clear the sky--
              Full well I know the spot;
    The mouse-ear looked with bright blue eye,
              And said “Forget-me-not.”
    And from the brook I turned away,
    But heard it many an after day.

    The king-cup on its slender stalk,
              Within the pasture dell,
    Would picture there a pleasant walk
              With one I loved so well.
    It said “How sweet at eventide
    ’Twould be, with true love at thy side.”

    And on the pasture’s woody knoll
              I saw the wild bluebell,
    On Sundays, where I used to stroll
              With her I loved so well:
    She culled the flowers the year before;
    These bowed, and told the story o’er.

    And every flower that had a name
              Would tell me who was fair;
    But those without, as strangers, came
              And blossomed silent there:
    I stood to hear, but all alone:
    They bloomed and kept their thoughts unknown.

    But seasons now have nought to say,
              The flowers no news to bring:
    Alone I live from day to day--
              Flowers deck the bier of Spring;
    And birds upon the bush or tree
    All sing a different tale to me.

            TO JOHN MILTON

    Poet of mighty power, I fain
    Would court the muse that honoured thee,
    And, like Elisha’s spirit, gain
        A part of thy intensity;
    And share the mantle which she flung
    Around thee, when thy lyre was strung.

    Though faction’s scorn at first did shun,
    With coldness, thy inspired song,
    Though clouds of malice pass’d thy sun,
        They could not hide it long;
    Its brightness soon exhaled away
    Dark night, and gained eternal day.

    The critics’ wrath did darkly frown
    Upon thy muse’s mighty lay;
    But blasts that break the blossom down
        Do only stir the bay;
    And thine shall flourish, green and long,
    In the eternity of song.

    Thy genius saw, in quiet mood,
    Gilt fashion’s follies pass thee by,
    And, like the monarch of the wood,
        Tower’d o’er it to the sky;
    Where thou could’st sing of other spheres,
    And feel the fame of future years.

    Though bitter sneers and stinging scorns
    Did throng the Muse’s dangerous way,
    Thy powers were past such little thorns,
        They gave thee no dismay;
    The scoffer’s insult pass’d thee by,
    Thou smild’st and mad’st him no reply.

    Envy will gnaw its heart away
    To see thy genius gather root;
    And as its flowers their sweets display,
        Scorn’s malice shall be mute;
    Hornets that summer warmed to fly,
    Shall at the death of summer die.

    Though friendly praise hath but its hour,
    And little praise with thee hath been;
    The bay may lose its summer flower,
        But still its leaves are green;
    And thine, whose buds are on the shoot,
    Shall only fade to change to fruit.

    Fame lives not in the breath of words,
    In public praises’ hue and cry;
    The music of these summer birds
        Is silent in a winter sky,
    When thine shall live and flourish on,
    O’er wrecks where crowds of fames are gone.

    The ivy shuns the city wall,
    When busy-clamorous crowds intrude,
    And climbs the desolated hall
        In silent solitude;
    The time-worn arch, the fallen dome,
    Are roots for its eternal home.

    The bard his glory ne’er receives
    Where summer’s common flowers are seen,
    But winter finds it when she leaves
        The laurel only green;
    And time, from that eternal tree,
    Shall weave a wreath to honour thee.

    Nought but thy ashes shall expire;
    Thy genius, at thy obsequies,
    Shall kindle up its living fire
        And light the Muse’s skies;
    Ay, it shall rise, and shine, and be
    A sun in song’s posterity.

            I AM! YET WHAT I AM

    I am! yet what I am who cares, or knows?
      My friends forsake me like a memory lost.
    I am the self-consumer of my woes,
      They rise and vanish, an oblivious host,
    Shadows of life, whose very soul is lost.
    And yet I am--I live--though I am toss’d

    Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
      Into the living sea of waking dream,
    Where there is neither sense of life, nor joys,
      But the huge shipwreck of my own esteem
    And all that’s dear. Even those I loved the best
    Are strange--nay, they are stranger than the rest.

    I long for scenes where man has never trod,
      For scenes where woman never smiled or wept;
    There to abide with my Creator, God,
      And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept
    Full of high thoughts, unborn. So let me lie,
    The grass below; above the vaulted sky.

       *       *       *       *       *

                      BIBLIOGRAPHY OF JOHN CLARE

                          BY C. ERNEST SMITH

                      CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF WORKS

    Clare (John). Poems, Descriptive of Rural Life
    and Scenery. 12mo., pp. 222. 1820

     (Contains passages suppressed in later editions).

---- The Village Minstrel, and Other Poems.
_Portrait and Sketch of Clare’s Cottage._ 2 vols.,
12mo., pp. 216 and 211.                                    1821

---- The Shepherd’s Calendar, with Village
Stories and Other Poems. _Front by Dewint._
12mo., pp. 238.                                            1827

---- The Rural Muse. _Front, and Engraved
Title._ 12mo., pp. 175. 1835


Cherry (J. L.) Life and Remains of John Clare.
_Illustrations by Birket Foster._ Cr. 8vo.                 1873

This volume was afterwards included in the _Chandos
Classics,_ published by Warne & Co., London.

Martin (F.) Life of John Clare. _Engraved Title._
8vo.                                                       1865

     [See also _Encyclopædia Britannica_; and _Dictionary of National
     Biography_, vol. 10].

                            CRITICISM, ETC.

The Book of Gems, edited by S. C. Hall. 8vo.               1853

(References to Clare, pp. 162-166. Facsimile of Clare’s
Autograph at end of volume).

Casket of Gems, edited by Chas. Gibbon. 4 vols.,
Royal 8vo.                                                 N. D.

(Contains a Poem of Clare’s which has been very much
altered and revised by another hand).

Dack (Chas.) Catalogue of the Clare Centenary
Exhibition at Peterborough.                                1893

(Full reports of the Centenary Celebrations appear in
_Peterboro’ Standard_, July 15, Aug. 26, Sept. 9, 1893,
and _Stamford Guardian_, Sept. 1, 1893).

De Wilde (G. J.) Rambles Roundabout, and
Poems. Cr. 8vo. _Northampton,_                             N. D.

(Includes much interesting matter about Clare and his

Four Letters from Rev. W. Allen to Lord Radstock
on the Poems of Clare. 12mo.                               1823

Heath (Richard). The English Peasant: His Past
and Present. Sm. 8vo.                                      1899

(Exhaustive account of Clare occupies large portion of
the book).

Holland (J.), and J. Everett. James Montgomery.
7 vols., 8vo.                                              1854-6

(References to Clare, vol. iv., pp. 96-175).

Hood (E. Paxton). The Peerage of Poverty.
Cr. 8vo.                                                   N. D.

(An account of Clare occupies some fifty pages.)

Poets and the Poetry of the Century, edited by
Alfred H. Miles. Keats to Lytton. 12mo.                    N. D.

(Clare, by Hon. Roden Noel, pp. 79-106).

Redding (Cyrus). Fifty Years’ Recollections.
3 vols., p. 8vo.                                           1858

(Vol. III., pp. 216, references to Clare).

Stoddard (R. H.) Under the Evening Lamp.
Cr. 8vo.                                                   1893

(Essay on Clare, pp. 120-134).

Wilson (Professor). Clare’s Rural Muse. 16 pp.
_Blackwood’s Magazine_, August,                            1835.

                        MAGAZINE ARTICLES, ETC.

Anti-Jacobin Review. June, 1820.

Baldwin’s London Magazine. March, 1820.

Blackwood’s Magazine. August, 1835.

Eclectic Review. April, 1820.

Gentleman’s Magazine. February, 1820.

Literary World. August and September, 1893.

London Magazine. I., 5-11--323-29. IV., 540-8.

New Monthly Magazine. March, 1820.

     Notes and Queries. Ist S., vi., 196; IInd S., v., 186; IVth S.,
     xi., 127; Vth S., ii., 302; VIIth S., x., 187.

Peterborough Standard. July 15, August 26, and September 2 and 9, 1893.

Quarterly Review. May, 1820, pp. 166-75.

     Stamford and Rutland Guardian. Aug. and Sept., 1890; May and June,
     1891; Sept., Oct., and December, 1893.

[Illustration: THE RUGBY PRESS]

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