[PART 12]


UPON the sabbath, sweet it is to walk
'Neath wood-side shelter of oak's spreading tree,
Or by a hedge-row track, or padded balk;
Or stretch 'neath willows on the meadow lea,
List'ning, delighted, hum of passing bee,
And curious pausing on the blossom's head;
And mark the spider at his labour free,
Spinning from bent to bent his silken thread;
And lab'ring ants, by careful nature led
To make the most of summer's plenteous stay;
And lady-cow, beneath its leafy shed,
Call'd, when I mix'd with children, "clock-a-clay,"
Pruning its red wings on its pleasing bed,
Glad like myself to shun the heat of day.


- - - - - - TASTE is from heaven,
An inspiration nature can't bestow;
Though nature's beauties, where a taste is given,
Warm the ideas of the soul to flow
With that intense, enthusiastic glow
That throbs the bosom, when the curious eye
Glances on beauteous things that give delight,
Objects of earth, or air, or sea, or sky,
That bring the very senses in the sight
To relish what we see: - but all is night
To the gross clown - nature's unfolded book,
As on he blunders, never strikes his eye;
Pages of landscape, tree, and flower, and brook,
Like bare blank leaves, he turns unheeded by.


HOW sweet it is, when suns get warmly high,
In the mid-noon, as May's first cowslip springs,
And the young cuckoo his soft ditty sings,
To wander out, and take a book; and lie
'Neath some low pasture-bush, by guggling springs
That shake the sprouting flag as crimpling by;
Or where the sunshine freckles on the eye
Through the half-clothed branches in the woods;
Where airy leaves of woodbines, scrambling nigh,
Are earliest venturers to unfold their buds;
And little rippling runnels curl their floods,
Bathing the primrose-peep, and strawberry wild,
And cuckoo-flowers just creeping from their hoods,
With the sweet season, like their bard, beguil'd.


How pleasant, when the heat of day is bye,
And seething dew empurples round the hill
Of the horizon, sweeping with the eye
In easy circles, wander where we will!
While o'er the meadow's little fluttering rill
The twittering sunbeam weakens cool and dim,
And busy hum of flies is hush'd and still.
How sweet the walks by hedge-row bushes seem,
On this side wavy grass, on that the stream;
While dog-rose, woodbine, and the privet-spike,
On the young gales their rural sweetness teem,
With yellow flag-flowers rustling in the dyke;
Each mingling into each, a ceaseless charm
To every heart that nature's sweets can warm.

LV. TO * * * * * *.

Thou lovely bud, with many weeds surrounded,
I once again address thee with a song;
To cheer thee up 'gainst Envy's adder-tongue
That deeply oft thy reputation wounded,
And did thy tender blossom mickle wrong.
But, look thou up! - 'tis known in nature's law
That serpents seek the honey-hoarding bee,
Rosemary's sweets the loathsome toad will draw,
So beauty curdles envy's look on thee.
Fain would the peacock's tail the bow express
Which paints the clouds so sweet in April's rain,
And just the same, that imp of ugliness
Mimics thy lovely blossom, - but in vain;
And fain would poison what he can't possess.


SPRING's sweets they are not fled, though Summer's blossom
Has met its blight of sadness, drooping low;
Still flowers gone by find beds in memory's bosom,
Life's nursling buds among the weeds of woe.
Each pleasing token of Spring's early morning
Warms with the pleasures which we once did know;
Each little stem the leafy bank adorning,
Reminds of joys from infancy that flow.
Spring's early heralds on the winter smiling,
That often on their errands meet their doom,
Primrose and daisy, dreary hours beguiling,
Smile o'er my pleasures past whene'er they come;
And the speckt throstle never wakes his song,
But Life's past Spring seems melting from his tongue.


WHAT makes me love thee now, thou dreary scene,
And see in each swell'd heap a peaceful bed?
I well remember that the time has been,
To walk a church-yard when I us'd to dread;
And shudder'd, as I read upon the stone
Of well-known friends and next-door-neighbours gone.
But then I knew no cloudy cares of life,
Where ne'er a sunbeam comes to light me thorough;
A stranger then to this world's storms and strife,
Where ne'er a charm is met to lull my sorrow:
I then was blest, and had not eyes to see
Life's future change, and Fate's severe to-morrow;
When all those ills and pains should compass me,
With no hope left but what I meet in thee.


THRICE welcome here again, thou flutt'ring thing,
That gaily seek'st about the opening flower,
And opest and shutt'st thy gaudy-spangled wing
Upon its bosom in the sunny hour;
Fond grateful thoughts from thy appearance spring:
To see thee, Fly, warm me once more to sing
His universal care who hapt thee down,
And did thy winter-dwelling please to give.
That Being's smiles on me dampt winter's frown,
And snatch'd me from the storm, and bade me live.
And now again the welcome season's come,
'Tis thine and mine, in nature's grateful pride,
To thank that God who snatch'd us from the tomb,
And stood our prop, when all gave way beside.


THE World, its hopes and fears, have pass'd away;
No more its trifling thou shalt feel or see;
Thy hopes are ripening in a brighter day,
While these left buds thy monument shall be.
When Rancour's aims have past in nought away,
Enlarging specks discern'd in more than thee,
And beauties 'minishing which few display, -
When these are past, true child of Poesy,
Thou shalt survive - Ah, while a being dwells,
With soul, in Nature's joys, to warm like thine,
With eye to view her fascinating spells,
And dream entranced o'er each form divine,
Thy worth, Enthusiast, shall be cherish'd here, -
Thy name with him shall linger, and be dear.


Come, pensive Autumn, with thy clouds, and storms,
And falling leaves, and pastures lost to flowers;
A luscious charm hangs on thy faded forms,
More sweet than Summer in her loveliest hours,
Who, in her blooming uniform of green,
Delights with samely and continued joy:
But give me, Autumn, where thy hand hath been,
For there is wildness that can never cloy, -
The russet hue of fields left bare, and all
The tints of leaves and blossoms ere they fall.
In thy dull days of clouds a pleasure comes,
Wild music softens in thy hollow winds;
And in thy fading woods a beauty blooms,
That's more than dear to melancholy minds.


BITTER-SWEET, a species of nightshade.
Bumptious, consequential, conceited.
Buried moons, covered with vapour.
Chittering, the diminutive of chattering.
Chumbled, gnawed to pieces.
Closes, fields.
Crizzle, to crystal or crystallize: to freeze.
Croodling, crouching, shrinking.
Dithering, shivering.
Dossity, life or spirit.
Dotterel tree, a pollard tree. - "Old stumping tree in hedge-rows,
that are headed every ten or twelve years for fire-wood." J. C.
Drowk, drooping.
Dyke, ditch.
Elting moulds, the soft ridges of fresh ploughed land.
Fin-weed, rest-harrow.
Fit to freeze, ready to freeze.
Flitting, departing.
Frit, frightened.
Gathering cream. - "This alludes to the cream gathering round
the bucket as the milk-maid journeys home, which often betrays
the loitering with a sweetheart," J. C. Vide Recollections
after a Ramble.
Glegging, glancing.
Grains, the larger branches of trees.
Gulsh, to tear up with force.
High-lows, shoes covering the ankle.
Hirpling, limping.
Holm, a river island, or land which was formerly covered with water.
Hurkles, crouches.
Jolls, rolls in walking.
Keck, hemlock.
Kid, a bundle of dry thorns.
Lady's laces, ribbon-grass.
Lambtoe, the kidney vetch, or lady's finger.
"Lawrence bids wages," invites to idleness.
Leggings, gaiters.
Long purples, purple loose-strife.
Morts, great numbers.
Noah's ark, a form of the clouds resembling this figure.
Pooty, a snail shell.
Puddock, the kite, or forked-winged buzzard.
Quirking, quick-turning.
Sen, provincialism for self - himsen, hersen.
Shanny, shame-faced.
Shooled, skulked.
'Skewing, starting aside.
Slop frock, a labourer's smock-frock.
Soodling, sauntering.
Stall'd, stuck fast.
Stoven, a stump.
Struttle, stickleback.
Stulp, a stump of a tree.
Sutherings, heavy sighings.
Swail, shade.
Swingle, a flail.
Swopping, pouncing.
Teem, pour out.
Toltering, hobbling.


This internet edition of The Village Minstrel and Other Poems edited by Simon Kovesi, The Nottingham Trent University, February 1998.

Return to Main Poems Page

Return to Main John Clare Page

Email Simon Kovesi at the John Clare Page