Childish Recollections.

A poem by John Clare

"Perhaps it is foolish to remark it, but there are times and places when I am a child at those things"
--MACKENZIE.

Each scene of youth to me's a pleasing toy,
Which memory, like a lover, doats upon;
And mix'd with them I am again a boy,
With tears and sighs regretting pleasures gone.

Ah! with enthusiast excesses wild
The scenes of childhood meet my moist'ning eye,
And with the very weakness of a child
I feel the raptures of delights gone by.

And still I fancy, as around I stroll
Each boyish scene, to mark the sport and game,
Others are living with a self-like soul,
That think, and love such trifles, just the same.

An old familiar spot I witness here,
With young companions where we oft have met:
Tho' since we play'd 'tis bleach'd with many a year,
The sports as warmly thrill my bosom yet.

Here winds the dyke where oft we jump'd across,
'Tis just as if it were but yesternight;
There hangs the gate we call'd our wooden horse,
Where we in see-saw ridings took delight.

And every thing shines round me just as then,
Mole-hills, and trees, and bushes speckling wild,
That freshen all those pastimes up agen--
O grievous day that chang'd me from a child!

To seek the plaything and the pleasing toy,
The painted pooty-shell and summer-flowers,
How blest was I when I was here a boy;
What joys were mine in those delightful hours!

On this same bank I bound my posies up,
And cull'd the sweetest blossoms one by one;
The cowslips still entice me down to stoop,
But all the feelings they inspir'd are gone.

Though in the midst of each endear'd delight,
Where still the cowslips to the breezes bow,
Though all my childish scenes are in my sight,
Sad manhood marks me an intruder now.

Here runs the brook which I have damm'd and stopt
With choking sods, and water-weeds, and stones,
And watch'd with joy till bursting off it plopt,
In rushing gushes of wild murmuring groans.

Here stands the tree with clasping ivy bound,
Which oft I've climb'd, to see the men at plough,
And checquer'd fields for many a furlong round,
Rock'd by the winds upon its topmost bough.

Ah, on this bank how happy have I felt,
When here I sat and mutter'd nameless songs,
And with the shepherd-boy, and neatherd, knelt
Upon yon rush-beds, plaiting whips and thongs.

Fond memory warms, as here with gravel-shells
I pil'd my fancied cots and walled rings,
And scoop'd with wooden knife my little wells,
And fill'd them up with water from the springs.

Ah, memory sighs, now hope my heart beguiles
To build as yet snug cots to cheer despair,
While fate at distance mocks with grinning smiles,
And calls my structures "castles in the air."

Now e'en the thistles quaking in the wind,
The very rushes nodding o'er the green,
Hold each expressive language to my mind,
And, like old comrades, tell of what has been.

O "sweet of sweets" from infancy that flow,
When can we witness bliss so sweet as then?
Might I but have my choice of joy below,
I'd only ask to be a boy agen.

Life owns no joy so pleasant as the past,
That banish'd pleasure, wrapt in memory's womb:
It leaves a flavour sweet to every taste,
Like the sweet substance of the honey-comb.

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