Summer Evening

A poem by John Clare

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 squandered covey home.
Swallows check their winding flight,
And twittering on the chimney light.
Round the pond the martins flirt,
Their snowy breasts bedaubed 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 its 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;
Then, to ferry oer 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 moistened 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 her 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 furrowed seams,
Ploughmen loose their weary teams:
Ball, with urging lashes wealed,
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 fastening 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 fodderers tug away.
Hogs with grumbling, deafening 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 quarreling geese
Seek their warm straw-littered 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 curled round her feet;
Patiently she sits to watch
Sparrows fighting on the thatch.
Now Doll brings the expected pails,
And dogs begin to wag their tails;
With strokes and pats they're welcomed 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!
Dashed against the ladder's side.
Curst barbarians! pass me by;
Come not, Turks, my cottage nigh;
Sure my sparrows 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 then might 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;
Prepared to start, she soodles home,
Her knitting twisting oer her thumb,
As, both to leave, afraid to stay,
She bawls her story all the way;
The tale so fraught with 'ticing charms,
Her apron folded oer 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, prepared 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 oer 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 rocked, I sink to sleep,
Mid the wild wind's lulling sound.

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