The Last Of March. Written At Lolham Brigs.

A poem by John Clare

Though o'er the darksome northern hill
Old ambush'd winter frowning flies,
And faintly drifts his threatenings still
In snowy sweet and blackening skies;
Yet here the willow leaning lies
And shields beneath the budding flower,
Where banks to break the wind arise,
'Tis sweet to sit and spend an hour.

Though floods of winter bustling fall
Adown the arches bleak and blea,
Though snow-storms clothe the mossy wall,
And hourly whiten o'er the lea;
Yet when from clouds the sun is free
And warms the learning bird to sing,
'Neath sloping bank and sheltering tree
'Tis sweet to watch the creeping spring.

Though still so early, one may spy
And track her footsteps every hour;
The daisy with its golden eye,
And primrose bursting into flower;
And snugly, where the thorny bower
Keeps off the nipping frost and wind,
Excluding all but sun and shower,
There children early violets find.

Here 'neath the shelving bank's retreat
The horse-blob swells its golden ball;
Nor fear the lady-smocks to meet
The snows that round their blossoms fall:
Here by the arch's ancient wall
The antique elder buds anew;
Again the bulrush sprouting tall
The water wrinkles, rippling through.

As spring's warm herald April comes,
As nature's sleep is nearly past,
How sweet to hear the wakening hums
Of aught beside the winter blast!
Of feather'd minstrels first and last,
The robin's song's again begun;
And, as skies clear when overcast,
Larks rise to hail the peeping sun.

The startling peewits, as they pass,
Scream joyous whirring over-head,
Right glad the fields and meadow grass
Will quickly hide their careless shed:
The rooks, where yonder witchens spread,
Quawk clamorous to the spring's approach;
Here silent, from its watery bed,
To hail its coming, leaps the roach.

While stalking o'er the fields again
In stripp'd defiance to the storms,
The hardy seedsman spreads the grain,
And all his hopeful toil performs:
In flocks the timid pigeon swarms,
For scatter'd kernels chance may spare;
And as the plough unbeds the worms,
The crows and magpies gather there.

Yon bullocks low their liberty,
The young grass cropping to their fill;
And colts, from straw-yards neighing free,
Spring's opening promise 'joy at will:
Along the bank, beside the rill
The happy lambkins bleat and run,
Then weary, 'neath a sheltering hill
Drop basking in the gleaming sun.

At distance from the water's edge,
On hanging sallow's farthest stretch,
The moor-hen 'gins her nest of sedge
Safe from destroying school-boy's reach.
Fen-sparrows chirp and fly to fetch
The wither'd reed-down rustling nigh,
And, by the sunny side the ditch,
Prepare their dwelling warm and dry.

Again a storm encroaches round,
Thick clouds are darkening deep behind;
And, through the arches, hoarsely sound
The risings of the hollow wind:
Spring's early hopes seem half resign'd,
And silent for a while remain;
Till sunbeams broken clouds can find,
And brighten all to life again.

Ere yet a hailstone pattering comes,
Or dimps the pool the rainy squall,
One hears, in mighty murmuring hums,
The spirit of the tempest call:
Here sheltering 'neath the ancient wall
I still pursue my musing dreams,
And as the hailstones round me fall
I mark their bubbles in the streams.

Reflection here is warm'd to sigh,
Tradition gives these brigs renown,
Though heedless Time long pass'd them by
Nor thought them worthy noting down:
Here in the mouth of every clown
The "Roman road" familiar sounds;
All else, with everlasting frown,
Oblivion's mantling mist surrounds.

These walls the work of Roman hands!
How may conjecturing Fancy pore,
As lonely here one calmly stands,
On paths that age has trampled o'er.
The builders' names are known no more;
No spot on earth their memory bears;
And crowds, reflecting thus before,
Have since found graves as dark as theirs.

The storm has ceas'd,--again the sun
The ague-shivering season dries;
Short-winded March, thou'lt soon be done,
Thy fainting tempest mildly dies.
Soon April's flowers and dappled skies
Shall spread a couch for lovely May,
Upon whose bosom Nature lies
And smiles her joyous youth away.

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