The Wild-Flower Nosegay.

A poem by John Clare

In life's first years as on a mother's breast,
When Nature nurs'd me in her flowery pride,
I cull'd her bounty, such as seemed best,
And made my garlands by some hedge-row side:
With pleasing eagerness the mind reclaims
From black oblivion's shroud such artless scenes,
And cons the calendar of childish names
With simple joy, when manhood intervenes.

From the sweet time that spring's young thrills are born,
And golden catkins deck the sallow tree,
Till summer's blue-caps blossom mid the corn,
And autumn's ragwort yellows o'er the lea,
I roam'd the fields about, a happy child,
And bound my posies up with rushy ties,
And laugh'd and mutter'd o'er my visions wild,
Bred in the brain of pleasure's ecstacies.

Crimp-frilled daisy, bright bronze buttercup,
Freckt cowslip-peeps, gilt whins of morning's dew,
And hooded arum early sprouting up
Ere the white-thorn bud half unfolds to view,
And wan-hued lady-smocks, that love to spring
'Side the swamp margin of some plashy pond;
And all the blooms that early Aprils bring,
With eager joy each fill'd my playful hand:

The jaundice-tinctur'd primrose, sickly sere,
Mid its broad curled leaves of mellow green,
Hemm'd in with relics of the 'parted year,
The mournful wrecks of summers that have been--
Dead leaves of ash, and oak, and hazel tree,
The constant covering of all woody land;
With tiny violets, creeping plenteously,
That one by one entic'd my patient hand.

As shadowy April's suns and showers did pass,
And summer's wild profusions plenteous grew,
Hiding the spring-flowers in long weeds and grass,
What meads and copses would I wander thro'!
When on the water op'd the lily buds,
And fine long purples shadow'd in the lake,
When purple bugles peeped in the woods
'Neath darkest shades that boughs and leaves could make.

Then did I wear day's many hours away
In gathering blooms of seemly sweetest kinds,
Scrambling for blossoms of the white-thorn may,
Ere they fell victims to unfeeling winds;
And twisted woodbines, and the flusht briar rose,
How sweet remembrance on the mind doth rise
As they bow'd arching where the runnel flows,
To think how oft I waded for the prize.

The ragged-robins by the spinney lake,
And flag-flower bunches deeper down the flood,
And, snugly hiding 'neath the feather'd brake,
Full many a blue-bell flower and cuckoo-bud,
And old-man's beard, that wreath'd along the hedge
Its oddly rude misshapen tawny flowers,
And prickly burs that crowd the leaves of sedge,
Have claim'd my pleasing search for hours and hours.

And down the hay-fields, wading 'bove the knees
Through seas of waving grass, what days I've gone,
Cheating the hopes of many labouring bees
By cropping blossoms they were perch'd upon;
As thyme along the hills, and lambtoe knots,
And the wild stalking Canterbury bell,
By hedge-row side or bushy bordering spots,
That loves in shade and solitude to dwell.

And when the summer's swarms, half-nameless, fled,
And autumn's landscape faded bleak and wild,
When leaves 'gan fall and show their berries red,
Still with the season would I be beguil'd
Lone spots to seek, home leaving far behind,--
Where wildness rears her lings and teazle-burs,
And where, last lingering of the flowery kind,
Blue heath-bells tremble 'neath the shelt'ring furze.

Sweet were such walks on the half-barren wild,
Which ploughs leave quiet with their briars and brakes,
Prospects of freedom pleasing from a child,
To track the crook'd path which the rabbit makes!
On these past times one loves to look behind;
Nor lives a soul, mere trifles as they be,
But feels a joy in bringing to his mind
The wild-flower rambles of his infancy.

Tis sweet to view, as in a favour'd book,
Life's rude beginning page long turned o'er;
'Tis nature's common feeling, back to look
On things that pleas'd us, when they are no more:
Pausing on childish scenes a wish repeat,
Seeming more sweet to value when we're men,
As one, awaken'd from a vision sweet,
Wishes to sleep and dream it o'er again.

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