William And Robin.

A poem by John Clare

When I meet Peggy in my morning walk,
She first salutes the morn, then stays to talk:
The biggest secret she will not refuse,
But freely tells me all the village-news;
And pleas'd am I, can I but haply force
Some new-made tale to lengthen the discourse,
For--O so pleasing is her company,
That hours, like minutes, in her presence fly!
I'm happy then, nor can her absence e'er
Raise in my heart the least distrust or fear.

When Mary meets me I find nought to say,
She hangs her head, I turn another way;
Sometimes (but never till the maid's gone by)
"Good morning!" faulters, weaken'd by a sigh;
Confounded I remain, but yet delight
To look back on her till she's out of sight.
Then, then's the time that absence does torment:
I jeer my weakness, painfully repent,
To think how well I might have then confest
That secret love which makes me so distrest:
But, when the maiden's vanish'd for a while,
Recruited hopes my future hours beguile:
I fancy then another time I'll tell,
Which, if not better, will be quite as well;
Thus days, and weeks, and months I've dallied o'er,
And am no nearer than I was before.

Such ways as these I ever strove to shun,
Nor was I bashful when I first begun:
Freely I offer'd posies to the maid,
Which she as freely with her smiles repaid;
Yet had I been, like you, afraid to own
My love--her kindness had been still unknown.
And, now the maiden's kindness to requite,
I strive to please her morning, noon, and night:
The garland and the wreath for her I bind,
Compos'd of all the fairest I can find;
For her I stop the straggler going astray,
And watch her sheep when she's not in the way;
I fetch them up at night, and shift the pen,
And in the morning let them out again:
For her in harvest when the nuts are brown,
I take my crook to pull the branches down;
And up the trees that dismally hang o'er
The deep black pond, where none durst go before,
I heedless climb, as free from fear as now,
And snatch the clusters from the topmost bough;
Well pleas'd to risk such dangers that can prove
How much her William does his Peggy love.

I search the meadows, and as well as you
I bind up posies, and sweet garlands too;
And if I unawares can hear exprest
What flower she fancies finer than the rest,
Grow where it will, I search the fields about,
And search for't daily till I find it out;
And when I've found it--oh--what tongue can tell
The fears and doubts which in my bosom swell:
The schemes contriving, and the plans I lay,
How I to her the garland may convey,
Are various indeed;--sometimes I start,
Resolv'd to tell the secret of my heart,
Vowing to make the gather'd garland prove
How much I languish, and how much I love:
But soon resolves and vows allay their heat,
And timid weakness re-assumes her seat.
The garland then, which I so painful sought,
Instantly seems as if 'twere good for nought:
"Ah, gaudy thing!" I sigh, "will Mary wear
Such foolish lumber in her auburn hair?"
Thus doubts and fears each other thought confound,
And, thus perplex'd, I throw it on the ground--
Walk from't, distrest--in pensive silence mourn,
Then plan a scheme, and back again return:
Once more the garland in my hand I take,
And of the best a smaller posy make,
Resting assur'd that such a nosegay will
To gain her favour prove a better still,
And then my hopeful heart's from grief reviv'd;
By this new plan, so seeming well-contriv'd;
So off I go, and gain the spot--ah, then
I sneak along--my heart misgives again,
And as I nearer draw, "Well now," thinks I,
" I'll not speak to her, but pass silent by:"
Then from my coat that precious gift I take,
Which I beforehand treasur'd for her sake;
And after all my various scheming so,
The flowers, as worthless, to the ground I throw.
And then, if getting through the hedge-bound plain,
Having no sense to find the same again,
Her little lambkins raise a piteous cry,
Calling for help--whether far off or nigh
It matters not, can I but hear their moan,
(Of her's more tender am I than my own,)
The journey's nought at all, no steps I grudge,
But with great pleasure to their aid I trudge;
Yet this is never to the maiden known,
Nor ever done save only when alone,
Fearing from it that other swains should prove,
Or she herself, the favour to be love.
Though in her absence I so fond appear,
Yet when she's there I'm careless, as it were;
Nor can I have the face, although my mind
At the same time's most willingly inclin'd,
To do the least kind act at all for her,
Nor join the tale where she does interfere.
If from her looks a smile I e'er obtain,
I feel o'erjoy'd but never smile again;
And when I hear the swains her beauty praise,
And try with artful, fond, alluring ways
To snatch the posy from her swelling breast,
And loose the ribbon round her slender waist,
Then more familiar touch her curling hair,
And praise her beauty as beyond compare;
At this sad pain around my heart will sting,
But I ne'er look, nor tell a single thing.

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