Cowper Green.

A poem by John Clare

Now eve's hours hot noon succeed;
And day's herald, wing'd with speed,
Flush'd with summer's ruddy face,
Hies to light some cooler place.
Now industry her hand has dropt,
And the din of labour's stopt:
All is silent, free from care,
The welcome boon of night to share.

Pleas'd I wander from the town,
Pester'd by the selfish clown,
Whose talk, though spun the night about,
Hogs, cows, and horses spin it out.
Far from these, so low, so vain,
Glad I wind me down the lane,
Where a deeper gloom pervades
'Tween the hedges' narrow shades;
Where a mimic night-hour spreads,
'Neath the ash-grove's meeting heads.
Onward then I glad proceed,
Where the insect and the weed
Court my eye, as I pursue
Something curious, worthy view:
Chiefly, though, my wanderings bend
Where the groves of ashes end,
And their ceasing lights the scene
O thy lov'd prospect, Cowper Green!

Though no rills with sandy sweep
Down thy shaggy borders creep,
Save as when thy rut-gull'd lanes
Run little brooks with hasty rains;
Though no yellow plains allow
Food on thee for sheep or cow;
Where on list'ning ears so sweet
Fall the mellow low and bleat,
Greeting, on eve's dewy gale,
Resting-fold and milking-pail;
Though not these adorn thy scene,
Still I love thee, Cowper Green!
Some may praise the grass-plat whims,
Which the gard'ner weekly trims;
And cut-hedge and lawn adore,
Which his shears have smoothen'd o'er:
But give me to ponder still
Nature, when she blooms at will,
In her kindred taste and joy,
Wildness and variety;
Where the furze has leave to wreathe
Its dark prickles o'er the heath;
Where the grey-grown hawthorns spread
Foliag'd houses o'er one's head;
By the spoiling ax untouch'd,
Where the oak tree, gnarl'd and notch'd,
Lifts its deep-moss'd furrow'd side,
In nature's grandeur, nature's pride.
Such is still my favour'd scene,
When I seek thee, Cowper Green!
And full pleas'd would nature's child
Wander o'er thy narrow wild:
Marking well thy shaggy head,
Where uncheck'd the brambles spread;
Where the thistle meets the sight,
With its down-head, cotton-white;
And the nettle, keen to view,
And hemlock with its gloomy hue;
Where the henbane too finds room
For its sickly-stinking bloom;
And full many a nameless weed,
Neglected, left to run to seed,
Seen but with disgust by those
Who judge a blossom by the nose.
Wildness is my suiting scene,
So I seek thee, Cowper Green!

Still thou ought'st to have thy meed.
To show thy flower as well as weed.
Though no fays, from May-day's lap,
Cowslips on thee care to drop;
Still does nature yearly bring
Fairest heralds of the spring:
On thy wood's warm sunny side
Primrose blooms in all its pride;
Violets carpet all thy bowers:
And anemone's weeping flowers,
Dyed in winter's snow and rime,
Constant to their early time,
White the leaf-strewn ground again,
And make each wood a garden then.
Thine's full many a pleasing bloom
Of blossoms lost to all perfume:
Thine the dandelion flowers,
Gilt with dew, like suns with showers;
Hare-bells thine, and bugles blue,
And cuckoo-flowers all sweet to view;
Thy wild-woad on each road we see;
And medicinal betony,
By thy woodside-railing, reeves
With antique mullein's flannel-leaves.
These, though mean, the flowers of waste,
Planted here in nature's haste,
Display to the discerning eye
Her loved, wild variety:
Each has charms in nature's book
I cannot pass without a look.
And thou hast fragrant herbs and seed,
Which only garden's culture need:
Thy horehound tufts I love them well,
And ploughman's spikenard's spicy smell;
Thy thyme, strong-scented 'neath one's feet,
Thy marjoram-beds, so doubly sweet;
And pennyroyals creeping twine:
These, each succeeding each, are thine,
Spreading o'er thee wild and gay,
Blessing spring, or summer's day.
As herb, flower, weed adorn thy scene,
Pleas'd I seek thee Cowper Green.

And I oft zigzag me round
Thy uneven, heathy ground;
Here a knoll and there a scoop
Jostling down and clambering up,
Which the sandman's delving spade
And the pitman's pix have made;
Though many a year has o'er thee roll'd,
Since the grass first hid the mold;
And many a hole has delv'd thee still,
Since peace cloth'd each mimic hill:
Where the pitmen often find
Antique coins of various kind;
And, 'neath many a loosen'd block,
Unlid coffins in the rock,
Casting up the skull and bone
Heedless, as one hurls a stone:
Not a thought of battles by,
Bloody times of chivalry,
When each country's kingly lord
'Gainst his neighbour drew his sword;
And on many a hidden scene,
Now a hamlet, field, or green,
Waged his little bloody fight
To keep his freedom and his right:
And doubtless such was once the scene
Of thee, time-shrouded Cowper Green!
O how I love a glimpse to see
Of hoary, bald antiquity;
And often in my musings sigh,
Where'er such relics; meet my eye,
To think that history's early page
Should yield to black oblivion's rage;
And e'en without a mention made,
Resign them to his deadly shade;
Leaving conjecture but to pause,
That such and such might be the cause.

'Tis sweet the fragments to explore,
Time's so kind to keep in store;
Wrecks the cow-boy often meets
On the mole-hills' thymy seats,
When, by careless pulling weeds,
Chance unbares the shining beads,
That to tasteful minds display
Relics of the Druid day;
Opening on conjecturing eyes
Some lone hermit's paradise.
Doubtless oft, as here it might,
Where such relics meet the sight,
On that self-same spot of ground
Where the cowboy's beads are found,
Hermits, fled from worldly care,
May have moss'd a cottage there;
Liv'd on herbs that there abound,
Food and physic doubly found;
Herbs, that have existence still
In every vale, on every hill,--
Whose virtues only in them died,
As rural life gave way to pride.
Doubtless too oblivion's blot
Blacks some sacred lonely spot,
As "Cowper Green!" in thee it may,
That once was thine in later day:
Thou mightst hide thy pilgrim then
From the plague of worldly men;
Thou mightst here possess thy cells,
Wholesome herbs, and pilgrim-wells;
And doubtlessly this very seat,
This thyme-capt hill beneath one's feet,
Might be, or nearly so, the spot
On which arose his lonely cot;
And on that existing bank,
Clothed in its sedges rank,
Grass might grow, and mosses spread,
That thatch'd his roof, and made his bed:
Yes, such might be; and such l love
To think and fancy, as I rove
O'er thy wood-encircled hill,
Like a world-shunning pilgrim still.

Now the dew-mists faster fall,
And the night her gloomy pall
Black'ning flings 'tween earth and sky,
Hiding all things from the eye;
Nor broken seam, nor thin-spun screen,
The moon can find to peep between:
Now thy unmolested grass,
Untouch'd even by the ass,
Spindled up its destin'd height,
Far too sour for sheep to bite,
Drooping hangs each feeble joint
With a glass nob on its point:--
Fancy now shall leave the scene,
And bid good-night to Cowper Green.

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'Cowper Green.' by John Clare

comments powered by Disqus