A poem by John Clare

Ah, little did I think in time that's past,
By summer burnt, or numb'd by winter's blast,
Delving the ditch a livelihood to earn,
Or lumping corn out in a dusty barn;
With aching bones returning home at night,
And sitting down with weary hand to write;
Ah, little did I think, as then unknown,
Those artless rhymes I even blush'd to own
Would be one day applauded and approv'd,
By learning notic'd, and by genius lov'd.
God knows, my hopes were many, but my pain
Damp'd all the prospect which I hop'd to gain;
I hardly dar'd to hope.--Thou corner-chair,
In which I've oft slung back in deep despair,
Hadst thou expression, thou couldst easy tell
The pains and all that I have known too well:
'Twould be but sorrow's tale, yet still 'twould be
A tale of truth, and passing sweet to me.
How oft upon my hand I've laid my head,
And thought how poverty deform'd our shed;
Look'd on each parent's face I fain had cheer'd,
Where sorrow triumph'd, and pale want appear'd;
And sigh'd, and hop'd, and wish'd some day would come,
When I might bring a blessing to their home,--
That toil and merit comforts had in store,
To bid the tear defile their cheeks no more.
Who that has feelings would not wish to be
A friend to parents, such as mine to me,
Who in distress broke their last crust in twain,
And though rant pinch'd, the remnant broke again,
And still, if craving of their scanty bread,
Gave their last mouthful that I might be fed?
Nor for their own wants tear-drops follow'd free,
Worse anguish stung--they had no more for me.
And now hope's sun is looking brighter out,
And spreading thin the clouds of fear and doubt,
That long in gloomy sad suspense to me
Hid the long-waited smiles I wish'd to see.
And now, my parents, helping you is sweet,--
The rudest havoc fortune could complete;
A piteous couple, little blest with friends,
Where pain and poverty have had their ends.
I'll be thy crutch, my father, lean on me;
Weakness knits stubborn while its bearing thee:
And hard shall fall the shock of fortune's frown,
To eke thy sorrows ere it breaks me down.
My mother, too, thy kindness shall be met,
And ere I'm able will I pay the debt;
For what thou'st done, and what gone through for me,
My last-earn'd sixpence will I break with thee:
And when my dwindled sum won't more divide,
Then take it all--to fate I'll leave the rest;
In helping thee I'll always feel a pride,
Nor think I'm happy till ye both are blest.

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