A poem by John Clare

Nature, thou accept the song,
To thee the simple lines belong,
Inspir'd as brushing hill and dell
I stroll'd the way to Holywell.
Though 'neath young April's watery sky,
The sun gleam'd warm, and roads were dry;
And though the valleys, bush, and tree
Still naked stood, yet on the lea
A flush of green, and fresh'ning glow
In melting patches 'gan to show
That swelling buds would soon again
In summer's livery bless the plain.
The thrushes too 'gan clear their throats,
And got by heart some two 'r three notes
Of their intended summer-song,
To cheer me as I stroll'd along.
The wild heath triumph'd in its scenes
Of goss and ling's perpetual greens;
And just to say that spring was come,
The violet left its woodland home,
And, hermit-like, from storms and wind
Sought the best shelter it could find,
'Neath long grass banks, with feeble powers
Peeping faintly purple flowers:
While oft unhous'd from beds of ling
The fluskering pheasant took to wing;
And bobbing rabbits, wild and shy,
Their white tails glancing on the eye,
Just prick'd their long ears list'ning round,
And sought their coverts under-ground.
The heath was left, and then at will
A road swept gently round the hill,
From whose high crown, as soodling by,
A distant prospect cheer'd my eye,
Of closes green and fallows brown;
And distant glimpse of cot and town;
And steeple beck'ning on the sight,
By morning sun-beams painted white;
And darksome woods with shadings sweet,
To make the landscape round complete;
And distant waters glist'ning by,
As if the ground were patch'd with sky:
While on the blue horizon's line
The far-off things did dimly shine,
Which wild conjecture only sees,
And fancy moulds to clouds and trees,
Thinking, if thither she could fly,
She'd find the close of earth and sky;
But as we turn to look again
On nearer objects, wood and plain
(So truths than fiction lovelier seem,)
One warms as wak'ning from a dream.
From covert hedge, on either side,
The blackbirds flutter'd terrified,
Mistaking me for pilfering boy
That doth too oft their nests destroy;
And "prink, prink, prink," they took to wing,
In snugger shades to build and sing.
From tufted grass or bush, the hare
Oft sprung from her endanger'd lair;
Surprise was startled on her rout,
So near one's feet she bolted out.
The sun each tree-top mounted o'er,
And got church-steeple height or more:
And as I soodled on and on,
The ground was warm to look upon,
it e'en invited one to rest,
And have a nap upon its breast;
But thought upon my journey's end,
Where doubtful fancies did depend,
Urg'd on my lazy feet to roam,
Like truant school-boy kept from home.
I ope'd each gate with idle swing,
And stood to listen ploughmen sing;
While cracking whip and jingling gears
Recall'd the toils of boyish years,
When, like to them, I took my rounds
O'er elting moulds of fallow grounds,--
With feet nigh shoeless, paddling through
The bitterest blasts that ever blew;
And napless beaver, weather'd brown,
That want oft wore without its crown:
A poor, unfriended, ragged boy,
Prest ere a child with man's employ.
'Tis past--'tis gone!--in musings lost
So thought I, leaning o'er the post;
And even jump'd with joy to see
Kind fate so highly favour me,--
To clear the storms of boyish hours,
And manhood's opening strew with flowers;
To bid such hopes man's summer blow,
As boy's weak spring dare never sow;
And every day desires, at will,
To make each hope bloom brighter still.
With joys as sweet as heart could melt,
With feelings dear as e'er were felt,
I met at last, as like a spell,
The 'witching views of Holywell;
Where hills tower'd high their crowns with pride,
And vales dropp'd headlong by their side,
Bestriped with shades of green and gray,
The fir-tree and the naked spray;
While, underneath their mingling grains,
The river silver'd down the plains,
And bolted on the stranger's sight,
As stars blink out from clouds at night.
Beside the stream a cotter's shed
Low in the hollow heav'd its head:
Its tenants seem'd as snug to dwell
As lives a bee within its cell;
Its chimney-top high ash embowers;
Beside its wall the river pours
Its guggling sounds in whirling sweep,
That e'en might lull a child to sleep.
Before the door, with paths untraced,
The green-sward many a beauty graced;
And daisy there, and cowslip too,
And buttercups of golden hue,
The children meet as soon as sought,
And gain their wish as soon as thought:
Who oft I ween, the children's way,
Will leap the threshold's bounds to play,
And spite of parent's chiding calls
Will straggle where the water falls,
And 'neath the hanging bushes creep
For violet-bud and primrose-peep,
And sigh with anxious, eager dream,
For water-blobs amid the stream;
And up the hill-side turn anon,
To pick the daisies one by one:
Then anxious to their cottage bound,
To show the prize their searches found,
Whose medley flowers, red, white, and blue,
As well can please their parents too;
And as their care and skill contrive,
In flower-pots many a day survive.

Ah, thus conjecturing, musing still,
I cast a look from off the hill,
And loll'd me 'gainst a propping tree,
And thought for them as 'twas with me:
I did the same in April time,
And spoilt the daisy's earliest prime;
Robb'd every primrose root I met,
And oft-times got the root to set;
And joyful home each nosegay bore;
And felt--as I shall feel no more.

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'Holywell.' by John Clare

comments powered by Disqus