Maying; Or, A Love Of Flowers

A poem by John Clare

Upon a day, a merry day,
When summer in her best,
Like Sunday belles, prepares for play,
And joins each merry guest,
A maid, as wild as is a bird
That never knew a cage,
Went out her parents' kine to herd,
And Jocky, as her page,

Must needs go join her merry toils;

A silly shepherd he,
And little thought the aching broils
That in his heart would be;
For he as yet knew nought of love,
And nought of love knew she;
Yet without learning love can move
The wildest to agree.

The wind, enamoured of the maid,
Around her drapery swims,
And moulds in luscious masquerade
Her lovely shape and limbs.
Smith's "Venus stealing Cupid's bow"
In marble hides as fine;
But hers were life and soul, whose glow
Makes meaner things divine.

In sooth she was a lovely toy--
A worship-moving thing
As ever brought the season joy,
Or beautified the Spring;
So sweet a thing no heart might hurt,
Gay as a butterfly;
Tho' Cupid chased 'twas half in sport--
He meant not to destroy.

When speaking, words with breathing grace
Her sweet lips seeming wooed,
Pausing to leave so sweet a place
Ere they could part for good--
Those lips that pouted from her face,
As the wild rose bursts the bud
Which June, so eager to embrace,
Tempts from beneath its hood.

Her eyes, like suns, did seem to light
The beauties of her face,
Suffusing all her forehead white
And cheeks of rosy grace,
Her bosom swelled to pillows large,
Till her so taper waist
Scarce able seemed to bear the charge
Of each lawn-bursting breast.

A very flower! how she did shine.
Her beauty all displaying!
In truth this modern Proserpine
Might set the angels maying,
As, like a fairy mid the flowers,
She flew to this, now that;
And some she braided in her hair--
Some wreathed within her hat.

Then oft she skipt, in bowers to hide,
By Cupid led, I ween,
Putting her bosom's lawn aside,
To place some thyme at ween.
The shepherd saw her skin so white--
Two twin suns newly risen:
Tho' love had chained him there till night,
Who would have shunned the prison?

Then off again she skipt, and flew
With foot so light and little
That Cinderella's fancy shoe
Had fit her to a tittle.
The shepherd's heart, like playing coal,
Beat as 't would leave the socket:
He sighed, but thought it, silly fool,
The watch within his pocket.

But bold in love grow silly sheep,
And so right bold grew he;
He ran; she fled; and at bo-peep
She met him round a tree.
A thorn, enamoured like the swain.
Caught at her lily arm.
And then good faith, to ease her pain,
Love had a double charm.

She sighed; he wished it well, I wis;
The place was sadly swollen;
And then he took a willing kiss,
And made believe 't was stolen;
Then made another make-believe,
Till thefts grew past concealing,
For when love once begins to thieve
There grows no end to stealing.

They played and toyed till down the skies
The sun had taken flight,
And still a sun was in her eyes
To keep away the night;
And there he talked of love so well,
Or else he talked so ill,
That soon the priest was sought to tell
The story better still.

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