Narrative Verses, Written After An Excursion From Helpstone To Burghley Park

A poem by John Clare

The faint sun tipt the rising ground,
No blustering wind, the air was still;
The blue mist, thinly scatter'd round,
Verg'd along the distant hill:
Delightful morn! from labour free
I jocund met the south-west gale,
While here and there a busy bee
Humm'd sweetly o'er the flow'ry vale.

O joyful morn! on pleasure bent,
Down the green slopes and fields I flew;
And through the thickest covert went,
Which hid me from the public view:
Nor was it shame, nor was it fear,
No, no, it was my own dear choice;
I love the briary thicket, where
Echo keeps her mocking voice.

The sun's increasing heat was kind,
His warm beams cheer'd the vales around:
I left my own fields far behind,
And, pilgrim-like, trod foreign ground;
The glowing landscape's charms I caught,
Where'er I look'd or wander'd o'er,
And every wood and field methought
A greener, brighter prospect wore.

Delicious morn! thou'lt always find,
When even pastime intervenes,
A vacant opening in my mind
To think and cherish thy fond scenes;
Though no huge rock approach'd my sight,
Nor lofty mountain rear'd its head,
Enough for wonder and delight
All around my path was spread.

Sometimes musing on the sky,
Then list'ning to the waterfall,
Now marking sunbeams mounted high
Glistening shine on Walkherd hall--
Thus I often made a stand,
Thus I mark'd each curious spot,
And, seemingly to court my hand,
I now and then a cowslip got.

But, Barnack Simmons, thine's the place,
Where antique forms are dimly shewn;
There, o'er thy moss-grown hills, I trace
Scenes which never will be known:
The deep-sunk moat, the stony mound,
Brought o'er my mind a pensive fit;
But "ah," thought I, while looking round,
"Their heads don't ache that made yon pit."

O thou long-remember'd morn,
How blest was I in these dear vales,
When snugly hid beneath the thorn
I mus'd o'er Bloomfield's "Rural Tales:"
And there, sweet bard! thy "forest-song,"
Describ'd with energy sublime,
Fraught with such music, charm'd my tongue,
And turn'd my simple thoughts to rhyme.

Thus ever varying my mind,
Ever running like the rill,
Soon I left these scenes behind
In quest of others brighter still;
Yet not for ever! no, ye vales,
I love your pleasant shades too well,
And often since to view your dales
I've brush'd along the upland swell.

Now nothing, save a running stream,
For awhile my eye engag'd,
Whose plaintive murmurs sooth'd my dream,
And all aspiring thoughts assuag'd;
Now, when near its mossy bank,
I well remember how I lay,
Stretching o'er the oaken plank
To see the dancing beetles play.

Though the stranger passing by
Scarcely gave a single look,
Yet for a whole day could I lie
And pore upon this little brook;
Well pleas'd to view its winding rounds,
And see the eddying purls it made,
But still its daisy-skirted bounds,
Like "Barnham water," want a shade.

The passing hours jogg'd on apace,
And in their progress seem'd to say
"Haste, and gain that destin'd place,
Or soon thou'lt lose the flitting day:"
I instantly obey'd their call,
Nor went to where the footpath lay,
But clamber'd o'er an old rough wall,
And stole across the nearest way.

No spire I caught, nor woody swell,
My eye confin'd to lower bounds,
Yet not to mark the flowret's bell,
But watch the owners of the grounds;
Their presence was my only fear,
No boughs to shield me if they came,
And soon amid my rash career
I deem'd such trespassing to blame.

For troubled thoughts began to rise,
Of ills almost beyond relief
Which might from this one cause arise,
And leave me then to want reprief;
So arguing with myself how vain
An afterthought, "still to keep free"
Made me to seek the road again,
And own the force of liberty.

For oh, its unabated power
Did then my breast with raptures fill,
And sure it was a happy hour
That led me up to Barnack hill;
There uncontroll'd I knew no bounds,
But look'd o'er villages a crowd,
And cots and spires to farthest rounds,
While far trees seem'd a misty cloud?

When tir'd with such far-stretching views,
I left the green hill's sideling slope,
But O so tempting was the muse,
She made me wish, she made me hope;
I wish'd and hoped that future days
(For scenes prophetic fill'd my breast)
Would grant to me a crown of bays
By singing maids and shepherds drest.

These for awhile gave such delight,
And occupied my mind so strong,
That not one view could tempt my sight,
But all unheeded pass'd along;
Save only when that destin'd place,
As yet unknown, though long endear'd,
Enrich'd with many a nameless grace,
Through fancy's flitting eye appear'd.

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