Recollections After A Ramble.

A poem by John Clare

The rosy day was sweet and young,
The clod-brown lark that hail'd the morn
Had just her summer anthem sung,
And trembling dropped in the corn;
The dew-rais'd flower was perk and proud,
The butterfly around it play'd;
The sky's blue clear, save woolly cloud
That pass'd the sun without a shade.

On the pismire's castle hill,
While the burnet-buttons quak'd,
While beside the stone-pav'd rill
Cowslip bunches nodding shak'd,
Bees in every peep did try,
Great had been the honey shower,
Soon their load was on their thigh,
Yellow dust as fine as flour.

Brazen magpies, fond of clack,
Full of insolence and pride,
Chattering on the donkey's back
Perch'd, and pull'd his shaggy hide;
Odd crows settled on the path,
Dames from milking trotting home
Said the sign foreboded wrath,
And shook their heads at ills to come.

While cows restless from the ground
Plung'd into the stream and drank,
And the rings went whirling round,
Till they touch'd the flaggy bank,
On the arch's wall I knelt,
Curious, as I often did,
To see the words the sculpture spelt,
But the moss its letters hid.

Labour sought the water cool,
And stretching took a hearty sup,
The fish were playing in the pool,
And turn'd their milk-white bellies up;
Clothes laid down behind a bush
Boys were wading near the path,
Deeply did the maiden blush
As she pass'd the merry bath.

Some with lines the fish to catch,
Quirking boys let loose from school,
Others side the hedge-row watch,
Where the linnet took the wool:
'Tending Hodge had slept too fast,
While his cattle stray'd abroad,
Swift the freed horse gallop'd past,
Pattering down the stony road.

The gipsies' tune was loud and strong,
As round the camp they danc'd a jig,
And much I lov'd the brown girl's song,
While list'ning on the wooden brig;
The shepherd, he was on his rounds,
The dog stopt short to lap the stream,
And jingling in the fallow grounds
The ploughman urg'd his reeking team.

Often did I stop to gaze
On each spot once dear to me,
Known 'mong those remember'd days
Of banish'd, happy infancy:
Often did I view the shade
Where once a nest my eyes did fill,
And often mark'd the place I play'd
At "roly poly" down the hill.

In the wood's deep shade did stand,
As I pass'd, the sticking-troop;
And Goody begg'd a helping hand
To heave her rotten faggot up:
The riding-gate, sharp jerking round,
Follow'd fast my heels again,
While echo mock'd the clapping sound,
And "clap, clap," sang the woods amain.

The wood is sweet--I love it well,
In spending there my leisure hours,
To seek the snail its painted shell,
And look about for curious flowers;
Or 'neath the hazel's leafy thatch,
On a stulp or mossy ground,
Little squirrel's gambols watch,
Dancing oak trees round and round.

Green was the shade--I love the woods,
When autumn's wind is mourning loud,
To see the leaves float on the floods,
Dead within their yellow shroud:
The wood was then in glory spread--
I love the browning bough to see
That litters autumn's dying bed--
Her latest sigh is dear to me.

'Neath a spreading shady oak
For awhile to muse I lay;
From its grains a bough I broke,
To fan the teasing flies away:
Then I sought the woodland side,
Cool the breeze my face did meet,
And the shade the sun did hide;
Though 'twas hot, it seemed sweet.

And as while I clomb the hill,
Many a distant charm I found;
Pausing on the lagging mill,
That scarcely mov'd its sails around:
Hanging o'er a gate or stile,
Till my curious eye did tire,
Leisure was employ'd awhile,
Counting many a peeping spire.

While the hot sun 'gan to wane,
Cooling glooms fast deep'ning still,
Refreshing greenness spread the plain,
As black clouds crept the southern hill;
Labour sought a sheltering place,
'Neath some thick wood-woven bower,
While odd rain-drops damp'd his face,
Heralds of the coming shower.

Where the oak-plank cross'd the stream,
Which the early-rising lass
Climbs with milk-pail gathering cream,
Crook'd paths tracking through the grass:
There, where willows hang their boughs,
Briars and blackthorns form'd a bower
Stunted thick by sheep and cows,--
There I stood to shun the shower.

Sweet it was to feel the breeze
Blowing cool without the sun,
Bumming gad-flies ceas'd to teaze,
All seem'd glad the shower to shun:
Sweet it was to mark the flower,
Rain-drops glist'ning on its head,
Perking up beneath the bower,
As if rising from the dead.

And full sweet it was to look,
How clouds misted o'er the hill,
Rain-drops how they dimp'd the brook,
Falling fast and faster still;
While the gudgeons darting by,
Cring'd 'neath water-grasses' shade,
Startling as each nimble eye
Saw the rings the dropples made.

And upon the dripping ground,
As the shower had ceas'd again,
As the eye was wandering round,
Trifling troubles caus'd a pain;
Overtaken in the shower,
Bumble-bees I wander'd by,
Clinging to The drowking flower,
Left without the power to fly:

And full often, drowning wet,
Scampering beetles rac'd away,
Safer shelter glad to get,
Flooded out from whence they lay:
While the moth, for night's reprief,
Waited safe and snug withal
'Neath the plantain's bowery leaf,
Where not e'en a drop could fall.

Then the clouds dispers'd again,
And full sweet it was to view
Sunbeams, trembling long in vain,
Now they 'gan to glimmer through:
And as labour strength regains
From ale's booning bounty given,
So reviv'd the fresh'ning plains
From the smiling showers of heaven.

Sweet the birds did chant their songs,
Blackbird, linnet, lark, and thrush;
Music from a many tongues
Melted from each dripping bush:
Deafen'd echo, on the plain,
As the sunbeams broke the cloud,
Scarce could help repeat the strain,
Nature's anthem flow'd so loud.

What a fresh'ning feeling came,
As the sun's smile gleam'd again;
Summer seem'd no more the same,
Such a mildness swept the plain;
Breezes, such as one would seek,
Cooling infants of the shower,
Fanning sweet the burning cheek,
Trembled through the bramble-bower.

Insects of mysterious birth
Sudden struck my wondering sight,
Doubtless brought by moisture forth,
Hid in knots of spittle white;
Backs of leaves the burthen bear,
Where the sunbeams cannot stray,
"Wood seers" call'd, that wet declare,
So the knowing shepherds say.

As the cart-rut rippled down
With the burden of the rain,
Boys came drabbling from the town,
Glad to meet their sports again;
Stopping up the mimic rills,
Till they forc'd their frothy bound,
Then the keck made water-mills
In the current whisk'd around.

Once again did memory pain
O'er the life she once had led;
Once did manhood wish again
Childish joys had never fled:
"Could I lay these woes aside
Which I long have murmur'd o'er,
Mix a boy with boys," I sigh'd,
"Fate should then be teas'd no more."

Hot the sun in summer warms,
Quick the roads dry o'er the plain:
Girls, with baskets on their arms,
Soon renew'd their sports again;
O'er the green they sought their play,
Where the cowslip-bunches grew,
Quick the rush-bent fann'd away,
As they danc'd and bounded through.

Some went searching by the wood,
Peeping 'neath the weaving thorn,
Where the pouch-lipp'd cuckoo-bud
From its snug retreat was torn;
Where the ragged-robin stood
With its pip'd stem streak'd with jet;
And the crow-flowers, golden hued,
Careless plenty easier met.

Some, with many an anxious pain
Childish wishes to pursue,
From the pond-head gaz'd in vain
On the flag-flower's yellow hue;
Smiling in its safety there,
Sleeping o'er its shadow'd bloom,
While the flood's triumphing care
Crimpled round its guarded home.

Then I stood to pause again;
Retrospection sigh'd and smil'd,
Musing, 'tween a joy and pain,
How I acted when a child;
When by clearing brooks I've been,
Where the painted sky was given,
Thinking, if I tumbled in,
I should fall direct to heaven.

Many an hour had come and gone
Since the town last met my eye,
Where, huge baskets mauling on,
Maids hung out their clothes to dry;
Granny there was on the bench,
Coolly sitting in the swail,
Stopping oft a love-sick wench,
To pinch her snuff, and hear her tale.

Be the journey e'er so mean,
Passing by a cot or tree,
In the rout there's something seen
Which the curious love to see;
In each ramble, taste's warm souls
More of wisdom's self can view,
Than blind ignorance beholds
All life's seven stages through.

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