Rosy Jane.

A poem by John Clare

The eve put on her sweetest shroud,
The summer-dress she's often in,
Freck'd with white and purple cloud,
Dappled like a leopard's skin;
The martin, by the cotter's shed,
Had welcom'd eve with twittering song;
The blackbird sang the sun to bed,
Old Oxey's briery dells among:

When o'er the field tript rosy Jane,
Fair as the flowers she treaded on;
But she was gloomy for her swain,
Who long to fight the French had gone;
She milk'd, and sang her mournful song,
As, how an absent maid did moan,
Who for a soldier sorrowed long,
That went and left her, like her own.

Though dreadful drums had ceas'd their noise,
And peace proclaim'd returning Joe,
Delays so lingering dampt her joys,
And expectation nettled woe:
Hope, mix'd with fear and doubts the while,
Look'd for his coming every hour;
As one, when spring begins to smile,
Awaits the early opening flower.

With doubtful eyes we view the bud;
Though sweet the sun smiles on it then,
A blighting storm may tear the wood,
And blast our promises again:
With soldiers, danger's always near;
Poor Jane had deepest cause to sigh;--
To-day, peace smiles with little fear,
The next, war bursts, and Joe may die.

Each morn, from window of her cot,
Adown the road she strain'd her eye;
Each eve she wander'd to the spot
Where Joe had bid his last "Good bye;"
Where love had breath'd its last, last vow,
Where each their keep-sake trifles gave;
His prov'd love warm'd her bosom now,--
"This will I carry to my grave."

So said he, looking on the box
With poesy on the lid bespread;
So said he, while the curling locks
Her own hand sever'd from her head;
While she wip'd off the tear-drops free
With 'kerchief marked with his name,
And vow'd his ribbon then should be
Her Sunday head-dress till he came.

Thus Jenny's heart was drooping sad;
Her hopes and fears were then at strife,
Lest false should prove her soldier-lad,
And home return with foreign wife:
Yet the last oath her love had ta'en
Would hearten up her soul awhile,--
'Should war return me safe to Jane,
No maid on earth shall me beguile."

Thus Jane sat milking, full of thought,
As doubtful how the case might prove:
--'Luck comes unlook'd for and unsought,'
So gossips say of wealth and love:
How true their wisdom turneth out,
How oft fulfill'd we little know;
But Jane proves once, without a doubt,
What dames oft told to soothe her woe.

Old Joe the woodman, with his kid,
Went home as warn'd the setting sun;
And stand and rest he often did,
To talk with Jane about his son:
True to his sunset-clock he kept,
His Goody and his cot to find,
When strange to say, with strutting step,
To-night a soldier skipt behind.

His jacket shone so red, so gay
His feather o'er his cap did hing,
And in the fine genteelly way
He'd learn'd his ribbon'd cane to swing:
Unus'd to see the flashing sight,
The startled thrush broke off her strain;
The sheep forgot their grass to bite,
And stared up at the passing swain.

Jane's 'skewing cow was struck with fear,
And kick'd the milkpail on the ground,
Which made her shed another tear,
To think she nought but sorrow found;
But woodman Joe revers'd the plan,
And bawl'd, "My wench, ne'er mind your fall:
Dry up your tears; I bring the man
Shall hide your loss, and pay for all."

Ah, sure enough, 'twas him she wist;
She 'member'd well the face of Joe,
And almost swooned while he kiss'd,
So sudden pleasure banish'd woe:
"My Jane," he cried, "thy tears dry up;"
His heart with love was beating warm,
He took the empty milkpail up,
And led her homeward on his arm.

Old Joe stumpt 'hind them on the road,
Heart-lighten'd from war-breeding woes,
And when the son begg'd take his load,
He said the sticks would spoil his clothes:
Since he so happy went from toil,
'Twas many a long and weary day;
And, stumping on, would often smile
To think what dame at home would say.

The swain was busied all the way
To tell his Jane of all he'd seen,
And talk about the parting day,
When last they met upon the green;
And show the 'bacco box the while,
And to the parting vow refer,
And hint, when absent many a mile,
How such things made him think of her.

And still her lock of hair he'd got,
And near his heart the prize possess'd;
But Jenny's wonder knew it not,
Weav'd in a brooch upon his breast:
His wisdom fill'd her with surprise,
Since he had left his ploughs and carts;
She thought, than home-bred louts, how wise
The people were in foreign parts.

Ere half-way home Joe had her led,
With eager speed each passing swain
The news around the village spread,
"Jane's sweetheart Joe's return'd again!"
Old Goody stopt her wheel, and smil'd,
And sought her cloke 'tween joy and pain,
And took her stick, to meet her child
She little hoped to see again.

Ah, come and gone were many years
Since Joe with soldiers took his quart,
And laugh'd to scorn his mother's tears,--
That thorny thought still prick'd his heart:
Poor tottering soul, her head was grey,
And grief and age had wrink'd her brow,
So alter'd since his parting day,
He hardly knew his mother now.

But tear-drops ready stood to start
At whispering nature's warm command,
"O, here's my mother!" leapt his heart--
He instant grasp'd her trembling hand:
O'ercome with joy, "My boy!" she said,
And on his propping arm reclin'd,
"Death now may come without a dread,
I've found the all I wish'd to find."

That night around the cottage hearth
Did meet the friends of maid and swain,
And every heart was fill'd with mirth,
And blest I ween were Joe and Jane:
Though Joe's old folks did lowly prove,
And Jane's could boast cows, ploughs, and carts,
They said they'd ne'er control her love,
But wish'd them joy with all their hearts.

Joe told the wonder that he knew,
And all the dangers of the wars;
And then, to prove his story true,
Unbrac'd his coat to show his scars:
The old folks saw, and blest their child;
Each drank to the intended bride,
And brought her milk-loss up, and smil'd,
And wish'd no worse luck might betide.

Next day being Sunday, folks believ'd
They would be ask'd at church that day;
But Joe the gossips' thoughts deceiv'd,
And brought it in a nearer way:
He long ago did ring provide,
And wealth in dangerous wars had ta'en,
So he with licence bought his bride,
And crown'd the bliss of rosy Jane.

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