A poem by John Clare

The Sabbath-day, of every day the best,
The poor mans happiness, a poor man sings;
When labour has no claim to break his rest,
And the light hours fly swift on easy wings.
What happiness this holy morning brings,
How soft its pleasures on his senses steal;
How sweet the village-bells' first warning rings;
And O how comfortable does he feel,
When with his family at ease he takes his early meal.

The careful wife displays her frugal hoard,
And both partake in comfort though they're poor;
While love's sweet offsprings crowd the lowly board,
Their little likenesses in miniature.
Though through the week he labour does endure,
And weary limbs oft cause him to complain,
This welcome morning always brings a cure;
It teems with joys his soul to entertain,
And doubly sweet appears the pleasure after pain.

Ah, who call tell the bliss, from labour freed,
His leisure meeteth on a Sunday morn,
Fix'd in a chair, some godly book to read,
Or wandering round to view the crops of corn,
In best clothes fitted out, and beard new shorn;
Dropping adown in some warm shelter'd dell,
With six days' labour weak and weary worn;
List'ning around each distant chiming bell,
That on the soft'ning breeze melodiously doth swell.

And oft he takes his family abroad
In short excursions o'er the field and plain,
Marking each little object on his road,
An insect, sprig of grass, and ear of grain;
Endeavouring thus most simply to maintain
That the same Power that bids the mite to crawl,
That browns the wheat-lands in their summer-stain,
That Power which form'd the simple flower withal,
Form'd all that lives and grows upon this earthly ball.

The bell, when knoll'd its summons once and twice,
Now chimes in concert, calling all to prayers;
The rustic boy that hankers after vice,
And of religion little knows or cares,
Scrapes up his marbles, and by force repairs,
Though dallying on till the last bell has rung:--
The good man there his book devoutly bears,
And often, as he walks the graves among,
Looks on the untravel'd dust from whence his being sprung.

The service ended, boys their play resume
In some snug corner from the parson's view,
And where the searching clerk forgets to come;
There they their games and rural sports pursue,
With chuck and marbles wearing Sunday through:
The poor man seeks his cottage-hearth again,
And brings his family the text to view
From which the parson's good discourse was ta'en,
Which with what skill he may he labours to explain.

Hail, sacred sabbath! hail, thou poor man's joy!
Thou oft hast been a comfort to my care,
When faint and weary with the week's employ
I met thy presence in my corner-chair,
Musing and bearing up with troubles there;
Thrice hail, thou heavenly boon! by God's decree
At first creation plann'd, that all might share,
Both man and beast, some hours from labour free,
To offer thanks to Him whose mercy sent us thee.

This day the field a sweeter clothing wears,
A Sunday scene looks brighter to the eye;
And hast'ning on to Monday morning's cares
With double speed the wing'd hour gallops by.
How swift the sun streaks down the western sky,
Scarcely perceiv'd till it begins to wane,
When ploughboys mark his setting with a sigh,
Dreading the morn's approaching hours with pain,
When capon's restless calls awake to toil again.

As the day closes on its peace and rest,
The godly man sits down and takes "the book,"
To close it in a manner deem'd the best;
And for a suiting chapter doth he look,
That may for comfort and a guide be took:
He reads of patient Job, his trials' thrall,
How men are troubled when by God forsook,
And prays with David to bear up with all;--
When sleep shuts up the scene, soft as the nightdews fall.

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