Sunday Walks.

A poem by John Clare

How fond the rustic's ear at leisure dwells
On the soft soundings of his village bells,
As on a Sunday morning at his ease
He takes his rambles, just as fancies please,
Down narrow balks that intersect the fields,
Hid in profusion that its produce yields:
Long twining peas, in faintly misted greens;
And wing'd-leaf multitudes of crowding beans;
And flighty oatlands of a lighter hue;
And speary barley bowing down with dew;
And browning wheat-ear, on its taper stalk,
With gentle breezes bending o'er the balk,
Greeting the parting hand that brushes near
With patting welcomes of a plenteous year.
Or narrow lanes, where cool and gloomy-sweet
Hedges above-head in an arbour meet,
Meandering down, and resting for awhile
Upon a moss-clad molehill or a stile;
While every scene that on his leisure crowds,
Wind-waving valleys and light passing clouds,
In brighter colours seems to meet the eye,
Than in the bustle of the days gone by.
A peaceful solitude around him creeps,
And nature seemly o'er her quiet sleeps;
No noise is heard, save sutherings through the trees
Of brisk wind gushes, or a trembling breeze;
And song of linnets in the hedge-row thorn,
Twittering their welcomes to the day's return;
And hum of bees, where labour's doom'd to stray
In ceaseless bustle on his weary way:
And low of distant cattle here and there,
Seeking the stream, or dropping down to lair;
And bleat of sheep, and horses' playful neigh,
From rustic's whips, and plough, and waggon, free,
Baiting in careless freedom o'er the leas,
Or turn'd to knap each other at their ease.
While 'neath the bank on which he rests his head
The brook mourns drippling o'er its pebbly bed,
And whimpers soothingly a calm serene
O'er the lull'd comforts of a Sunday scene,
He ponders round, and muses with a smile
On thriving produce of his earlier toil;
What once were kernels from his hopper sown,
Now browning wheat-ears and oat-bunches grown,
And pea-pods swell'd, by blossoms long forsook,
And nearly ready for the scythe and hook:
He pores with wonder on the mighty change
Which suns and showers perform, and think it strange;
And though no philosophic reasoning draws
His musing marvels home to nature's cause,
A simple feeling in him turns his eye
To where the thin clouds smoke along the sky;
And there his soul consents the Power must reign
Who rules the year, and shoots the spindling grain,
Lights up the sun, and sprinkles rain below--
The fount of nature whence all causes flow.
Thus much the feeling of his bosom warms,
Nor seeks he further than his soul informs.

A six-days' prisoner, life's support to earn
From dusty cobwebs and the murky barn,
The weary thresher meets the rest that's given,
And thankful soothes him in the boon of heaven;
But happier still in Sabbath-walks he feels,
With love's sweet pledges poddling at his heels,
That oft divert him with their childish glee
In fruitless chases after bird and bee;
And, eager gathering every flower they pass
Of yellow lambtoe and the totter-grass,
Oft whimper round him disappointment's sigh
At sight of blossom that's in bloom too high,
And twitch his sleeve with all their coaxing powers
To urge his hand to reach the tempting flowers:
Then as he climbs, their eager hopes to crown,
On gate or stile to pull the blossoms down
Of pale hedge-roses straggling wild and tall,
And scrambling woodbines that outgrow them all,
He turns to days when he himself would teaze
His tender father for such toys as these,
And smiles with rapture, as he plucks the flowers,
To meet the feelings of those lovely hours,
And blesses Sunday's rest, whose peace at will
Retains a portion of those pleasures still.

But when the duty of the day's expir'd,
And priest and parish offer what's requir'd,
When godly farmer shuts his book again
To talk of profits from advancing grain,
Short memory keeping what the parson read,
Prayers 'neath his arm, and business in his head;
And, dread of boys, the clerk is left to close
The creaking church-door on its week's repose;
Then leave me Sunday's remnant to employ
In seeking sweets of solitary joy,
And lessons learning from a simple tongue,
Where nature preaches in a cricket's song;
Where every tiny thing that flies and creeps
Some feeble language owns, its prayer to raise;
Where all that lives, by noise or silence, keeps
A homely sabbath in its Maker's praise.

There, free from labour, let my musings stray
Where footpaths ramble from the public way
In quiet loneliness o'er many a scene,
Through grassy close, or grounds of blossom'd bean;
Oft winding balks where groves of willows spread
Their welcome waving shadows over-head,
And thorns beneath in woodbines often drest
Inviting strongly in their peace to rest;
Or wildly left to follow choice at will
O'er many a trackless vale and pathless hill,
Or, nature's wilderness, o'er heaths of goss,
Each footstep sinking ankle-deep in moss,
By pleasing interruptions often tied
A hedge to clamber or a brook to stride;
Where no approaching feet or noises rude
Molest the quiet of one's solitude,
Save birds, their song broke by a false alarm,
Through branches fluttering from their fancy'd harm;
And cows and sheep with startled low and bleat
Disturb'd from lair by one's unwelcome feet,--
The all that's met in Sunday's slumbering ease,
That adds to, more than checks the power to please.
And sweet it is to creep one's blinded way
Where woodland boughs shut out the smiles of day,
Where, hemm'd in glooms that scarce give leave to spy
A passing cloud or patch of purple sky,
We track, half hidden from the world besides,
Sweet hermit-nature that in woodlands hides;
Where nameless flowers that never meet the sun,
Like bashful modesty, the sight to shun,
Bud in their snug retreat, and bloom, and die,
Without one notice of a passing eye;
There, while I drop me in the woody waste
'Neath arbours Nature fashions to her taste,
Entwining oak-trees with the ivy's gloom
And woodbines propping over boughs to bloom,
And scallop'd briony mingling round her bowers
Whose fine bright leaves make up the want of flowers,--
With nature's minstrels of the woods let me,
Thou Lord of sabbaths, add a song to thee,
An humble offering for the holy day
Which thou most wise and graciously hast given,
As leisure dropt in labour's rugged way
To claim a passport with the rest to heaven.

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'Sunday Walks.' by John Clare

comments powered by Disqus