The Village Minstrel.

A poem by John Clare


Introduction-Lubin's childhood-his Winter Amusements-Fairy Tales-His superstitious Fancies-Approach of Spring-Mayday-His Parents-Lubin described-Village-conversation--His Love of Nature-Summer Amusements-the Stockdove-Insects-Fairy Rings--Recollections of unhappy Incidents-Autumn-time-the Street-the Corn-field-Gleaners--old Women's Stories-Harvest-home-its Sports described-Harvest Supper--Autumn Scenes-Indications of approaching Winter-Apostrophe to Woman-The Statute described-Ballad-singers-Poor Sailor-" Civil Will"-Recruiting Serjeant-The Village Feast--the Dance-Rural Love-the Cotter and his Friends-his Soliloquy-Village Sports enumerated--Lubin in Solitude-the old Castle-Songs of Robin Hood-The Village Green enclosed--its former State contrasted with its present Appearance-Regret at the Change-Inclosure deprecated by the Peasantry-their Recollections of former Pleasures-The Gipsies' Camp- their Habits-Native Scenes in early Life-the universal Interest they excite-Effect on Lubin--Apostrophe to the dead Shepherds-His preference still in Home to other Places- Hopes and Fears-Anxiety for the Future-Resignation.


While learned poets rush to bold extremes,
And sunbeams snatch to light the muse's fires,
An humble rustic hums his lowly dreams,
Far in the shade where poverty retires,
And sings what nature and what truth inspires;
The charms that rise from rural scenery,
Which he in pastures and in woods admires;
The sports, the feelings of his infancy,
And such like artless things how mean soe'er they be.


Though far from what the learned's toils requite,
He unambitious looks at no renown,
Yet little hopes break his oblivious night,
To cheer the bosom of a luckless clown,
Where black neglect spreads one continual frown,
And threats her constant winter cold and chill;
Where toil and slavery bear each fancy down,
That fain would soar and sing "albeit ill,"
And force him to submit to fate's controlling will.


Young Lubin was a peasant from his birth;
His sire a hind born to the flail and plough,
To thump the corn out and to till the earth,
The coarsest chance which nature's laws allow,
To earn his living by a sweating brow;
Thus labour's early days did rugged roll,
Mixt with untimely toil-but e'en as now,
Ambitions prospects fired his little soul,
And fancy soared and sung, 'bove poverty's control.


Small joy to him were childhood's tempting tricks,
Which school-boys look for in their vacant hours;
With other boys he little cared to mix;
Joy left him lonely in his hawthorn bowers,
As haply binding up his knots of flowers,
Or list'ning unseen birds to hear them sing;
Or gazing downward where the runnel pours,
Through the moss'd bridge, in many a whirling ring;
How would he muse o'er all on pleasure's fairy wing.


The "I spy," "halloo," and the marble-ring,
And many a game that infancy employs,
The spinning-top whirl'd from the twitching string,
The boastful jump of strong exulting boys,
Their sports, their pastimes, all their pleasing toys
We leave unsung-though much such rural play
Would suit the theme-yet they're not Lubin's joys:
Truth breathes the song in Lubin's steps to stray,
Through woods, and fields, and plains, his solitary way;


And tell how vales and shades did please his sight,
And how the wind breath'd music thro' each bough,
And how in rural charms he did delight,-
To mark the shepherd's folds, and swains at plough,
And pasture speck'd with sheep, and horse, and cow,
With many a beauty that does intervene;
And steeple peeping o'er the wood's dark brow:
While young hope's fancy popt its smile between,
And wish'd man's days to spend in some such peaceful scene.


Each opening season, and each opening scene,
On his wild view still teem'd with fresh delight;
E'en winter's storms to him have welcome been,
That brought him comfort in its long dark night,
As joyful list'ning, while the fire burnt bright,
Some neighbouring labourer's superstitious tale,

How "Jack-a-lantern," with his wisp alight,
To drown a 'nighted traveller once did fail,
He knowing well the brook that whimper'd down the vale.


And tales of fairy-land he lov'd to hear,
Those mites of human forms, like skimming bees,
That fly and flirt about but every-where;
The mystic tribes of night's unnerving breeze,
That through a lock-hole even creep with ease:
The freaks and stories of this elfin crew,
Ah, Lubin gloried in such things as these;
How they rewarded industry he knew,
And how the restless slut was pinched black and blue.


How ancient dames a fairy's anger fear'd,
From gossip's stories Lubin often heard;
How they on every night the hearth-stone clear'd,
And 'gainst their visits all things neat prepar'd,
As fays nought more than cleanliness regard;
When in the morn they never fail'd to share
Or gold or silver as their meet reward,
Dropt in the water superstition's care
To make the charm succeed had cautious placed there.


And thousands such the village keeps alive;
Beings that people superstitious earth,
That e'er in rural manners will survive,
As long a wild rusticity has birth
To spread their wonders round the cottage-hearth.
On Lubin's mind these deeply were imprest;
Oft fear forbade to share his neighbour's mirth:
And long each tale, by fancy newly drest,
Brought fairies in his dreams, and broke his infant rest.


He had his dreads and fears, and scarce could pass
A church-yard's dreary mounds at silent night,
But footsteps trampled through the rustling grass,
And ghosts 'hind grave-stones stood in sheets of white;
Dread monsters fancy moulded on his sight:
Soft would he step lest they his tread should hear,
And creep and creep till past his wild affright;
Then on wind's wings would rally as it were,
So swift the wild retreat of childhood's fancied fear.


And when fear left him, on his corner-seat,
Much would he chatter o'er each dreadful tale;
Tell how he heard the sound of 'proaching feet,
And warriors jingling in their coats of mail;
And lumping knocks as one would thump a flail;
Of spirits conjur'd in the charnel floor;
And many a mournful shriek and hapless wail,
Where maids self-murder'd their false loves deplore;
And from that time would vow to tramp on nights no more.


O who can speak his joys when spring's young morn
From wood and pasture open'd on his view,
When tender green buds blush upon the thorn,
And the first primrose dips its leaves in dew:
Each varied charm how joy'd would he pursue,
Tempted to trace their beauties through the day;
Grey-girdled eve, and morn of rosy hue
Have both beheld him on his lonely way,
Far, far remote from boys, and their unpleasing play.


Sequester'd nature was his heart's delight;
Him would she lead thro' wood and lonely plain,
Searching the pooty from the rushy dyke;
And while the thrush sang her long-silenc'd strain,
He thought it sweet, and mock'd it o'er again:
And while he pluck'd the primrose in its pride,
He ponder'd o'er its bloom 'tween joy and pain;
And a rude sonnet in its praise he tried,
Where nature's simple way the aid of art supplied.


The freshen'd landscapes round his routs unfurl'd,
The fin-ting'd clouds above, the woods below,
Each met his eye a new-revealing world,
Delighting more as more he learn'd to know;
Each journey sweeter, musing to and fro.
Surrounded thus, not paradise more sweet,
Enthusiasm made his soul to glow;
His heart with wild sensations used to beat;
As nature seemly sang his mutterings would repeat.


Upon a molehill oft he dropt him down,
To take a prospect of the circling scene,
Marking how much the cottage roof's-thatch brown
Did add its beauty to the budding green
Of sheltering trees it humbly peep'd between-
The stone-rock'd waggon with its rumbling sound;
The windmill's sweeping sails at distance seen;
And every form that crowds the circling round,
Where the sky stooping seems to kiss the meeting ground.


And dear to him the rural sports of May,
When each cot-threshold mounts its hailing bough,
And ruddy milkmaids weave their garlands gay,
Upon the green to crown the earliest cow;
When mirth and pleasure wear a joyful brow;
And join the tumult with unbounded glee
The humble tenants of the pail and plough:
He lov'd "old sports," by them reviv'd, to see,
But never car'd to join in their rude revelry.


O'er brook-banks stretching, on the pasture-sward,
He gaz'd, far distant from the jocund crew;
'Twas but their feats that claim'd a slight regard;
'Twas his, his pastimes lonely to pursue-
Wild blossoms creeping in the grass to view,
Scarce peeping up the tiny bent as high,
Beting'd with glossy yellow, red, or blue,
Unnam'd, unnotic'd but by Lubin's eye,
That like low genius sprang to bloom their day and die.


O who can tell the sweets of May-day's morn,
To waken rapture in a feeling mind,
When the gilt east unveils her dappled dawn,
And the gay woodlark has its nest resign'd,
As slow the sun creeps up the hill behind;
Morn redd'ning round, and daylight's spotless hue,
As seemingly with rose and lily lin'd;
While all the prospect round beams fair to view,
Like a sweet opening flower with its unsullied dew.


Ah, often brushing through the dripping grass,
Has he been seen to catch this early charm,
List'ning the "love song" of the healthy lass
Passing with milk-pail on her well-turn'd arm;
Or meeting objects from the rousing farm;
The jingling plough-teams driving down the steep,
Waggon and cart-and shepherd-dogs' alarm,
Raising the bleatings of unfolding sheep,
As o'er the mountain top the red sun 'gins to peep.


Nor could the day's decline escape his gaze;
He lov'd the closing as the rising day,
And oft would stand to catch the setting rays,
Whose last beams stole not unperceiv'd away;
When, hesitating like a stag at bay,
The bright unwearied sun seem'd loth to drop,
Till chaos' night-hounds hurried him away,
And drove him headlong from the mountain-top,
And shut the lovely scene, and bade all nature stop.


With contemplation's stores his mind to fill,
O doubly happy would he roam as then,
When the blue eve crept deeper round the hill
While the coy rabbit ventur'd from his den,
And weary labour sought his rest agen;
Lone wanderings led him haply by the stream
Where unperceiv'd he 'joy'd his hours at will,
Musing the cricket twittering o'er its dream,
Or watching o'er the brook the moon-light's dancing beam.


And here the rural muse might aptly say,
As sober evening sweetly siles along,
How she has chas'd black ignorance away,
And warm'd his artless soul with feelings strong
To teach his reed to warble forth a song:
And how it echoed on the even-gale,
All by the brook the pasture-flowers among;
But, ah, such trifles are of no avail:
There's few to notice him, or hear his simple tale.


As most of nature's children prove to be,
His little soul was easy made to smart,
His tear was quickly born to sympathy,
And soon were rous'd the feelings of his heart
In others' woes and wants to bear a part.
Yon parish-huts, where want is shov'd to die,
He never view'd them but his tear would start;
He past not by the doors without a sigh,
And felt for every woe of workhouse-misery.


O Poverty! thy frowns were early dealt
O'er him who mourn'd thee, not by fancy led
To whine and wail o'er woes he never felt,
Staining his rhymes with tears he never shed,
And heaving sighs a mock song only bred:
Alas! he knew too much of every pain
That shower'd full thick on his unshelter'd head;
And as his tears and sighs did erst complain,
His numbers took it up, and wept it o'er again.


Full well might he his early days recal,
When he a thresher with his sire had been;
When he a ploughboy in the fields did maul,
And drudg'd with toil through almost every scene;
How pinch'd with winter's frownings he has been;
And tell of all that modesty conceals,
Of what his friends and he have felt and seen:
But, useless naming what distress reveals,
As every child of want feels all that Lubin feels.


It might be curious here to hint the lad,
How in his earliest days he did appear;
Mean was the dress in which the boy was clad,
His friends so poor, and clothes excessive dear,
They oft were foil'd to rig him once a year;
And housewife's care in many a patch was seen;
Much industry 'gainst want did persevere:
His friends tried all to keep him neat and clean,
Though care has often fail'd and shatter'd he has been.


Yet oft fair prospects cheer'd his parent's dreams,
Who had on Lubin founded many a joy;
But pinching want soon baffled all their schemes,
And dragg'd him from the school a hopeless boy,
To shrink unheeded under hard employ;
When struggling efforts warm'd him up the while,
To keep the little toil could not destroy;
And oft with books spare hours he would beguile,
And blunder oft with joy round Crusoe's lonely isle.


Folks much may wonder how the thing may be,
That Lubin's taste should seek refined joys,
And court th'enchanting smiles of poesy;
Bred in a village full of strife and noise,
Old senseless gossips, and blackguarding boys,
Ploughmen and threshers; whose discourses led
To nothing more than labour's rude employs,
'Bout work being slack, and rise and fall of bread,
And who were like to die, and who were like to wed:


Housewives discoursing 'bout their hens and cocks,
Spinning long stories, wearing half the day;
Sad deeds bewailing of the prowling fox;
How in the roost the thief had knav'd his way,
And made their market-profits all a prey.
And other losses too the dames recite,
Of chick, and duck, and gosling gone astray;
All falling prizes to the swopping kite:
And so the story runs both morning, noon, and night.


Nor sabbath-days much better thoughts instil;
The true-going churchman hears the signal ring,
And takes his book his homage to fulfil,
And joins the clerk his amen-task to sing,
And rarely home forgets the text to bring:
But soon as service ends, he 'gins again
'Bout signs in weather, late or forward spring,
Of prospects good or bad in growing grain;
And if the sermon's long he waits the end with pain.


A more uncouthly lout was hardly seen
Beneath the shroud of ignorance than he;
The sport of all the village he has been,
Who with his simple looks oft jested free;
And gossips, gabbling o'er their cake and tea,
Time after time did prophecies repeat,
How half a ninny he was like to be,
To go so soodling up and down the street,
And shun the playing boys whene'er they chanc'd to meet.


Nature look'd on him with a 'witching eye,
Her pleasing scenes were his delightful book,
Where he, while other louts roam'd heedless by,
With wild enthusiasm us'd to look.
The kingcup vale, the gravel-paved brook,
Were paradise with him to muse among;
And haply sheltering in some lonely nook,
He often sat to see it purl along,
And, fir'd with what he saw, humm'd o'er his simple song.


When summer came how eager has he sped
Where silence reign'd, and the old crowned tree
Bent with its sheltering ivy o'er his head;
And summer-breezes, breathing placidly,
Encroach'd upon the stockdove's privacy,
Parting the leaves that screen'd her russet breast:
"Peace!" would he whisper, "dread no thief in me,"
And never rose to rob her careless nest;
Compassion's softness reign'd, and warm'd his gentle breast.


And he would trace the stagnant pond or lake,
Where flags sprang up or water-lilies smil'd;
And wipe the boughs aside of bush and brake,
And creep the woods with sweetest scenes beguil'd;
Tracking some channel on its journey wild,
Where dripping blue-bells on the bank did weep:
O what a lovely scene to nature's child,
Through roots and o'er dead leaves to see it creep,
Watching on some moss'd stump in contemplation deep.


And he would mark in July's rosy prime,
Crossing the meadows, how a nameless fly
Of scarlet plumage, punctual to its time,
Perch'd on a flower would always meet his eye;
And plain-drest butterfly of russet dye,
As if awaken'd by the scythe's shrill sound,
Soon as the bent with ripeness 'gan to dye,
Was constant with him in each meadow-ground,
Flirting the withering swath and unmown blossom round.


No insect 'scap'd him, from the gaudy plume
Of dazzling butterflies so fine to view,
To the small midges that at evening come,
Like dust spots, dancing o'er the water's blue;
Or, where the spreading oak above-head grew,
Tormenting maidens 'neath their kicking cow;
Who often murmur'd at the elfin crew,
And from th'endanger'd pail, with angry vow
Oft rose, their sport to spoil with switch of murdering bough.


And he has mark'd the curious stained rings,
Though seemly nothing in another's eye,
And bending o'er them thought them wondrous things,
Where nurses' night-fays circling dances hie,
And set the cock to watch the morning's eye;
Light soon betrays 'em where their routs have been,
Their printing foot-marks leave a magic dye,
The grass grows gloomy in a darker green,
And look for years to come, and still the place is seen.


And as declining day his stalking shade
A giant monster stretch'd, in fancy's view,
What bustle to his cottage has he made,
Ere sliving night around his journey threw
Her circling curtains of a grizly hue;
Then of the rings the fairy routs display'd
From gossip's wisdom much he glean'd, who knew
How they were haunts for ghosts as well as fays,
And told what things were seen in granny's younger days.


The verse might tremble with the "haunted pond,"
and tell of terrors which his heart has found;
How he, to 'scape, shool'd many a pace beyond
Each dreaded, dangerous spot of haunted ground:
Here as he pass'd where Amy's woes were drown'd,
If late at night, his fears would turn him chill;
If nought was seen, he heard a squish-squash sound,
As when one's shoes the drenching waters fill,
And wet and dripping oft he saw her climb the hill.


And round his fields lay many a spot to dread;
'Twould note a history down to mark them all:
Oft monsters have been seen without a head;
And market-men oft got a dangerous fall,
When startled horses saw the sweeping pall
On the cross-roads where "love-lorn Luce" was lain;
At other spots, like offsprings of "Old Ball,"
Or ploughman's senses often were mista'en,
A shagged foal would fright the early-rising swain.


In autumn-time he often stood to mark
What tumults 'tween the hogs and geese arose,
Down the corn-litter'd street; and the rude bark
Of jealous watch-dog on his master's clothes,
E'en rous'd by quawking of the flopping crows;
And every tinkle in that busy toil,
In sultry field and dusty lane that flows:
He glean'd his corn, and lov'd to list the while,
For Lubin mingled there to share of autumn's spoil.


And when old women, overpower'd by heat,
Tuck'd up their clothes and sicken'd at the toil,
Seeking beneath the thorn the mole-hill seat,
To tell their tales and catch their breath awhile,
Their gabbling talk did Lubin's cares beguile;
And some would tell their tales, and some would sing,
And many a dame, to make the children smile,
Would tell of many a funny laughing thing,
While merrily the snuff went pinching round the ring.


Here Lubin listen'd with awe-struck surprise,
When "Hickathrift's" great strength has met his ear,
How he kill'd giants as they were but flies,
And lifted trees as one would lift a spear,
Though not much bigger than his fellows were;
He knew no troubles waggoners have known,
Of getting stall'd, and such disasters drear;
Up he'd chuck sacks as one would hurl a stone,
And draw whole loads of grain unaided and alone.


And Goody's sympathy would fetch the tear
From each young list'ner seated by her side,
When "cruel Barbara Allen" they did hear,
The haughty stubbornness of female pride
To that fond youth who broke his heart and died:
And "Jack the giant-killer's" tales she'd say,
Which still the same enchanting power supplied;
The stagnant tear amazement wip'd away,
And Jack's exploits were felt for many an after-day.


These were such tales as Lubin did delight;
But should the muse narrate in Goody's strain,
And tell of all she told from morn till night,
Fays, ghosts, and giants would her songs detain
To be at day's return resumed again:
With "Cinderella" she has charm'd awhile,
Then "Thumb's" disasters gave a moment's pain;
Thus true-thought legends would each soul beguile,
As superstition will'd, to raise the tear or smile.


And as the load jogg'd homeward down the lane,
When welcome night shut out the toiling day,
Following he mark'd the simple-hearted swain;
Joying to listen, on his homeward way,
While rest's warm rapture rous'd the rustic's lay,
The thread-bare ballad from each quavering tongue,
As "Peggy Band," or the "sweet month of May:"
Oh how he joy'd to hear each "good old song,"
That on night's pausing ear did echo loud and long.


The muse might sing too, for he well did know,
The freaks and play that harvest-labour end,
How the last load is crown'd with boughs, and how
The swains and maids with fork and rake attend,
With floating ribbons 'dizen'd at the end;
And how the children on the load delight
With shouts of "Harvest home!" their throats to rend;
And how the dames peep out to mark the sight;
And all the feats that crown the harvest-supper night.


He knew all well, a young familiar there,
And often look'd on all; for he himsen
Join'd with the sun-tann'd group the feast to share,
As years roll'd round him with the change agen,
And brought the masters level with the men,
Who push'd the beer about, and smok'd and drank
With freedom's plenty, never shewn till then;
Nor labourers dar'd, but now, so free and frank
To laugh, and joke, and play so many a harmless prank.


Much has he laugh'd each rude, rude act to see;
The long-neck'd sheet-clad "crane" to poke about,
Spoiling each smoker's pipe, and cunningly,
Though blind-fold, seen to pick each bald-head out,
And put each bashful maiden to the rout;
The "fiery parrot" too, a laughing scene,
Where two maids on a sheet invite the lout,
Thrown o'er a water-tub, to sit between,
And as he drops they rise, and let him swearing in.


The "dusty miller" playing many a rig;
And the "Scotch pedlars," with their jokes and fun,
The "booted hogs drove over Lunnon brig,"
Boys, who had mischief in the harvest done,
As loads o'erturn'd, and foul on posts had run;
And brandy-burning ghosts most deadly blue,
That each old woman did with terror shun;
These with the rest did Lubin yearly view,
And join'd his mirth and fears with the low vulgar crew.


To close the ranting nigh, the master's health
Went round in bumping horns to every swain,
Who wish'd him best of crops t'increase his wealth,
And's merry sport when harvest came again;
And all in chorus rallied out amain:
The harvest-song (a tugging pull) begun,
Each ere its end the brimming horn must drain,
Or have it fill'd again-there lay the fun,
Till Hodge went drunk to bed, and morts of things were done.


Oh, dear to Lubin autumn's changing cloud,
Where shade and sunshine every minute sees;
And each rude-risen tempest, beetling loud,
Own'd every murmur his wild ear to please,
Sughing its vengeance through The yellow trees,
Pattering the acorns from their cups adown,
Fanning the sere leaf far upon the leas;
And picturesque to him each scrambling clown,
Tearing the woods among to search the nut-bunch brown.


How would he wander round the woods, the plains,
When every flower from nature's wreath had fled;
Tracing the shower-bedimpled sandy lanes,
And winding fountains to their infant bed,
With many a flag and rushy bunch bespread;
Marking each curdle boil and boil away,
And bubbles guggling born, that swell'd and fled
Like changing scenes in life's ephemeron-day:
Thus Lubin paus'd o'er all, and cheer'd his lonely way.


A solitaire through autumn's wan decay,
He heard the tootling robin sound her knell,
Observ'd the sun more coy to slink away,
And lingering oak-shade how it brown'd and fell;
And many a way of nature he could tell,
That secrets are to undiscerning eyes,
As how the bee most careful clos'd her cell,
The mouse with far-fetch'd ear his hole supplies,
And moles root deeper down, from winter's frowning skies.


And he could tell how the shy squirrel far'd,
Who often stood its busy toils to see;
How against winter it was well prepar'd
With many a store in hollow root or tree,
As if being told what winter's wants would be:
Its nuts and acorns he would often find,
And hips and haws too, heaped plenteously
In snug warm corner that broke off the wind;
With leafy nest made nigh, that warm green mosses lin'd.


'Twas thus his fond inquiry us'd to trace
Through nature's secret with unwearied eye,
And watch the shifting seasons' changing grace;
Spring's first wild flower, and summer's painted sky,
The insect creeping, and the birds that fly;
The autumn's dying breeze; the winter-wind,
That bellow'd round his hut most mournfully:
And as his years increas'd his taste refin'd,
And fancy with new charms enlighten'd up his mind.


Beauty 'gan look too witching on his eye;
The sweetest image seen in nature's glass:
A swelling bosom 'neath its lily dye,
Without admiring, Lubin could not pass;
And downcast eye, and blush of shanny lass,
Had every power his heart to hold in thrall.
O beauteous woman! still thy charms surpass:
In spite of all thy failings and thy fall,
Thou art the comfort still that cheers this earthly ball.


Sure 'twas an oversight in nature's plan,
Such loveliness, that claims the tenderest care,
To leave defenceless with ungrateful man,
Such harden'd brutes as but too many are.
O pleasing flowers! as frail as ye are fair;
Sure some that live have souls to feel and sigh,
When, shrinking 'neath the storms ye cannot bear,
Your beauteous buds bow down to fade and die,
While not one pitying tear melts your seducer's eye.


Full oft, to see their witcheries divine,
He'd mix in circles which their charms did grace,
And merry groups he now began to join;
And though his heart denied to own its case,
It oft was smitten with a beauty's face,
And throbb'd with thrilling aggravating pain:
And many a long, long day has taken place,
Ere he forgot, and met his peace again,
While oft in beauty's praise he humm'd his amorous strain.


He knew the manners too of merry rout;
Statute and feast his village yearly knew;
And glorious revels too without a doubt
Such pastimes were to Hob, and Nell, and Sue,
Milkmaids and clowns that statute-joys pursue,
And rattle off, like hogs to London mart:
Weary of old, they seek for places new,
Where men hail maidens with a frothing quart,
And Hodge With sweetheart fix'd forgets his plough and cart:-


Where cakes, and nuts, and gingerbread and all,
Tempt clowns to buy; and far more tempting still,
Where shining ribbons dizen out the stall,
And wenches drag poor sheepish Bob or Bill
Some long, long dallied promise to fulfil;
New wreath or bow for Sunday cap to buy--
"If yah set any store by one yah will!"
Each draws his purse, and makes them no reply,
But thinks returns ere long will suit, for clowns are sly.


And there the ballad-singers rave and rant,
And Hodge, whose pockets won't stand treats more high,
Hears which his simpering lass may please to want,
And, brushing through the crowd most manfully,
Outs with his pence the pleasing song to buy,
And crams it in her hand with many a smile;
The trifling present make the maid comply
To promise him her company the while,
And strutting on at night he hands her o'er the stile.


Here the poor sailor, with his hat in hand,
Hops through the crowd that wonderfully stares,
To hear him talk of things in foreign land,
'Bout thundering cannons and most bloody wars;
And as he stops to shew his seamy scars,
Pity soon meets the ploughman's penny then:
The sailor heartfelt thankfulness declares,
"God blesses" all, and styles them "gentlemen,"
And fobs his money up, and 'gins his tale agen.


Here's "Civil Will" too, with his "pins and pegs,"
And he makes glorious fun among the chaps:
"Boys, miss my pegs," he cries, "and hit my legs,
"My timbers well can stand your gentle taps,"
Though sure enough he gets most ugly raps,
For here the rustic thinks the sports abound;
Whose aim at "Civil's" legs his fellows caps
Meets most applause--still "poor Will" stand his ground,
"Boys throw your copper salve, and make another wound."


But soldiers, they're the boys to make a rout,
With boasting bottle brimm'd with gin and rum,
The high-crown'd cap with ribbons hung about,
The tuteling fife, and hoarse rap-tapping drum:
Lud, clowns are almost mad where'er they come;
They're like so many kings 'mong country folk,
They push their beer like water round the room,
Who will and welcome there may drink and smoke,
Though chaps have often found they dearly sell a joke.


The bumptious serjeant struts before his men,
And "clear the road, young whopstraws!" will he say;
And looks as big as if king George himsen,
And wields his sword around to make a way:
With lace and ribbons dizen'd out so gay,
So flashing smart--full oft, as well's the swain,
The tempted maid his finery does betray,
Who leaves poor slighted Hodge behind in pain,
And many a chiding dame to sorrow and complain.


And Lubin heard the echoing rabble-fight,
When men and maids were hir'd, and sports did close,
And wenches sought their sweethearts up at night,
And found 'em drunk, bedeck'd with soldier's clothes;
As they would pull and scold great tumults rose;
The serjeant's honour totter'd terribly,
From women's threat'nings hardly 'scap'd with blows;
They'd box his cap about his ears, if he
Gave not the contest up, and set the prisoner free.


Some homeward-bound were coupled, maid and swain,
And Dick from Dolly now for gifts did sue,
He'd giv'n her ribbons, and he deem'd again
Some kind return as nothing but his due;
And he told things that ploughmen little knew,
Of bleeding hearts and pains--a mighty spell!
Her Sunday-clothes might damage with the dew,
She quite forgot them while he talk'd so well;
And listened to his tales, till darkness round them fell.


The statute nam'd, each servant's day of fun,
The village-feast next warms the muse's song;
'Tis Lubin's sphere, a thresher's lowly son;
Though little used to mix such routs among,
Such fitting subjects to the theme belong:
As pictur'd landscapes, destitute of trees,
Would doubtlessly be fancied painted wrong,
So lowly rural subjects, such as these,
Must have their simple ways discerning eyes to please.


The lovely morn in July's blushes rose,
That brought the yearly feast and holiday,
When villagers put on their bran-new clothes,
And milk-maids, drest like any ladies gay,
Threw "cotton drabs" and "worsted hose" away,
And left their pails unscour'd, well pleas'd I ween
To join the dance where gipsy fiddlers play,
Accompanied with thumping tambourine,
From night till morning-light upon the rushy green.


Where the fond swain delighteth in the chance
To meet the sun-tann'd lass he dearly loves;
And, as he leads her down the giddy dance,
With many a token his fond passion proves,
Squeezing her hands, or catching at her gloves,
And stealing kisses as chance prompts the while;
With eye fixt on her as she graceful moves,
To catch if such fond fancies her beguile,--
When happily her heart confesses in a smile.


O rural love! as spotless as the dove's;
No wealth gives fuel to a borrow'd flame,
To prompt the shepherd where to choose his loves,
And go a forger of that sacred name;
Both hearts in unison here beat the same
Here nature makes the choice which love inspires:
Far from the wedded lord and haughty dame
This boon of heavenly happiness retires,
Not felon-like law-bound but wedded in desires.


The woodman and the thresher now are found
Mixing and making merry with their friends;
Children and kin, from neighbouring towns around
Each at the humble banquet pleas'd attends:
For though no costliness the feast pretends,
Yet something more than common they provide;
And the good dame her small plum-pudding sends
To sons and daughters fast in service tied,
With many a cordial gift of good advice beside.


'Tis pleasing then to view the cotter's cheer,
To mark his gentle and his generous mind;
How free he is to push about his beer;
And well's he knows, with ceremony kind,
Bids help themselves to such as they may find;
Tells them they're welcome as the flowers in May:
And, full of merrimental cheer inclin'd,
Drink healths, and sings when supper's clear'd away,
And hopes they all may meet on next year's holiday.


And then for sake of's boys and wenches dear,
Gives leave a dancing in his hut shall be;
While he sits smoking in his elbow-chair,
As pleas'd as Punch his children round to see,
With each a sweetheart frisking merrily.
"God bless ye all!" quoth he, and drinks his beer,
"My boys and wenches ye're a pride to me:
"Lead but an honest life--no matter where,
"And do as I have done, and ye'll have nought to fear.


"To bring ye up, from toil I never flinch'd,
"Or fail'd to do the thing that's just and right;
"Your mother knows ourselves were often pinch'd,
"To fill your bellies and to keep ye tight:
"May God look down and bless ye all this night!
"May wives and husbands here, that are to be,
"Instead of sorrows prove your heart's delight!--
"I've brought ye up, expect no more from me,
"So take your trundle now, and good luck may ye see!"


Thus talk'd the father to his pipe and beer,
For those whom he'd admonish were the while
Too occupied in dancing him to hear;
Yet still with talk and beer he does beguile
His short releasement from his cares and toil;
Till Sir John's spirit stops his merry glee
And lays him quiet down:--his children smile,
Break up the dance, and pay the fiddler's fee,
And then the lass he loves each swain pulls on his knee.


And the long rural string of merry games,
That at such outings maketh much ado,
All were to Lubin's skill familiar names;
And he could tell each whole performance through,
As plann'd and practis'd by the jovial crew:
Great sport to them was jumping in a sack,
For beaver hat bedeck'd with ribbons blue;
Soon one bumps down as though he'd broke his neck,
Another tries to rise, and wondrous sport they make.


And monstrous fun it makes to hunt the pig,
As soapt and larded through the crowd he flies:
Thus turn'd adrift he plays them many a rig;
A pig for catching is a wondrous prize,
And every lout to do his utmost tries;
Some snap the ear, and some the curly tail,
But still his slippery hide all hold denies;
While old men tumbled down sore hurts bewail,
And boys bedaub'd with muck run home with piteous tale.


And badger-baiting here, and fighting cocks--
But sports too barbarous these for Lubin's strains;
And red-fac'd wenches, for the Holland smocks,
Oft puff and pant along the smooth green plains;
Where Hodge feels most uncomfortable pains
To see his love lag hindmost in the throng,
And of unfairness in her cause complains;
And swears and fights the jarring chaps among,
As in her part he'd die, 'fore they his lass should wrong.


And long-ear'd racers, fam'd for sport and fun,
Appear this day to have their swiftness try'd;
Where some won't start, and "Dick's," the race nigh won,
Enamour'd of some "Jenny" by his side,
Forgets the winning-post to court a bride;
In vain the mob urge on the jockey-clown
To lump his cudgel on his harden'd hide,
Ass after ass still hee-haws through the town,
And in disgrace at last each jockey bumps adown.


And then the noisy rout, their sports to crown,
Form round the ring superior strength to show,
Where wrestlers join to tug each other down,
And thrust and kick with hard revengeful blow,
Till through their worsted hose the blood does flow:
For ploughmen would not wish for higher fame,
Than be the champion all the rest to throw;
And thus to add such honours to his name,
He kicks, and tugs, and bleeds to win the glorious game.


And when the night draws on, each mirthful lout
The ale-house seeks, and sets it in a roar;
And there, while fiddlers play, they rant about,
And call for brimming tankards frothing o'er:
For clouds of smoke ye'd hardly see the door;
No stint they make of 'bacco and of beer;
While money lasts they shout about for more,
Resolv'd to keep it merry when it's here,--
As toils come every day, and feasts but once a year.


With village-merriments digress'd awhile,
We now resume poor Lubin's joys again,
And haply find him bending o'er a stile,
Or stretch'd in sabbath-musings on the plain,
Looking around and humming o'er a strain;
Painting the foliage of the woodland trees;
List'ning a bird that's lost its nest complain;
Noting the hummings of the passing bees,
And all the lovely things his musing hears and sees.


Where ling-clad heaths and pastures now may spread,
He oft has heard of castle and of hall;
And curiosity his steps hath led
To gaze on some old arch or fretting wall,
Where ivy scrambles up to stop the fall:
There would he sit him down, and look, and sigh,
And by-gone days back to his mind would call,
The bloody-warring times of chivalry,
When Danes' invading routs made unarm'd Britons fly.


He lov'd to view the mossy-arched brigs,--
Bending o'er wall or rail, the pits or springs
Below to mark,--where willow's dripping twigs
To summer's silken zephyrs' feeblest wings
Bent in the flood and curv'd its thousand rings;
And where the sun-beam twitter'd on the walls;
And nodding bulrush down its drowk head hings;
And down the rock the shallow water falls,
Wild fluttering through the stones in feeble whimpering brawls.


And oft, with shepherds leaning o'er their hooks,
He'd stand conjecturing on the ruins round:
Though little skill'd in antiquated books,
Their knowledge in such matters seem'd profound;
And they would preach of what did once abound,
Castles deep moated round, old haunted hall--
And something like to moats still 'camp the ground,
Where beneath Cromwell's rage the towers did fall;
But ivy creeps the hill, and ruin hides it all.


And ancient songs he hung enraptur'd on,
Which herdsmen on a hill have sat to sing,
'Bout feats of Robin Hood and Little John,
Whose might was fear'd by country and by king,
Such strength had they to twitch the thrumming string;
Their darts oft suck'd the life-blood of the deer;
And Sherwood Forest with their horns did ring.
Ah, these were songs which he would joy to hear,
And these were such as warm'd when antique scenes appear.


But who can tell the anguish of his mind,
When reformation's formidable foes
With civil wars 'gainst nature's peace combin'd,
And desolation struck her deadly blows,
As curst improvement 'gan his fields inclose:
O greens, and fields, and trees, farewel, farewel!
His heart-wrung pains, his unavailing woes
No words can utter, and no tongue can tell,
When ploughs destroy'd the green, when groves of willows fell.


There once were springs, when daisies' silver studs
Like sheets of snow on every pasture spread;
There once were summers, when the crow-flower buds
Like golden sunbeams brightest lustre shed;
And trees grew once that shelter'd Lubin's head;
There once were brooks sweet whimpering down the vale:
The brooks no more--kingcup and daisy fled;
Their last fallen tree the naked moors bewail,
And scarce a bush is left to tell the mournful tale.


Yon shaggy tufts, and many a rushy knot
Existing still in spite of spade and plough,
As seeming fond and loth to leave the spot,
Tell where was once the green--brown fallows now,
Where Lubin often turns a sadden'd brow,
Marks the stopt brook, and mourns oppression's power;
And thinks how once he waded in each slough,
To crop the yellow "horse-blob's" early flower,
Or catch the "miller's-thumb" in summer's sultry hour.


There once were days, the woodman knows it well,
When shades e'en echoed with the singing thrush;
There once were hours, the ploughman's tale can tell,
When morning's beauty wore its earliest blush,
How woodlarks carol'd from each stumpy bush;
Lubin himself has mark'd them soar and sing:
The thorns are gone, the woodlark's song is hush,
Spring more resembles winter now than spring,
The shades are banish'd all--the birds have took to wing.


There once were lanes in nature's freedom dropt,
There once were paths that every valley wound,--
Inclosure came, and every path was stopt;
Each tyrant fix'd his sign where paths were found,
To hint a trespass now who cross'd the ground:
Justice is made to speak as they command;
The high road now must be each stinted bound:
--Inclosure, thou'rt a curse upon the land,
And tasteless was the wretch who thy existence plann'd.


O England! boasted land of liberty,
With strangers still thou mayst thy title own,
But thy poor slaves the alteration see,
With many a loss to them the truth is known:
Like emigrating bird thy freedom's flown;
While mongrel clowns, low as their rooting plough,
Disdain thy laws to put in force their own;
And every village owns its tyrants now,
And parish-slaves must live as parish-kings allow.


Ye fields, ye scenes so dear to Lubin's eye,
Ye meadow-blooms, ye pasture-flowers, farewel!
Ye banish'd trees, ye make me deeply sigh,--
Inclosure came, and all your glories fell:
E'en the old oak that crown'd yon rifled dell,
Whose age had made it sacred to the view,
Not long was left his children's fate to tell;
Where ignorance and wealth their course pursue,
Each tree must tumble down--old "Lea-close Oak," adieu!


Lubin beheld it all, and, deeply pain'd,
Along the paled road would muse and sigh;
The only path that freedom's rights maintain'd:
The naked scenes drew pity from his eye,
Tears dropt to memory of delights gone by;
The haunts of freedom, cowherd's wattled bower,
And shepherd's huts, and trees that tower'd high,
And spreading thorns that turn'd a summer shower,
All captives lost, and past to sad oppression's power.


And oft with shepherds he would sit, to sigh
O'er past delights of many a by-gone day,
And look on scenes now naked to the eye,
And talk as how they once were clothed gay;
And how the runnel wound its weedy way,
And how the willows on its margin grew;
Talk o'er with them the rural feats of May,--
Who got the blossoms 'neath the morning dew
That the last garland made, and where such Blossoms grew:


And how he could remember well, when he
Laden with blooming treasures from the plain
Has mixt with them beneath a dotterel-tree,
Driv'n from his cowslips by a hasty rain,
And heard them there sing each delightful strain;
And how with tales what joys they us'd to wake;
Wishing with them such days would come again:
They lov'd the artless boy for talking's sake,
And said some future day a wondrous man he'd make.


And you, poor ragged outcasts of the land,
That lug your shifting camps from green to green,
He lov'd to see your humble dwellings stand,
And thought your groups did beautify the scene:
Though blam'd for many a petty theft you've been,
Poor wandering souls, to fate's hard want decreed,
Doubtless too oft such acts your ways bemean;
But oft in wrong your foes 'gainst you proceed,
And brand a gipsy's camp when others do the deed.


Lubin would love to list their gibberish talk,
And view the oddity their ways display;
And oft with boys pursued his Sunday walk,
Where warp'd the camp beneath the willows grey,
And its black tenants on the green-sward lay;
While, on two forked sticks with cordage tied,
Their pot o'er pilfer'd fuel boils away,
With food of sheep that of red-water died,
Or any nauseous thing their frowning fates provide.


Yet oft they gather money by their trade,
And on their fortune-telling art subsist:
Where her long-hoarded groat oft brings the maid,
And secret slives it in the sybil's fist
To buy good luck and happiness--to list,
What occupies a wench's every thought,
Who is to be the man:--while, as she wist,
The gipsy's tale with swains and wealth is fraught,
The lass returns well-pleas'd, and thinks all cheaply bought.


In summer, Lubin oft has mark'd and seen
How eagerly the village-maids pursue
Their Sunday rambles where the camps have been;
And how they give their money to the crew
For idle stories they believe as true;
Crossing their hands with coin or magic stick,
How quak'd the young to hear what things they knew;
While old experienc'd dames saw through the trick,
Who said that all their skill was borrow'd from Old Nick.


And thus the superstitious dread their harm,
And dare not fail relieving the distrest,
Lest they within their cot should leave a charm,
To let nought prosper and bring on some pest:
Of depth of cunning gipsies are possest,
And when such weakness in a dame they find,
Forsooth they prove a terrifying guest;
And though not one to charity inclin'd,
They mutter black revenge, and force her to be kind.


His native scenes! O sweet endearing sound;
Sure never beats a heart, howe'er forlorn,
But the warm'd breast has soft emotions found
To cherish the dear spot where he was born:
E'en the poor hedger, in the early morn
Chopping the pattering bushes hung with dew,
Scarce lays his mitten on a branching thorn,
But painful memory's banish'd thoughts in view
Remind him, when 'twas young, what happy days he knew.


When the old shepherd with his woolly locks
Crosses the green, past joys his eyes will fill,
Where when a boy he us'd to tend his flocks;
Each fringed rushy bed and swelling hill,
Where he has play'd, or stretch'd him at his will,
Freshening anew in life's declining years,
Will jog his memory with its pleasures still.
O how the thought his native scenes endears;
No spot throughout the world so pleasingly appears:


The toil-worn thresher, in his little cot
Whose roof did shield his birth, and still remains
His dwelling place, how rough soe'er his lot,
His toil though hard, and small the wage he gains
That many a child most piningly maintains;
Send him to distant scenes and better fare,
How would his bosom yearn with parting-pains;
How would he turn and look, and linger there,
And wish e'en now his cot and poverty to share.


How dear the soldier feels the relic prove
Taken from home, or giv'n by love's sweet hand;
A box that bears the motto of true love--
How will he take his quid, and musing stand,
Think on his native lass and native land,
And bring to mind all those past joys again
From which wild youth so foolish was trepann'd;
Kissing the pledge that doth these ways retain,
While fancy points the spot far o'er the barring main.


O dear delightful spots, his native place!
How Lubin look'd upon the days gone by;
How he, though young, would past delights retrace,
Bend o'er gull'd holes where stood his trees, and sigh,
With tears the while bemoist'ning in his eye;
How look'd he for the green, a green no more;
Mourning to scenes that made him no reply,
Save the strong accents they in memory bore,
"Our scenes that charm'd thy youth are dead, to bloom no more."


O samely naked leas, so bleak, so strange!
How would he wander o'er ye to complain,
And sigh, and wish he ne'er had known the change,
To see the ploughshare bury all the plain,
And not a cowslip on its lap remain;
The rush-tuft gone that hid the skylark's nest;
Ah, when will May-morn hear such strains again;
The storms beat chilly on its naked breast,
No shelter grows to shield, no home invites to rest.


"Ah," would he sigh, "ye, 'neath the church-yard grass,
"Ye sleeping shepherds, could ye rise again,
"And see what since your time has come to pass,
"See not a bush nor willow now remain,
"Looking and list'ning for the brook in vain,--
"Ye'd little think such was your natal scene;
"Ye'd little now distinguish field from plain,
"Or where to look for each departed green;
"All plough'd and buried now, as though there nought had been."


But still they beam'd with beauties on his eye;
No other scenes were half so sweet to view;
And other flowers but strove in vain to vie
With his few tufts that 'scap'd the wreck and grew;
And skylarks too their singing might pursue,
To claim his praise--he could but only say,
Their songs were sweet, but not like those he knew,
That charm'd his native plains at early day,
Whose equals ne'er were found where'er his steps might stray.


When distant village feast or noisy fair
Short absence from his fields did him detain,
How would he feel when home he did repair,
And mix among his joys--the white-spire vane
Meeting his eye above the elms again:
Leaving his friends in the sweet summer-night,
No longer lost on unknown field or plain,
Far from the path with well-known haunts in sight,
He'd stray for scatter'd flowers with added new delight.


As travellers return'd from foreign ground
Feel more endearments for their native earth,
So Lubin cherish'd from each weary round
Still warmer fondness for those scenes of mirth,
Those plains, and that dear cot that gave him birth;
And oft this warmness for his fields he'd own,
Mix'd with his friends around the cottage-hearth,
Relating all the travels he had known,
And that he'd seen no spot so lovely as his own.


Nor has his taste with manhood e'er declin'd:
You still may see him on his lonely way,
O'er stile or gate in thoughtful mood reclin'd;
Or 'long the road with folded arms to stray,
Mixing with autumn's sighs or summer gay;
And curious, nature's secrets to explore,
Brushing the twigs of woods or copse away,
To roam the lonely shade so silent o'er,
Sweet muttering all his joys where clowns intrude no more.


Ah, who can tell the anxiousness of mind,
All now he doth to manhood's cares aspire;
The future blessings which he hopes to find,
The wish'd-for prospects of his heart's desire;
And how chill fear oft damps the glowing fire,
And o'er hope's sunshine spreads a cloudy gloom:
Yet foil'd and foil'd, hopes still his songs inspire;
And, like the daisy on the cotter's tomb,
In melancholy scenes he 'joys his cheerless bloom.


He has his friends, compar'd to foes though few,
And like a corn-flower in a field of grain
'Mong many a foe his wild weeds ope to view,
And malice mocks him with a rude disdain;
Proving pretensions to the muse as vain,
They deem her talents far beyond his skill,
And hiss his efforts as some forged strain:
But as hopes smile their tongues shall all be still,
E'en envy turns a friend when she's no power to kill.


Ah, as the traveller from the mountain-top
Looks down on misty kingdoms spread below,
And meditates beneath the steepy drop
What life and lands exist, and rivers flow;
How fain that hour the anxious soul would know
Of all his eye beholds--but 'tis in vain:
So Lubin eager views this world of woe,
And wishes time her secrets would explain,
If he may live for joys or sink in 'whelming pain.


Fate's close-kept thoughts within her bosom hide;
She is no gossip, secrets to betray:
Time's steady movements must her end decide,
And leave him painful still to hope the day,
And grope through ignorance his doubtful way,
By wisdom disregarded, fools annoy'd.
And if no worth anticipates the lay,
Then let his childish notions be destroy'd,
And he his time employ as erst it was employ'd.

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