The dark days of Autumn

The dark days of Autumn grows cloudy and rainy
The sun pales like sulphur the shadows grow long
To me the dull season the sweetest of any
I love to see yellow leaves fall in my song
The rush covered green and thistle capped mountain
The dead leaves a falling and winds singing round
The willow and ash leaves they choak up the fountain
There's health i' the strife o't and joy i' the sound
I love there to loiter wi' winds blowing round me
Till the strong eddies past and the rain gust is over
Wild pigeons fly over the instance looks downy
With [stunt] willow rows [and] pieces of clover
Brown pieces o' stubbles ground o' turnips bright green
The crows flying over the lakes silver light
Scarce a wild blossom left to enliven the scene
Rauk and mist are for ever in sight

LP II 811

How many times spring blossoms meek

How many times Spring blossoms meek
Have faded on the land
Since last I kissed that pretty cheek,
Caressed that happy hand.
Eight time the green's been painted white
With daisies in the grass
Since I looked on thy eyes so bright,
And pressed my bonny lass.

The ground lark sung about the farms,
The blackbird in the wood,
When fast locked in each other's arms
By hedgerow thorn we stood.
It was a pleasant Sabbath day,
The sun shone bright and round,
His light through dark oaks passed, and lay
Like gold upon the ground.

How beautiful the blackbird sung,
And answered soft the thrush;
And sweet the pearl-like dew-drops hung
Upon the white thorn bush.
O happy day, eight years ago!
We parted without pain:
The blackbird sings, primroses blow;
When shall we meet again?
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Working with Professor Eric for a few days, I am very struck by an essay of Clare's on 'Nothing'.  Too long to be laboriously typed here (via my iPad), I thought an excerpt would very much interest readers of this weblog.

"... the poor man would feel the greatest happiness upon earth if he had only experience to prove that he alone is in the possesion of liberty   & consequently of happiness     for the only way to endanger liberty is to become fortunate   & the surest way to loose it   the possesion of power

          thus   nothing   becomes valuable & he who considers & feels thus may be said to posses the philosophers stone & make a fortune of nothing -- A philosopher consoled him self for the loss of his money in the following reflection

          In loosing my money I have nothing to care for     When I was rich I was afraid of every poor man    but now I am poor   every rich man is afraid of me

Pet MS A43 p13-15


To mark autumn, a poem from Clare's wonderful collection "Poems descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery" (1820)

Now Autumn's come—adieu the pleasing greens
The charming Lanscape & the flowrey plain
All are deserted from these motley scenes
With blighted yellow ting'd & russet stain
Tho desolation seems to triumph here
Yet these are spring to what we still shall find
The trees must all in nakedness appear
'Reft of their foliage by the blustry wind
Just so 'twill fare with me in Autumns life
Just so I'd wish—but may the trunk & all
Die with the leaves—nor taste that wintry strife
Where Sorrows urge—& fear Impedes the fall!

Ronnie, musing in bed.

[Image: Peter de Wint (1784-1849)]

It is July 1827; so what would be happening?  The bedroom is centuries older than this.  It is about six o’clock, and, outside, the white cat lifts up her face piteously.  She thinks she is passing away due to starvation.  Three horses take turns to gulp water at the tank, and the oaks promise heat. All this could have been happening.

I check in John Clare’s The Shepherd’s Calendar, and am relieved to find that the shepherd is flat on his back reading a book, for our view of the past is one of incessant labour.  But what work there is, is a romp, for the meadows “are mad with noise / Of laughing maids and shouting boys / Making up the withering hay”.  I stare down on the farmyard, now a sea of tall nettles, in whose depths lie the footings of pigsties, barns, and the stackyard itself.  Not a murmur.  Not a bird.  Just a cat praying for a last bite.

(From Ronnie Blythe’s ‘Word from Wormingford’, sometime in 2009)

The poem?
July, from the Shepherds Calendar :

July the month of summers prime
Again resumes her busy time
Scythes tinkle in each grassy dell
Where solitude was wont to dwell
& meadows they are mad with noise
Of laughing maids & shouting boys
Making up the withering hay
With merry hearts as light as play
The very insects on the ground
So nimbly bustle all around
Among the grass or dusty soil
They seem partakers in the toil
The very landscap reels with life
While mid the busy stir & strife
Of industry the shepherd still
Enjoys his summer dreams at will
Bent oer his hook or listless laid
Beneath the pastures willow shade
Whose foliage shines so cool & grey
Amid the sultry hues of day
As if the mornings misty veil
Yet lingered in their shadows pale
Or lolling in a musing mood
On mounds where saxon castles stood

(lines 1-24)

"Along the road were coupld maid & swain"

Along the road were coupld maid & swain
& dick from dolly now for gifts did sue
Hed gen her ribbons & he deemd again
Some kind return as nothing but his due
& he told things as ploughmen rarely knew
Bout breaking hearts & pains—a mighty spell
Her sunday clo'hs might damage wi the dew
She quite forgot them while he talkd so well
She gave the contest up at last to what no words dare tell

(Village Minstrel LXIX, but with Clare's original ending)

The poem is the subject of a letter from Clare to Taylor dated Sunday, 17th February 1821, in which he says this, "I have got the verse from Stamford & alterd it    I think just such as you can wish     no better to be done -- at least indelicacy is lost or the delicate will be damd puzzld to attribut that to it"

It is clear that the text in VM was a compromise after 'negotiation' between Taylor and Clare.  Clare went on to say in his letter, "I am pleasd with it by throwing such disguise over it to think how it will wrack the prudes to find fault     there is somthing in it but theyll know not were to get at it -- tis quite delicate now" (!)

Rather like "To an early cowslip" -- also in Volume I of VM -- which Clare managed to slip past Taylor unaltered, who entirely missed the erotic nature of the subject.

Song - "Sweet comes the morning"

[Image: One of Lady Clementina Hawarden's lovely daughters, photographed around 1860]

Sweet comes the morning,
In natures adorning,
And bright shines the dew, on the buds o' the thorn,
Where Mary Ann rambles,
Through sloe trees, and brambles,
She's sweeter than wild flowers that open at morn;
She's a rose i' the dew love,
Nothing's sweeter than true love,
She's as gay as the poppy, that grows in the corn.

Her eyes they are bright love,
Her bosom's snow white love,
And her voice is like songs o' the birds in the grove:
She's handsome, and bonny,
And fairer than onny,
And her person and actions, are natures, and love,
She has the bloom o' a' roses,
She is the breath o' sweet posies,
She's a' pure as the brood i' the nest o' the dove.

O' earths fairest daughters,
Voiced like falling waters,
She walks down the meadows, than blossoms more fair,
Oh her bosom, right fair is,
And her rose cheek, so rare is,
And parted, and lovely, her glossy black hair:
Her bosom's soft whiteness,
 The sun in its brightness,
 Has never been seen, so bewitchingly fair.

The dewy grass glitters,
The house swallow twitters,
And through the sky floats, in its visions o' bliss,
The lark soars on high,
On cowslips the dews lie,
And the best day's o' summer, are nothing like this:
When Mary Ann rambles,
Th[r]oug[h] hedge rows, and brambles,
The soft gales o' Spring are the seasons o' bliss.

LP II 916 (Knight transcript)