Cloud Shapes

Clouds rack and drive before the wind
In shapes and forms of every kind,
Like waves that rise without the roar,
And rocks that guard an untrodden shore;
Now castles pass majestic by
And ships in peaceful havens lie;
These gone, ten thousand shapes ensue,
For ever beautiful and new.

The scattered clouds lie calm and still,
And day throws gold on every hill;
Their thousand heads in glory run,
As each were worlds and owned a sun.
The rime it clings to everything,
It beards the early buds of spring;
The mossy pales, the orchard spray,
Are feathered with its silver-grey.

Pet MS A59 r78


In spots like these the shepherd loves to fling
His careless limbs neath the young leaves of spring
To muse upon some wild brooks hasty streams
& idly revel over waking dreams

Or stretched in carless mood upon his back
To view the blue sky & its sweeping rack
Lifting his fancies to each passing cloud
& shaping every one that journeys proud

Oer its mysterious way to forms & things
That fancys visions to his memory brings

Some like to rocks gleam in their wondering eye
Mid shoreless seas & some go swifter bye

Like mighty ships still charging on their way
To other ships more beautiful than they
Soft as the paper ships they often make
& float on curdling brook or meadow lake

Some white like palaces of marble seems
The towers of heaven which they’re called in dreams
& which his waking fancys grandly shine
The abodes of one that instant suns divine

Some like to mountains shadow high & some
Like the dear vales that nestle round their home
With cots & groves & fountains streaming bye
Spread lengthening seems to the musing eye

& thus they dream away their idle hours
Stretched on the trembling grass & nodding flowers
& wishing often on their summer beds
For the larks wings that whistles oer their heads

To realize their artless dreams & flye
To the soft bosom of the summer sky
To trace the seeming vales and mountains there
That hopeless distance personifys so fair

Each flower agen smiles thro the aching dew
Like lovly absent faces seen anew
Rich with the same purfumes & luscious smiles
They wake agen ones leisure to beguile

Like an old tale of pleasure told again
After long years of desolating pain

Pet MS A21 p6
(one of the alternative readings of 'Spring' from Midsummer Cushion - there are quite a few)

The sallows...

A treat for us all...

The sallows glisten in their gay palm bloom
Studded with golden down where earliest come
The solitary wild bees that servive
Their trance & ere the tenants of the hive
Dare venure out are searching field & wood
& from scarce blossoms seeking scanty food
Hanging there yet half doubtful hopes along
& humming wearily a lonly song

Pet MS A21 p4

"The frog croaks loud..."

[Image: Anne Lee]

A sonnet, but WHAT a sonnet...

The frog croaks loud & maidens dare not pass 
But fear the noisome toad & shuns the grass
& on the sunny banks they fear to go 
Where hissing snakes run to the floods below
The nuthatch noises loud in wood & wild
Like women turning skreekers to a child
The schoolboy hears & brushes through the trees 
& runs about till drabbled to the knees
The old hawk winnows round the old crows nest
The schoolboy hears & wonder fills his breast
He throws his basket down to climb the tree 
& wonders what the red blotched eggs can be
The green woodpecker bounces from the view 
& hollow as they buzz along kew kew 

MP V 379

The crow sat on the willow tree

[Image: 'Deepings crowsong' by John Lincoln]

The crow sat on the willow tree
A-lifting up his wings,
And glossy was his coat to see,
And loud the ploughman sings,
"I love my love because I know
The milkmaid she loves me";
And hoarsely croaked the glossy crow
Upon the willow tree.
"I love my love" the ploughman sung,
And all the fields with music rung.

"I love my love, a bonny lass,
She keeps her pails so bright,
And blythe she trips the dewy grass
At morning and at night.
A cotton dress her morning gown,
Her face was rosy health:
She traced the pastures up and down
And nature was her wealth."
He sung, and turned each furrow down,
His sweetheart's love in cotton gown.

John Clare, Bird Poems

introduced by Peter Levi (London: Folio Society, 1980)

Plowman Singing

Here morning in the ploughmans songs is met
Ere yet one footstep shows in all the sky
& twilight in the east a doubt as yet
Shows not her sleeve of grey to know her bye
Woke early I arose & thought that first
In winter time of all the world was I
The old owls might have halooed if they durst
But joy just then was up & whistled bye
A merry tune which I had known full long
But could not to my memory wake it back
Untill the ploughman changed it to the song
O happiness how simple is thy track
-- Tinged like the willow shoots the easts young brow
Glows red & finds thee singing at the plough

MP V 224

Harvest, Clare and Ronnie Blythe

Turning my John Clare lectures into a book, I don't have to wonder what happened in his day; for there it is, every exhausting moment of it, every custom, every ritual joy and pain. And I can just see a Helpston farmer apologising for the inconvenience. Those who brought the harvest home would have swayed across their own thresholds at a moonlit midnight, scratched to bits, a little drunk, as they deserved to be.

Upon the waggon now, with eager bound, 
The lusty picker whirls the rustling sheaves; 
Or, resting ponderous creaking fork aground, 
Boastful at once whole shocks of barley heaves: 
The loading boy revengeful inly grieves 
To find his unmatched strength and power decay; 
The barley horn his garments interweaves; 
Smarting and sweating 'neath the sultry day, 
With muttering curses stung, he mauls the heaps away.

Ronald Blythe - Word from Wormingford - 19th August 2005
(excerpt - lines 29 to 37 of 'The Harvest Morning')