Saturday, January 26, 2013

January / John Clare (2)


   The shutter closed, the lamp alight,
The faggot chopt and blazing bright—
The shepherd now, from labour free,
Dances his children on his knee;
While, underneath his master’s seat,
The tired dog lies in slumbers sweet,
Starting and whimpering in his sleep,
Chasing still the straying sheep.                          
The cat’s roll’d round in vacant chair,
Or leaping children’s knees to lair—
Or purring on the warmer hearth,
Sweet chorus to the cricket’s mirth.—

   The redcap, hanging over head,
In cage of wire is perch’d a-bed;
Slumbering in his painted feathers,
Unconscious of the out-door weathers:
Ev’n things without the cottage walls
Meet comfort as the evening falls,—                        
As happy in the Winter’s dearth
As those around the blazing hearth.—
The ass, (frost-driven from the moor,
Where storms through naked bushes roar,
And not a leaf or sprig of green,
On ground or quaking bush, is seen,
Save grey-vein’d ivy’s hardy pride,
Round old trees by the common side)
Litter’d with straw, now dozes warm,
Beneath his shed, from snow and storm:                      
The swine are fed and in the stye;
And fowls snug perch’d in hovel nigh,
With head in feathers safe asleep,
Where foxes cannot hope to creep;
And geese are gabbling in their dreams
Of litter’d corn and thawing streams.—
The sparrow, too, a daily guest,
Is in the cottage eaves at rest:
And robin small, and smaller wren,
Are in their warm holes safe again                          
From falling snows, that winnow by
The hovels where they nightly lie,
And ague winds, that shake the tree
Where other birds are forc’d to be.—
The housewife, busy night and day,
Clears the supper-things away;
The jumping cat starts from her seat;
And stretching up on weary feet
The dog wakes at the welcome tones
That call him up to pick the bones.                        

   On corner walls, a glittering row,
Hang fire-irons—less for use than show;
With horse-shoe brighten’d, as a spell,
Witchcraft’s evil powers to quell;
And warming-pan, reflecting bright
The crackling blazes’ flickering light,
That hangs the corner wall to grace,
Nor oft is taken from its place:
There in its mirror, bright as gold,
The children peep, and straight behold                      
Their laughing faces, whilst they pass,
Gleam on the lid as plain as glass.—

   Supper removed, the mother sits,
And tells her tales by starts and fits.
Not willing to lose time or toil,
She knits or sews, and talks the while
Something, that may be warnings found
To the young listeners gaping round—
Of boys who in her early day
Stroll’d to the meadow-lake to play,                        
Where willows, o’er the bank inclined,
Shelter’d the water from the wind,
And left it scarcely crizzled o’er—
When one sank in, to rise no more!
And how, upon a market-night,
When not a star bestow’d its light,
A farmer’s shepherd, o’er his glass,
Forgot that he had woods to pass:
And having sold his master’s sheep,
Was overta’en by darkness deep.                            
How, coming with his startled horse,
To where two roads a hollow cross;
Where, lone guide when a stranger strays,
A white post points four different ways,
Beside the woodride’s lonely gate
A murdering robber lay in wait.
The frighten’d horse, with broken rein
Stood at the stable-door again;
But none came home to fill his rack,
Or take the saddle from his back:                          
The saddle—it was all he bore—
The man was seen alive no more!—
In her young days, beside the wood,
The gibbet in its terror stood:
Though now decay’d, ’tis not forgot,
But dreaded as a haunted spot.—

John Clare
from The Shepherd's Calendar, 1827

[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]

Read "January" complete
Read The Shepherd's Calendar complete
John Clare biography

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