Saturday, January 19, 2013

January / John Clare (4)


   Thus dame the winter-night regales
With wonder’s never-ceasing tales;            
While in a corner, ill at ease,
Or crushing ’tween their father’s knees,
The children — silent all the while —
And e’en repressed the laugh or smile —
Quake with the ague chills of fear,
And tremble though they love to hear;
Starting, while they the tales recall,
At their own shadows on the wall:
Till the old clock, that strikes unseen
Behind the picture-pasted screen                                
Where Eve and Adam still agree
To rob Life’s fatal apple-tree,
Counts over bed-time’s hour of rest,
And bids each be Sleep’s fearful guest.
She then her half-told tales will leave
To finish on to-morrow’s eve.—
The children steal away to-bed,
And up the ladder softly tread;
Scarce daring — from their fearful joys —
To look behind or make a noise;                                
Nor speak a word! but still as sleep
They secret to their pillows creep,
And whisper o’er, in terror’s way,
The prayers they dare no louder say;
Then hide their heads beneath the clothes,
And try in vain to seek repose:
While yet, to fancy’s sleepless eye,
Witches on sheep-trays gallop by,
And fairies, like a rising spark,
Swarm twittering round them in the dark;                  
Till sleep creeps nigh to ease their cares,
And drops upon them unawares.

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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