Among the grassy woods

The Shepherd’s Calendar by John Clare was published in 1827 when John was twenty-four years old. You can visit John Clare’s Cottage not far from Peterborough which has connections to my own family.

The cottage website describes John’s Shepherd’s Calendar: “The poem provides a calendar of the country year, in which the various tasks performed by the farm labourer take their place: ploughing in February, lambing in March, and hay-making in June.  The countryman’s year is also punctuated by celebrations and festivals, such as May Day games, sheep-shearing feasts, Harvest Home, and Christmas. Rooted in popular culture, the poem has many vivid descriptions of the flowers, birds, and beasts of the hedgerow and field.”

Here is an extract from the verses about the month of July:

Others journying too and fro
Among the grassy woods below
Musing as if they felt and knew
The pleasant scenes they wandered thro
Where each bent round them seems to be
Hugh as a jiant timber tree
While pismires from their castles come
In crowds to seek the litterd crumb
Which he on purpose drops that they
May hawl the heavy loads away
Shaping the while their dark employs
To his own visionary joys
Picturing such a life as theirs
As free from summers sweating cares
And inly wishing that his own
Coud meet with joys so thickly sown
Sport seems the all that they pursue
And play the only work they do
The cowboy still cuts short the day
In mingling mischief with his play
Oft in the pond with weeds oer grown
Hurling quick the plashing stone
To cheat his dog who watching lies
And instant plunges for the prize
And tho each effort proves as vain
He shakes his coat and dives again
Till wearied with the fruitless play
Then drops his tail and sneaks away
Nor longer heeds the bawling boy
Who seeks new sports with added joy

John Clare

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