As falls the pattering rain

John Clare’s ‘The Shepherd’s Calendar’  is a poem cycle covering the months of the year. In parts it is idyllic, but there is also harsh reality too – life for ordinary folk in the nineteenth century was hard and precarious. People who worked on the land, like my ancestors  had a life of toil and labour, out in all weathers and doing s they were told, when they were told.

His description here is very apt for today’s weather, the flying clouds, the wind that o’er each coming tempest broods, the pattering rain – we had a lot of pattering rain today!

The flying clouds urged on in swiftest pace
Like living things as if they runned a race
The winds that oer each coming tempest broods
Waking like spirits in their startling moods
Fluttering the sear leaves on the blasting lea
That litters under every fading tree
And pausing oft as falls the pattering rain
Then gathering strength and twirling them again
The startld stockdove hurried wizzing bye
As the still hawk hangs oer him in the sky
Crows from the oak trees qawking as they spring
Dashing the acorns down wi beating wing
Waking the woodlands sleep in noises low
Pattring on crimpt brakes withering brown below
While from their hollow nest the squirrels (pop)
Adown the tree to pick them as they drop
The starnel crowds that dim the muddy light
The crows and jackdaws flapping home at night
And puddock circling round its lazy flight
Round the wild sweeing wood in motion slow
Before it perches on the oaks below
And hugh black beetles revelling alone
In the dull evening with their heavy drone
Buzzing from barn door straw and hovel sides
Where fodderd cattle from the night abides
These pictures linger thro the shortning day
And cheer the lone bards mellancholy way
And now and then a solitary boy
Journeying and muttering oer his dreams of joy.

John Clare 1793 – 1864

Nevada Barr

Many  years ago, before we moved south to Somerset we lived in the village of Lees near Oldham. Many people might drive through and not realise it was a separate place from the larger town, but yes, it is a village, and a very old village, dating back nearly eight hundred years. There were (and no doubt still are) lots of great things about Lees and living there, and one of the best was the library. There was always a great selection of books, always new books coming in, friendly helpful librarians, and it was where I first joined a book club!

I found so many books on Lees Library shelves which introduced me to authors I have continued to enjoy ever since – Ian Rankin was publishing his first Rebus novels, Bill Bryson, Robert Harris, Frank McCourt… and in the fiction section I came across a book by the remarkable sounding Nevada Barr. Being attracted by the unusual name, and finding that it was a mystery novel, I borrowed it… and having wolfed it down, borrowed every other book by her that I could.

I know I read these, because they were all published in the 90’s when we were living in Lees:

  • 1993 Track of the Cat
  • 1994 A Superior Death
  • 1995 Ill Wind
  • 1996 Firestorm
  • 1997 Endangered Species
  • 1998 Blind Descent

Nevada Barr was not named after the state of Nevada, although she was born and brought up there – apparently it was a name her father liked from a character in a novel. She was born in 192, and seems to have had a most interesting life as an actress and park ranger among other things before she had books published in the late 1980’s – I don’t know when she started writing, maybe she’s written all her life!

Nevada has written other books, but she is most well-known for her Anna Pigeon mysteries – which are the ones I mention above. I guess I didn’t find the name Pigeon as strange as other people might because we had neighbours, Mr and Mrs Pigeon when we were younger – I don’t remember them except they were elderly and always seemed to have very smokey bonfires in their back garden!

Anna Pigeon is a park ranger, and also a detective; the mysteries are set in various different national parks where Anna works – for example the books above are set in:

  • Guadalupe Mountains National Park
  • Isle Royale National Park
  • Mesa Verde National Park
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park
  • Cumberland Island National Seashore
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park

I remember enjoying the stories very much but I only ever borrowed the books from the library so I have never reread them. I was at a bit of a loss as to what to read the other night, having bought a couple of disappointing  books, and wanting something engaging and puzzling, I looked down various lists of suggestions… when suddenly I remembered Nevada Barr!

I looked her up and found she had written a lot more Anna Pigeon books, in fact nineteen altogether!!! Gosh!!! If I still like her writing then I have a treasure trove! I bought the first book, Track of the Cat, hoping I wouldn’t be disappointed. It’s horrid when you remember a fabulous book from long ago, buy it and then found it’s not nearly as good as you remember!

I started reading it last night… and I’m delighted to report I am utterly gripped – not just by the mystery (dead body at the end of chapter 1) but by the wonderful descriptive writing; I have never been to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, but I can vividly imagine it now!

Here is a link to Nevada Barr’s page:

http://www.nevadabarr.com

By he way, my featured image is not of Nevada or anywhere else in the USA!

October – nature like fair woman in decay

Here is a further extract from John Clare’s Shepherd’s Calendar from the month of October:

Black ripening to the wan suns misty ray
Here the industrious huswives wend their way
Pulling the brittle branches carefull down
And hawking loads of berrys to the town
Wi unpretending skill yet half divine
To press and make their eldern berry wine
That bottld up becomes a rousing charm
To kindle winters icy bosom warm
That wi its merry partner nut brown beer
Makes up the peasants christmass keeping cheer
While nature like fair woman in decay
Which pale consumption hourly wastes away
Upon her waining features pale and chill
Wears dreams of beauty that seem lovely still
Among the heath furze still delights to dwell
Quaking as if with cold the harvest bell
The mushroom buttons each moist morning brings
Like spots of snow in the green tawney rings
And fuzz balls swelld like bladders in the grass
Which oft the merry laughing milking lass
Will stoop to gather in her sportive airs
And slive in mimickd fondness unawares
To smut the brown cheek of the teazing swain
Wi the black powder which their balls contain
Who feigns offence at first that love may speed
Then charms a kiss to recompence the deed

John Clare  1793 – 1864

Pert sparrows and tutling robins

Continuing John Clare’s delightful description of autumn, and we are with t’he poet as he walks the fields’; he sees the old ladies with their wicker baskets out and about gathering fruit from the hedgerows, elderberries, and blackberries hanging in ‘swathy bunches‘ and there are the little sparrows, their beaks black from the juice, and  the ‘tutling‘ robin… I can’t discover what Clare meant by this but I can guess it might be his chattering song!

In such lone spots these wild wood roamers dwell
On commons where no farmers claims appear
Nor tyrant justice rides to interfere
Such the abodes neath hedge or spreading oak
And but discovered by its curling smoak
Puffing and peeping up as wills the breeze
Between the branches of the colord trees
Such are the pictures that october yields
To please the poet as he walks the fields
Oft dames in faded cloak of red or grey
Loiters along the mornings dripping way
Wi wicker basket on their witherd arms
Searching the hedges of home close or farms
Where brashy elder trees to autum fade
Each cotters mossy hut and garden shade
Whose glossy berrys picturesquly weaves
Their swathy bunches mid the yellow leaves
Where the pert sparrow stains his little bill
And tutling robin picks his meals at will.

Book day!

Yesterday, the tenth of October was  Literature Day in Finland – how brilliant! This is something I wrote last year:

Finns  don’t have to fly the national flag on Literature Day, but they are encouraged to do so, and it struck me that it would be a great idea to have something similar over here. I don’t mean anything like national Book Day where children dress up as  characters from books – although I guess that could be an aspect of it, but I mean a day to celebrate the wonderful achievement of writers from Britain.

In Finland, the date was chosen because it was the birthday of Alexis Kivi, who is recognised as one of the greatest Finnish writers of all times. His real name was Alexis Stenvell and he was born in 1834; he wrote plays, but is perhaps best remembered for a novel called ‘Seven Brothers’ which was published in 1870, two years before his death at the early age of thirty-eight.

Kivi was born in 1834 and while at university became involved with the theatre; his first play was  Kullervo and was inspired by the national epic, Kalevala. He went on to write twelve plays altogether, and he was a poet, but he is most remembered for his one novel, ‘Seitsemän Veljestä’, ‘Seven Brothers’ which took him nearly ten years to write. One of the significant things about the novel is that it was written in Finnish; up until then most writers used Swedish.

If we had a National Literature day, when would it be held? There are so many dates in contention:

  • January 25th is already celebrated in Scotland and by Scots people everywhere as the birth date of Robbie Burns in 1759, he died July 21st 1796
  • February 7th when Dickens was born in 1812 or when he died in 1870, June 9th
  • April 17th, Henry Vaughan was born in 1621 in Wales
  • April 23rd to commemorate Shakespeare, 1564-1616 – but he is already commemorated on this day – and it’s St George’s Day, and it’s the anniversary of the death of Henry Vaughan in 1695
  • May 22nd 1859, Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh – he died in England in 1930 on July 7th
  • August 15th – Sir Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh in 1771; he died in Melrose on September 21st 1832
  • October 25 – the great 14th century English poet Geoffrey Chaucer died 1400 in London, (no-one knows exactly when he was born)
  • October 27, 1914 Dylan Thomas was born; he died  November 9, 1953
  • November 9th when John Milton was born in 1608 – or December 8th when he dies, in 1674
  • November 13th one of my favourite story-tellers, Robert Louis Stephenson was born, also in Edinburgh, and died in Samoa December 3rd 1894

So quite a selection of dates – and I’m sure other people would think of more! So here is the section, bear in mind time of year, other festivities about the same time and clashes with other special days:

  • January 25th birth of Robbie Burns
  • February 7th birth of Dickens
  • April 17th birth Henry Vaughan
  • April 23rd Shakespeare’s birth and death, death of Henry Vaughan
  • May 22nd birth of Arthur Conan Doyle
  •  June 9th death of Dickens
  • July 7th death of Arthur Conan Doyle
  • July 21st  death of Robbie Burns
  • August 15th birth of Sir Walter Scott
  •  September 21st death of Arthur Conan Doyle
  • October 25 death of Geoffrey Chaucer
  • October 27 birth of Dylan Thomas
  • November 9th birth of John Milton, death of Dylan Thomas
  • November 13th birth of Robert Louis Stephenson
  • December 3rd death of Robert Louis Stephenson
  • December 8th death of John Milton

 

Squirrel dreams

Continuing John Clare’s October month from his cycle of poems, The Shepherd’s Calendar:

The cotter journying wi his noisev swine
Along the wood side where the brambles twine
Shaking from dinted cups the acorns brown
And from the hedges red awes dashing down
And nutters rustling in the yellow woods
Scaring from their snug lairs the pheasant broods
And squirrels secret toils oer winter dreams
Picking the brown nuts from the yellow beams
And hunters from the thickets avenue
In scarlet jackets startling on the view
Skiming a moment oer the russet plain
Then hiding in the colord woods again
The ploping guns sharp momentary shock
Which eccho bustles from her cave to mock
The sticking groups in many a ragged set
Brushing the woods their harmless loads to get
And gipseys camps in some snug shelterd nook
Where old lane hedges like the pasture brook
Run crooking as they will by wood and dell.

John Clare  1793 – 1864

Days grow short

Maybe this will be another thing I share every year, just so beautiful!!

Such a beautiful song, such a wonderful and seasonal lyric by  Dennis Britt,  Jaime Hanna and  Alan Miller:

Leaves fall in the cool October air
Days grow short and I can’t remember, where I saw you last
Turned against the summer light
Walking off on that final August night, I was there on my knees all alone
In a world where nothing ever stays the same
I am left with only things I cannot change
You’ve gone away
And left me things I cannot change

Smoke will rise and the fire always burns
Sands will drift and tides will turn and I can’t wrestle with the sea
Rearrange the sky or fight against the wind
Anymore than I can bring you back to me
In a world where nothing ever stays the same
I am left with only things I cannot change
You’ve gone away
And left me things I cannot change
So far away and left me things I cannot change

Left me things I cannot change
Left me things I cannot change