A tale of spring

We’ve had such a lovely day, it really seems spring is with us! here are some lines from John Clare, the Shepherds Calendar for March:

March month of ‘many weathers’ wildly comes

And where the stunt bank fronts the southern sky
By lanes or brooks where sunbeams love to lye
A cowslip peep will open faintly coy
Soon seen and gathered by a wandering boy
A tale of spring around the distant haze
Seems muttering pleasures wi the lengthening days
Morn wakens mottled oft wi may day stains
And shower drops hang the grassy sprouting plains
And on the naked thorns of brassy hue
Drip glistning like a summer dream of dew
While from the hill side freshing forest drops
As one might walk upon their thickening tops
And buds wi young hopes promise seemly swells
Where woodman that in wild seclusion dwells
Wi chopping toil the coming spring deceives
Of many dancing shadows flowers and leaves
And in his pathway down the mossy wood
Crushes wi hasty feet full many a bud

A Cavern That Overlooks the River Avon

When I was growing up in Cambridge, we had local giants, Gog and Magog, or maybe it was a single giant Gogmagog after whom some low chalky hills were named… or so I always believed and so we learnt in our local history lessons when I was at junior school.  However there is also a Biblical connection, but Gog was the giant and Magog was his land…

Now we live near Bristol, it seems there were giants here too, Goram and Ghyston, or Vincent, who lived in a cave in the Avon Gorge… you can still see the cave today, but here is a poem by Robert Southey, who lived from 1774 to 1843; he was born in Bristol and obviously knew the legends:

For a Cavern that Overlooks the River Avon

Enter this cavern, Stranger! Here, awhile
Respiring from the long and steep ascent,
Thou mayst be glad of rest, and haply too
Of shade, if from the summer’s westering sun
Sheltered beneath this beetling vault of rock.
Round the rude portal clasping its rough arms,
The antique ivy spreads a canopy,
From whose gray blossoms the wild bees collect
In autumn their last store. The Muses love
This spot; believe a Poet who hath felt
Their visitation here. The tide below,
Rising or refluent, scarcely sends its sound
Of waters up ; and from the heights beyond,
Where the high-hanging forest waves and sways,
Varying before the wind its verdant hues,
The voice is music here. Here thou mayst feel
How good, how lovely. Nature! And when, hence
Returning to the city’s crowded streets,
Thy sickening eye at every step revolts
From scenes of vice and wretchedness, reflect
That Man creates the evil he endures.

Robert Southey

Her is what the cave looks like:

https://www.cliftonobservatory.com/giants-cave/

When daisies pied and violets blue

I saw some violets yesterday, they were just growing on a grassy bank, a whole crowd of them in the sunshine, and i was reminded of the old flower seller who used to sit in Petty Cury in Cambridge calling ‘Vi’lets! Lovely vi’lets! Vi’lets! Lovely vi’lets!

When daisies pied and violets blue

When daisies pied and violets blue
And lady-smocks all silver-white,
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight,
The cuckoo then, on every tree,
Mocks married men; for thus sings he,
Cuckoo!
Cuckoo, cuckoo! – O word of fear,
Unpleasing to a married ear!

When shepherds pipe on oaten straws,
And merry larks are ploughmen’s clocks,
When turtles tread, and rooks, and daws,
And maidens bleach their summer smocks
The cuckoo then, on every tree,
Mocks married men; for thus sings he,
Cuckoo!
Cuckoo, cuckoo! – O word of fear,
Unpleasing to a married ear!

William Shakespeare

Love’s frenzied stifled throes

I am becoming more and more fascinated by the poet John Clare; he did not have an easy life, from his humble beginnings, to his difficult adult life, beset by so many misfortunes… and yet his poetry is sublime…

I Am!
I am—yet what I am none cares or knows;
My friends forsake me like a memory lost:
I am the self-consumer of my woes—
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shadows in love’s frenzied stifled throes
And yet I am, and live—like vapours tossed
Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life or joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
Even the dearest that I loved the best
Are strange—nay, rather, stranger than the rest.
I long for scenes where man hath never trod
A place where woman never smiled or wept
There to abide with my Creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie
The grass below—above the vaulted sky
John Clare

Bonny March

We’re in the month of March, and so far it has come storming in like a lion, so maybe it will exit like a lamb! Born in the summer of 1793, John Clare was the son of a farm labourer; he was not well educated but became renowned for his celebrations of the English countryside. He died in 1864, having spent many years in an asylum…

… but here is a lovely poem by John Clare:

March Nosegay

The bonny March morning is beaming
In mingled crimson and grey,
White clouds are streaking and creaming
The sky till the noon of the day;
The fir deal looks darker and greener,
And grass hills below look the same;
The air all about is serener,
The birds less familiar and tame.

Here’s two or three flowers for my fair one,
Wood primroses and celandine too;
I oft look about for a rare one
To put in a posy for you.
The birds look so clean and so neat,
Though there’s scarcely a leaf on the grove;
The sun shines about me so sweet,
I cannot help thinking of love.

So where the blue violets are peeping,
By the warm sunny sides of the woods,
And the primrose, ‘neath early morn weeping,
Amid a large cluster of buds,
(The morning it was such a rare one,
So dewy, so sunny, and fair,)
I sought the wild flowers for my fair one,
To wreath in her glossy black hair.

Child of lubricious art

I shared a sonnet by Royal Tyler a couple of days go… here is another!

Sonnet to an Old Mouser

Child of lubricious art, of sanguine sport!
Of pangful mirth! sweet ermin’d sprite!
Who lov’st, with silent, velvet step, to court
The bashful bosom of the night.
Those elfin eyes can pierce night’s sable gloom,
And witch her fairy prey with guile,
Who sports fell frolic o’er the grisly tomb,
And gracest death with dimpling smile!
Daughter of ireful mirth, sportive in rage,
Whose joy should shine in sculptur’d bas relief
Like Patience, in rapt Shakespeare’s deathless page,
Smiling in marble at wan grief.
Oh, come, and teach me all thy barb’rous joy,
To sport with sorrow first, and then destroy

On a Ruined House in a Romantic Country

The magnificently named Royall Tyler, born in 1757 in Boston was an American lawyer and playwright, and also a Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Vermont. He sounds a remarkable character, both in his public and private life, and founded a ‘dynasty’ of Royall Tylers, his great-grandson, also  Royall Tyler, born in 1884, was a famous historian, and  another Royall Tyler born in 1936 is a well-known scholar and a translator of Japanese literature.

Here is a sonnet:

On a Ruined House in a Romantic Country

And this reft house is that the which he built,
Lamented Jack! and here his malt he pil’d,
Cautious in vain! These rats that squeak so wild,
Squeak, not unconscious of their father’s guilt.
Did ye not see her gleaming through the glade!
Belike, ‘t was she, the maiden all forlorn.
What tho’ she, the maiden all forlorn.
What tho’ she milk no cow with crumpled horn,
Yet, aye, she haunts the dale where erst she stray’d;
And aye, beside her stalks her amorous knight!
Still on his thighs their wonted brogues are worn,
And thro’ those brogues, still tatter’d and betorn,
His hindward charms gleam an unearthly white;
As when thro’ broken clouds at night’s high noon
Peeps in fair fragments forth the full orb’d harvest moon.