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

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.

Some pleasing objects for his praise delay

October has arrived and I feel that as well as turning over a new page on the calendar (I never even look until the first of the month so I have a little surprise!) I can also look again at John Clare’s Shepherd’s Calendar. Even though this was written nearly two hundred years ago many of the scenes he describes can still be seen today – especially in a rural area like our county of Somerset. Autumn is covering the right colours of summer, changing them to rich browns and golds, fields are full of stubble – with or without horses, and there are plenty of farm animals still in fields nearby – although no shepherd boys any more!

October

Nature now spreads around in dreary hue
A pall to cover all that summer knew
Yet in the poets solitary way
Some pleasing objects for his praise delay
Somthing that makes him pause and turn again
As every trifle will his eye detain
The free horse rustling through the stubble land
And bawling herd boy with his motly band
Of hogs and sheep and cows who feed their fill
Oer cleard fields rambling where so ere they will
The geese flock gabbling in the splashy fields
And quaking ducks in pondweeds half conseald
Or seeking worms along the homclose sward
Right glad of freedom from the prison yard
While every cart rut dribbles its low tide
And every hollow splashing sports provide
The hedger stopping gaps wi pointed bough
Made by intruding horse and blundering cow
The milk maid tripping on her morning way
And fodderers oft tho early cutting hay
Dropping the littering forkfulls from his back
Side where the thorn fence circles round the stack
The cotter journying wi his noisey swine
Along the wood side where the brambles twine
Shaking from dinted cups the acorns brown.

John Clare  1793 – 1864