Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Shepherd's Calendar - June

Here is an excerpt from the June poem in John Clare's 'Shepherd's Calendar'. Remember that you have to put in your own punctuation as you read:) The lovely painting above is by Helen Allingham.

Some ancient customs mixd wi harmless fun
Crowns the swains merry toils - the timid maid
Pleasd to be praised and yet of praise affraid
Seeks her best flowers not those of woods and fields
But such as every farmer's garden yields

Fine cabbage roses painted like her face
And shining pansies trimd in golden lace
And tall tuft larkheels feathered thick wi flowers
And woodbines climbing oer the doors in bowers

And London tufts of many a mottled hue
And pale pink pea and monkshood darkly blue
And white and purple jiliflowers that stay
Lingering in blossom summer half away
And single blood walls of a luscious smell

Old fashioned flowers which hus wives love so well
And columbines stone blue or deep night brown
Their honey-comb-like blossoms hanging down
Each cottage gardens fond adopted child

Just to help you out with the flower names
larks heels are larkspur
London tufts are London Pride
jiliflower could be either pinks/carnations or wallflowers
bloods are also wallflowers, the lovely deep red ones

June is sheep shearing time and the girl is collecting flowers for her 'clipping posies' which were little nosegays presented to the sheep shearers - I believe they were often sprinkled with pepper or snuff which was the cause of much hilarity when the unsuspecting recipient put the sweet-smelling flowers to his nose. Sheep shearing was hard, hot work but not entirely without its pleasures. The farmer would usually supply copious amounts of home brewed cider or ale to help things along. In fact here are another few lines -

The large stone pitcher in its homely trim
And clouded pint horn wi its copper rim
Oer which rude healths was drank in spirits high
From the best broach the cellar would supply
While sung the ancient swains in homly rhymes
Songs that were pictures of the good old times
When leathern bottles held the beer nut brown
That wakd the sun wi songs and sung him down

Life was hard but it had it's lighter side as well.


Sal said...

I love both the picture and the poem.I've been studying John Clare's 'Sonnet' with my pupils, this year. I love that one too.

Wanda said...

After reading your lovely poem with the music in the background...I was so relaxed I sighed.

Piecefulafternoon said...

Wonderful poem and pictures.

PAT said...

Wonderful poem and gorgeous images!!

Derrick said...

Hello Rowan,

Another lovely post. We used to have wallflowers and michaelmass daisies in the garden when I was small. The fact that they returned year after year was amazing!

Rosie said...

'pleasd to be praised and yet of praise affraid' - isn't that wonderful? We have loads of'london tufts' in our garden - I remember it in my grandma's garden when I used to play there as a child:) Lovely post!

Anonymous said...

Simply beautiful !! I love the dark columbines ; )

Julie said...

I can't decide which is prettier - the poem or the flowers. But oh, how I love those pinks.