The Shepherd’s Calendar – June

John Clare published his Shepherd’s Calendar in 1827.  It contains 12 long poems, each about country life month by month, and the shepherd’s part in this.  June begins …

NOW Summer is in flower, and Nature’s hum
Is never silent round her bounteous bloom;
Insects, as small as dust, have never done
With glitt’ring dance, and reeling in the sun;
And green wood-fly, and blossom-haunting bee,
Are never weary of their melody.
Round field and hedge, flowers in full glory twine,
Large bind-weed bells, wild hop, and streak’d woodbine,
That lift athirst their slender throated flowers,
Agape for dew-falls, and for honey showers;
These o’er each bush in sweet disorder run,
And spread their wild hues to the sultry sun.

The shepherd’s leisure hours are over now;
No more he loiters ’neath the hedge-row bough,
On shadow-pillowed banks and lolling stile;
The wilds must lose their summer friend awhile.
With whistle, barking dogs, and chiding scold,
He drives the bleating sheep from fallow fold
To wash-pools, where the willow shadows lean,
Dashing them in, their stained coats to clean;
Then, on the sunny sward, when dry again,
He brings them homeward to the clipping pen
Of hurdles form’d, where elm or sycamore
Shut out the sun – or to some threshing-floor.

Summers never seem to me as wonderful as Clare describes them, though everything he writes about is still hereabouts, if you look for it.  However, whilst the essentials of shepherding remain, the society within which it was embedded has long gone.


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