The daft hill plover

This is George Campbell Hay’s vivid description of an air-borne golden plover, which he observed in remote Wester Ross. If you’re really very lucky, you might see one in Wiltshire in winter.

The daft hill plover tumbles,

and cries his birling cry,

tumbles and climbs and tumbles,

daft in the wide hill-sky.

 

Alone with his hill-top daftness,

he runs himself a race,

The windy, daft hill plover,

daft with wind and space.

The Winter’s Spring

This is an extract from John Clare’s The Winter’s Spring.  It reminds me to make the best of every season, even winter, despite aching cold and biting winds.

The winter comes; I walk alone,

I want no bird to sing;

To those who keep their hearts their own

The winter is the spring.

No flowers to please – no bees to hum –

The coming spring’s already come.

 

I never want the grass to bloom:

The snowstorm’s best in white.

I love to see the tempest come

And love its piercing light.

The dazzled eyes that love to cling

O’er snow-white meadows sees the spring.

 

I love the snow, the crumpling snow

That hangs on everything,

It covers everything below

Like white dove’s brooding wing,

A landscape to the aching sight,

A vast expanse of dazzling light.

 

It is the foliage of the woods

That winters bring – the dress,

White Easter of the year in bud,

That makes the winter Spring.

The frost and snow his posies bring,

Nature’s white spurts of the spring.

For the Bed at Kelmscott

In William Morris’s room at Kelmscott Manor, the early 17th century carved oak bed has an embroidered valance and bed-hangings that were designed in 1891 by his daughter, May. This poem, written by Morris, is part of the embroidery. 

The wind’s on the wold
 and the night is a-cold,

And Thames runs chill
 twixt mead and hill,

But kind and dear is the old house here,

And my heart is warm
 midst winter’s harm.

Rest then and rest,
 and think of the best

Twixt summer and spring 
when all birds sing

In the town of the tree,
 as ye lie in me

And scarce dare move 
lest earth and its love

Should fade away
 ere the full of the day.

I am old and have seen 
many things that have been,

Both grief and peace,
 and wane and increase.

No tale I tell
 of ill or well,

But this I say,
 night treadeth on day,

And for worst and best,
 right good is rest.

A Hymn on the Nativity of My Saviour

I sing the birth was born tonight,

The Author both of life and light:

The angels so did sound it;

And like the ravished shepherds said,

Who saw the light and were afraid,

Yet searched, and true they found it.

 

The Son of God, th’eternal King,

That did us all salvation bring,

And freed the world from danger;

He whom the whole world could not take,

The Lord which heav’n and earth did make,

Was now laid in a manger.

 

The Father’s wisdom willed it so,

The Son’s obedience knew no “No,”

Both wills were in one stature;

And, as that wisdom had decreed,

The Word was now made flesh indeed,

And took on Him our nature.

 

What comfort by Him do we win,

Who made Himself the price of sin,

To make us heirs of glory!

To see this Babe, all innocence,

A Martyr born in our defence,

Can man forget this story?

 

Ben Jonson, [1573 – 1637] was first a bricklayer, and then a soldier in Flanders. He became an essayist, and one of the major dramatists and poets of the seventeenth century.

Hurrahing in Harvest

SUMMER ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks arise

Around; up above, what wind-walks! what lovely behaviour

Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, wilful-wavier

Meal-drift moulded ever and melted across skies?

I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes,

Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour;

And, éyes, heárt, what looks, what lips yet gave you a

Rapturous love’s greeting of realer, of rounder replies?

And the azurous hung hills are his world-wielding shoulder

Majestic – as a stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet! –

These things, these things were here and but the beholder

Wanting; which two when they once meet,

The heart rears wings bold and bolder

And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet

Gerard Manley Hopkins drafted this, typically complex and prematurely modern, sonnet in September 1877 in the Vale of Clwyd, as he walked home from a day’s fishing in the River Elwy. It’s a harvest festival sort of poem.

Written in November

Autumn, I love thy parting look to view

In cold November’s day, so bleak and bare,

When, thy life’s dwindled thread worn nearly thro’,

With ling’ring, pott’ring pace, and head bleach’d bare,

Thou, like an old man, bidd’st the world adieu.

I love thee well: and often, when a child,

Have roam’d the bare brown heath a flower to find;

And in the moss-clad vale, and wood-bank wild

Have cropt the little bell-flowers, pearly blue,

That trembling peep the shelt’ring bush behind.

When winnowing north-winds cold and bleaky blew,

How have I joy’d, with dithering hands, to find,

Each fading flower; and still how sweet the blast,

Would bleak November’s hour restore the joy that’s past.

John Clare

The month of carnival of all the year

A Calendar of Sonnets: October

The month of carnival of all the year,
When Nature lets the wild earth go its way,
And spend whole seasons on a single day.
The spring-time holds her white and purple dear;
October, lavish, flaunts them far and near;
The summer charily her reds doth lay
Like jewels on her costliest array;
October, scornful, burns them on a bier.
The winter hoards his pearls of frost in sign
Of kingdom: whiter pearls than winter knew,
Oar empress wore, in Egypt’s ancient line,
October, feasting ‘neath her dome of blue,
Drinks at a single draught, slow filtered through
Sunshiny air, as in a tingling wine!

Helen Hunt Jackson