Friday 1 February 2013

A Poem for the Turn of the Month

February already - a new month! This calls for a seasonal poem.
Here is John Clare, sharp-eyed as ever, in The Shepherd's Calendar, enjoying the effects of a February thaw, though he knows it will not last...

The small birds think their wants are oer
To see the snow hills fret again
And from the barns chaff litterd door
Betake them to the greening plain
The woodmans robin startles coy
Nor longer at his elbow comes
To peck wi hungers eager joy
Mong mossy stulps the litterd crumbs
 Neath hedge and walls that screen the wind
The gnats for play will Hock together
And een poor flyes odd hopes will find
To venture in the mocking weather
From out their hiding holes again
Wi feeble pace they often creep
Along the sun warmd window pane
Like dreaming things that walk in sleep
. . .
The hedghog from its hollow root
Sees the wood moss clear of snow
And hunts each hedge for fallen fruit
Crab hip and winter bitten sloe
And oft when checkd by sudden fears
As shepherd dog his haunt espies
He rolls up in a ball of spears
And all his barking rage defies
Thus nature of the spring will dream
While south winds thaw but soon again
Frost breaths upon the stiffening stream
And numbs it into ice—the plain
Soon wears its merry garb of white
And icicles that fret at noon
Will eke their icy tails at night
Beneath the chilly stars and moon
 Nature soon sickens of her joys
And all is sad and dumb again
Save merry shouts of sliding boys
About the frozen furrowd plain
The foddering boy forgets his song
And silent goes wi folded arms
And croodling shepherds bend along
Crouching to the whizzing storms

A 'stulp' is a short, stout post.
'Eke' here means lengthen or increase.
Best of all, 'croodling' means to 'cower or cuddle together, as from fear or cold; to lie close and snug together, as pigs in straw' - thus Webster, with this supporting quotation:
'A dove to fly home to her nest and croodle there.' - C. Kingsley.
A word to remember, I think...

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