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John Clare

Posted 12-02-2010 at 10:40 AM by Steve Bucknell
Updated 12-03-2010 at 02:18 AM by Steve Bucknell
Confused about snow-depth I take out a tape and find it 16 inches deep on the back lawn (40cms). I spend two hours clearing the drive and the path around the house. The snow-shovel cuts and lifts satisfyingly square blocks like white turves. Displaced mounds accumulate at the side of the house, in the garden and at the roadside. Step by step and block by block the drive becomes a way out again onto the lane.

More snow forecast, more snow falling and the roads still white. I decide I’ll have to walk to fetch essential supplies from the Co-op supermarket in Stocksbridge. It takes me half an hour along an empty road to get there, walking down past the sheds and workshops of the Corus steelworks. They are impressive with every complex detail of gantry and pipework limned by snow.

My first stop for essential supplies turns out to be the St.Luke’s charity shop. Selected Poems of Dylan Thomas and Far From the Madding Crowd. I stand reading “A Winter’s Tale “ by Thomas and feel completely in the middle of it. 99 pence for two books! Essential.

The Co-op is thronged with people filling trolleys with milk, bread, eggs and bacon. There is a shared sense of good humour in adversity and purposeful activity. Talk is easy, there is so much weather to talk about. On local radio they say it’s been the “worst snowfall in Sheffield since 1919.” My neighbour Raymond thinks 1947 was worse: “The buses were off for weeks then. You walked over walls in the fields without noticing.”

Last night I was reading John Clare:

Snow Storm

What a night the wind howls hisses and but stops
To howl more loud while the snow volley keeps
Insessant batter at the window pane
Making our comfort feel as sweet again
And in the morning when the tempest drops
At every cottage door mountainious heaps
Of snow lies drifted that all entrance stops
Untill the beesom and the shovel gains
The path-and leaves a wall on either side-
The shepherd rambling vallys white and wide
With new sensations his old memorys fills
When hedges left at night no more descried
Are turned to one white sweep of curving hills
And trees turned bushes half their bodys hide

The boy that goes to fodder with supprise
Walks oer the gate he opened yesternight
The hedges have all vanished from his eyes
Een some tree tops the sheep could reach to bite
The novel scene emboldens new delight
And though with cautious steps his sports begin
He bolder shuffles the hugh hills of snow
Till down he drops and plunges to the chin
And struggles much and oft escape to win
Then turns and laughs but dare not further go
For deep the grass and bushes lie below
Where little birds that soon at eve went in
With heads tucked in their wings now pine for day
And little feel boys oer their heads can stray

Selected Poems.OUP 1967.
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  1. Unread
    Ed Shacklee's Avatar
    Thanks, Steve. I don't remember reading that before, which -- since it's beautiful -- suggests I've never read it.

    Here's one you may know:

    Passers-by on Snowy Night

    Black the coniferous darkness,
    White the snow track between,
    And the moon, skull-white in its starkness,
    Watches upper ledges lean,

    And regards with the same distant stare,
    And equal indifference,
    How your breath goes white in steel air
    As you trudge from whither to whence.

    For from somewhere you rose to go,
    Maybe long before daylight withdrew,
    With the dream of a windowpane's glow
    And a path trodden to invite you.

    And, indeed, there may be such a place,
    Perhaps at the next corner or swerve,
    Where someone presses a face
    To the frost-starred glass, though the curve

    Shows yet only mocking moonlight.
    But soon, but soon! - Alone,
    I wish you well in your night
    As I pass you in my own.

    We each hear the distant friction,
    Then crack of bough burdened with snow,
    And each takes the owl's benediction,
    And each goes the way he will go.

    XXX- Robert Penn Warren
    Posted 12-02-2010 at 09:37 PM by Ed Shacklee Ed Shacklee is offline

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