Blushing apples round and red

Here’s a further verse from John Clare’s Shepherd’s Calendar. His words are so vivid – it’s easy to imagine the duck ‘waddling eager through the muck’ searching for worms then gobbling them up. The way Clare takes our eyes from the ducks in the grass up to the apples on the tree, weighing down the branches, to the little maid with her arms full of laundry which no doubt will be spread on the grass or on bushes. The girl can’t resist picking one of the apples.

The poem is full of sound as well as colour, the blushing apples, the white laundry we can imagine, the holly oak with its glossy leaves – the ducks would be quacking, the bees buzzing, and the hornets buzzing even louder in the bottle trap the old woman has set. My mum used to put similar traps out for wasps which seems  cruel now, but they were a dangerous pest and she was allergic to their sting.

Here is the Shepherd’s calendar for September:

From nights dull prison comes the duck
Waddling eager thro the muck
Squeezing thro the orchard pales
Where mornings bounty rarely fails
Eager gobbling as they pass
Dew worms thro the padded grass
Where blushing apples round and red
Load down the boughs and pat the head
Of longing maid that hither goes
To hang on lines the drying cloaths
Who views them oft with tempted eye
And steals one as she passes bye
Where the holly oak so tall
Far oer tops the garden wall
That latest blooms for bees provide
Hived on stone benches close beside
The bees their teazing music hum
And threaten war to all that come
Save the old dame whose jealous care
Places a trapping bottle there
Filled with mock sweets in whose disguise
The honey loving hornet dies.

John Clare
1793 – 1864

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