In this last part of John Clare’s verses about November in The Shepherd’s Calendar, he paints the countryside now heading well into winter. From the boy sheltering under the tree, sitting on a pile of reeds and rushes he’s been gathering and thinking about the summer when he clambered up the trees to get birds’ eggs, we’re led to a reflection on the season, ‘When Winter comes in earnest to fulfil his yearly task, at bleak November’s close,’…
I think the image of the month as a patchwork of different weather, is wonderful
The boy, that scareth from the spiry wheat
The melancholy crow — in hurry weaves,
Beneath an ivied tree, his sheltering seat,
Of rushy flags and sedges tied in sheaves,
Or from the field a shock of stubble thieves.
There he doth dithering sit, and entertain
His eyes with marking the storm – driven leaves;
Oft spying nests where he spring eggs had ta’en,
And wishing in his heart ’twas summer – time again.
Thus wears the month along, in checker’d moods,
Sunshine and shadows, tempests loud, and calms;
One hour dies silent o’er the sleepy woods,
The next wakes loud with unexpected storms;
A dreary nakedness the field deforms—
Yet many a rural sound, and rural sight,
Lives in the village still about the farms,
Where toil’s rude uproar hums from morn till night
Noises, in which the ears of Industry delight.
At length the stir of rural labour’s still,
And Industry her care awhile foregoes;
When Winter comes in earnest to fulfil
His yearly task, at bleak November’s close,
And stops the plough, and hides the field in snows;
When frost locks up the stream in chill delay,
And mellows on the hedge the jetty sloes,
For little birds — then Toil hath time for play,
And nought but threshers’ flails awake the dreary day.