He murderd her alone at dead midnight

A shocking tale of murder in a rural idyll from John Clare:

The Shepherd’s Calendar – March

And shepherds that wi in their hulks remain
Night after night upon the chilly plain
To watch the dropping lambs that at all hours
Come in the quaking blast like early flowers
Demanding all the shepherds care who find
Warm hedge side spots and take them from the wind
And round their necks in wary caution tyes
Long shreds of rags in red or purple dyes
Thats meant in danger as a safty spell
Like the old yoe that wears a tinkling bell
The sneaking foxes from his thefts to fright
That often seizes the young lambs at night
These when they in their nightly watchings hear
The badgers shrieks can hardly stifle fear
They list the noise from woodlands dark recess
Like helpless shrieking woman in distress
And oft as such fears fancying mystery
Believes the dismal yelling sounds to be
For superstition hath its thousand tales
To people all his midnight woods and vales
And the dread spot from whence the dismal noise
Mars the night musings of their dark employs
Owns its sad tale to realize their fear
At which their hearts in boyhood achd to hear
A maid at night by treacherous love decoyd
Was in that shrieking wood years past destroyd
She went twas said to meet the waiting swain
And home and friends ne’er saw her face again
Mid brakes and thorns that crowded round the dell
And matting weeds that had no tongues to tell
He murderd her alone at dead midnight
While the pale moon threw round her sickly light
And loud shrieks left the thickets slumbers deep
That only scard the little birds from sleep
When the pale murderers terror frowning eye
Told its dread errand that the maid shoud dye
Mid thick black thorns her secret grave was made
And there ere night the murderd girl was laid
When no one saw the deed but god and he
And moonlight sparkling thro the sleeping tree
Around-the red breast might at morning steel
There for the worm to meet his morning meal
In fresh turnd moulds that first beheld the sun
Nor knew the deed that dismal night had done
Such is the tale that superstition gives
And in her midnight memory ever lives
That makes the boy run by wi wild affright
And shepherds startle on their rounds at night

John Clare

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