The Yellowhammer's Nest

By John Clare 1793–1864 John Clare
Just by the wooden brig a bird flew up,
Frit by the cowboy as he scrambled down
To reach the misty dewberry—let us stoop
And seek its nest—the brook we need not dread,
'Tis scarcely deep enough a bee to drown,
So it sings harmless o'er its pebbly bed
—Ay here it is, stuck close beside the bank
Beneath the bunch of grass that spindles rank
Its husk seeds tall and high—'tis rudely planned
Of bleachèd stubbles and the withered fare
That last year's harvest left upon the land,
Lined thinly with the horse's sable hair.
Five eggs, pen-scribbled o'er with ink their shells
Resembling writing scrawls which fancy reads
As nature's poesy and pastoral spells—
They are the yellowhammer's and she dwells
Most poet-like where brooks and flowery weeds
As sweet as Castaly to fancy seems
And that old molehill like as Parnass' hill
On which her partner haply sits and dreams
O'er all her joys of song—so leave it still
A happy home of sunshine, flowers and streams.
Yet in the sweetest places cometh ill,
A noisome weed that burthens every soil;
For snakes are known with chill and deadly coil
To watch such nests and seize the helpless young,
And like as though the plague became a guest,
Leaving a houseless home, a ruined nest—
And mournful hath the little warblers sung
When such like woes hath rent its little breast.

Source: I Am: The Selected Poetry of John Clare (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2003)

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Poet John Clare 1793–1864

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Romantic

Subjects Landscapes & Pastorals, Activities, Nature, Sports & Outdoor Activities, Animals

Poetic Terms Imagery, Rhymed Stanza

 John  Clare

Biography

John Clare was born into a peasant family in Helpston, England. Although he was the son of illiterate parents, Clare received some formal schooling. While earning money through such manual labor as ploughing and threshing, he published several volumes of poetry, including Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery. After suffering from delusions, Clare was admitted to an insane asylum where he spent the final 20 years of his life.

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Landscapes & Pastorals, Activities, Nature, Sports & Outdoor Activities, Animals

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Romantic

Poetic Terms Imagery, Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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