A Sunday with Shepherds & Herdboys

The shepherds & the herding swains
Keep their sabbaths on the plains
They know no difference in its cares
Save that all toil has ceasd but theirs
For them the church bells vainly call
Fields are their church & house & all
Till night returns their homward track
When soon morns suns recall them back
Yet still they love the days repose
& feel its peace as sweet as those
That have their freedom — maid & clown
To walk the meadows or the town
Theyll lye & catch the humming sound
That comes from steeples shining round
Enjoying in the service time
The happy bells delightfull chime.
& oft they sit on rising ground
To view the landscap spreading round
Swimming from the following eye
In greens & stems of every dye
Oer wood & vale & fens smooth lap
Like a richly colourd map
Square platts of clover red & white
Scented wi summers warm delight
& sinkfoil of a fresher stain
& different greens of vari[e]d grain
Wheat spindles bursted into ear
& browning feintly — grasses sere
In swathy seed pods dryd by heat
Rustling when brushd by passing feet
& beans & peas of deadening green
& corn lands ribbon stripes between
& checkering villages that lye
Like light spots in a deeper sky
& woods black greens that crowding spots
The lanscape in leaf bearing grots
Were mingling hid lapt up to lare
The panting fox lyes cooly there
& willow grove that idly sweas
& checkering shines mid other trees
As if the mornings misty vail
Yet lingerd in their shadows pale
While from the village foliage pops
The popples tapering to their tops
That in the blue sky thinly wires
Like so many leafy spires
Thus the shepherd as he lyes
Were the heaths furze swellings rise
Dreams oer the scene in vis[i]ons sweet
Stretching from his hawthorn seat
& passes many an hour away
Thus musing on the sabbath day
& from the fields theyll often steal
The green peas for a sunday meal
When near a farmers on the lurch
Safe nodding oer their books a church
Or on their benches by the door
Telling their market profits oer
& in snug nooks their huts beside
The gipsey blazes they provide
Braking the rotten from the trees
While some sit round to shell the peas
Or pick from hedges pilferd wood
To boil on props their stolen food
Sitting on stones or heaps of brakes
Each of the wild repast partakes
Telling to pass the hours along
Tales that to fitter days belong
While one within his scrip contains
A shatterd bibles thumbd remains
On whose blank leaf wi pious care
A host of names is scribbld there
Names by whom twas once possest
Or those in kindreds bonds carresst
Children for generations back
That doubtful memory shoud not lack
Their dates tis there wi care applyd
When they were born & when they dyd
From sire to son link after link
All scribbld wi unsparing ink
This he will oft pull out & read
That takes of sunday better heed
Then they who laugh at tale & jest
& oft hell read it to the rest
Whose ignorance in weary mood
Pays more regard to robin hood
& jiant blue beard & such tales
That live like flowers in rural vales
Natural as last years faded blooms
Anew wi the fresh season comes
So these old tales from old to young
Take root & blossom were they sprung
Till age & winter bids them wane
Then fond youth takes them up again
The herdboys anxious after play
Find sports to pass the time away
Fishing for stuttles in the brooks
Wi thread for lines & pins for hooks
& stripping neath the willow shade
In [the] warm muddy ponds to bathe
& pelting wi unerring eye
The heedless swallows sturting bye
Oft breaking boughs from trees to kill
The nest of whasps beside a hill
Till one gets stung then they resort
& follow to less dangerous sport
Leaving to chance their sheep & cows
To thread the brakes & forest boughs
& scare the squirrels lonly joys
Wi stones & sticks & shouting noise
That sat wi in its secret place
Upon its tale to clean its face
When found they shout wi joy to see
It hurly burly round a tree
& as they turn in sight again
It peeps & squats behind a grain
& oft theyll cut up sticks to trye
The holes were badgers darkly lye
Looking for foot mark prints about
The fresh moulds not long rooted out
& peep in burroes newly done
Were rabbits from their noises run
Were oft in terrors wild affright
They spy & startle at the sight
Rolld like a whip thong round & round
Asleep up[on] the sunny ground
A snake that wakens at their play
& starts as full of fear as they
& knewt shapd swifts that nimbly pass
& rustle in the brown heath grass
From these in terrors fears they haste
& seek agen the snubby waste
Were grass is pincered short by sheep
& venom creatures rarely creep
Playing at taw in sheep beat tracks
Or leap frog oer each others backs
Or jump oer hills wi thime oergrown
Or mere marks ancient mossey stone
Or run down hollows in the plain
Were steps are cut to climb again
Stone pits that years have clothd in green
& slopd in narrow vales between
Or historys uncrowded ground
A cromwell trench or roman mound
Thus will the boys in makeshift joy
Their toil taskd sabbath hours employ
& feed on fancys sweet as they
That in the town at freedom play
& pinder too is peeping round
To find a tennant for his pound
Heedless of rest or parsons prayers
He seldom to the church repairs
But thinks religion hath its due
In paying yearly for his pew
Soon as the morning puts night away
& hastens on her mantle grey
Before one sunbeam oer the ground
Spindles its light & shadow round
He's oer the fields as soon as morn
To see what stock are in the corn
& find what chances sheep may win
Thro gaps the gipseys pilfer thin
Or if theyve found a restless way
By rubbing at a loosend tray
Or neighing colt that trys to catch
A gate at night left off the latch
By traveller seeking home in haste
Or the clown by fancys chasd
That listning while he made a stand
Opens each gate wi fearful hand
Fearing a minute to remain
& put it on the latch again
& cows who often wi their horns
Toss from the gaps the stuffing thorns
These like a fox upon the watch
He in the morning tryes to catch
& drives them to the pound for pay
Carless about the sabbath day.
Rate this poem: 


No reviews yet.