Friday, 11 December 2009


Why do I seem to write this blog mostly in Winter? Perhaps I find it the most beautiful of seasons - especially when it is under such threat. Today the real symbols of midwinter burst out of the bony trees near Woodthorpe - a clatter of fieldfares. Here is what John Clare has to say in a gem of a sonnet:

Emmonsails Heath in Winter

I love to see the old heath's withered brake
Mingle its crimpled leaves with furze and ling
While the old heron from the lonely lake
Starts slow and flaps his melancholy wing
And oddling crow in idle motions swing
On the half rotten ash tree's topmost twig
Beside whose trunk the gypsy makes his bed -
Up flies the bouncing woodcock from the brig
Where a black quagmire quakes beneath the tread;
The fieldfare chatters in the whistling thorn
And for the 'awe round fields and closen rove,
And coy bumbarrels twenty in a drove
Flit down the hedgerows in the frozen plain
And hang on little twigs and start again.

"Crimpled," "oddling" "bouncing woodcock" - what words! What a naturalist as well as a poet! Some of Clare's poems protest the harm wrought by the enclosure of the commons that he witnessed in his lifetime. We are enclosing our world with heat not fences and hedges. Will our winters ever be the same?


  1. Nice to see you back again, haven't seen any fieldfares yet but have goldfinches queueing at my feeders. John Clare wrote some wonderful poetry didn't he? So descriptive and such a true picture of country life as it was during his lifetime.

  2. Yes - I love them. Lots of "bumbarrels" about too (long tailed tits) and they do exactly what he said. Tried to get a radio feature about John Clare but failed. I love him. Have you read the Jonathan Bate biography? It's marvellous?