My Schoolboy Days
By John Clare
Like the Spring of my boyhood on woodland and lea,
When flowers brought me heaven and knew me again,
In the joy of their blooming o’er mountain and plain.
My thoughts are confined and imprisoned: O when
Will freedom find me my own valleys again?
The wind breathes so sweet, and the day is so calm;
In the woods and the thicket the flowers look so warm;
And the grass is so green, so delicious and sweet;
O when shall my manhood my youth’s valleys meet–
The scenes where my children are laughing at play–
The scenes that from memory are fading away?
The primrose looks happy in every field;
In strange woods the violets their odours will yield,
And flowers in the sunshine, all brightly arrayed,
Will bloom just as fresh and as sweet in the shade,
But the wild flowers that bring me most joy and content
Are the blossoms that glow where my childhood was spent.
The trees are all naked, the bushes are bare,
And the fields are as brown as if Winter was there;
But the violets are there by the dykes and the dell,
Where I played “hen and chickens” and heard the church bell,
Which called me to prayer-book and sermons in vain:
O when shall I see my own valleys again?
The churches look bright as the sun at noon-day;
There the meadows look green ere the winter’s away;
There the pooty still lies for the schoolboy to find,
And a thought often brings these sweet places to mind;
Where trees waved and wind moaned; no music so well:
There nought sounded harsh but the school-calling bell.
There are spots where I played, there are spots where I loved,
There are scenes where the tales of my choice where approved,
As green as at first, and their memory will be
The dearest of life’s recollections to me.
The objects seen there, in the care of my heart,
Are as fair as at first, and will never depart.
Though no names are mentioned to sanction my themes,
Their hearts beat with mine, and make real my dreams;
Their memories with mine their diurnal course run,
True as night to the stars and as day to the sun;
And as they are now so their memories will be,
While sense, truth, and reason remain here with me.