Robert Leighton & Henry Van Dyke: “Late Spring” / John Clare: “The Winter’s Spring”

Mid March in Toronto B

Robert Leighton (born Dundee, Scotland, 1822-1869)

Late Spring


Spring is with us by the sun,
Yet it has not given us one
Little snow-drop to remind us
That the flowery days are near:
For the winds are blowing chilly,
And the firstling of the year
Slumbers with the sleeping lily,
‘Neath their coverlet, the sere
And sodden mortcloth that old Autumn
Lay with on her bier.


Spring is with us by the date,
Winter cancell’d: yet we wait
Balmly fingers to unbind us,
Roots and budlets to unfold.
But the herald larks are roaming
Up the heights of blue and gold:
They can see the Spring a-coming
While we shiver in the cold.
Hark! they sing to Him who taught them
Notes so sweet and bold.

Mid March in Toronto D

Henry Van Dyke (born Germantown, Pennsylvania, USA, 1852-1933)

Late Spring (excerpt)


Come, put your hand in mine,
True love, long sought and found at last,
And lead me deep into the Spring divine
That makes amends for all the wintry past.
For all the flowers and songs I feared to miss
Arrive with you;
And in the lingering pressure of your kiss
My dreams come true;
And in the promise of your generous eyes
I read the mystic sign
Of joy more perfect made
Because so long delayed,
And bliss enhanced by rapture of surprise.
Ah, think not early love alone is strong;
He loveth best whose heart has learned to wait:
Dear messenger of Spring that tarried long,
You’re doubly dear because you come so late.

Mid March in Toronto E

John Clare (born Helpston, Northamptonshire, England, 1793-1864)

The Winter’s Spring


The winter comes; I walk alone,
I want no bird to sing;
To those who keep their hearts their own
The winter is the spring.
No flowers to please–no bees to hum–
The coming spring’s already come.
I never want the Christmas rose
To come before its time;
The seasons, each as God bestows,
Are simple and sublime.
I love to see the snowstorm hing;
‘Tis but the winter garb of spring.
I never want the grass to bloom:
The snowstorm’s best in white.
I love to see the tempest come
And love its piercing light.
The dazzled eyes that love to cling
O’er snow-white meadows see the spring.
I love the snow, the crumpling snow
That hangs on everything,
It covers everything below
Like white dove’s brooding wing,
A landscape to the aching sight,
A vast expanse of dazzling light.
It is the foliage of the woods
That winters bring–the dress,
White Easter of the year in bud,
That makes the winter Spring.
The frost and snow his posies bring,
Nature’s white spurts of the spring.

John Clare: The Gipsy Camp + The Braggart

ZP_Julia and Bernie McDonagh_Irish Travellers_photographed by Alen MacWeeney in the 1960sZP_Julia and Bernie McDonagh_Irish Travellers_photographed by Alen MacWeeney in the 1960s

The Gipsy Camp


The snow falls deep; the Forest lies alone:
The boy goes hasty for his load of brakes,
Then thinks upon the fire and hurries back;
The Gipsy knocks his hands and tucks them up,
And seeks his squalid camp, half hid in snow,
Beneath the oak, which breaks away the wind,
And bushes close, with snow like hovel warm:
There stinking mutton roasts upon the coals,
And the half roasted dog squats close and rubs,
Then feels the heat too strong and goes aloof;
He watches well, but none a bit can spare,
And vainly waits the morsel thrown away:
‘Tis thus they live – a picture to the place;
A quiet, pilfering, unprotected race.


.     .     .


The Braggart


With careful step to keep his balance up
He reels on warily along the street,
Slabbering at mouth and with a staggering stoop
Mutters an angry look at all he meets.
Bumptious and vain and proud he shoulders up
And would be something if he knew but how;
To any man on earth he will not stoop
But cracks of work, of horses and of plough.
Proud of the foolish talk, the ale he quaffs,
He never heeds the insult loud that laughs:
With rosy maid he tries to joke and play,–
Who shrugs and nettles deep his pomp and pride.
And calls him ‘drunken beast’ and runs away–
King to himself and fool to all beside.



*     *     *

John Clare (1793-1864) was an English poet active mainly

in the 1830s and ’40s.   Coming from a poor rural

family in Northamptonshire, he spent most of his life as

a field hand, hired labourer, and observant vagabond.

Except for one excursion to London, where briefly he

was flavour-of-the-season – “The Peasant Poet” –

(an inaccurate, sentimental moniker) – he stuck close

to his county, covering many miles on foot, even

wandering “back home”  from Northborough Asylum

where he would spend the last twenty years of his life.