Huddersfield MP asks Commons to debate enclosures

Gerrard Winstanley office at
Sun Apr 22 17:10:24 BST 2007

>From last week's Hansard - Thursday 19th April 2007

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Mr. Speaker, I know 
that you are aware of this, but is the Leader of the House aware that 
180 years ago today one of our most famous poets of the environment, 
John Clare, published "The Shepherd's Calendar". Here is a poet who 
180 years ago was forced to work on the enclosures. In an era when we 
seem to apologise for everything, is it not about time that we had a 
debate on what happened in the enclosures? In a move led by the other 
House, before there was true democracy in this Parliament, the English 
common land was stolen from English people. Is it not about time that 
we looked at what happened and whether measures could give back to the 
English counties the common land stolen from them by the House of 
Lords, the Tories and the Liberals?

Mr. Straw: I have personal reasons for welcoming such a debate, which 
is that my forebears were among those in what is now suburban Essex 
who fought the lords of the manor, including one John Whitaker 
Maitland, then lord of the manor of Loughton. In the end, they were 
successful in preventing the further enclosure of what is now Epping 
forest. It was a nasty, bloody battle that went on for 30 years in the 
middle of the 19th century, and I am proud that my great-great-
grandfather and many others in that part of Essex were successful in 
standing up for the working classes of Essex, to ensure that Epping 
forest remained for the people of Essex and London for ever.

John Clare
1793 - 1864
John Clare was born in the village of Helpstone, Northamptonshire, 
England in 1793. The son of an agricultural labourer, he had virtually 
no schooling but studied James Thompson's Seasons and started verse 
writing. His first publication was self funded in 1817 but it fared 
badly. It did, however, bring him to the attention of Keats' 
publisher, John Taylor who published Poems Descriptive of Rural Life 
in 1820. It was well received but fashion changed and his later works 
were poorly received, possibly due to much of the heart being 
extracted by unsympathetic editing. 

In 1837, as a result of his long disappointment, he had a mental 
breakdown and was admitted to an asylum in Epping Forest. Four years 
later, he discharged himself and walked the 80 miles home in three and 
a half days, living on grass he ate by the side of the road! Later 
that year (1841), he was certified insane and was committed to the 
Northampton Asylum. He lived there until his death in 1864 writing 

His poetry is wonderfully descriptive of the English countryside as it 
existed in the early 19th Century and recaptures the spirit of rural 
life of that era. The work featured here, now sadly out of print,- The 
Shepherd's Calendar - was cut savagely by Taylor before publication 
with many lines excluded and the whole of July was rejected; Clare 
then had to submit an alternate segment. I have included the longer 
(rejected) section and the second version, to enable a comparison. 
Many of the words and much of the spelling will be unfamiliar to 
modern readers, but the sense does shine through when read aloud.

Here's an extract from the poem in question - the month of April

1.The infant april joins the spring 
And views its watery skye 
As youngling linnet trys its wing 
And fears at first to flye 
With timid step she ventures on 
And hardly dares to smile 
The blossoms open one by one 
And sunny hours beguile 

2.But finer days approacheth yet 
With scenes more sweet to charm 
And suns arrive that rise and set 
Bright strangers to a storm 
And as the birds with louder song 
Each mornings glory cheers 
With bolder step she speeds along 
And looses all her fears

3.In wanton gambols like a child 
She tends her early toils 
And seeks the buds along the wild 
That blossom while she smiles 
And laughing on with nought to chide 
She races with the hours 
Or sports by natures lovley side 
And fills her lap with flowers 

4.Tho at her birth north cutting gales 
Her beautys oft disguise 
And hopfull blossoms turning pales 
Upon her bosom dies 
Yet ere she seeks another place 
And ends her reign in this 
She leaves us with as fair a face 
As ere gave birth to bliss 

5.And fairey month of waking mirth 
>From whom our joys ensue 
Thou early gladder of the earth 
Thrice welcom here anew 
With thee the bud unfolds to leaves 
The grass greens on the lea 
And flowers their tender boon recieves 
To bloom and smile with thee 

6.The shepherds on thy pasture walks 
The first fair cowslip finds 
Whose tufted flowers on slender stalks 
Keep nodding to the winds 
And tho thy thorns withold the may 
Their shades the violets bring 
Which childern stoop for in their play 
As tokens of the spring 

7.The time when daiseys bloom divine 
With thy calm hours begun 
And crowflowers blazing blooms are thine 
Bright childern of the sun 
Along thy woodlands shaded nooks 
The primrose wanly comes 
And shining in thy pebley brooks 
The horse bleb gaily blooms 

8.The long lost charm of sparkling dew 
Thy gentle birth recieves 
And on thy wreathing locks we view 
The first infolding leaves 
And seeking firstling buds and flowers 
The trials of thy skill 
Were pastimes of my infant hours 
And so they haunt me still 

9.To see thy first broad arum leaves 
I lovd them from a child 
And where thy woodbines sprouting weaves 
I joyd to trace the wild 
And jocund as thy lambs at play 
I met the wanton wind 
With feelings that have passd away 
Whose shadows cling behind 

10.Those joys which childhood claims its own 
Woud they were kin to men 
Those treasures to the world unknown 
When known-was witherd then 
But hovering round our growing years 
To gild cares sable shroud 
Their spirit thro the gloom appears 
As suns behind a cloud 

11.As thou first met my infant eyes 
When thro thy fields I flew 
Whose distance where they meet the skyes 
Was all the worlds I knew 
That warmth of fancys wildest hours 
Which made things kin to life 
That heard a voice in trees and flowers 
Has swoond in reasons strife 

12.Sweet month thy pleasures bids thee be 
The fairest child of spring 
And every hour that comes with thee 
Comes some new joy to bring 
The trees still deepen in their bloom 
Crass greens the meadow lands 
And flowers with every morning come 
As dropt by fairey hands 

13.The field and gardens lovley hours 
Begin and end with thee 
For whats so sweet as peeping flowers 
And bursting buds to see 
What time the dews unsullied drops 
In burnishd gold distills 
On crocus flowers unclosing tops 
And drooping daffodills 

14.Each day with added glorys come 
And as they leave the night 
Put on the roseys lovley bloom 
And blushes with delight 
And suns that wait their welcome birth 
With earlier haste pursue 
Their journeys to this lower earth 
To free their steps from dew 

15.To see thee come all hearts rejoice 
And warms with feelings strong 
With thee all nature finds a voice 
And hums a waking song 
The lover views thy welcome hours 
And thinks of summer come 
And takes the maid thy early flowers 
To tempt her steps from home 

16.Along each hedge and sprouting bush 
The singing birds are blest 
And linnet green and speckld thrush 
Prepare their mossy nest 
On the warm bed thy plain supplys 
The young lambs find repose 
And mid thy green hills basking lies 
Like spots of lingering snows 

17.Young things of tender life again 
Enjoys thy sunny hours 
And gosslings waddle ocr the plain 
As yellow as its flowers 
Or swim the pond in wild delight 
To catch the water flye 
Where hissing geese in ceasless spite 
Make childern scamper bye 

18.Again the fairey tribes pursue 
Their pleasures on the plain 
And brightend with the morning dew 
Black circles shine again 
And on its superstitious ground 
Where flowers seem loath to dwell 
The toadstools fuzzy balls abound 
And mushrooms yearly swell 

19.The seasons beautys all are thine 
That visit with the year 
Beautys that poets think divine 
And all delight to hear 
Thy latter days a pleasure brings 
That gladden every heart 
Pleasures that come like lovley things 
But like to shades depart 

20.Thy opend leaves and ripend buds 
The cuckoo makes his choice 
And shepherds in thy greening woods 
First hears the cheering voice 
And to thy ripend blooming bowers 
The nightingale belongs 
And singing to thy parting hours 
Keeps night awake with songs 

21.With thee the swallow dares to come 
And primes his sutty wings 
And urgd to seek their yearly home 
Thy suns the Martin brings 
And lovley month be leisure mine 
Thy yearly mate to be 
Tho may day scenes may brighter shine 
Their birth belongs to thee 

22.I waked me with thy rising sun 
And thy first glorys viewd 
And as thy welcome hours begun 
Their sunny steps pursued 
And now thy sun is on the set 
Like to a lovley eve 
I view thy parting with regret 
And linger loath to leave 

23.Thou lovley april fare thee well 
Thou early child of spring 
Tho born where storms too often dwell 
Thy parents news to bring 
Yet what thy parting youth supplys 
No other months excell 
Thou first for flowers and sunny skyes 
Sweet april fare thee well

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