The Cross Roads (or Haymakers Story) (Final)

What particularly interests me about this tale is the fact that it was written between January and August 1820 - that most incredible year of Clare's life with celebrity and marriage.

Like Jinny in the tale, in the autumn of 1919 Patty became pregnant 'out of wedlock' with their first daughter Anna Maria.  However, after much self-examination, all too obvious from his poems about the pregnancy, Clare married Patty - as Anne Lee and I have shown in our book "The Poet in Love".  Jinny however in Dame Goodys tale was deserted, and driven by shame to kill herself.

O say not love I too despise thee
& wi malice evil tongud
Slander & reproach against thee
& delight to see thee wrongd
Every arm that vice is urging
At my bared breast they throw
Every weapon raisd against thee
Raises mine to stay the blow

Every tear thy cheek that moistens
Moists the eye that sees it start
Every sigh that rends thy bosom
Thrills its echo in my heart
Every shaft that flies to wound thee
On my aching heart they fall
Every wound that pains thy bosom
Mines the love that shares it all

I have also 'isolated' 18 lines below one of Clare's 'lists'.  Although they do not add a great deal to the narrative, they are a brilliant evocation of the plants that Clare loved.

‘The birds that ranted in the hedgerow boughs
‘As night & morning we have sought our cows
‘With yokes & buckets as she bouncd along
‘Were often deafd to silence with her song
‘But now shes gone—girls shun decietfull men
‘The worst of stumbles ye can fall agen
‘Be deaf to them & then as twere yell see
‘Yer pleasures safe as under lock & key
‘Throw not my words away as many do
‘Theyre gold in value tho theyre cheap to you
‘& husseys hearken & be warnd from this
‘If ye love mothers never do amiss
‘Jane might love hers but she forsook the plan
‘To make her happy when she thought of man
‘Poor tottering dame it was too plainly known
‘Her daughters dying hastend on her own
‘For from the day the tydings reachd her door
‘She took to bed & looked up no more
‘& ere agen another year came round
‘She well as Jane was laid within the ground
‘& all was grievd poor goodys end to see
‘No better neighbour enterd house then she
‘A harmless body wi no 'busive tongue
‘Trig as new pins & tights the day were long
‘& go the week about nine times in ten
‘Yed find her house as cleanly as her sen
‘But Lord protect us time such change does bring
‘We cannot dream what oer our heads may hing
‘The very house she livd in stick & stone
‘Sin goody dyd has tumbld down & gone

‘& where the majoram ance & sage & rue
‘& balm & mint wi curld leaf parsley grew
‘& double marygolds & silver thyme
‘& pumkins neath the window usd to climb
‘& where I often when a child for hours
‘Tryd thro the pails to get the tempting flowers
‘As Ladys Laces everlasting peas
‘True love lies bleeding with the hearts at ease
‘& golden rods & tanzey running high
‘That oer the pail tops smild on passers bye
‘Flowers in my time that every one woud praise
‘Tho thrown like weeds from gardens now adays
‘Were these all grew now henbane stinks & spreads
‘& docks & fissles shake their seedy heads
‘& yearly keeps wi nettles smothering oer
‘Nor house nor dame nor gardens known no more
‘While neighbouring nigh one lonly eldern tree
‘Is all thats left of what had us'd to be

‘Marking the place & bringing up wi tears
‘The recollections of ones younger years
‘& now Ive done yere each at once as free
‘To take yer trundle as ye usd to be
‘To take right ways as Jinney shoud have taen
‘Or headlong run & be a second Jane
‘For by one thoughtless girl thats acted ill
‘A thousand may be guided if they will
‘As oft mong folks to labour bustling on
‘We mark the foremost kick agen a stone
‘Or stumble oer a stile they meant to climb
‘While hind ones see & shun the fall in time
‘But ye Ill bound fort like a mort the best
‘Loves tickling nick nacks & the laughing jest
‘& ten times sooner then be warnd by me
‘Woud each be sitting on some fellows knee
‘& sooner 'lieve the lyes wild chaps will tell
‘Then old dames cautions who woud wish ye well
‘So have yer wills’—
                                    she pinchd her box again
& ceasd her tale & listnd to the rain
Which still as usual patterd fast around
& bowd the bent head loaded to the ground
While larks their naked nests by force forsook
Prund their wet wings in bushes by the brook
The maids impatient now old goody ceasd
As restless childern from the school releasd
Right gladly proving what she'd just foretold
That young ones stories was preferd to old
Turn to the wisperings of their former joy
That oft decieve but very rarely cloy

WHAT a poem!

Village Minstrel (1821)

The Cross Roads (or Haymakers Story) (4)


The photograph is of Jay's grave, near Hound Tor on Dartmoor.  Mary or Kitty Jay was buried here, at the crossroads echoing Clare's story as told by Dame Goody.  More sinned against than sinning, the local church authorities would not have her buried on 'consecrated' land, so she was buried where parish boundaries meet.  Jay's grave always has fresh flowers upon it, winter and summer...

"Yes, miss, it be a grave sure 'nough," [...] " J's grave 'tis called. No, I can't tell 'ee how 'tis spelt for I never couldn't spell. Mary Jay was the poor maid's name. I heard my mother tell of it, when I was a li'l maid. It happened when her was a li'l maid herself. Her could just mind hearing tell of it." [...] "'Tis a suicide's grave, miss." [...] "Her was an orphan from the workhouse, 'prenticed to Barracott Farm between Manaton and Heatree. One day, when her was quite young, her tooked a rope and went to the barn there on the Manaton Road, and hanged herself from a beam. Her was quite dead when the farmer found her." [...] "Us reckoned 'twas the same old story, miss—a young man, who wadn't no gude to her, poor maid."

‘So as I sed next morn I heard the bell
‘& passing neighbours crossd the street to tell
‘That my poor partner Jinney had bin found
‘In the old flag pool on the pasture drownd
 ‘God knows my heart I twitterd like a leaf
‘& found too late the cause of sundays grief
‘For every tongue was loosd to gabble oer
‘The slanderous things that secrets passd before
‘Wi truth or lies they neednt then be strickt
‘The one they raild at coudnt contradict
‘Twas now no secret of her being beguild
‘& every mouth knew Jinny dyd wi child
‘& tho more cautious with a living name
‘They more then guessd her master bore the blame
‘That very morning it affects me still
‘Ye know the foot pad sidles down the hill
‘Ign'rant as babe unborn I passd the pond
‘To milk as usual in our close beyond
‘& cows were drinking at the waters edge
‘& horses brousd among the flags & sedge
‘& nats & migens dancd the water oer
‘Just as Ive markd em scores o' times before
‘& birds sat singing as in mornings gone
‘While I as unconsernd went soodling on
‘But little dreaming as the wakening wind
‘Flappd the broad ash leaves oer the pond reclind
‘& oer the water crinkd the curdld wave
‘That Jane was sleeping in her watery grave
‘The netterd boy that usd to tend the cows
‘While getting whip sticks from the dangling boughs
‘Of osiers drooping by the water side
‘Her bonnet floating on the top espyd
‘He knew it well & hastnd fearful down
‘To take the terror of his fears to town
 ‘A melancholly story far too true
‘& soon the village to the pasture flew
‘Were from the deepest hole the pond about
‘They draggd poor Jinneys lifless body out
‘& took her home were scarce an hour gone bye
‘She had bin living like to you & I
‘I went wi more & kissd her for the last
‘& thought wi tears on pleasures that were past
‘& the last kindness left me then to do
‘I went at milking were her blossoms grew
‘& handfulls got of rose & lambtoe sweet
‘& put them with her in her winding sheet
‘A wilfull murder jury made the crime
‘Nor parson 'lowd to pray nor bell to chyme
‘On the cross roads far from her friends & kin
‘The usual law for such ungodly sin
‘Who violent hands upon themselves have laid
‘Poor Janes last bed unchristian like was made
‘& there like all whose last thoughts turn to heaven
‘She sleeps & doubtless hopd to be forgiven
‘& tho I sayt for maids thus weigld in
‘I think the wicked men deserve the sin
‘& sure enough we all at last shall see
‘The treachery punishd as it ought to be
‘For ere his wickedness pretended love
‘Jane was Ill bound as spotless as the dove
‘&s good a servant still old folks alow
‘As ever scourd a pail or milkd a cow
‘& ere he led her into ruins way
‘As gay & buxom as a summers day

(lines 151-214)

The Cross Roads (or Haymakers Story) (3)

‘A gloomy wanness spoilt her rosey cheek
‘& doubts hung there that was not mine to seek
‘She neer so much as dwelt on things to come
‘But sighd oer pleasures ere she left her home
‘& now & then a mournful smile woud raise
‘At pranks repeated of our younger days
‘As I brought up when passing spots of ground
‘Where we when childern hurly burly'd round
‘Or blind mans bluffd some morts of hours away
‘Two games poor thing Jane dearly lovd to play
‘She smild at these but shakd her head & sighd
‘When ere she thought my look was turnd aside
‘Nor turnd she round as was her former way
‘To praise the thorn white over then with may
‘Nor stooped once tho thousands round her grew
‘To pull a cowslip as she usd to do
‘For Jane in flowers delighted from a child
‘I like the garden but she lovd the wild
‘& oft on sundays young mens gifts declind
‘Flowers bought at gardens of the sweetest kind
‘& eager scrambd the single rose to get
‘& woodbine flowers at every tree we met
‘& lambtoe flowers as soon as caught her eyes
‘Woud start her running to ensure the prize
‘& gay long purple with its tufty spike
‘Shed wade oer shoes to reach it in the dyke
‘& oft while scratting thro the briery woods
‘For tempting cuckoo flowers & vi'let buds
‘Poor Jane Ive known her crying sneak to town
‘& fear her mother when shed tore her gown
'Ah these were days her conscience viewd wi pain
‘Which all are loath to loose as well as Jane
‘& what I took more odd then all the rest
‘Was on that night that she no wish exprest
‘To see the gipseys so belovd before
‘That lay a stones throw from us on the moor
‘I hinted it she just replyd agen
‘She once believd 'em but had doubts since then
‘& when we sought our cows I calld ‘cum mull’
‘But she stood silent for her heart was full
‘She lovd dumb things & ere she milkd begun
‘To fuss & stroke them more then ere shed done
‘& tho her tears stood watering in her eye
‘I little took it as her last good bye
‘For she was tender & Ive often known
‘Her mourn for beetles thats bin trampld on
‘So I neer dreamd from this what soon befell
‘Till the next morning rung her passing bell
‘My storys long but times in plenty yet
‘Sin the black clouds betoken nought but wet
‘& Ill een snatch a minutes breath or two
‘& take another pinch to help me thro

(lines 99-150)

The Cross Roads (or Haymakers Story) (2)

Just back this evening from an interesting visit to the archives in Peterbrough where I checked this poem with the earliest known manuscript.  Much to my surprise it differed in many ways from even the version published in the Clarendon Editions - what I guess would be called 'variant readings' and a couple of what I can only assume to be errors in transcription in the past.  However I have incorporated many of these into the text, the second portion of which is shown below.

‘That grave yeve heard of were the four roads meet
‘Were walks the spirit in a winding sheet
‘Oft seen at night by strangers passing late
‘& tarrying neighbours that at market wait
‘Stalking along as white as driven snow
‘& longs ones shadow when the sun is low
‘The girl thats buried there I knew her well
‘& her whole history if yell hark can tell
‘Her name was Jane & neighbours childern we
‘& old companions once as ye may be
‘& like to you on sundays often strolld
‘To Gipseys camps to have our fortunes told
‘& oft god rest her in the fortune book
‘Which we at hay time in our pockets took
‘Our pins at blindfold on the wheel have stuck
‘When hers woud always prick the worst of luck
‘For try poor thing as often as she might
‘Her point woud always on the blank alight
‘Which plainly shows the fortune ones to have
‘As such like go unwedded to the grave
‘& so it provd—the next succeeding may
‘We both went service from our sports & play
‘Tho in the village still as friends & kin
‘Thought neighbours service better to begin
‘As they considerd planning for our good
‘Theyd be more kind then downright strangers woud
‘So out we went Janes place was reckond good
‘Tho she 'bout life but little understood
‘For she'd a master wild as wild can be
‘& far unfit for such a child as she
‘& soon the wisper went about the town
‘That Janes good looks procurd her many a gown
‘From them whose promise was to every one
‘But whose intention was to wife with none
‘Twas nought to wonder tho begun by guess
‘For Jane was lovly in her sunday dress
‘& all expected such a rosey face
‘Woud be her ruin—as was just the case
‘& while the change was easily percievd
‘Three months went by ere I the  tales believd
‘For theres such people nowadays god knows
‘Woud sooner hatch up lies then mend their cloaths
‘& when wi such like tattle they begin
‘Dont care whose character they spoil a pin
‘Else passing neighbours sed theve markd een smile
‘& watchd him take her milkpail oer a stile
‘& often as they wanderd closer bye
‘From Jinneys bosom met the heavy sigh
‘& often markd her as discoursing deep
‘As doubts might rise to give just cause to weep
‘In smothering notice by a wisht disguise
‘To slive her apron corner to her eyes
‘Such signs were mournful & alarming things
‘& far more weighty then conjecture brings
‘Tho foes made double what there was in all
‘Confirmd as proofs & prophysied her fall
‘Poor thoughtless wench it seems but sunday past
‘Sin we went out together for the last
‘& plain enough indeed it was to find
‘Shed somthing more then common on her mind
‘For she was always fond to laugh & chat
‘& passing jokes about new beaus & that
‘But nothing then was scarcly talkd about
‘& what there was I even forcd it out


(lines 35-98)

The Cross Roads (or Haymakers Story)

Over the next week or two we will have the chance to enjoy one of Clare's long narrative poems.  Although published several times over the years, it has not been published in a popular collection in the form in which Clare wrote it.  

Here are Clare's own thoughts about the poem, "... the tale often touchd me as I heard it told from the simple old grannys of the village & I have preservd all their simplicity I coud by putting it in their mouths to tag in rhymes" (Letters, p.183)

As this is undoubtedly true, the story as recorded by Clare takes the reader back into another age.  We might think we have somehow 'progressed' from the state of these long-dead characters, but human nature is unchanging.  So simply by reading Clare's wonderful verse, we can immerse ourselves in his agrarian world before the Enclosures.

Stopt by the storm that long in sullen black
From the south west staind its encroaching track
Haymakers hussling from the rain to hide
Sought the grey willows by the pasture side
& there while big drops bow the grassy stems
& bleb the withering hay with pearly gems
Dimple the brook & patter in the leaves
The song & tale an hours restraint relieves
& while the old dames gossip at their ease
& pinch the snuff box empty by degrees
The young ones join in loves delightfull themes
Truths told by gipsys & expounded dreams
& mutterd things kept secrets from the rest
Of sweethearts names & who they love the best

& dazzling ribbons they delight to show
The last new favours of some weigling beau
That with such treacherey trys their hearts to move
& like the highest bribes the maidens love
The old dames jealous of their wisperd praise
Throw in their hints of mans deluding ways
& one to give her counsels more effect
& by examples illustrate the fact
Of innoscence oercome by flattering man
Thrice tappd her box & pinchd & thus began

          ‘Now wenches listen & let lovers lye
‘Yell hear a story ye may profit bye
‘Im your age threble wi some oddments to't
‘& right from wrong can tell if yell but do't
‘Ye neednt giggle underneath yer hats
‘Mines no joke matters let me tell you that
‘So keep yer quiet till my storys told
‘& dont despise yer betters cause they're old
‘I wish ye well upon my soul I do
‘& just another pinch & Ill pursue


(lines 1-34)

Originally published in The Village Minstrel (1821)

Two 'Winter" poems

TO A WINTER SCENE
Hail scenes of Desolation & despair
Keen Winters over bearing sport & scorn
Torn by his Rage in ruins as you are
To me more pleasing then a summers morn
Your shatter'd scenes appear—despoild & bare
Stript of your clothing naked & forlorn
—Yes Winters havoc wretched as you shine
Dismal to others as your fate may seem
Your fate is pleasing to this heart of mine
Your wildest horrors I the most esteem.—
The ice-bound floods that still with rigour freeze
The snow clothd valley & the naked tree
These sympathising scenes my heart can please
Distress is theirs—& they resemble me

EP I 417


A WINTER WISH
My wish nows to sit in a cottage made snug
By a fire burning roozy and bright
With a Friend to make shorter short days by a Jug
And some Books for amusement at night
And could I enjoy such a peaceable lot
I'd ne'er cast on Fortune a frown
Nor would I possesing my Friend, Books, and Cott
Exchange 'em away for a — Crown!

EP I 131

"There is a charm in nature felt and seen"

There is a charm in nature felt and seen
In every season of the varied year
In winters frost in springs reviving green
        'Tis every where

In foreign lands how beautiful the sight
Over a thousand mountains of snow sprey
With nought of green—but mountains pale as light
        And all the way

The springs green herbage full of flowers
And fields where lives the lark mid greener grain
We love and worship them in April hours
        Then wish again

That spring with all her joys would longer last
But summer with young buds is left to cho[o]se
And brings once more in memory of the past
        Flowers of all hues

Then autumn red and yellow quickly pass
Like broods of nestling birds upon the wing
Till all is gone and nothing but the grass
        Remembers spring

The wind the shower, the drapery of the sky
When day cools over meadows into dun
And clouds in gold and crimson glories lie
        In set of sun


A globe of fire and as a table round
Then wastes to half still shutting out the day
Till the curved rim drops quickly in the ground
        And all is gray

The Wood is Sweet (1966)
The Bodley Head