The hedger now in leather coat
From wood land wilds & fields remote
After a journey far & slow
Knocks from his shoes the caking snow
& opes the welcome creaking door
Throwing his faggot on the floor
& at his listening wifes desire
To eke afresh the blazing fire
Wi sharp bill cuts the hazel bands
Then sits him down to warm his hands
To tell his labours happy way
His story of the passing day
While as the warm blaze cracks and gleams
The supper reeks in savoury steams
Or keetle simmers merrily
& tinkling cups are set for tea
Thus does the winters dreary day
From morn to evening wear away.
photo by Gilbert Scott
And after tea? Then there are stories of ghosts and murderers, princesses and giants, to freeze again the blood warmed by the fire: dreadful warnings, and hope of good things to come.
It's true that John Clare tells us in his poem that nowadays he is too racked by real problems to believe in fairy tales.
But I don't believe him.
Word To Use Today: bill. Clare's kind of bill is a knife with a narrow blade (he's not cutting the hazel bands with his nose!). In Old English a bill was a sword. In Old High German a bil is a pickaxe.