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John Clare

John Mole

Helpston c. 1820


With their golden notebooks

they stop to watch him carting hay;

the embossed enclosures

of the carriages they step from

wait to bear them home.


They’ll celebrate the dignity of labour

from safe seats, the prospects

they return to, stable their horses,

hear the harness loosed and jingling

like coins of the realm.


It will have been a profitable day

to do nothing about it, besides

what is there to be done?

Conscience sleeps in the sun,

the poor being always with us.


He watches the future drive off

in its shining hatch-backs

down Heritage Lane

then, seized by love and anger,

takes up his pen to write.


From The Rialto No 66 (Spring 2009)