Monday, December 12, 2011


Winter Fields

John Clare (1793-1864), Winter Fields:
O for a pleasant book to cheat the sway
Of winter—where rich mirth with hearty laugh
Listens and rubs his legs on corner seat
For fields are mire and sludge—and badly off
Are those who on their pudgy paths delay        5
There striding shepherd seeking driest way
Fearing nights wetshod feet and hacking cough
That keeps him waken till the peep of day
Goes shouldering onward and with ready hook
Progs oft to ford the sloughs that nearly meet        10
Accross the lands—croodling and thin to view
His loath dog follows—stops and quakes and looks
For better roads—till whistled to pursue
Then on with frequent jump he hirkles through
5 pudgy: muddy, like a puddle
10 progs: prods, probes
11 croodling: crouching
14 hirkles: cowers, shudders (or hurtles?)

Thanks to Charles Collicutt, who writes about hirkle:
I found another gloss in "The Poems of William Dunbar", which is available on Google Books here:

To hirkle, hurkle, v. n. To draw the body together, to be in a rickety state, to be contracted into folds (Jamieson). Dr. Gregor says: to hirkle = to bend and totter. The form of the word in Banffshire is hurkle, to walk with a tottering step in a crouching position.

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