Tis three years and a quarter since I left my own fireside
To go aboard a ship through love, and plough the ocean wide.
I crossed my native fields, where the scarlet poppies grew,
And the groundlark left his nest like a neighbour which I knew.
The pigeons from the dove cote cooed over the old lane,
The crow flocks from the oakwood went flopping oer the grain;
Like lots of dear old neighbours whom I shall see no more
They greeted me that morning I left the English shore.
The sun was just a-rising above the heath of furze,
And the shadows grow to giants; that bright ball never stirs:
There the shepherds lay with their dogs by their side,
And they started up and barked as my shadow they espied.
A maid of early morning twirled her mop upon the moor;
I wished her my farewell before she closed the door.
My friends I left behind me for other places new,
Crows and pigeons all were strangers as oer my head they flew.
Trees and bushes were all strangers, the hedges and the lanes,
The steeples and the houses and broad untrodden plains.
I passed the pretty milkmaid with her red and rosy face;
I knew not where I met her, I was strange to the place.
At last I saw the ocean, a pleasing sight to me:
I stood upon the shore of a mighty glorious sea.
The waves in easy motion went rolling on their way,
English colours were a-flying where the British squadron lay.
I left my honest parents, the church clock and the village;
I left the lads and lasses, the labour and the tillage;
To plough the briny ocean, which soon became my joy–
I sat and sang among the shrouds, a lonely sailor-boy.
by JOHN CLARE (1793-1864)
Public Domain Poetry