by John Clare

The wild duck startles like a sudden thought,

And heron slow as if it might be caught.

The flopping crows on weary wings go by

And grey beard jackdaws noising as they fly.

The crowds of starnels whizz and hurry by,

And darken like a clod the evening sky.

The larks like thunder rise and suthy round,

Then drop and nestle in the stubble ground.

The wild swan hurries height and noises loud

With white neck peering to the evening cloud.

The weary rooks to distant woods are gone.

With lengths of tail the magpie winnows on

To neighboring tree, and leaves the distant crow

While small birds nestle in the edge below.

Painting: “Autumn Birds” by Lin Fengmian (1901-1991), ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Learn more about the painting at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from John Clare (1793-1864) was an English poet, the son of a farm labourer, who came to be known for his celebratory representations of the English countryside and his lamentation of its disruption. His poetry underwent a major re-evaluation in the late 20th century and he is often now considered to be among the most important 19th-century poets. His biographer Jonathan Bate states that Clare was “the greatest labouring-class poet that England has ever produced. No one has ever written more powerfully of nature, of a rural childhood, and of the alienated and unstable self.”

Editor’s Note: I tried to find out the meaning of “starnels” and “suthy” without success. So interpret as you will. I will picture “starnels” as birds covered in stars and define “suthy” as  “soar all around.” Would love to hear your thoughts!