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Id 124
Date 1935-01-01
Location -country na / -region na / -city na
Database p no incident

Clare, John, 1793-1864: WILL-O'-WISP [from The Poems of John
Clare Edited with an Introduction by J. W. Tibble (1935)]

1 I've seen the midnight morris-dance of hell
2 On the black moors while thicker darkness fell,
3 Like dancing lamps or bounding balls of fire,
4 Now in and out, now up and down, now higher,
5 As though an unseen horseman in his flight
6 Flew swinging up and down a lamp alight;
7 Then fixed, as though it feared its end to meet,
8 It shone as lamps shine in a stilly street;
9 Then all at once it shot and danced anew,
10 Till mixed with darkness out of sight it grew.
11 The simple shepherd under fear's eclipse
12 Views the dread omens of these will-o'-wisps
13 And thinks them haunting spirits of the earth
14 That shine where midnight murders had their birth;

[Page 56 ]

15 With souls of midnight and with heads of fire
16 To him they shine, and bound o'er moor and mire,
17 Blazing like burning, crackling wisps of straw;
18 He sees and hears them, then with sudden awe
19 He pictures thieves with lanthorn light in hand,
20 That in lone spots for murder waiting stand.
21 Upon the meadow bridge's very wall
22 He sees a lanthorn stand, and pictures all
23 The muttered voices that derange his ears;
24 And when more near the spot, his sickening fears
25 See the imagined lanthorn, light and all,
26 Without a plash into the water fall,
27 And in one moment on his stifled sight
28 It blanks his hopes and sets his terrors right.
29 For furlongs off it simmers up and down,
30 A will-o'-wisp; and breathless to the town
31 He hastes, and hardly dares to catch his breath,
32 Existing like a doubt of life or death
33 Until the sight of houses cools his fears
34 And fireside voices greet his happy ears.
35 And then he rubs his hands beside his fire,
36 And quakes, and tells how over moor and mire
37 The jack-o'-lanthorn with his burning tails
38 Had like to led him; and he bites his nails
39 With very fear to think out how the blaze
40 Had like to cheat him into dangerous ways:
41 How that he thought he heard some people stand
42 As likely thieves with lanthorn in their hand,
43 When in a moment---yet he heard no fall---
44 Down went the lanthorn from the arches' wall
45 Into the flood; and on that brig alone
46 How his heart seemed as growing into stone.


BOOK Poems of John Clare, The by John Clare (1935)


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