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John Clare's Finches

I thought the first one was a leaf falling faster

Than any leaf could fall--no coasting the updrafts,

None of those sinuous floating undulations

That body forth the longing of anything falling

To return to the branch--and then it dipped and stalled

And touched its featherweight of gold to the fencepost,

And there we were, risen at dawn to breathe while we could

The vanishing cool of early late summer morning

And see the goldfinches should they chance to return--

And they came, but on a wind that never blew before:

I saw as in a rain-pool slicking the roadway

Or a shard of mirror lodged in a Romany's tree

The poor marvelous daft poet limping his way

Along the watery English lanes and by-lanes,

Humming the air of Highland Mary, dreaming his aim

Was taking him close and closer to remembered beauty--

Daisy, goldfinch, grass that smells of the baker's oven--

Who might have wrapped around him her arms long and small

Had she managed to breathe the air of his belief

And not die blameless and alone, sister to nothing Or the bride of darkness, for all the difference it makes.

By Gibbons Ruark