by William Hershaw
Poor old Johnny Clare!
Driven mad by Society, protected by Poetry,
Flapping like an owl, daftman on the road
Between London and The Bluebell Inn.
You’d grown up with the birds
And knew their language off pat.
Even in the asylum of age
The Corncrake and Ring Ouzel
Were bringing you news:
How Keats had ransacked the hedgerows
For symbols and metaphors,
How Byron had bird-limed the coppice.
Crazy as a king, wits fragile as eggshells by then
Yet you told them you’d guard the shrinking field edge,
Watch the turnpike for Trevithick’s sooty reek until
They could fly away into folksong.