Monday, 15 February 2010

The Foddering Boy by John Clare

The Foddering Boy

The foddering boy along the crumping snows
With straw-band-belted legs and folded arm
Hastens, and on the blast that keenly blows
Oft turns for breath, and beats his fingers warm,
And shakes the lodging snows from off his clothes,
Buttoning his doublet closer from the storm
And slouching his brown beaver o`er his nose-
Then faces it again, and seeks the stack
Within its circling fence where hungry lows
Expecting cattle, making many a track
About the snow, impatient for the sound
When in huge forkfuls trailing at his back
He litters the sweet hay about the ground
And brawls to call the staring cattle round.

John Clare (1793 - 1860)

When winter cold is at its worst, I think of John Clare`s foddering boy as I trudge through mud or slip over ice and snow to feed the animals twice a day. I have chosen this life and still it can be hard, but a nineteenth century labouring boy, no longer at school but out and earning a poor wage on a weather ravaged Fenland farm, had no choice but to face the east wind and the toil of endless rounds of livestock feeding.

The foddering boy had to transport hay to the animals by strapping it to his legs. He would have envied my trusty wheelbarrow.

This evening, a pair of Forest ponies looked enviously through the hedge as I fed hay to our little herd in the fields. The two bay mares in the photograph above are mother and daughter. They are sister and niece to our bay pony, Woody. As "extended family", I took pity and threw them each a handful of hay, which they shared in the shelter of an ancient beech tree.

Enjoying the evening hay.


Morning's Minion said...

Oh dear, I would be beggaring us to share the hay. Horses were wintered a few years ago near our son's place and it was painful to see how eagerly they hoped for a handout, as they were poorly fed and neglected.
Chores can be a dreary round during bad weather, but the warmth of indoors is more appreciated afterward. I expect the "foddering boy" hadn't much to look forward to at the end of the day.

Bovey Belle said...

What lovely hay you have (as always). I can smell it! I always thought that if you could bottle the scent of well-made hay, it would make a lovely perfume (for us horsey ladies!)