Margaret Grainger (ed.), The Natural History Prose Writings of John Clare

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1Hawks are beautiful objects when on the wing I have often stood to 2view a hawk in the sky trembling its wings9 & then hanging1 quite pg 873still for a moment as if it was as light as a shadow & coud [del. stand] 4find like the clouds \a resting place/ upon the \still/ blue air

5They2 are a great many different sorts of hawks about us & several 6to which I am a stranger too

7There is a \very/ large blue one3 almost as big as a goose they 8flye[del. s] in a swopping heavy manner not much unlike the flye of a 9heron you may see ann odd one often in the spring swimming4 close 10to the green corn & ranging over an whole field for hours together it 11hunts leverets Partridges & Pheasants I saw one of these which a 12man had wounded [del. but] with a gun [del. but not much] he had 13stupified it only for when he got it home it was as fierce as & as live 14as ever the wings when extended was of a great length it was of a 15blue grey [del. ?] color hued with deeper tinges of the same its beak 16was dreadfully hookd & its claws long & of a bright yellow with a 17yellow ring round each eye which gave a fierce & very severe look at 18the sight of a cat it put itself in a posture for striking as if it meant to 19seize it as prey but at a dog it seemd rather scard & sat on its tail end 20in a defensive posture with its wings extended & its talons open 21making at the same time a strange earpiercing hissing noise which 22dis mayd the dog who woud drop his tail & sneak out as if in fear 23they tyd a \[?strop]/ piece of tar marling to one of its legs & tetherd it 24in a barn were they kept it 3 or 4 days when it knawd the string from 25its leg & effected its liberty by getting thro the barn holes in the wall 26it ate nothing all that time they offerd it carrion but it woud take no 27notice of it what its name is I know not they call it the blue hawk

28There is a small blue hawk5 often mistaken for the cuckoo I know 29nothing of it further then seeing it often on the wing & a rare one 30about the size of a black bird of a mottld color with a white patch of 31feathers on the back of the head one of these sort6 was shot here this 32summer by a field keeper I have never seen any thing like it before7

pg 8833Last year I had two tame hawks of what species I cannot tell8 they 34was not quite so large as the sparrow hawk their wings & back 35feathers was of a red brown color sheathd wi black their tails was 36long & bar⟨re⟩d with black & their breasts was \a/ lighter color & 37spotted their eyes was large & of a dark piercing blue their beaks 38was very much hookd with a sharp projecting swell in the top 39mandible not unlike the swell in the middle of the hookd bill usd by 40hedgers & calld by them a tomahawk this made an incision like a 41knife in tearing its food the bottom mandible was curiously shortend 42as it were for the hook to lap over & seemd as tho nature had dipt 43the end off with sissors for that purpose their legs was short & yellow 44with a tuft of feathers over each thigh like the bantum fowl a 45property belonging to most of the hawk tribe they grew very tame & 46woud come at a call or whistle when they was hungry they made a 47strange noise that piercd the ear with its shrillness they was very 48fond of washing themselves often doing it twice a day in winter9 after 49being fed they woud play in the garden run⟨n⟩ing after each other 50& seizing bits of clods or fallen apples in their claws or catching at 51flies when they rested they usd always to perch on one leg with the 52other drawn up among their feathers they always lovd to perch on 53the top most twig of the trees in the garden were they woud sit in a 54bold & comanding atitude one was much larger then the other & the 55large one was much the tamest When I went a walking in the fields it 56woud attempt to flye after me & as I was fearful of loosing it I usd to 57drive it back but one day it took advantage of watching & following 58me & when I got into the fields I was astonishd & startld to see a 59hawk settle on my shoulder it was mine who had watchd me out of 60the town & took a short cut to flye after me I thought it woud flye 61away for good so I attempted to catch it but it woud not be made a 62prisoner & flew to the trees by the road side I gave it up for lost but 63as soon as I got out of sight it set up a noise & flew after me agen & 64when I got upon the heath were there was no trees it woud settle 65upon the ground before me & if I attempted to catch it it woud run 66& hide in the rabbit burrows & when I left it took wing & flew after 67me & so it kept on to the end of my journey when it found home as 68soon as I did after this I took no more heed of loosing them tho they 69woud be missing for days together a boy caught one by suprise & 70hurt it so that it dyd & the tamest dyd while I was absent from home pg 89714 days it refusd food & hunted for me every morning & came to sit in 72my empty chair as it woud do till I got up they thought it fretted 73itself to death in my absence but I think the meat I gave was too 74strong for it & I believd it was not well a good while before I left it I 75felt heartily sorry for my poor faithful & affectionat hawk

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Notes

Editor’s Note
8 Taken from Pet. MS A46, pp. 116–17.
Editor’s Note
9 For another account of the kestrel, see Pet. MS A46 list, ll. 37–9.
Editor’s Note
1 See Autobiography, Prose, p. 25.
Editor’s Note
2 For 'There', which Tibble gives.
Editor’s Note
3 Tibble (Prose, p. 195) and Fisher (p. 33) suggest that this is a hen harrier, but C. A. Johns in British Birds in their Haunts (1885), pp. 15, 608, gives the 'Blue Hawk' as the peregrine falcon. See The Shepherd's Calendar, 'November', p. 120.
Editor’s Note
4 See The Shepherd's Calendar, 'May', p. 54.
Editor’s Note
5 Tibble and Kenneth Richmond (Prose, p. 196) suggest that this is a cock sparrowhawk, but Fisher (p. 34) proffers peregrine, or hen harrier, for 'blue hawk'.
Editor’s Note
6 Tibble (Prose, p. 196) comments: 'Most likely Clare was referring here to a merlin, though, as Mr. Richmond says … "the white patch on the back of the head rather confuses the issue, making it look as though it might have been a hen sparrow hawk"'; Fisher (p. 34) says it 'was probably a hobby.'
Editor’s Note
7 At the end of this paragraph Clare writes a line of verse, which may have been suggested by this passage of prose: '[del. Ones] Their very shadow seems to feel a fear'.
Editor’s Note
8 Clare says they were hobbies in his Pet. MS A46 list, 1. 41.
Editor’s Note
9 Might just be after 'winter', but it is more likely to be a smudge.
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