top of page

Safely in the Tender Green


The Skylark

by John Clare

The rolls and harrows lie at rest beside

The battered road; and spreading far and wide

Above the russet clods, the corn is seen

Sprouting its spiry points of tender green,

Where squats the hare, to terrors wide awake,

Like some brown clod the harrows failed to break.

Opening their golden caskets to the sun,

The buttercups make schoolboys eager run,

To see who shall be first to pluck the prize—

Up from their hurry, see, the skylark flies,

And o'er her half-formed nest, with happy wings

Winnows the air, till in the cloud she sings,

Then hangs a dust-spot in the sunny skies,

And drops, and drops, till in her nest she lies,

Which they unheeded passed—not dreaming then

That birds which flew so high would drop agen

To nests upon the ground, which anything

May come at to destroy. Had they the wing

Like such a bird, themselves would be too proud,

And build on nothing but a passing cloud!

As free from danger as the heavens are free

From pain and toil, there would they build and be,

And sail about the world to scenes unheard

Of and unseen—Oh, were they but a bird!

So think they, while they listen to its song,

And smile and fancy and so pass along;

While its low nest, moist with the dews of morn,

Lies safely, with the leveret, in the corn.

Safely in the Tender Green,2023 (Foraged plants & rare-breed sheep fleece,2x1.25x0.15m)

'Safely in the Tender Green' was made from plant materials gathered from the garden of my studio in the Cotswolds and partially felted pieces of sheep fleece. The fleeces came from four of the most highly-endangered sheep breeds in Britain, each with fewer than 900 breeding ewes left in existence, and here 'stand in' for the skylark eggs which are missing, in much the same way as they are now missing from many of their traditional habitats across the UK (including the Cotswolds), thanks to changes in land use and farming practices. The work seeks to foreground the plants that continue to survive on the Cotswold commons whilst highlighting both the missing skylarks and the complex web of ecologies and human-led interventions that have shaped these ever changing habitats, including sheep grazing at varying levels of intensity.

bottom of page