SONG

  1. The wing of the blackbird is the hue of her hair
    The hue of the rose is the face of my fair
    & yet she's a romekin slomekin thing
    & as wild as a filly let loose in the spring
    Shell jump oer the anthills as quick as a bee
    & shout to the birds on their nests in the tree
    Shes a good-for-nothing romikin slomekin thing
    Yet as sweet as a queen by the side of a King

    Shes healthy & wealthy & wild as a bird
    & startles with fear if a bramble be stirred
    When far from her home she will run like the roe
    & thinks rudeness watching where eer she may go
    But she has good excuses for being so wild
    Shes a woman in size while shes only a child
    She pictures in fancy what innocence means
    & sports like a baby not yet in her teens

    O girlhood has joys what her mother would fain
    Recall to herself if they would come back again
    & so would we all but ones youth is the time
    For health love & innocence justs in their prime
    A child so loves nature she does not mean sin
    Only see what a rolicking humour shes in
    Shes a young sweet & good-for-naught rolicking thing
    Yet as fair as a queen by the side of a King

    LP I 365

I am

'I am' was a Knight transcript (KT) from the Northampton Asylum, therefore no original manuscript remains. However, whilst the KT is quite clear - the reading is 

'Like shadows in love's frenzied stifled throes' 

The poem was published in a whole list of periodicals from when it was written, likely in 1846. In these periodicals changes were often made at the whim of the editor(s), so several 'versions' come down to us.  There are a number of mis-readings of Clare’s original text too (remember it has not survived) that scholars have suggested, nearly all due to Clare’s handwriting.  So this is our best ‘educated guess’:

I am—yet what I am, none cares or knows; 
My friends forsake me like a memory lost:—
I am the self-consumer of my woes;— 
They rise and vanish in oblivion's host, 
Like shadows in love's frenzied stifled throes:— 
And yet I am, and live—like vapours tost 

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,— 
Into the living sea of waking dreams, 
Where there is neither sense of life or joys, 
But the vast shipwreck of my lifes esteems; 
Even the dearest, that I love the best 
Are strange—nay, rather stranger than the rest. 

I long for scenes, where man hath never trod 
A place where woman never smiled or wept 
There to abide with my Creator, God; 
And sleep as I in childhood, sweetly slept, 
Untroubling, and untroubled where I lie, 
The grass below—above the vaulted sky. 

The punctuation would be Knight’s, as Clare rarely punctuated his work.  Even this text is open to debate, for instance Knight’s ‘n’ is very much like his ‘u’, so ‘oblivions’s host’ might well be ‘oblivious host’ (5).  Knight has ‘lost’ for ‘tost’ (6), but this is a understandable misreading of Clare who hardly ever crossed his ‘t’…. and so on, and on, and on ………

Cloud Shapes

Researching a future Chapbook, this one entitled 'Clouds'.  I am surprise just how much material there is from which to choose.  Here is just one of the strong candidates:

Clouds rack & drive before the wind 

In shapes & forms of every kind 

Like waves that rise without the roar 

& rocks that guard an untrodden shore 

Now castles pass majestic by 

& ships in peaceful havens lie 

These gone ten thousand shapes ensue 

For ever beautiful and new 


The scattered clouds lie calm and still 

& day throws gold on every hill 

Their thousand heads in glory run 

As each were worlds and owned a sun 

The rime it clings to everything 

It beards the early buds of spring 

The mossy pales, the orchard spray 

Are feathered with its silver-grey

MP V 198

From an Old Book of Fables


A shattering poem from my "Accursed Wealth" chapbook.  Obviously unpublished in his day, and too honest for most in our own time too.

‘Gold is a general purchaser – buys all
‘From the high alter pallace bench & Hall
‘Down to the humble cottage hut or stall
‘Buys smiles or tears melts eyes or drys em – gold
‘Like Esops satire buys[1]breath hot and cold
‘Makes out all wants & all defects supplies
‘Een the old wrinkled hag young courtier buys
‘Can buy an ass a penegaric – build
‘A dog a monument[2]– vice with virtue gild
‘Nay buys a coward laurels -- & what not
‘Thus the proud Gaul[3]the stile of a great has got
‘That neer faced foe in reach of cannon shot
‘Buys knaves an office traitors power & trust
‘High & low fliers bought with shining dust
‘Buys villany a mask hypocrisy paint
‘Buys inside devil the out side face o’ saint
‘Buys tyrants champions – cut throats caps & knees
‘Buys lies & oaths buys souls & consiences
‘Buys prayers & curses buys both earth & hell
‘Nay buys heaven too at least if Rome can sell
‘What is it which that tempting ore cant buy
‘Buys everything but truth & honesty

MP II 192

[1] Aesop has ‘blows’
[2] "Epitaph to a Dog" is a poem by Lord Byron.  It was written in 1808 in honour of his Newfoundland dog, Boatswain, who had just died of rabies.  The poem is inscribed on Boatswain's tomb, which is larger than Byron's, at Newstead Abbey, Byron's estate.
[3] Napoleon Bonaparte

To a cowslip early


  1. Cowslip bud so early peeping
  2. Warmd by aprils hazard hours
  3. Oer thy head tho sunshines creeping
  4. Hind it threatnd temp[e]sts lower
  5. Trembling blossom let me bear thee
  6. To a better safer home
  7. Tho a fairer blossom wear thee
  8. Near a tempest there shall come

  9. Marys bonny breasts to charm thee
  10. Bosom soft as down can be
  11. Eyes like any suns to warm thee
  12. & scores of sweets unknown to me
  13. Ah for joys thoult there be meeting
  14. In a station so divine
  15. I'd 'most wish thats vain repeating
  16. Cowslip bud thy life were mine

    EP II 51/2
    Village Minstrel I 82 (1821)
    In the Shadows (2014)

Early Spring


Winter is past—the little bee resumes
Her share of sun & shade & oer the lea
Hums its first hymnings to the flowers perfumes
& wakes a sense of gratfulness in me
The little daisey keeps its wonted pace
Ere march by april gets disarmd of snow
A look of joy opes on its smiling face
Turnd to that power that suffers it to blow
Ah pleasant time as pleasing as ye be
One still more pleasing, hope reserves for me
Where suns unsetting one long summer shine
Flowers endless bloom where winter neer destroys
O may the good mans righteous end be mine
As I may witness these unfading joys

The Village Minstrel
Volume II, page 172

The Crow (Sonnet)

How peaceable it seems for lonely men
To see a crow fly in the thin blue sky
Over the woods and fealds, o'er level fen
It speaks of villages, or cottage nigh
Behind the neighbouring woods -- when March winds high
Tear off the branches of the huge old oak
I love to see these chimney sweeps sail by
And hear them o'er gnarled forest croak
Then sosh askew from the hid woodman's stroke
That in the woods their daily labours ply
I love the sooty crow nor would provoke
Its march day exercises of croaking joy
I love to see it sailing to and fro
While feelds, and woods, and waters spread below


LP I 498