Ave Maria...


As is the maiden while her heart pursues
Her evening walk oer fields in silent dews
Ave Maria tis the hour of love

Sighs & pains & tears on beautys breast
Are whispered into blessings from above
Ave Maria tis the hour of rest

For man & woman & the weary beast
That blesses all with sleep & quiet rest
Ave Maria tis the hour of night
Like to an Indian Maiden dressed in white

(Lines 8-17 of "Now evenings rosey streaks...")
LP I 168

Though bonsmen enslave thee...

With these stark final lines, written in December 1841, the composition of Child Harold comes to an end:
But now loves hopes are all bereft
A lonely man I roam
& abscent Mary long hath left
My heart without a home
Just a few days later Clare is removed from the Northborough cottage to the Northampton General Asylum.  Nevertheless, his Scriptural paraphrases continued right up to his removal, finishing with these prophetic (for Clare) lines from Isaiah 47v15:
Thy merchants from thy youth
They shall wander one & all
To his quarters & the truth
Shall leave thee more in thrall
Though slave dealers take thee
        though bondsmen enslave thee
There's none shall be able to shield thee or save thee
Although rather changed from the text of the Authorised Version of the Bible that Clare knew, had memorised and loved, these words are dredged up from the depth of his subconscious and desolate state of mind; arguably a true reflection of his inner life at the end of this, the most difficult year of his life.

Obsessed as he is with the veracity of his memory of Mary, Clare finds himself dwelling on a biblical passage of doom and loss.  Composing a long paraphrase of the prophecy, with that final denouement — ‘though bondsmen enslave thee’ — laying in wait.  He finds himself writing a prophecy of his own judgment and removal.

I must admit that these poetic paraphrases, coupled with the final four lines of ‘I think of thee…’ to me do read like a prophetic utterance, a premonition of his of own fate.
While life breaths on this earthly ball
What e'er my lot may be
Wether in freedom or in thrall
Mary I think of thee
(Child Harold)
Shall leave thee more in thrall
Though slave dealers take thee
(Isaiah 47v15b)
In due course the ‘slave dealers’, in the form of Parson Glossop, Fenwick Skrimshire and William Page, arrive at the cottage and there are none able to shield him or save him, estranged as he was… ‘a stranger to his own family’.

Clare arrived at the asylum committed ‘After years addicted to poetical prossing’ (sic), and became in his own words, ‘a thrall’ — one who is enslaved, or in bondage.

Roger Rowe

My latest 'gleanings'...

Another Monday and Tuesday this week in the Peterborough Archive, and as always it seems, came up with quite a few Clare poems I did not recognise.  Here is just one, written in pencil, an alternative version of "Pleasures of Spring" (lines 283-292).  I must admit I do think the alternatives in these lines are somewhat more 'Clarean'!?

Forth walks the man of taste among the woods
& fields & where small channels run their floods
Loud laughing on their errands watering flowers
& down the narrow lanes he walks for hours
All carpeted anew with young swathes [of] grass
So soft that birds hear not the feet that pass
Close by their nests he peeps the leaves among
& marks with rapture how they brood their young
He drops beneath the bush [beside] the running brook
To read some pages of a favourite book

Pet MS A31 p23 if you are interested in exactly where I found it.


Compare the final two lines with the PoS (published) version, which do you prefer?

  1. Then drops beneath the bushes to peruse
  2. A pocket poet of some favoured muse 

Left Alone






















Left in the world alone,
Where nothing seems my own,
And everything is weariness to me,
'T is a life without an end,
'T is a world without a friend,
And everything is sorrowful I see.

There's the crow upon the stack,
And other birds all black,
While bleak November's frowning wearily;
And the black cloud's dropping rain,
Till the floods hide half the plain,
And everything is dreariness to me.

The sun shines wan and pale,
Chill blows the northern gale,
And odd leaves shake and quiver on the tree,
While I am left alone,
Chilled as a mossy stone,
And all the world is frowning over me.


Tibbles II 522

Jockey & Jinney or First Love

A Tale

“Thoughtless of beauty she was beautys self” 
  Thomson [The Seasons, Autumn l.207] 

Wereover many a stile neeth willows grey
The winding footpath leaves the public way
Free from the dusty din & ceasless chime
Of bustling waggons in the summer time
Crossing a brook—were braving storms in vain
Two willows fell & still for brigs remain
Corn field & clover closes leading down
In peacful windings to the neighbouring town

Were on bridge wall or rail or trees smooth bark
The passing eye is often stopt to mark
The artless vanity of village swains
Who spend a leisure hour with patient pains
& put to sculptors purposes the knife
To spin a cobweb for an after life
Nicking the letters of their little names
In rudest forms that untaught science frames

Pleasd with the feeblest shadow of renown
That warms alike the noble and the clown
Nigh to that path a sheltering hedge beside
A Cottage stands in solitary pride
Whose thatch with housleek flowers is yellowd oer
Where flock the bees from hives agen the door
Lonly & sweet as ever welcome spring
Neer fails its pleasant visitors to bring

Trees sheltering round it hide returning rooks
& twittering swallows seek its chimney nooks
In peace the sparrow chirps its joyous calls
& takes the feather to the crevisd walls
Nor fails the harmless robin & the wren
To seek such sweet secluded haunts agen
Beneath the eaves the martins still repair
& yearly build their mortard dwelling there

Here Jinney livd to grace the lovly scenes
Fair as the spring sweet blushing in her teens

Cottage Tales (Carcanet) 1993 (p 38

Clare reminding us of the power of simple words in the hands of a genius.  A 640 line poem that both publisher Taylor and supporter Mrs Emmerson loved but remained unpublished as it was 'too long'.

The Stone


The traveller journeying on the road alone
Sees by the highway side an ancient stone
& finds it pleasant in the weary day
To sit him down & wear an hour away
The strongest hand of mischief meddld more,
& failed to move or break or turn it o'er.
The man of feeling knew it when a boy
The only thing that nothing could destroy
& just the same as then it now appears
The fragment maybe of some hundred years
Beside the stone the wild flower gathers high
No grazing horse can bite or trample nigh
& smaller birds contented & alone
Can sit & shelter by the ancient stone

Pet MS A61 p60
(On a sheet addressed to Clare at Northborough)
Northborough Sonnets, p75

The Tramp

He eats a moments stoppage to his song 
The stolen turnip as he goes along
& hops along & heeds with careless eye 
The passing crowded stage coach reeling bye 
He talks to none but wends his silent way 
& finds a hovel at the close of day
Or under any hedge his house is made
He has no calling & he owns no trade
An old smoaked blanket arches oer his head
A whisp of straw or stubble makes his bed
He knows a lawless clan that claims no kin 
But meet & plunder on & feel no sin
No matter where they go or where they dwell 
They dally with the winds and laugh at hell


Pet MS A61 p49
Tibbles II 344