Three Springs

[Image:  Glinton Church and graveyard]

For some while Clare found the reports of Mary Joyce's hard to believe, but then in late 1841 he wrote this... 


O Mary dear, three Springs have been

Three Summers too have blossomed here

Three blasting Winters crept between

Though absence is the most severe

Another Summer blooms in green

But Mary never once was seen

I've sought her in the fields & flowers

I've sought her in the forest groves

In avenues & shaded bowers

& every scene that Mary loves

E'en round her home I seek her here

But Mary’s absent every-where

‘Tis autumn & the rustling corn

Goes loaded on the creaking wain

I seek her in the early morn

But cannot meet her face again

Sweet Mary she is absent still

& much I fear she ever will

She died three years before, the day after Clare's birthday.

The Dream (excerpt)

Clare in a dark, dark mood...

Red lightning shot its flashes as they came

& passing clouds seemed kindling into flame 

& strong & stronger came the sulphury smell

With demons following in the breath of hell 

Laughing in mockery as the doomed complained 

Losing their pains in seeing others pained 

Fierce raged destruction sweeping oer the land 

& the last counted moment seemed at hand 

As scales near equal hang the earnest eyes 

In doubtful balance which shall fall or rise

So in the moment of that crashing blast 

Eyes hearts & hopes paused trembling for the last 

Loud burst the thunders clap & yawning rents 

Gashed the frail garments of the elements 

Then sudden whirlwinds winged with purple flame 

& lightnings flash in stronger terrors came 

Burning all life & nature where they fell 

& leaving earth as desolate as hell 

(lines 43-60)

The Ladybird

Ladybird ladybird where art thou gone
Ere the daisy was open or the rose it was spread 

On the cabbage flower early thy scarlet wings shone 

I saw thee creep off to the tulip bed


Ladybird ladybird where art thou flown 

Thou wert here in the morning before the sun shone 

Just now up the bowl o' the damson tree 

You passed the gold lichen & got to the grey 

Ladybird ladybird where can you be 

You climb up the tulips & then fly away 


You crept up the flowers while I plucked them just now 

& crept to the top & then flew from the flowers 

O sleep not so high as the damson tree bough 

But come from the dew i' the eldern tree bowers 


Here's lavender trees that would hide a lone mouse 

& lavender cotton wi' buttons o' gold 

& bushes o' lads love as dry as a house 

Here's red pinks & daisies so sweet to behold 


Ladybird ladybird come to thy nest 

The gold beds i' the rose o the sweet brier tree 

Wi rose coloured curtains to pleasure thee best 

Come Ladybird back to thy Garden & Me 

Pet MS C3 p189

The Moorhen and the Coot

Water Hen (Moorhen)

They are very common with us they make a nest of flags & bull rushes lines with grass & place it on a branch of thorn or willow that hangs over the stream & sometimes they make it on a clump of bull rushes in the middle of the stream they lay 9 eggs of a pale ash color spotted with lilac & jocculate colored spots the young ones are coveverd with brown down & take the water as soon as they get out of the shell They build in old pits in the meadows & in lone ponds about the closes if undisturbed…

The coot is like the more hen in its habits but larger it haunts lakes in meadows & solitary marshes but never builds its nest in branches that overhand the stream – it beats down a place in the midst of a reed bed or flag clump & rests its nest on them that touches the water it lays a great number of eggs as many as 12 or 14 larger then the more hens of a dirty white color spotted with dull spots the nest is made of flags bulrushes & grass like the more hens but it is wove together so stout as to resist the floods that happen to rise while she sits on her eggs & if the nest looses its hold of the rushes it floats on the top of the water like a boat & the old one is said to sit on it unconserned but I have not seen this tho I have found the nest landed on dry land as left by the floods with the eggs in it unmolested – the young ones take to the water as soon as they leave the shells & return to it at night like the more hen These birds are subject to lice which is so common to them that it has grown into a saying that any thing filthy is ‘as lousey as a coot’

Published in 'The Naked Fen' (Arbour Editions - 2021)

Content thy home be mine

Content thy home be mine
Do not my suit disdain
They who prefer the worlds to thine
Shall find it false & vain
From broken hopes & storms I flye
To hide me in thy peaceful sky

The flatterers meet with smiles
The cunning find their friends
Without I made my pilgrimage         
& so met small amends
I looked on fame as merits plea
Twas spring but winter frowned on me

To cringe to menial slaves
To worship titled power
To bend the knee to knaves
The price of earthly dower
Is what I neer was taught to pay
So empty [that] Ive turned away

Where pleasing is to flatter
Where loving is to hate
To praise what we at heart abuse
In love & church & state
This is the worlds but not my game
So poor I am without the shame

Tho flattery findeth friends
In every grade & state
& telling truth offends
The lowly & the great
Truth when the worst is bye shall rise
When follys vapour stinks & flyes

Prides pomps are shadows all
& Titles honours toys
Great births in merits oft are small
& all their praise but noise
Rainbows upon the skyes of May
Fade soon but scarce so soon as they

Then sweet content be thine to call
My sorrows as thy due
For grief is natural to all
As is to night the dew
As disappointed hopes decay
My heart shall struggle & be gay

As hopes from earth shall disappear
With thee Ill not despair
For thou canst look at heaven & see
The vagrant waiting there
& while thou smilest I shall see 
Thy lives last gift the best shall be

An amazing poem I transcribed in the Peterborough Archives. I could not find it published anywhere, so with Professor Eric's encouragement I published it myself in 'Hidden Treasures' (2016) - now in its 2nd edition (2019) - £6 (post free to the UK).

Early Morning Ploughboy

I thought I was up sooner than usual & before morning was on the stir out of doors     but I am pleasantly disappointed by the whistle of the ploughboy past the window making himself merry & trying to make the dull weather dance to a very pleasant tune which I know well & yet cannot recollect the song      but there are hundreds of these pleasant tunes familiar to the plough & the splashing stream & the little fields of spring that have lain out the brown rest of winter & grew into mirth with the sprouting grain    the cheep(?) of the sky lark    & the old songs & ballads that even accompany field(?) happiness in following the plough – by neither head(?) known   or noticed    by all the world beside

Pet MS B6 p99

The Tale of Fisher Man

A flight of fancy from John Clare
(recently uncovered)


When we recieve a favour from fortune we ought to make use of it as if it was the last we should meet with


Pet MS A18 p R254

Pet MS A42 p118 has ‘great’ inserted before ‘favour



A young fisherman who lived near the sea was very industrious & very thriving in his industry   but he thirsted after more wealth the possesion of which was his happ[i]ness     he had a cottage & land but he thought happiness dwelt in a pallace    who when he did ever so well he wished to do better     he was ever merry as a fisherman but he thought he should be happy as a gentleman


& rowing [on the sea] full of these fancys of [wealth]     one fine morning he   by accident   meet with an old man in a very old fashioned boat     the young man was going speedily with wind & tide but the old man was going as speedily against both  & the young man was astonished & thought if he had such a boat he should be next to a gentleman     ‘should you’    said the old man   tho the young fellows thoughts never rose so high as a whisper   yet the old man knew    & ‘if you should like my boat’   continued he   ‘you shall have it in exchange for yours & if [you] mind you may then very soon be a gentleman tho for my part I would rather have your lot then that of a gentlemans    for remember’ said the old man ‘the gods give mortals the liberty to amass riches but leave the use of them entirely to their own discretion &what is one mans food is another mans poison   as wants increase with means & temptations increse with pleasures’ – 


‘I change’   said the young [man] cutting the old mans story [short]   & the old man laughed loud as he leapt in to the young mans boat & as the young man got into his   the old man shook his head & bid him good speed – when they instantly parted the old man sped [at] a horse gallop with wind & tide   & the young man at double speed against both     this was the very contrary way to which he wished to proceed & he insatantly seized the rudder to manage the boat    when to his utter astonishment the boat shot plump down into the bottom of the sea as fast & head foremost as a race horse could gallop down the steep side of mount Atlas [into the valleys beneath it]    & fall as far    went the young man down & down until at last he rested on the sands & bottom of the immense ocean


he was astonished even to fear & saw the waters for miles above him & miles about him & yet he breathed as free from choaking as he did before he started [while dibbing cabbages in his garden]     how it could be he could not tell but so it was & as his eyes began to clear of their supprise as began to look about him to see the strange country he was in     & every thing was new & nothing like what he had seen before     there were large forrests as high as his own wood but leafey & when he came to examine them they were of pearls & corral    there were monsters of extradinary size & shape 


& what he had never expected to have accosted a lady approached him   not very handsome to be sure   for she had green hair   red eyes   & teeth of odd shape   yet she seemed young & well shaped     he accosted her but she seemed not to understand him & stooping as if to amuse her self by picking up things from the sand   she offered him a handful    & they were guineas & Portugal dollars & bright as if minted but yesterday     


he lay all this time leaning on his rudder & accepting them eagerly & was for leaping out to get more   but the moment he left the rudder    that moment   the boat sprang upward as light as an eggshell & was at the top of the sea in a thought    & at the mooring before his own cottage before he could think twice about the matter     as he leapt ashore with his money which    tho the lady held it in her hand    was as much as he could haul out in an old fish crail


his wife grew fearful at the sight of so much money & more fearful when he related the story   so he resolved not to let her know the extent of his treasure     he counted & counted & all to no purpose for it was without numbe[r]   & without end     so before he went [to] bed a thought struck him that the old man might call again & exchange boat[s]   & he instantly resolved to secure the rudder to make use of another oppertunity to get more    for tho he was now a gentleman    another such a hawl might make him a Lord     & the rudder was secured accordingly


he now got weary of fishing & looked out for amusments suitable to his station     his altered condition soon got into full cry   like a fox chase    & the county round was running over with 

guesses & surmises    for his money was wasted in foolish bargains & scattered like chaff before the wind   as he knew there was plenty [more] where that came from     he bought a horse & then he coveted a gig    & then he resolved on a coach      the very next sea voyage he made in his new boat   & he determed after a while to build a ship & become [a] merchant    but these large thoughts & extravagant notions just grew up in his thoughts as the last of his treasures became exausted     


so he out with his rudder & off to sea   where he was not long in dileberating before he laid hold of the rudder & down he went to the bottom   swifter then a shooting star from the sky     but this was not the spot on which he at first alighted   nor could he find it if he tryed    as there was nothing on the sea to mark – the scenes here was very different     the monsters were more numorious but much less & the groves


< there is a break in the manuscript at this point >


It resumes…


her journey     so she set out on her travels & passed for a fine woman     she took plenty of money & cloaths with her & even thought it rudeness to offer kindness without asking & never took it     so she went on & never talked to any one & thought of nothing but the prince & the journey     she soon found herself in the great forrest & when she could get no further she did as her sister bid her   but the bushes would not part & the brambles did not heed her fine cloaths   but tore her gown & would not let her go on     she did not know what to do & tryed to get back   when a great beast rushed past her & shook the trees & broke down the bushes     she was afraid but went on & met the old man


she soon got sight of the fine house & troops of men passed her & took no notice    & when she got there a man opened the gate    before she could ask anybody   & led her into the palace     what she saw would have written a book & she would soon have been lost   but a guide showed her the way     she thought she saw the old man go out of one of the rooms   who had got there before her


she was surprised to find a garden in the middle of the hall   & finer flowers then she had ever seen   when a fine man came out of a harbour & took her by the hand & bade her sit down     he talked to her as if he had known her for years & bade her make herself at home     & read her delightful stories out of books     every thing was brought [to] her before she seemed to want it   & when he took her into the house the servants waited on her as if she had been there before     & when she got up in a morning the finest dresses where laid ready   & she never knew how they were brought   & books where always laid on the table to read     the prince told her to take no notice of any body & she only thought of home now & then   & said nothing


Pet MS A18 p R254

Pet MS A42 p18

Pet MS B9 p51-3



For the tale of fisherman


It is a common saying that our wants increases with our means but it is a truer fact that our wants increase faster then our means -- & leave us in debt.


Pet MS A18 p R254


He was always thinking about being a gentleman & he thought if he could find a few pounds in a wreck to bring him a new suit of cloaths he should be one   & he soon found a treasure that not only bought him a suit   but purchases a lease of his cottage in the bargain   & now all that he wanted to make him a gentleman was anew boat     in this he was not long dissapointed for { blank ] old man


Pet MS A18 p R254