Epistle 1st from Richard


Here is one of Clare's love poems where Richard is writing to Kate - Clare appended to one of the manuscripts, "Richard a Country Clown and Kitty the Milkmaid".  Half a dozen years later Clare was composing the Hubbergubbel letters in much the same way.  As Professor Robinson wrote in his Introduction to Clare's aborted novel Memoirs of Uncle Barnaby, "It is high time that we learn to understand why Clare determined to ignore much that editors had forced upon him - and laugh with him."

Dear kate 
            Since I no longer can 
Go on in such a mopeing plan 

I send these lines with ham & hum 

To let the[e] ‘no’ I mean to cum' 

Sum' time or uther you to see 

W'en things ar' fitting to agree 


For ever since you jog'd from here 

The day to me do's seem a year 

I can't endur't so 'tis no use 

I love you wel' without excuse 

Therefore as now I plainly show't 

I only wish for you to 'now't 


& w'en the let'er you do get 

Let it suffice you how I fret 

For e'rey night I gang to bed 

Nou'ht but kit runs in my he'd 

The boys they all keep clit'er clat'er 

Wondering w'at can be the mat'er 


W'y I look dul'.—& w'ats befel' 

They on'y wish I wou'd but tel' 

But I'm determind not to do't 

They'l' on'y call me foolish fo' 't 

Yet not as I shou'd car' for that 

'T'wou'd on'y then be tit for tat 


But if I bro'ght thy name I 'no' 

Up 'mong such chaps as Jim & Jo 

 (Tho Jim if he 'ad on'y sense) 

 (To tel' mi'te be of conseq'ence) 

For he can reed an' never spel' 

 (An' 'rite a let'er mons'orous wel') 


Was thou to hear't as likly mi''te 

'Twou'd presen'ly to'n luv' to spite 

An' wou'd so much a terify'd thee 

As you ne'er after cou'd abide me 

This is the reeson kit (don't dou't it) 

That I ne'er tel' the boys about it 


For I'll sweet kit the thing is tru' 

Do ony thing to pleasur' you 

& w'ot you do'n't like sh'u'd be 

Shal' be the last thing dun by me 

For ere I 'rit this scrauling let'er 

 (I wish I cou'd ha' 'rit a bet'er) 


Fe'ering sum peeping chaps mi''te 'no' 

I 'new not 'ardly w'ere to go 

Yet anx''us stil' to send you one 

I at last contriv'd an' pitch'd upon 

Our bushy clos' agen the link 

'Twas ther' I went wi' pen an' ink 


The ink I stole from Jimys box 

For that he 'ardly ever lo'ks 

 (& if I'm 'ang'd for doing so 

It wil' be you that caus'd the wo') 

The paper at the shop I got 

& lu'ky pitch'd upon this spot 


Wher' skilarks wis'l'd oer my head 

& morning shun so bri''te an' red 

The du on e'rey bush did hing 

An' bods of al' so'tes did so sing 

That cou'd I sing like farmer's Jo' 

 (For shep'ads all can sing you 'no') 


I'd surely sung this very morn 

An' made a song in bushy laun 

But thats all now't I can'ot sing 

Nor 'bout this lawn nor 'bout the spring 

En'uf for me cans't thou but read 

This baddy stuf quite bad indeed 


An' w'at made worser on't you see 

Was writing on't upon my 'nee 

But w'y su'h 'pologin odrotit 

The stufs for you an' we'n you've got it 

Excuse the whol' an' never wonder 

That 'tis in all a worthles' blunder 


But kitty think nor think in vain 

My daily toyls my ni'tely pa'ne 

O if thy ''art can tender be 

'Twil' never fa'le to pity me 

I must konclude ther'fore ad''u 

My ''art an' so'le's for' ever tru' 


EP I 64

Superstitious Dream (excerpt)

Strange, as I read this - I am currently assembling Chapbook No.9 'The Gothic John Clare" - I feel Clare speaking of the disastrous Climate Change policy of most of the world's governments - a wringing of hands and not much else.  Already we are seeing the results of many decades of idle chatter and no coherent change to protect the environment.  Clare of course wrote this long poem about 'judgement' but perhaps that is not far from what awaits our childrens childrens children?

Fierce ragd destruction sweeping oer the land
& the last counted moment seemd 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 pausd trembling for the last
& sudden thunder claps with yawning rents
Gashd the frail garments of the elements
& bursting wirlwinds wingd in purple flame
& lightnings flash in stronger terrors came
Burning all life & nature were they fell
& leaving earth as desolate as hell

The pleasant hues of woods & fields was past
& natures beautys had enjoyd their last
The colord flower the green of field & tree
What they had been forever ceasd to be
Grass shriveld brown in miserable hues
& showers of fire dryd up the hissing dews
Leaves crumbld ashes in the airs hot breath
& all awaited universal death
The sleeping birds scard from their mossy nest
Beat through the evil air in vain for rest
& many a bird the withering shades among
Wakend to perish oer its brooded young

& nightingale that waken with the moon
Dyd in the midst of its unfinishd tune
The cattle startld with the sudden fright
Sickend from food & maddend into flight
& steed and beast in plunging speed pursued
The desperate struggle of the multitude
The faithful dog yet knew its masters face
& cringing followd with a fearful pace
& joind the piteous yell with panting breath
While blasing lightnings followd fast with death
& as destruction stopt the vain retreat
They dropt & dying lickd their owners feet

MP I 327
(lines 49-84)

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)