Of Colin & Lucy

Colin
You promised me, a year ago,
When autumn bleach'd the mistletoe,
That you and I should be as one;
But now another autumn's gone—
Its solemn knell is in the blast,
And love's bright sun is overcast;
Yet flowers will bloom and birds will sing,
And e'en the winter claim the spring.

Lucy
The hedges will be green again,
And flowers will come on hill and plain;
And though we meet a rainy day,
The hawthorn will be white with May.
If love and nature still agree,
Green leaves will clothe the trysting-tree;
And when these pleasing days you view,
Think Lucy's heart yet be true.

Love Cannot Die

[Christ Child by Lorna L. Effler (detail)]

In crime and enmity they lie
Who sin and tell us love can die,
Who say to us in slander's breath
That love belongs to sin and death.

From heaven it came on angel's wing
To bloom on earth, eternal spring;
In falsehood's enmity they lie
Who sin and tell us love can die.

'Twas born upon an angel's breast.
The softest dreams, the sweetest rest,
The brightest sun, the bluest sky,
Are love's own home and canopy.

The thought that cheers this heart of mine
Is that of love—love so divine,
They sin who say in slander's breath
That love belongs to sin and death.

The sweetest voice that lips contain,
The sweetest thought that leaves the brain,
The sweetest feeling of the heart—
There's pleasure in its very smart.

The scent of rose and cinnamon
Is not like love remembered on;
In falsehood's enmity they lie
Who sin and tell us love can die.

O Thrice Lucky Town














[Image: 'The Saviour is Born' by Vitali Linitsky]
.
O thrice lucky town (the more lucky poor creatures)
Who ere could have thought that such luck would be thine
Such a stranger as thou art to things o' like nature
But time bringeth all things to pass—so its sighing

& O' what a blessing o' poor peoples sides
Who just before this were near pining to dead
That his Lordship’s great goodness condescends to provide
An odd sort of something that they may be fed

What a good Christian heart must his honour possess
To 'mean him so low when so high riches rank him
In giving this hodgepodge—they cant do no less
Then down on their knappers & twenty times thank him

And benevolent charity sure such as this is
'll set others a going for the good o poor ce'turs
And warm squeezing Mizers to open their fis'es
And soften the wit-leather hearts of our betters

The Early Poems of John Clare 1804-1822
ed. Eric Robinson, David Powell and Margaret Grainger
(Oxford, 2 volumes, I-II, 1989)

Song: 'How can I sing the songs of love'

How can I sing the songs of love
How can I strike the chords to wake a strain
That every bosom moves
And nothing hears in vain
I've sung of blossoms blooming
In early spring
But these are cold to woman
What shall I sing

Love is the beating heart
That ever hidden secret of the soul
Of faith and life a living part
That animates the whole
'Tis in the bright eyes hidden
On beating bosoms seen
No where on earth forbidden
And woman is its queen

O where can man discover
The pleasure love conceals
But in his faithful lover
Whose ways the truth reveals
'Tis not in joys of earth
But kin to joys above
For woman was its birth
And woman's heart is love

Love and Beauty

WHEN Beauty fills the lover's eyes,
And lives like doubtful weather,
Her bosom seems to sleep with love;
They lie like birds together.

Love finds them angels ready made,
So beautiful and blooming;
But Time comes in, though half afraid,
And rudely calls them woman.

Time, like a robber, every year
Takes all the fame he gives;
While Beauty only goes away,
And Virtue only lives.

The Lovers Song

I've heard thee sing of plaintive things,
And as thy fingers swept the strings,
Thy eyes have wept most tenderly;
Then list awhile till I beguile
Thy heart with sorrow's melody.

A young heart tried a maid to move
And pined to death for very love;
The maiden naught but scorn returned
Nor dropt one tear upon his bier;
He died unhonoured and unmourned.

I knew thou'dst mourn so sad a thing;
Oh, touch, my Anna, touch the string
With sprightlier airs, nor grief endure;
That heart you weep, though wounded deep,
Is yet not past your cure.

The Gardener's Bonny Daughter

[Image: "The Gardener's Daughter; or, the Pictures"]
J. C. Horsley (1857)
.
The chaffinch in the hedgerow sings, by a brown and naked thorn
By it's tail the titmouse hings searching the buds at morn
I'll wish dirty roads away and the meadows flooded water
And court before I end the day the gardners bonny daughter

She's sweeter than the first of spring , more fair than Christmas roses
When robins by the hovel sings sweet smiles this maid discloses
Her hair so brown her eyes so bright as clear as meadow water
I'll go and have a word tonight with the gardners bonny daughter

Her cheeks they're like a coloured rose, oh a kiss would surely burn ye
Her lips are gems more red than those for love I'll go the journey
When the white thorn comes in bloom and the chaffinch lays it's lauter
I'll walk where singing birds are brief with the gardners bonny daughter

I passed the gardeners house one night my heart burned to a cinder
I saw her face and her eyes so bright she was looking through the window
But when I passed the house again I'd been pounded in a mortar
But she smiled and looked upon me then, so I love the gardeners daughter

I love the gardners daughter -- Ooh that sweet daughter

Child Harold (IV)

[Image: ‘Grey Fox’ by Carry Akroyd]
http://www.carryakroyd.co.uk/

From: The Winter Canto: Northborough

Tis winter & the fields are bare & waste
The air one mass of ‘vapour clouds & storms’
The suns broad beams are buried & overcast
& chilly glooms the midday light deforms
Yet comfort now the social bosom warms
Friendship of nature which I hourly prove
Even in this winter scene of frost & storms
Bare fields the frozen lake & leafless grove
Are natures grand religion & true love

(lines 901 to 909)

Child Harold (III)

[Image: ‘Bendy Lane’ by Carry Akroyd]
http://www.carryakroyd.co.uk/

From: The Autumn Canto: Northborough

Song
The floods come oer the meadow leas
The dykes are full & brimming
Field furrows reach the horses knees
Where wild ducks oft are swimming

The skyes are black the fields are bare
The trees their coats are loosing
The leaves are dancing in the air
The sun its warmth refusing

Brown are the flags & fadeing sedge
& tanned the meadow plains
Bright yellow is the osier hedge
Beside the brimming drains

The crows sit on the willow tree
The lake is full below
But still the dullest thing I see
Is self that wanders slow

The dullest scenes are not so dull
As thoughts I cannot tell
The brimming dykes are not so full
As my hearts silent swell

I leave my troubles to the winds
With none to share a part
The only joy my feeling finds
Hides in an aching heart

(lines 840 to 863)

Child Harold (II)

[Image: ‘Summer Parish’ by Carry Akroyd’
http://www.carryakroyd.co.uk/

From: The Summer Canto: High Beech
[June? – mid-July]

Ballad
Summer morning is risen
& to even it wends
& still Im in prison
Without any friends

I had joys assurance
Though in bondage I lie—
I am still left in durance
Unwilling to sigh

Still the forest is round me
Where the trees bloom in green
As if chains ne'er had bound me
Or cares had ne'er been

Nature's love is eternal
In forest & plain
Her course is diurnal
To blossom again

For home & friends vanished
I have kindness not wrath
For in days care has banished
My heart possessed both

My hopes are all hopeless
My skys have no sun
Winter fell in youths mayday
& still freezes on

But Love like the seed is
In the heart of a flower
It will blossom with truth
In a prosperous hour

True love is eternal
For God is the giver
& love like the soul will
Endure—& forever

(lines 10 to 41)

Child Harold

[The next four postings will be excerpts from Clare’s Child Harold]

[Image: 'Out of Doors' by Carry Akroyd]
http://www.carryakroyd.co.uk/

From: The Spring Canto: High Beech
Ballad
The Blackbird Has Built In The Pasture Agen
& The Thorn Oer The Pond Shows A Delicate Green
Where I Strolled With Patty Adown In The Glen
& Spent Summer Evenings & Sundays Unseen
How Sweet The Hill Brow
& The Low Of The Cow
& The Sunshine That Gilded The Bushes So Green


When Evening Brought Dews Natures Thirst To Allay
& Clouds Seemed To Nestle Round Hamlets & Farms
While In The Green Bushes We Spent The Sweet Day
& Patty Sweet Patty Was Still In My Arms
The Love Bloom That Redded Upon Her Sweet Lips
The Love Light That Glistened Within Her Sweet Eye
The Singing Bees There That The Wild Honey Sips
From Wild Blossoms Seemed Not So Happy As I
How Sweet Her Smile Seemed
While The Summer Sun Gleamed
& The Laugh Of The Spring Shadowed Joys From On High


While The Birds Sung About Us & Cattle Grazed Round
& Beauty Was Blooming On Hamlets & Farms
How Sweet Steamed The Inscence Of Dew From The Ground
While Patty Sweet Patty Sat Locked In My Arms

(lines 1108 to 1129)

Note:
“Clare’s habit of capitalising the first letter of all words informs every piece of extant date material between 17 March and 1 May 1841. It seems very likely that such ‘upper-casing’ characterised all his writing between early March and mid-May, and that the capitalised stanzas of Child Harold can therefore be reliably ascribed to this period”

John Clare – The Living Year 1841 (Tim Chilcott, editor) Trent Editions 1999

I am

[“The grass below — above the vaulted sky”]
[And the madhouse walls nowhere in sight]
.
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 oblivious host,
Like shades in love and death's oblivion lost;
And yet I am! and live with shadows tost

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems;
And e'en the dearest — that I loved the best —
Are strange — nay, rather stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man has never trod;
A place where woman never smil'd 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.

An interesting piece on Clare’s “I am”, including a reading and the quote above, can be found on The Atlantic Online at http://www.theatlantic.com/unbound/poetry/soundings/clare.htm

Tis Martinmass* from rig to rig

[Image: Carry Akroyd]
.
Tis martinmass from rig to rig
Ploughed fields & meadow lands are blea
In hedge & field each restless twig
Is dancing on the naked tree

Flags in the dykes are bleached & brown
Docks by its sides are dry & dead
All but the ivy bows are brown
Upon each leaning dotterels head

Crimsoned with awes the awthorns bend
Oer meadow dykes & rising floods
The wild geese seek the reedy fen
& dark the storm comes oer the woods

The crowds of lapwings load the air
With buzes of a thousand wings
There flocks of starnels too repair
When morning oer the valley springs

*Martinmas the feast day of Martin of Tours, is on the 11th November each year.

Old Ballad

O silly love! O cunning love!
An old maid to trepan:
I cannot go about my work
For loving of a man
I cannot bake, I cannot brew,
And, do the best I can
I burn the bread and chill the mash,
Through loving of a man

Shrove Tuesday last I tried, and tried,
To turn the cakes in pan
And drop’t the batter on the floor
Through thinking of a man
My mistress screamed, my master swore,
Boys cursed me in a troop
The cat was all the friends I had
Who helped to clean it up

Last Christmas eve, from off the spit
I took the goose to table
Or should have done, but teasing Love
Did make me quite unable
And down slip’t dish, and goose, and all
With din and clitter-clatter
All but the dog fell foul on me
He licked the broken platter

Although I'm ten years past a score
Too old to play the fool
My mistress says I must give o'er
My service for a school
Good faith! What must I do, and do
To keep my service still
I'll give the winds my thoughts to love
Indeed and so I will

And if the wind my love should lose
Right foolish were the play
For I should mourn what I had lost
And love another day
With crosses and with losses
Right double were the ill
So I'll e'en bear with love and all
Alack, and so I will

Recorded in 1991 as ‘Mad Meg’ by Vikki Clayton:
Midsummer Cushion -- Prestige Records [CDSGP008]
(The odd word changed)

---oOo---

Vikki’s version includes the following alternative verse (also in a Clare Manuscript held in Peterborough), instead of the final verse above with the additional two lines completing the song:

I’ll sit from morn till dewy eve
Tho chairs & tables dance
Till on the midnight’s sutty wings
The witches ride to France
I’ll sit on till I’m roaring full
& well can hold no more
& then I’ll like Tom Hickathrift*
To bed upon the floor

Thro’ the loving of a man
Thro’ the lusting of a man

*Tom Hickathrift was a legendary figure of East Anglian folklore — he famously battled a giant, and is sometimes said to be a giant himself, though normally he is just represented as possessing giant-like strength.

Song: My buxome young Lassie

My buxome young Lassie my bonny young Lassie
To see thy white bosom I'm all of a flutter
My bonny young lassie there’s nought to surpass ye
While staring afore thee I nothing can utter

Words broken in halves make me stutter and stammer
I ache to say something but can’t get [it] out
A frown from thy face love is like a sledge hammer
Mashing bones into powder and knocking brains out

But the look o thy smile love is soft as a feather
And the hue o thy bosom is whiter than down
We'd both be in heaven love completed together
God 'd may be sent Angels as comforters down

My fair bonny lassie my dear bonny Lassie
Thy face is as sweet as the rose bloom o June
Thy eyes are as bright as the brooks while they pass ye
And thy voice like the Nightingales sweetly i' tune

My happy young maiden my bonny young maiden
As dear as the Apple & light o' my eye
How rich is thy beauty arrayed in the Plaiden
The rose on thy cheek wears an heavenly dye

Thy legs & thy arms are the marble o nature
Thy bosoms the seat & the pillow o joy
Come to my arms thou divinest young creature
And let me enfold thee all blushing & coy

From "The Wish"

My chamber window should oer look the east
That in delicious views my eyes might feast
There girt with crimson see the morning sun
Thro distant trees his journey just begun
Still mounting every moment stages higher
And as his height increases so the fire
At other times succeeds the vapouring mist
Hiding each object quite from east to west.
While other mornings shine with pearly dews
Then is the time to look for distant views.

(lines 79-88)

Somthing New (excerpt)

How varying is the taste of man
Still eager to pursue
That ever pleasing novelty
In meeting somthing new

In infancy the rage begins
(So tempting is the view)
Babes throw aside their once lov'd things
To sigh for somthing new

The hoop to day which boys are seen
So eager to pursue
To morrow lies a toy despis'd
Exchang'd for somthing new

Young miss's (if not catch'd in time)
-- Be lovers ere so true
Grow fickle tires & turns 'em off
To seek for somthing new

Old maids whom every hope forsakes
The self same end pursue
& put their wrinkl'd mouths in form
To look for somthing new

Autumn

I love the fitfull gusts that shakes
The casement all the day
And from the mossy elm tree takes
The faded leaf away

Twirling it by the window pane
With thousand others down the lane
I love to see the shaking twig
Dance till the shut of eve

The sparrow on the cottage rig
Whose chirp would make believe
That spring was just now flirting by
In summers lap with flowers to lie

I love to see the cottage smoke
Curl upwards through the naked trees
The pigeons nestled round the coat
On dull november days like these

The cock upon the dunghill crowing
The mill sails on the heath agoing
The feather from the ravens breast
Falls on the stubble lea

The acorns near the old crows nest
Fall pattering down the tree
The grunting pigs that wait for all
Scramble and hurry where they fall

Left in the World Alone

Left in the world alone
Where nothing seems my own
And everything is weariness to me
'Tis a life without an end
'Tis a world without a friend
And everything is sorrowful I see

There's the crow upon the stack
And other birds all black
While november's frowning wearily
And the black-clouds dropping rain
'Till the floods hide half the plain
And everything is weariness to me

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

Written in November

Autumn I love thy latter end to view
In cold novembers day so bleak & bare
When like lifes dwindld thread worn nearly thro
Wi lingering pottering pace & head bleachd bare
Thou like an old man bids the world adieu
I love thee well & often when a child
Have roamd the bare brown heath a flower to find
& in the moss clad vale & wood bank wild
Have cropt the little bell flowers paley blue
That trembling peept the sheltering bush behind
When winnowing north winds cold & blealy blew
How have I joyd wi dithering hands to find
Each fading flower & still how sweet the blast
Would bleak November’s hour restore the joy that’s past

The Shepherd’s Calendar (lines 46 – 72)

[Image from Carry Akroyd’s linocut illustrating November from “The Shepherd’s Calendar 2007” published by Carcanet Publications

November
The boy that scareth from the spirey wheat
The mellancholy crow—quakes while he weaves
Beneath the ivey tree a hut and seat
Of rustling flags and sedges tyd in sheaves
Or from nigh stubble shocks a shelter thieves
There he doth dithering sit or entertain
His leisure hours down hedges lost to leaves
While spying nests where he spring eggs hath taen
He wishes in his heart twas summer time again
And oft he'll clamber up a sweeing tree
To see the scarlet hunter hurry bye
And feign woud in their merry uproar be
But sullen labour hath its tethering tye
Crows swop around and some on bushes nigh
Watch for a chance when ere he turns away
To settle down their hunger to supply
From morn to eve his toil demands his stay
Save now and then an hour which leisure steals for play
Gaunt grey hounds now their coursing sports impart
Wi long legs stretchd on tip toe for the chase
And short loose ear and eye upon the start
Swift as the wind their motions they unlace
When bobs the hare up from her hiding place
Who in its furry coat of fallow stain
Squats on the lands or wi a dodging pace
Tryes its old coverts of wood grass to gain
And oft by cunning ways makes all their speed in vain

---oOo---

You can view some of Carry's wonderful work at http://www.carryakroyd.co.uk/

Song: To -- E.B.

Emma my darling the summer is bye
The autumn is faded and cloudy the sky
The willows are changing—the hips and the hawe's
Now glow on the hedges—as red as birds claws

'Till fieldfairs come from far far away
And carry off berries and hips all the day
Winds sing in the hedges like notes of a bird
And the sedges they cut like the edge of a sword

The hedges will shelter my Emma and me
As we walk down the wood neath the wind shaking tree
The seugh through the hedges, the swop of black crows
How the bushy tops dance, and how swift the mill goes

How sweet the flags rustle, how swift the waves run
While the river-lock bombs like the sound of a gun
The coots like to snow flakes sweep o'er the flood track
And the grim clouds above them look angry & black

So come my dear Emma lets walk in the fields
The fields of November a pleasant walk yields
There's the roost robbing reynard and the hounds in full cry
The still sweeing crows—pigeon flocks sewing by

The mellow brown fields—and the leaf littered brook
How sweet to the fancy of Emma they'll look
So come dearest Emma we'll up and away
A ramble in Autumn's as sweet as in May

from 'The Dream'

The sleepy birds, scared from their mossy nest,
Beat through the evil air in vain for rest;
And many a one, the withering shades among,
Wakened to perish o'er its brooded young.
The cattle, startled with the sudden fright,
Sicken'd from food, and madden'd into flight;
And steed and beast in plunging speed pursued
The desperate struggle of the multitude,
The faithful dogs yet knew their owners' face.
And cringing follow'd with a fearful pace,
Joining the piteous yell with panting breath,
While blasting lightnings follow'd fast with death;
Then, as Destruction stopt the vain retreat,
They dropp'd, and dying lick'd their masters' feet.

Song: The Autumn's Come Again (excerpt)

The autumns come again
& the clouds descend in rain
& the leaves they are falling from the wood
The summer's voice is still
Save the clacking of the mill
& the lowly muttered thunder of the flood
There's nothing in the mead
But the rivers muddy speed
& the willow leaves all littered by its side
Sweet voices all are still
In the vale & on the hill
& the summer's blooms are withered in their pride

Autumn

Lo! Autumn's come—wheres now the woodlands green?
The charming Landscape? and the flowrey plain?
All all are fled and left this motly scene
Of fading yellow tingh'd with russet stain

Tho these seem desolatley wild and drear
Yet these are spring to what we still shall find
Yon trees must all in nakednes appear
'Reft of their folige by the blustry wind

Just so 't'will fare with me in Autumns life
Just so I'd wish—but may the trunk and all
Die with the leaves—nor taste that wintry strife
Where Sorrows urge,—but still impede the fall.

Song: The Summer is waining

The summer is waining
The autumn is staining
The hedges and woods with the hues of the west
So come in the dell
To bid it farewell
For sweets at their parting are often the best

Think where we met last love
And live for the past love
For sweet were those walks I once wandered with thee
On the banks of the Nenn
Where I'd wander again
And rest once again 'neath the wide spreading tree

The summer gets duller
The trees are in colour
Yet sweeter than summer was walking with thee
Thy face of rose charmed me
And ne'er could I harm thee
From the day we first sheltered beneath the oak tree

The Luckless Journey

Tho' fine prov'd the morning, O sad prov'd the ramble
Adown by the Willows, adown by the lee
Adown by the cottage where Hedge rows of bramble
Hides it from all strangers but unlucky me.

For there I espied and admir'd a young rosie
I lov'd and had hopes in possesing the flower
Till Cupid flew laughing away with the posie
And left me the thorns which I feel at this hour.

O Willows and brambles—what deamon beset me
To make me to go where your cottage arose
Yet still was you all I could hope to forget ye
But o there's no hopes in forgetting the rose.

The wounds are not lightly that abscence should ease 'em
No no they'r so deep twill but poison the pain
Tho lifes sober autumn may wisely appease 'em
A pang sad Remembrance will ever retain.

Edmund & Hellen (excerpt)

When madness gauls those sorrows to despair
Ah what is hope in sorrows saddest hour
A falling meteor that once seemd a star
A flattering shower on autumns sickly bower
A dewdrop glistning on a withered flower
The fond bird leaves its nest & pines forlorn
When its loved mate becomes the fowlers prey
Een the fair blossom from its partner torn
By maiden choice or childhoods wanton play
Mourns the foul deed & withereth away

Clare's very devotion to write poetry may have been interpreted as madness by his neighbours. Tragically, this seems to be a chief reason why he was eventually confined. As Bate says early on, "In summer he walked in the woods and fields alone, a book in his pocket . . . his love of books began to isolate him from other boys . . . the villagers found this behaviour very odd: `some fancying it symptoms of lunacy.'" Even after reading the book, it is anyone's guess as to whether Clare was insane; but stories of his battles against what illness he may have suffered from as well as the ignorance, incompetence and greed of those purporting to care for him make for a rather heart-breaking read. What we can be sure of, though, is that mad or not, Clare had become more of a liability than a father or husband. "There is no evidence that he was taken to the asylum because he was `mad' in the sense of having lost consciousness of his identity . . . he was taken to the asylum because he needed better care than could be provided by his family," Bate writes.

Helpstone (first 14 lines)

[‘Midsummer Cushions’ round John Clare’s Grave, Helpston]

Hail humble Helpstone where thy valies spread
& thy mean Village lifts its lowly head
Unknown to grandeur & unknown to fame
No minstrel boasting to advance thy name
Unletterd spot unheard in poets song
Where bustling labour drives the hours along
Where dawning genius never met the day
Where usless ign'rance slumbers life away
Unknown nor heeded where low genius trys
Above the vulgar & the vain to rise
Whose low opinions rising thoughts subdues
Whose railing envy damps each humble view
Oh where can friendships cheering smiles abode
To guide young wanderers on a doubtful road
--- oOo ---

John Clare was in free-fall all his life. The various and many helping hands held out to save him proved useless. Eventually they caught him and put him in a cage. Here he went on singing, lyrically, sadly, satirically, nostalgically. None of those who shared his cage get a mention, only those who continued to live in the freedom of Helpston, many of whom were in the churchyard, or who he translated to his other native place, Scotland.

Clare's early boy-deeds had to double with child labour, the latter being the custom and the reality. At eight he was wielding a toy-sized flail in the stone barn alongside Parker, his father, though stopping now and then to draw algebraic signs in the killing dust. A pleasant thing happened when he was about ten. Francis Gregory, the young innkeeper next door, got him to run errands and to help plough and reap his eight acres or so of corn. Francis was unmarried and lived with his mother at the Blue Bell. They were both ill. Looking back, Clare said, 'They used me uncommon well as if I was their own'. Mother and son lie by the church tower, their helper by chancel wall. However, continued Clare, 'Tis irksome to a boy to be alone and he is ready in such situations to snatch hold of any trifle to divert his loss of company, and make up for pleasanter amusements'. Birds-nesting in the ordinary way would have topped these amusements, but Clare, in his autobiographical 'Sketches', confesses to a very different pastime. It was that there, in Francis Gregory's cornfield, he began his 'muttering', his softly speaking aloud of the rhymes which he would later write down in his bedroom, a tile shifted to let in light. He would memorise lines as he walked to and from Maxey Mill, lugging flour. Boys sang, they did not mutter, and eyes would have been upon him, this child talking to himself, a sure sign of something being wrong. Or different, which is not a good thing to be.

'The Poet and the Nest' an excerpt from 'A Writer's Day-Book'
by Ronald Blythe, published by Trent Editions, 2006.

Edward's Grave

When others, fearful of the Gloom,
Their homeward path pursue,
Fond Sally seeks for Edwards tomb
Her sorrows to renew.

Where prayers of tenderness and love
By pilgrims often heard
Does court the angelic realms above
Her lover to reward.

Nor wizzards jump, nor gobblin tale,
Nor mimic elfin sprite,
Nor moping gost, nor spectre pale,
Nay the most dismal night

When hollow winds does wisstle thro
The mournful cypress shade,
When bent in howling rage the Yew—
Can never fright the maid.

No, no, her ever sorrowing mind
Attach'd to grief so strong
Does never listen to the wind,
Nor heed the gobblin throng.

Her sighs are urgh'd in heartfelt grief
For Edward’s haples fate,
She seeks but cannot find relief
All sorrow is too late.

Alas! poor maid, thy Edwards dead
And far beyond thy power;
In vain thy low reclining head
Bends down the sickly flower;

He cannot hear, he cannot see,
Pent low beneath the sod.
Then rise, chear up from misery
And leave his fate to God.

Man's Mortality

Partly from the Scripture
Written in Sickness

Our years look behind us like tales that are told
Our days like to shadows keep passing us bye
That takes a short step to our pillow of mould
& rise on lifes stage like to vapours & dye
.
As frail as the grass of the meadow is man
His youth like the blossom of summer comes on
That smiles to the sunbeam till autumn turns wan
& the wind passes oer it & bids it be gone
.
Thus one generation keeps passing away
& new generations their places retain
& the friends of our bosom that leave us to day
Shall neer fill the circle of friendship again
.
They go & their lives as if never begun
In the sleep of the grave shall be heard of no more
In future transactions done under the sun
No portion is left them to act as before
.
Their exit they make to that awful unknown
& vain we conjecture were now they sojourn
The worlds ways & wealth is no longer their own
To their houses & lands they shall never return
.
All nature tho sown with mortalitys seed
Some parts will a spark of long living retain
As branches the tree thats hewn down will succeed
But man is too mortal to flourish again
.
Lifes lamp in unscertainty burneth away
A weak waining vapour of doubtfullest light
With cares ever ready to darken its ray
Till death the extinguisher hides it in night
.
Our friends & our kindred we see them depart
Scant peace of our souls daily tearing away
The dearest of pledges placd nearest the heart
Their memory is all we preserve from decay
.
Love sweetest of Joy is most bitter to trust
Fates errand before us is constantly set
A time is in waiting to turn into dust
The fairest of faces that love ever met
.
Death makes no distinction he slays as in night
The wise & the foolish the king & his slave
& beauty that majic of empty delight
All fall at his footstool of terrors—the grave

A Ramble by the Riverside (II)

A ramble by the river side
No walk so sweet can be
To see the creeping waters glide
And hear the humble bee

There's nothing else so fine to see
As a fast flowing river
Hemm'd by green banks continually
And winding on for ever

There nature lives devoid of strife
There boats sail on the tide
There's nought so sweet to me in life
As a walk by the rivers side

A Ramble by the Riverside (I of II)

A ramble by the rivers side
In Spring times dewy eve
Where teal and widgeon turn to hide
In reeds which them receive

Tis sweet at eventide to go
By rivers winding rim
Where dark and deep the waters flow
And shoals of fish do swim

A ramble by the rivers side
Is pleasant in the summer
Where dragon flies on gauze wings hide
And the bee's a minstrel hummer

Song: One gloomy eve...

One gloomy eve I roamed about
Neath Oxey’s hazel bowers
While timid hares were daring out
To crop the dewy flowers
And soothing was the scene to me
Right placid was my soul
My breast was calm as summers sea
When waves forget to roll
But short was even’s placid smile
My startled soul to charm
When Nelly lightly skipt the stile
With milk pail on her arm
One careless look on me she flung
As bright as parting day
And like a hawk from covert sprung
It pounced my peace away

Thine's the dandelion-flowers

[Betony in the foreground]

Thines the dandelion-flowers
Gilt wi dew like suns wi showers
Hare bells thine & bugles blue
& cuckoo flowers all sweet to view
Thy wild woad on each road we see
& medicinal betony
By thy wood side railing reeves
Wi antique mullins flannel leaves
These tho mean the flowers of wastes
Planted here in natures haste
Each prove on the zerning eye
Her lovd wild variety
Each have charms in natures book
I cannot pass wi out a look
& thou canst boast thy herbs & plants
Which only gardens culture wants

(From Cauper [Cowper] Green)

The Dew falls...

The Dew falls on the weed & on the flower
The rose & thistle bathe their heads in dew
The lowliest heart may have its prospering hour
The saddest bosom meet its wishes true
E'en I may joy love happiness renew
Though not the sweets of my first early days
When one sweet face was all the loves I knew
& my soul trembled on her eyes to gaze
Whose very censure seemed intended praise

(From Child Harold)

Ballad: The Rose of the World

The Rose Of The World Was Dear Mary To Me
In The Days Of My Boyhood & Youth
I Told Her In Songs Where My Heart Wished To Be
& My Songs Where The Language of Truth
I Told Her In Looks When I Gazed In Her Eyes
That Mary Was Dearest To Me

I Told Her In Words & The Language Of Sighs
Where My Whole Hearts Affections Would Be
I Told her in love that all nature was true
I convinced her that nature was kind
But love in his trials had labour to do
Mary would be in the mind

Mary met me in spring where the speedwell knots grew
& the king cups were shining like flame
I chose her all colours red yellow & blue
But my love was one hue & the same
Spring summer & winter & all the year through
In the sunshine the shower & the blast
I told the same tale & she knows it all true
& Mary's my blossom at last

(From Child Harold)

It is in this poem that Clare moves from capitalising each word back to a more regular use of English. It is virtually certain therefore, that it was composed whilst he was in High Beech, Epping.

Song: Scenes of love

Scenes of love and days of pleasure
I must leave them all lassie
Scenes of love and hours of leisure
All are gone for aye lassie
No more thy velvet bordered dress
My fond and longing een shall bless
Thou lily in a wilderness
And who shall love thee then lassie

Long I've watched thy look so tender
Often clasped thy waist so slender
Heaven in thy love defend her
When I'm o'er the sea lassie
By the falls of proud Niagara
Soon I'll hear the roar lassie
Then I'll think of bonny Mary
On a foreign shore lassie

Where the dog star burns and broils
And the chasms chaldron boils
Whose spray the very heaven assails
There I'm going to bide lassie
By all the faith I've shown afore thee
I'll sware by more than that lassie
By heaven and earth I'll still adore thee
Though we should part for aye lassie

By thy infant years so loving
By thy womans love so moving
That white breast thy goodness proving
I'm thine through aye and all lassie
By the sun that shines for ever
By loves light and its own giver
That loveth truth and erreth never
I'm thine for aye and all lassie

Jane Wilson
























Jane summer is with thee thy fancy may choose

Any amusement with thy sister the muse
Nor meet disappointment in walking the fields
Endearing the pleasure that innocence yields
Where wild flowers are blossoming sweet in their joy
In Natures own scene where pleasures ne'er cloy
Light as a summer day softly you tread
Silent as evening o'er the daisy's bed
O'er meadows by Woodside by Brooklets she speeds
Ne'er gathering one of vain folly's weeds —

[One of Clare's interesting Acrostic poems]

Meet Me Tonight

Oh meet me to night by the bright starlight
Now the pleasant spring's begun
My own dear maid by the greenwood shade
I' the crimson set o' the sun
Meet me to night

The sun he goes down wi a ruby crown
To a gold and crimson bed
And the falling dew from heaven so blue
Hang[s] like pearls on Phoebe's head
Love leave the town

Come thou with me neath the green leaf tree
We'll crop the bonny sweet brere
Oh come dear maid neath the hazle wood shade
For love invites us here
Come then wi' me

The Owl pops scarce seen from the Ivy green
Wi' his spectacles on I ween
See the moon above and stars twinkle love
Better time was never seen
Oh come my queen

The fox he stops and down he pops
His head beneath the grass
The birds are gone we're all alone
Oh stay my bonny lass
Come! Oh come!

Amanda's My Only Joy

Green hills of nature again I see
The pilewort returns to the hum of the bee
Again I sit on your verdant swells
And listen to the shake of the cowslip bells
And see there five brown spots lie
Within each golden vest
Like light in either eye
Or the mole on woman’s breast
While thrushes sing to cheer the spring
And charm from east to west

Green hills of nature again I see
The dews on the flower and the leaf on the tree
Again I retire to your valleys and swells
And listen the hum o' the bees like bells
That sing round the pilewort suns
And bow like weighty things
Cowslips where the water runs
And the bee for honey clings
The bright green grass the sky like glass
And the brook with the crystal springs

Come dear Amanda come with me
Again the delights o' the spring to see
Where the valley warps and the green hills swell
Hear the bees hum round the cowslips bell
With thy bonny face so fair
And thy sweet hazel eye
With thy long auburn hair
And thy lips vermil dye
I'll kiss thy dear cheek to the end of the week
For Amanda's my only joy

Helpston Green (IV - last)

Farwell thou favorite spot farwell
Since every efforts vain
All I can do is still to tell
Of thy delightful plain
But that pro[v]es short—increasing years
That did my youth presage
Will now as each new day appears
Bring on declining age
Reflection pierces deadly keen
While I the moral scan
As are the changes of the green
So is the life of man
Youth brings age with faultering tongue
That does the exit crave
There's one short scene presents the throng
Another shows the grave

Helpston Green (III)

The greens gone too—ah lovely scene
No more the kingcup gay
Shall shine in yellow oer the green
And shed its golden ray
No more the herdsmans early call
Shall bring the cows to feed
Nor more the milkmaids evening brawl
In ‘come-mull’ tones succeed
Both milkmaids shouts and herdsmans call
Have vanish'd with the green
The kingcups yellow shades and all
Shall never more be seen
But the thick culterd tribes that grow
Will so efface the scene
That after times will hardly know
It ever was a green

Helpston Green (II)

When ere I muse along the plain
And mark where once they grew
Rememb'rance wakes her busy train
And brings past scenes to view
The well known brook the favorite tree
In fancys eye appear
And next that pleasant green I see
That green for ever dear
Oer its green hills I've often stray'd
In childhoods happy hour
Oft sought the nest along the shade
And gatherd many a flower
And there with playmates often join'd
In fresher sports to plan
But now increasing years have coin'd
These childern into man

Helpston Green (I)

[A Helpston field in 2007]
.
Ye injur'd fields ye once where gay
When natures hand displayd
Long waving rows of willows grey
And clumps of awthorn shade
But now alas your awthorn bowers
All desolate we see
The woodmans axe their shade devours
And cuts down every tree
Not trees alone have ownd their force
Whole woods beneath them bowd
They turnd the winding riv'lets course
And all thy pastures plough'd
To shrub nor tree throughout thy fields
They no compassion show
The uplifted axe no mercy yields
But strikes a fatal blow

To a Red Clover Blossom

Sweet bottle shaped flower of lushy red
Born when the summer wakes her warmest breeze
Among the meadows waving grasses spread
Or neath the shade of hedge or clumping trees
Bowing on slender stem thy heavy head
In sweet delight I view thy summer bed
& hark the drone of heavy humble bees
Along thy honeed garden gailey led
Down corn field striped balks & pasture leas—
Fond warmings of the soul that long has fled
Revives my bosom wi their sweetness still
As I bend musing oer thy ruddy pride
Recalling days I dropt upon a hill
& cut my oaten trumpets by thy side

Damon and Collin (excerpt)

[A view of Swaddywell]

I search the meadows and as well as you
I bind up posies and sweet garlands too
And if I unawares can hear exprest
What flower she fancies finer than the rest
Grow where it will I search the fields about
And search for't daily till I find it out
And when I've found 'em,—O'—what tongue can tell
The fear and doubts with which my breast does swell
The schemes contriving and the plans I lay
How I to her the garland must convey
And various indeed.—sometimes I start
Resolv'd to tell the secrets of my heart
Vowing to make the gather'd garland prove
How much I languish and how much I love

Ballad [A faithless shepherd]

[Image: ‘The Hireling Shepherd’ by William Holman Hunt]

A faithless shepherd courted me,
He stole away my liberty.
When my poor heart was strange to men,
He came and smiled and stole it then.

When my apron would hang low,
Me he sought through frost and snow.
When it puckered up with shame,
And I sought him, he never came.

When summer brought no fears to fright,
He came to guard me every night.
When winter nights did darkly prove,
None came to guard me or to love.

I wish, I wish, but all in vain,
I wish I was a maid again.
A maid again I cannot be,
O when will green grass cover me?
.
John Clare, Poems: Chiefly from Manuscript, ed. Edmund Blunden and Alan Porter (London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1920). Later collected by Percy Grainger (1908), but with all sorts of variation to the verses and words.

There is an interesting discussion in Mark Storey’s (ed.) Clare: The Critical Heritage, by Maurice Howlett (1921) mentioning this early poem, often marked in collections as ‘anon’ with other verses added.

In George Deacon’s John Clare and the Folk Tradition this song has two versions. The first with 11 verses and the second with 6 verses. Both appear in Clare’s Northampton manuscript, cited by Deacon, as ‘Old song from my mothers singing’. It seems that Clare, recalling his mother’s song, used it as the basis for additional verses… hence the 11 verses in Deacon’s collection.

Remembrances (part)

Summer pleasures they are gone like to visions every one
And the cloudy days of autumn and of winter cometh on
I tried to call them back but unbidden they are gone
Far away from heart and eye and for ever far away
Dear heart and can it be that such raptures meet decay
I thought them all eternal when by Langley bush I lay
I thought them joys eternal when I used to shout and play
On its bank at 'clink and bandy' 'chock' and 'taw' and ducking stone
Where silence sitteth now on the wild heath as her own
Like a ruin of the past all alone

By Langley bush I roam but the bush hath left its hill
On cowper green I stray tis a desert strange and chill
And spreading lea close oak ere decay had penned its will
To the axe of the spoiler and self interest fell a prey
And cross berry way and old round oaks narrow lane
With its hollow trees like pulpits I shall never see again
Inclosure like a Buonaparte let not a thing remain
It levelled every bush and tree and levelled every hill
And hung the moles for traitors—though the brook is running still
It runs a naked brook cold and chill

Langley Bush

O Langley bush the shepherds sacred shade
Thy hollow trunk oft gaind a look from me
Full many a journey oer the heath Ive made
For such like curious things I love to see
What truth the story of the swain allows
That tells of honours which thy young days knew
Of ‘langley court’ being kept beneath thy boughs
I cannot tell—thus much I know is true
That thou art reverencd even the rude clan
Of lawless gipseys drove from stage to stage
Pilfering the hedges of the husband man
Leave thee as sacred in thy withering age
Both swains & gipseys seem to love thy name
Thy spots a favourite wi the smutty crew
& soon thou must depend on gipsey fame
Thy mulldering trunk is nearly rotten thro
My last doubts murmuring on the zephers swell
My last looks linger on thy boughs wi pain
To thy declining age I bid farwell
Like old companions neer to meet again

He [Clare] made Swordy Well protest. Bad enough for the villagers, now being pauperised, but quite terrible for the gypsies immemorially camped at Langley bush. The Vagrancy Act of 1824, swiftly following the Enclosure Act, made it an offence, among other things, 'to be in the open air, or under a tent, or in a cart or wagon, not having any visible means of subsistence, and not giving a good account of himself, or herself'.

Ronnie Blythe - 'Vagabondage in a Native Place: John Clare and the Gypsies'