King's School, Ottery St. Mary.

[St. Mary's Church in Ottery St. Mary]

I have had the pleasure over the past week of speaking over three separate sessions to the 6th form of King's School in Ottery St. Mary about Clare and his work. Bit difficult to adequately deal with such a prolific and complex poet in that time, but we did cover Clare’s “Life and Language”, “Love and Sex”, and “Enclosures and Madness”, touching upon Gypsies, Fame, Social Change, Natural History, Folk Song, Wildness, and the sense of Longing found in many Clare poems.

A treat for me; I hope it was helpful for such a great group. Thanks Sandra for the invitation.

Two of Clare’s poems, especially for them. The first a little known bit of Clare fun, and the second, as befits the season, one of Clare’s lovely ‘Valentine’ poems.

A Schoolboys Wit

Go ‘Silly Brains’ the Master said
To one who'd missed a letter
A Dunce’s Cap shall fit your head
If you don’t do no better.

‘Boy instant upward cast his eye
On's masters nodle winking
The Master asked the reason why
Why sir says he I’m thinking:

As yours & my head seem o' kin
To save ye farther trouble
It would when once your hand is in
Be best to make a couple


The morning is up betimes my dear
Each postman is loaded by Cupid
The letters are nothing but lovers and rhymes
Some loving or joking or stupid

'Tis an old fashioned thing to go church to be wed
And then nothing can alter the fashion
But today like the birds many lovers are led
More warmly revealing their passion.

Thy love at the first gave such witching delight
No maiden on earth could be neater
And absence has kept thee so long from my sight
That thy beauty shines sweeter and sweeter.

The flowers of summer are showy and fine
But the blossoms of spring are the dearest
And just so it is with my fair Valentine
The best are the sweet and the sincerest.

There's the cyclamen flower of a delicate hue
There's the snowdrop so drooping of delicate white
There's the violet and crocus all over dark blue
That makes in a nosegay a Valentine quite.

I'll wed thee and love thee, and this is the day
We must call those we love Valentine
And I hope when we see the sweet blossoms of May
Thou'lt be a sweet blossom of mine.



Lewis Greenslade said...

I'd just like to say it was an enlightening and extremely insightful introduction to John Clare. Someone whom I've had little knowledge of up until this point, but am steadily getting absorbed with his poetry.

Just like to share my thanks once again, and to say that I'll be a regular visitor to your blog!

Without your clarification Roger, I'm sure it would have been a much more daunting task as an area to study within A-level.

Roger R. said...

Thanks Lewis... a labour of love on my part.

Lewis Greenslade said...

It showed throughout ^^