Hail, humble Helpstone ! where thy vallies spread,
And thy mean village lifts its lowly head ;
Unknown to grandeur, and unknown to fame;
No minstrel boasting to advance thy name :
Unletter'd spot! unheard in poets' song;
Where bustling labour drives the hours along ;
Where dawning genius never met the day;
Where useless ignorance slumbers life away ;
Unknown nor heeded, where, low genius tries
Above the vulgar and the vain to rise.

John Clare Festival 2010

We seem as startled from unnatural dreams
To hear the summer voice of woods and streams
And feel the sunny air, right green and young
Breathe music round as though a siren sung
(from 'Old Poesy - II')

9 July (Friday)
1.30 pm at Helpston Parish Church – the Midsummer Cushion Ceremony. Pupils from the John Clare Primary School place these cushions of flowers around Clare’s grave. The pupils’ prize winning poems are read and prizes awarded.

6 pm – Guided walk around Helpston. Meet at the Butter Cross.

7 pm onwards – The Langdyke Trust. Official opening of the heritage site at Torpel Manor Field, part of Helpston’s history since the Norman Conquest. The Trust will be hosting a range of walks and talks based on the history of the site from 7 pm onwards.

7.30 pm to 11 pm – Folk Music. John Clare’s Birthday Music and Song Session – an informal evening in the front room of the Exeter Arms, 3 Church Lane, Helpston – free admission – limited space, so arrive in good time – musicians and singers especially welcome – details 01778 571563 or

10 July (Saturday)
From 9.30 am – coffee and toast in the Botolphs Barn – near the Exeter Arms!

10 am – Festival opens in the School Hall - stalls include the J C Society sales, booksellers, local tourist offices, and exhibitions. Buy your tickets for the afternoon coach tour or the evening performance of John Clare and the music of what happens.

10 am – in the marquee – behind the School – St Botolphs Music Group will play before the meeting starts.

10.30 am – in the marquee – welcome and introduction to the Festival, followed by the AGM of the JC Society.

11.15 am – the President’s Address by Ronald Blythe.

From 11 am – An artists quarter in Botolphs Barn.

12 noon – 1 pm and 1.30 pm to 2.30 pm – poetry workshops in the Scout and Guide Centre – for children aged 6 to 12 years, led by Keely Mills and Luke Payn.

Lunches in the Village Hall
John Clare cottage open 10 am to 5 pm

Botolphs Barn – artists and crafts

Bluebell and Exeter Arms – morris dancers and the Peterborough Folk Dance Society perform

Carry Akroyd will be signing her book at Annakin’s Art Shop (near the village shop and post office on West Street) – for more on Carry, visit

1.45 pm – The Poet’s Wife – Judith Allnatt, poet and writer will talk about her recently published book, a reimagining of the life of John Clare through the eyes of his wife, Patty. Judith will be ready to sign books and discuss the novel with any who wish to stay after her talk.

3 pm – coach outing to Great Casterton (tickets available from 10am) and the church where John & Martha (Patty) Clare were married, including a programme of prose, poetry and song by Clare.

3 pm – guided walks around Helpston – meet at the Butter Cross.

3.15 pm – 4 pm – in the Church, read your favourite poem

Enjoy a traditional English tea in the village hall

5.30 pm – in the Church – another chance to read your favourite Clare poem!

7 pm – in the marquee at the John Clare Primary School (by ticket only) – 'John Clare and the music of what happens', poet Malcolm Guite and Jazz Poetry Collective Riprap explore the contemporary resonances of John Clare’s poetry (tickets £10 and £8 concessions).

From 7.30 pm onwards – in the Blue Bell, Frumenty perform a selection of music, including songs about Clare. Frumenty are a three piece band encompassing guitars, mandolin, mandola, banjo and percussion as well as vocals and singing a range of traditional and contemporary folk music.

11 July (Sunday)
11 a.m. – special church service at St Botolphs, led by the Rev Ron Ingamells, Vice Chair of the Society.

For more detail leave a comment on this weblog.

The Meadow Flags

The meadow flags now rustle bleached & dank
& misted oer with down as fine as dew
The sloe & dewberry shine along the bank
Where weeds in blooms luxuriance lately grew
Red rose the sun & up the morehen flew
From bank to bank the meadow arches stride
Where foamy floods in winter tumbles through
& spread a restless ocean foaming wide
Where now the cowboys sleep nor fear the coming tide

(Child Harold lines 714-722)

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

(Child Harold – lines 1139-1158)

(In this poem, written early in 1841, Clare stops capitalising every word. No-one knows why he started, or stopped, this practice).  The first word of line 12 is a blank in the manuscript.

The Wild Rose

The hedge rose blossoms like thy face
Sweet red and white together
And shadows wave about the place
Where branches twist together

The leaves dance to a merry tune
And boughs wave like to billows
A flowry carpet throughout june
And concert in the willows

Dews bead the headaches like to gems
And corn blades like to rain
God's love does nothing here condemn
All live free from sins pain

Then let us meet at dewy morn
Or else at golden noon
Or evening mid the waving corn
Or night while shines the moon

The hedge row was our tristing place
Beside the rose tree fair
There nature smiled on thy sweet face
The fairest wild rose there

Two Summer Sonnets

Go where I will, naught but delight is seen;
The blue and luscious sky is one broad gleam
Of universal ecstasy; the green,
Rich, sweeping meadows and the laughing stream,
As sweet as happiness on heaven's breast,
Lie listening to the never-ceasing song
That day or night ne'er wearies into rest
But hums unceasingly the summer long.
The very grass, to music's rapture stirred,
Dances before the breeze's wanton wing,
While every bush stirs with a startled bird
Who eager wakes morn's dewy praise to sing.
Yet mid this summer glee I cannot borrow
One joy, for sadness chills them all to sorrow.

Summer Amusements
I love to hide me on a spot that lies
In solitudes where footsteps find no track
To make intrusions; there to sympathize
With nature: often gazing on the rack
That veils the blueness of the summer skies
In rich varieties; or o'er the grass
Behold the spangled crowds of butterflies
Flutter from flower to flower, and things that pass
In urgent travel by my still retreat,
The bustling beetle tribes; and up the stem
Of bents see lady-cows with nimble feet
Climb tall church-steeple heights—or more to them—
Till at its quaking top they take their seat,
Which bows, and off they fly fresh happiness to meet.

The humble flower...

(A carpet of wild flowers growing in Swaddywell, July 2005)

The humble flowers that buds upon the plain
& only buds to blossom but in vain
By sensless rustics with unheeding eyes
Still troden down as they attempt to rise
So like the humble blossom of the Fields
Unculturd Genius humble life consceals

The Flitting (final)

And why? this shepherd's purse that grows
In this strange spot, in days gone by
Grew in the little garden rows
Of my old home now left; and I
Feel what I never felt before,
This weed an ancient neighbour here,
And though I own the spot no more
Its every trifle makes it dear.

The ivy at the parlour end,
The woodbine at the garden gate,
Are all and each affection's friend
That rendered parting desolate.
But times will change and friends must part,
And nature still can make amends;
Their memory lingers round the heart
Like life, whose essence is its friends.

Time looks on pomp with vengeful mood
Or killing apathy's disdain;
So where old marble cities stood
Poor persecuted weeds remain.
She feels a love for little things
That very few can feel beside,
And still the grass eternal springs
Where castles stood and grandeur died.