from 'December'

And some, to view the winter weathers,
Climb up the window-seat with glee,
Likening the snow to falling feathers,
In fancy's infant ecstasy;

Laughing, with superstitious love,
O'er visions wild that youth supplies,
Of people pulling geese above,
And keeping Christmas in the skies.

As tho' the homestead trees were drest,
In lieu of snow, with dancing leaves,
As tho' the sun-dried martin's nest,
Instead of ickles, hung the eaves,

The children hail the happy day—
As if the snow were April's grass,
And pleas'd, as 'neath the warmth of May,
Sport o'er the water froze to glass.

Thou day of happy sound and mirth,
That long with childish memory stays,
How blest around the cottage hearth
I met thee in my younger days!

Harping, with rapture's dreaming joys,
On presents which thy coming found,
The welcome sight of little toys,
The Christmas gift of cousins round:

The wooden horse with arching head,
Drawn upon wheels around the room,
The gilded coach of gingerbread,
And many-colour'd sugar-plum,

Gilt-cover'd books for pictures sought,
Or stories childhood loves to tell,
With many an urgent promise bought,
To get to-morrow's lesson well;

And many a thing, a minute's sport,
Left broken on the sanded floor,
When we would leave our play, and court
Our parents' promises for more.

(lines 73-108)

The Hour of Prayer

Ave Maria! woman mild,—
Mother ever young and fair,
Hushing slumbers to her child,—
It is the hour of Prayer!

When children bend the artless knee,
And mothers kneel beside 'em there,
Maiden mild my guardian be,
In eve's still hour of Prayer!

A light in darkness, be thou still,
Let love's affections be thy care;
Thou beacon light of good and ill,
Attend the hour of Prayer!

The darkness comes, the dews descend;—
Thou woman ever mild and fair!
Be to the friendless still a friend,
In the silent hour of Prayer!

'Tis come!—the o'erpowering heat of day
Seeks night, its peace to share;
Sweet maiden teach us how to pray
In silent hours of Prayer!

LP I 383

After a Fine Winters Day

[Image: Eddie Bairstow]

The sun lookd out the dreary scene to bless
Old winters grinning horrors forcful smild
His flinty bosom thawd wi tenderness
So fiercfull savages have melted mild
Neath the sweet looks of womans lovliness
So poesy thy witcheries so wild
Doth warm the chilly heart of wants distress
& forcful give a joy to natures child
Spite of his anguish—ah he coud express
Full many a pleasure & full many a pain
Mingling like gaul & honey sun & rain
A fine decembers day thou art to me
Tho winter still beneath thy rays remain
Her grinning frowns are melted soft by thee

The Robin

Now the snow hides the ground little birds leave the wood
And flie to the cottage to beg for their food
While the domestic robin more tame then the rest
(With its wings drooping down and rough feathers undrest)
Comes close to our windows as much as to say
‘I would venture in if I could find a way
I'm starv'd and I want to get out of the cold
O! make me a passage and think me not bold’
Ah poor little creature thy visits reveal
Complaints such as these to the heart that can feel
Nor shall such complainings be urged in vain
I'll make thee a hole if I take out a pane

Come in and a welcome reception thou'lt find
I keep no grimalkins to murder inclin'd
—But O! little robin be careful to shun
That house where the peasant makes use of a gun
For if thou but taste of the seed he has strew'd
Thy life as a ransom must pay for thy food
His aim is unerring his heart is as hard
And thy race tho so harmles he'll never regard
Distinction with him boy is nothing at all
Both the wren and the robin with sparrows must fall
For his soul (tho he outwardly looks like a man)
Is in nature like wolves of the appenine clan

Like them his whole study is bent on his prey
Like them he devours what e'er comes in his way
Then be careful and shun what is meant to betray
And flie from these men-masked wolves far away
Come come to my cottage and thou shalt be free
To perch on my finger or sit on my knee
Thou shalt eat of the crumbles of bread to thy fill
And have leisure to clean both thy feathers and bill
Then come little robin and never believe
Such warm Invitations are meant to deceive
In duty I'm bound to show mercy on thee
While God dont deny it to sinners like me!

Her Love is all to me

O' cold is the winter day And iron is the ground
And winters snow has found his way For fifty miles around
I turn a look to every way And nothing to be seen
The frozen clouds shuts out the day And snow hide[s] all the green
The hedges all of leaves are bare my heart beats cold & chill
O' once I loved a pretty girl and love her dearly still
Though love is but a frozen pearl as you may plainly see
My lovely girl is handsome as any maid can be

Freeze on the bitter biteing sky Snows shade the naked tree
All desolate alone am I Yet I'll love none but thee
No tears I shed my love to show To freeze before they fall
No sighs I send along the snow But she's my all in all
The footpath leaves the ruts and carts O'er furrow and o'er rig
And my love lives at the ‘White Hart’ a stone throw from the brig
She's like a ballad sung in tune And deep in love to be
Her face is like the rose in June And her love is all to me

Distant Hills (excerpt)

[Image: Eddie Bairstow]

If so my fancy idly clings
To notions far away,
And longs to roam for common things
All round her every day,
Right idle would the journey be
To leave one's home so far,
And see the moon I now can see
And every little star.

And have they there a night and day,
And common counted hours?
And do they see so far away
This very moon of ours?
I mark him climb above the trees
With one small cousin star,
And think me in my reveries—
He cannot shine so far.

And o'er his face that ancient man
Will ever stooping be;
What else he in no sort of plan
Could ever get to see.
The poets in the tales they tell
And with their happy powers
Have made lands where their fancies dwell
Seem better lands than ours.

(lines 29-52)


['December' from Carry Akroyd - Shepherd's Calendar 2007]

The Shepherd’s Calendar

Each house is swept the day before
And windows stuck wi evergreens
The snow is beesomd from the door
And comfort crowns the cottage scenes
Gilt holly wi its thorny pricks
And yew and box wi berrys small
These deck the unusd candlesticks
And pictures hanging by the wall
Neighbours resume their anual cheer
Wishing wi smiles and spirits high
Glad christmass and a happy new year
To every morning passer bye
Milk maids their christmass journeys go
Accompanyd wi favourd swain
And childern pace the crumping snow
To taste their grannys cake again
Hung wi the ivys veining bough
The ash trees round the cottage farm
Are often stript of branches now
The cotters christmass hearth to warm
He swings and twists his hazel band
And lops them off wi sharpend hook
And oft brings ivy in his hand
To decorate his chimney nook
Old winter whipes his icles bye
And warms his fingers till he smiles
Where cottage hearths are blazing high
And labour resteth from his toils

December (lines 9-36)

Clare's self-doubt

I very infrequently post anything to this weblog but Clare's work, but here is a short extract from a recent paper that will be of interest to all Clare followers.

Clare was never confident that he had fully attained the status of author that he had learned and been encouraged to value, in part because he could never fully shake off the status of peasant or rustic that had been thrust upon him as an authenticating signature, and in part because he suspected that his first success may have been founded upon the fleeting judgment of fashion rather than solid principles of taste.

Throughout his letters, Clare worries that his reputation as an author may rest upon false premises. As early as February 24, 1821, Clare worried Taylor with the idea that his patrons, Lord Radstock and Mrs. Emmerson, may have dropped him for a fresher child of nature: "so god send they may find out a new 'child of nature' to foster & flatter whose name is rather fresher then mine ..." (Letters 160).

Summing up his career as a poet to Henry, Francis Cary sometime after October 20,1832, Clare writes: "I felt some vanity that I had a claim to the title of a poet & it was the praise & commendation of men of genius that fostered that ambition" (Letters 594); anticipating the response to a new collection of poems, Clare goes on to say, "I wished to be judged of by the book itself without any appeals to want of education lowness of origin or any other foil that officousness [sic] chuses to encumber my path with" (Letters 594).

Thus, though there were moments when Clare asserted his poetic powers as strongly as any poet, his letters betray a long-standing ambivalence about the measure of his success. When, after 1827, Clare's correspondence with his "friends" in the literary establishment of London began to drop off, that ambivalence gave way to disappointment and even regret that he had ever knocked upon the door of literary success, for more often than not, he relied upon the approval of those literary men and women of genius to bolster his self-confidence.

from "Hybridity, Mimicry and John Clare's Child Harold"
by Gary Harrison