Idle Fame

I would not wish the burning blaze
     Of fame around a restless world,
The thunder and the storm of praise
     In crowded tumults heard and hurled.
I would not be a flower to stand
     The stare of every passer-bye;
But in some nook of fairyland,
     Seen in the praise of beauty's eye.

Clare's malady slowly increased. The exact history of this decline is almost lost, yet we may well believe that the death of his mother on the 18th of December, 1835, was a day of double blackness for him... Patty made a great fight for his reason, and at last persuaded him to go out for walks, which checked the decline. Now he became so passionately fond of being out-of-doors that "he could not be made to stop a single day at home." 

In one of these roving walks he met his old friend Mrs. Marsh, the wife of the Bishop of Peterborough. A few nights later as her guest he sat in the Peterborough theatre watching the "Merchant of Venice." So vivid was his imagination - for doubtless the strolling players were not in themselves convincing - that he at last began to shout at Shylock and try to attack him on the stage.

When Clare returned to Helpston, the change in him terrified his wife. And yet, he rallied and walked the fields, and sitting on the window-seat taught his sons to trim the two yew-trees in his garden into old-fashioned circles and cones.

From "Poems Chiefly From Manuscript"


Anonymous said...

According to Frederick Martin, Clare lost his way on the return to helpston and returned to Ms Marsh - she dispatched him home accompanied by two servants we are told. Another twist on the theatre tale is that Clare was rather the worse for drink which places a whole other spin on the story. Idle Fame is a very beautiful poem.
mike hobson

Roger R... said...

Thanks Mike, yes, there are I am sure all sorts of other 'reasons' too for Clare's decline. Martin's work has however been put into doubt by modern biographers, apparently he invented much about Clare himself!