'Revisiting the Helpston grave of John Clare' by Charles Causley


[It is very rare for me to post anything but poems by John Clare to this weblog... but in Charles Causley we encounter a poet with a love of Clare and his work.  Here is his poem 'Revisiting the Helpston grave of John Clare ']

Hills sank like green fleets on the land's long rim
About the village of toast-coloured stone.
Leaving the car beside the Blue Bell, we
Walked with a clutch of flowers the clear lane
Towards the grave.

It was well combed, and quiet as before.
An upturned stone boat
Beached at God's thick door.
Only the water in the spiked grave-pot
Smelt sourly of death.
Yet no wind seemed to blow
From off the fen or sea
The flowers flickered in the painted pot
Like green antennae,
As though John Clare from a sounding skull
Brim with a hundred years of dirt and stone
Signalled to us;
And light suddenly breathed
Over the plain.

Later, drinking whisky in The Bull at Peterborough,
The face of the poet
Lying out on the rigid plain
Stared at me
As clearly as it once stared through
The glass coffin-lid
In the church-side pub on his burial day:
Head visible, to prove
The bulging brain was not taken away
By surgeons, digging through the bone and hair
As if to find poems still
Beating there;
Then, like an anchor, to be lowered fast
Out of creation's pain, the stropping wind,
Deep out of sight, into the world's mind.
Charles Causley

I'd Gaze my Soul on Thee


I wish I was the wild woodbine
Twining round the white thorn bough
I wish I was the wild hedge rose
Upon thy bonny bosom now
To feel thy thumb and finger nip
About my twisted stem
The flowers now toutch thy ruby lip
To kiss their mornings gem

My flowers would kiss those lips o' thine
That kiss'd the dewdrops made divine

I wish I was what I am not
The wild flower nodding on the Lea
To win thy notice on the spot
And touch thy bosom fond and free
To touch thy bosom lily white
To kiss thy shoulders marble bright
And in thy bosom dwell
To be thy hearts one whole delight
In thought and sense as well

My hearts one love could I but be
A flower I'd gaze my soul on thee

The Later Poems of John Clare,
ed. Eric Robinson and Geoffrey Summerfield
(Manchester University Press, 1964)

Ballad: "Ive often had hours..."


Ive often had hours to be meeting the lasses
& wisht that the sun in his setting coud stay
& old creeping time a doz'd over his glasses
& make lovers hours at least long as a day

But when at the even loves presence were greeting
Swift as the race horse time seems to spur bye
& when lovers part till the next hour of meeting
As slow as a snail creeps the lagging hours dye

& Ive been wi many as fair as thee Mary
& Ive kissd full many a cheek red as thine
& round as soft bosoms in dresses as airy
My arm did full often enrapturd entwine

But never o never such 'lectrified feeling
Ere throbd thro my heart be as fair as they be
When round thy sweet charms my embraces was stealing
My soul stood spectator in presence of thee

The mould of an angel gave birth to thee Mary
& all reason startld away from thy charms
My senses mixd vapour in summer gales airy
& thou seemd imortal when rapt in my arms

& Ive met wi blisses & crosses contrary
But that happy moment that blest me wi thee
That heaven crownd swoonings unrivald my Mary
Nor can hell be worse then that parting wi thee

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

The Courtship (excerpt)

A woman’s is the dearest love
There’s nought on earth sincerer
The leisure upon beauty’s breast
Can any thing be dearer?

The muses they are living things
& beauty ever dear
& though I worshipped stocks & stones
T’was woman every-where

In loves delight my steps was led
I sung of beauty’s choice
I saw her in the books I read
& all was Mary Joyce

I saw her love in beauty’s face
I saw her in the rose
I saw her in the fairest flowers
In every weed that grows

Poems of John Clare's Madness,
ed. Geoffrey Grigson (RKP, 1949)

Summer Evening (excerpt)


From the hay-cock's moisten'd heaps,
Startled frogs take vaunting leaps;
And along the shaven mead,
Jumping travellers, they proceed :
Quick the dewy grass divides.
Moistening sweet their speckled sides ;
From the grass or flowret's cup,
Quick the dew-drop bounces up.
Now the blue fog creeps along.
And the bird's forgot his song :
Flowers now sleep within their hoods ;
Daisies button into buds ;
From soiling dew the butter-cup
Shuts his golden jewels up.

Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery (1820)

Sports of the Village (Song)


Yesterday night I drest up for the dancing
& vowd for a sweet heart if so it coud be
& no sooner there but a wench fell a glancing
Her eye in loves language: ‘Im waiting for thee’
What shoud I do but I ‘quires are ye willing
To go down a dance a few minutes wi me
Be sure ont she were so I outs wi my shilling
& stopt the old scraper to pay him his fee

Then stampt the foot of the scraper to warn us
& off wi the fiddle as pleasd as coud be
I fudgd to the end of the dance were in corners
I often snatchd kisses when no one coud see
I thought how I knackt it & sweet was the beagle
All but what I ought to have ta’en her to be
Tho her black eye as brazen & bold as the eagle
Oft glanced [in] loves language to more beside me

She left me at morn & went home wi another
The sigh was sold cheaply I left wi her then
But curse on her deepness love lightly might bother
I neer dreampt on troubles Id fall in agen
I went to the feast & the beagle there met me
The gleg of her eye was as keen as before
& tryd but as usual all trappings to get me
But I swore to my sen Id be fool├ęd no more

& what did she do but she vowd she’d expose me
& gun say Id playd her the follies of youth
& taking in tear drops be’slubberd her bosom
Till folks they were foold to believe it the truth
My case to be’sure it got mighty alarming
Twas provd I had bin wi the bitch by the bye
But as to the deed of her innosence harming
The king on his throne wornt less guilty then I

& she told her griefs in a many sad ditty
& she threatnd poison as wishing to dye
Till old women out wi their snuff rags in pity
To stop the false teardrops that blinkt in her eye
Ah curse on the night I ere gangd to the dancing
The parish hounds forcd the bad bargain on me
Ive payd dear enuff for the hisseys eye glancing
& provd a fools take in I then coudnt see

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

Coy Maidens (excerpt)














Her voice shouted Rodger, like throwing a stone
So give up old Soldier and let her alone
Go away with ye Rodger young Man do I see
If you're an old Soldier you may march on with me.

I went with the maiden over heath and o'er plain
And when Sunday was come too, I saw her again
I saw her, and courted the sun from the West
And left my last kiss on the mole of her breast.

I kissed, and we’re married, and bedded and all
And the old Kirk at Upton the green wedding saw
For the grass it was green and our years was the same
And from morning to Evening none called us to blame

(lines 7-8, 11-20)

The Later Poems of John Clare 1837-1864,
ed. Eric Robinson and David Powell
(Oxford, 2 volumes, I-II, 1984)

Three pieces of advice... by Clare
























A Ploughmans skill at Classification after the Lineian arrangement
‘Go wipe your shoes’ says mistress shrew
To Hodge who up for's dinner drew
‘'Tis'n't fitting that such hogs as you
‘Shou'd come into a house’
‘Why not’ says hodge—‘if thats the case
‘I cant come in a better place
‘For surely there is no disgrace
For hogs to herd wi' Sows

Friend take my advice...
Friend take my advice would you do yourself good,
& get your house custom & peace?
Take down from that doorpost the billet of Wood
& hang up your Wife in its place.

A Simile
A mushroom, its goodness but shortly endures
Decaying as soon as its peeping —
Woman much like them — for its known very Well
That they seldom get better by keeping.
The Early Poems of John Clare 1804-1822,
ed. Eric Robinson, David Powell and Margaret Grainger
(Oxford, 2 volumes, I-II, 1989)