from "Child Harold"

Tis winter & the fields are bare & waste
The air one mass of ‘vapour clouds & storms’
The suns broad beams are buried & oercast
& chilly glooms the midday light deforms
Yet comfort now the social bosom warms
Friendship of nature which I hourly prove
Even in this winter scene of frost & storms
Bare fields the frozen lake & leafless grove
Are natures grand religion & true love

(lines 901-909)

John Clare, The Living Year, 1841 
Tim Chilcott (ed)
(Nottingham: Trent Editions, 1999)

Remember Thee Love? Yes!

Remember thee love? Yes! How can I forget thee
Since the very first hour that my happiness met thee
Remember thee love what the sword cannot sever
Is mine and mine only for ever and ever
Remember thee love? Yes! I will love remember
From April to May and from June to December
The past and the present and hereafter to come
I'll remember them all for thy heart is my home
I'll think of thee love i' thy happiest smile
Till the sunbeams o' day leave the Night to our Isle
Till the end o' the world thou my darling shall prove
And the finish o' times the begining o' Love

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

from "The Parish"

Here shines the man of morals Farmer Finch
Smooth tongued & fine an angel every inch
In outward guise & never known as yet
To run in Taverns Brothels or in debt
In public life all punctual honest true
& flattery gives his graces double due
For pitys gifts are never public made
But there his name & guinea is displayed

In double views to answer prides desire
To purchase praise & to be dubbed Esquire
A sunday never comes or foul or fair
That misses him at church throughout the year
The priest himself boasts as the mans reward
That he near preached a sermon but he heard
Such is the man in public all agree
That saints themselves no better men could be

But now of private life lets take the view
—In that same church & in that very pew
Where he each sabbath sings & reads & prays
He joins the vestry upon common days
Cheating the poor with leveys doubly laid
On their small means that wealth may be defrayed
To save his own & others his compeers
He wrongs the poor whom he has wrongd for years

Making the house of prayer the house of sin
& placing Satan as high priest within
Such is this good church going morral man
This man of morrals on deseptions plan
So knaves by cant steer free from sins complaints
& flatterys cunning coins them into saints
Tho justice Terror who the peace preserves
Meets more of slander then his deeds deserves

A blunt opinionated odd rude man
Severe & selfish in his every plan
Or right or wrong his overreasoning heart
Believes & often overacts his part
Tho pleading want oft meets with harsh replies
& truths too often listend too as lies
Altho he reigns with much caprice & whim
The poor can name worse governers then him

His gifts at Christmass time are yearly given
No doubt as toll fees on the road to heaven
Tho charity or looses byt or wins
Tis said to hide a multitude of sins
& wether wealth-bought-hopes shall fail or speed
The poor are blest & goodness marks the deed
Tho rather leaning to the stronger side
He preaches often on the sins of pride

(lines 1370 to 1417)

The Poems of John Clare
ed. J. W. Tibble (2 volumes, Dent, 1935)

Christmas (last)

Around the glowing hearth at night,
The harmless laugh and winter tale
Go round, while parting friends delight
To toast each other o'er their ale;
The cotter oft with quiet zeal
Will musing o'er his Bible lean;
While in the dark the lovers steal
To kiss and toy behind the screen.
Old customs! Oh! I love the sound,
However simple they may be:
Whate'er with time hath sanction found,
Is welcome and is dear to me.
Pride grows above simplicity,
And spurns them from her haughty mind,
And soon the poet's song will be
The only refuge they can find.

(lines 113-128)

The Shepherd's Calendar (1827)

Christmas (VII)

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.
Tho' manhood bids such raptures die,
And throws such toys aside as vain,
Yet memory loves to turn her eye,
And count past pleasures o'er again.

(lines 97 – 112)

‘December’The Shepherd's Calendar (

Christmas (VI)

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.

(lines 81-96)

The Shepherd's Calendar (1827)

Christmas (V)

While snows the window-panes bedim,
The fire curls up a sunny charm,
Where, creaming o'er the pitcher's rim,
The flowering ale is set to warm;
Mirth, full of joy as summer bees,
Sits there, its pleasures to impart,
And children, 'tween their parents' knees,
Sing scraps of carols o'er by heart.
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.

(lines 65 - 80)

The Shepherd's Calendar (1827)

Christmas (IV)

And oft for pence and spicy ale,
With winter nosegays pinn'd before,
The wassail-singer tells her tale,
And drawls her Christmas carols o'er.
While prentice boy, with ruddy face,
And rime-bepowder'd, dancing locks,
From door to door with happy pace,
Runs round to claim his ‘Christmas box.’
The block upon the fire is put,
To sanction custom's old desires;
And many a faggot's bands are cut,
For the old farmers' Christmas fires;
Where loud-tongued Gladness joins the throng,
And Winter meets the warmth of May,
Till feeling soon the heat too strong,
He rubs his shins, and draws away.

(lines 49 - 64)

The Shepherd's Calendar (1827)

Christmas (III)

The singing waits, a merry throng,
At early morn, with simple skill,
Yet imitate the angels' song,
And chant their Christmas ditty still;
And, mid the storm that dies and swells
By fits, in hummings softly steals
The music of the village bells,
Ringing round their merry peals.
When this is past, a merry crew,
Bedeck'd in masks and ribbons gay,
The ‘Morris-dance’ their sports renew,
And act their winter evening play.
The clown turn'd king, for penny-praise,
Storms with the actor's strut and swell;
And Harlequin, a laugh to raise,
Wears his hunchback and tinkling bell.

(lines 33 - 48)

The Shepherd's Calendar (1827)

Christmas (II)

Neighbours resume their annual cheer,
Wishing, with smiles and spirits high,
Glad Christmas and a happy year
To every morning passer-by;
Milkmaids their Christmas journeys go,
Accompanied with favour'd swain;
And children pace the crumping snow,
To taste their granny's cake again.
The shepherd, now no more afraid,
Since custom doth the chance bestow,
Starts up to kiss the giggling maid
Beneath the branch of misletoe
That 'neath each cottage beam is seen,
With pearl-like berries shining gay;
The shadow still of what hath been,
Which fashion yearly fades away.

(lines 17 - 32)

The Shepherd's Calendar (1827)

Christmas (I)

Glad Christmas comes, and every hearth
Makes room to give him welcome now,
E'en want will dry its tears in mirth,
And crown him with a holly bough;
Though tramping 'neath a winter sky,
O'er snowy paths and rimy stiles,
The housewife sets her spinning by
To bid him welcome with her smiles.
Each house is swept the day before,
And windows stuck with evergreens,
The snow is besom'd from the door,
And comfort crowns the cottage scenes.
Gilt holly, with its thorny pricks,
And yew and box, with berries small,
These deck the unused candlesticks,
And pictures hanging by the wall.

(lines 1 – 16)

The Shepherd's Calendar (1827)

Dobson and Judie or The Cottage

Winter wrapt in her dismal forms
Cannot their happiness annoy
Cold days, black nights, and snowy storms
Inspire them with reflective joy
Old dob when sitting by the fire
Will often bid old judie ‘hark
‘I fear the wind is rising higher
‘And o the night is dismal dark’
‘Ah think’ he cries, (while judie smoaks)
‘In this most dismal wintry night
‘How many poor tir'd travelling folks
‘Now meets the storm in woeful plight!’
‘Perhaps now at this very hour
‘Some poor lost soul lays—down his head
‘Beneath a tree which turns no shower
‘And cannot find a better bed’
‘For cloth'd with snow instead of dew
‘No longer they a shelter yield
‘More worse I know 'twill winnow thro
‘Then standing in the open field’
‘O heavens now the wind gets higher
‘It grieves me;—yet I'm pleas'd to think
‘How we are blest with house and fire
‘A good warm bed, and meat, and drink,’
‘And if the lost:—(I hope as well)
‘Should ever find their homes again
That true old-saying then will tell
'How sweet the pleasure after pain!’

(Lines 133 - 160)

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

The fallen elm (final)

Thus came enclosure—ruin was her guide
But freedoms clapping hands enjoyed the sight
Tho comforts cottage soon was thrust aside
And workhouse prisons raised upon the site.
Een natures dwelling far away from men
The common heath became the spoilers prey;
The rabbit had not where to make his den
And labours only cow was drove away.
No matter — wrong was right and right was wrong
And freedoms brawl was sanction to the song.
Such was thy ruin music making Elm;
The rights of freedom was to injure thine:
As thou wert served, so would they overwhelm
In freedoms name the little that is mine.

And these are knaves that brawl for better laws
And cant of tyranny in stronger powers
Who glut their vile unsatiated maws
And freedoms birthright from the weak devours.

The fallen elm (4)

Thoust sheltered hypocrites in many a shower
That when in power would never shelter thee.
Thoust heard the knave supply his canting powers
With wrongs illusions when he wanted friends;
That bawled for shelter when he lived in showers
And when clouds vanished made thy shade amends
With axe at root he felled thee to the ground
And barked of freedom — O I hate that sound
(Time hears its visions speak – and age sublime
Hath made thee a disciple unto time)
It grows the cant terms of enslaving tools
To wrong another by the name of right
It grows a licence with oer bearing fools
To cheat plain honesty by force of might

(lines 43-56)

The fallen elm (3)

Friend not inanimate — though stocks and stones
There are, and many formed in flesh and bones.
Thou own a language by which hearts are stirred
Deeper than by a feeling clothed in word,
Thine spoke a feeling known in every tongue,
Language of pity and the force of wrong.
What cant assumes, what hypocrites may dare,
Speaks home to truth and shows it what they are.
I see a picture that thy fate displays
And learn a lesson from thy destiny;
Self interest saw thee stand in freedoms ways -
So thy old shadow must a tyrant be.
Thoust heard the knave, abusing those in power,
Bawl freedom loud and then oppress the free

(lines 29-42)

The fallen Elm (2)

Old favourite tree, thoust seen times changes lower
But change till now did never come to thee;
For time beheld thee as his sacred dower
And nature claimed thee her domestic tree.
Storms came and shook thee with a living power
Yet stedfast to thy home thy roots hath been;
Summers of thirst parched round thy homely bower
Till earth grew iron — still thy leaves was green.
The childern sought thee in thy summer shade
And made their play house rings of sticks and stone
The mavis sang and felt himself alone
While in they leaves his early nest was made,
And I did feel his happiness mine own
Nought heeding that our friendship was betrayed

(lines 15-28)

The fallen elm (1)

During the next week I will be posting each day a 14-line portion of Clare's important poem "The fallen Elm"

Old Elm that murmured in our chimney top
The sweetest anthem autumn ever made
And into mellow whispering calms would drop
When showers fell on thy many coloured shade
And when dark tempests mimic thunder made -
While darkness came as it would strangle light
With the black tempest of a winter night
That rocked thee like a cradle to thy root -
How did I love to hear the winds upbraid
Thy strength without — while all within was mute.
It seasoned comfort to our hearts desire
We felt thy kind protection like a friend
And pitched our chairs up closer to the fire
Enjoying comforts that was never penned

(lines 1-14)

John Clare, Poems of the Middle Period,
ed. Eric Robinson, David Powell and P.M.S. Dawson,
Volume  III (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998)