Nobody Cometh to Woo

[Image by Anne Lee]
Recorded in the early 1990s as 'Lucy’s Lament' by Vikki Clayton

On Martinmas eve the dogs did bark,
And I opened the window to see,
When every maiden went by with her spark
But ne’er a one came to me.
And O dear what will become of me?
And O dear what shall I do,
When nobody whispers to marry me—
Nobody cometh to woo?

None's born for such troubles as I be:
If the sun wakens first in the morn
"Lazy hussy" my parents both call me,
And I must abide by their scorn,
For nobody cometh to marry me,
Nobody cometh to woo,
So here in distress must I tarry me—
What can a poor maiden do?

If I sigh through the window when Jerry
The ploughman goes by, I grow bold;
And if I'm disposed to be merry,
My parents do nothing but scold;
And Jerry the clown, and no other,
E’er cometh to marry or woo;
They think me the moral of mother
And judge me a terrible shrew.

For mother she hateth all fellows,
And spinning's my father's desire,
While the old cat growls bass with the bellows
If e’er I hitch up to the fire.
I make the whole house out of humour,
I wish nothing else but to please,
Would fortune but bring a new comer
To marry, and make me at ease!

When I've nothing my leisure to hinder
I scarce get as far as the eaves;
Her head's instant out of the window
Calling out like a press after thieves.
The young men all fall to remarking,
And laugh till they're weary to see't,
While the dogs at the noise begin barking,
And I slink in with shame from the street.

My mother's aye jealous of loving,
My father's aye jealous of play,
So what with them both there's no moving,
I'm in durance for life and a day.
O who shall I get for to marry me?
Who will have pity to woo?
Tis death any longer to tarry me,
And what shall a poor maiden do?

John Clare, Poems: Chiefly from Manuscript
ed. Edmund Blunden and Alan Porter
(London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1920)

Thy spirit visits me like dew (excerpt)

The wild flowers have a feeling
O'er my calm senses stealing
And love's soft dreams revealing
Seem wispering from the bowers
The foxgloves freckled bells
That blossom by the wood
And in the forrest dells
In the midst of solitude
There I hear my lover call
Where the whitethorn forms a wall
And the foxglove blossoms tall
In the tears of eve bedewed

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

An excerpt from 'A dedication to **** '

To thee earth swarmd with lovly things
The butterflye with spangld wings
& dragon flye & humble bee
Humd dreams of paradise with thee
& o thou fairest dearest still
If natures wild misterious skill
Beams that same rapture in thine eye
& left a love that cannot dye
If that fond taste was born to last
Nor vanishd with the summers past
If seasons as they usd to be
Still meet a favou[r]d smile with thee
Then thou accept for memorys sake
All I can give or thou canst take
A parted record known to thee
Of what has been no more to be
The pleasant past the future sorrow
The blest today & sad tomorrow—

(lines 45 to 62)

Selected Poems and Prose of John Clare
ed. Eric Robinson and Geoffrey Summerfield
(Oxford, 1967, 1978)

To an infant sister in Heaven

Clare was a twin.  His sister -- although "A fine bonny wench" died within days.  John the weakling infant, survived.  Here he is years later writing of the sister he never knew.

Bessey—I call thee by that earthly name
That but a little while belongd to thee—
Thou left me growing up to sin & shame
& kept thy innoscence unstaind & free
To seek the refuge of a heaven above
Where lifes bud opens in eternity
Bessey when memory turns thy lot to see
A brothers bosom yearns thy bliss to prove
& sighs oer wishes that was not to be
Oh had we gone together had I been
Strange with the world as thou thy mothers love
What years of sorrows I had never seen
Fullness of joy that leaves no hearts to bleed
Had then with thine been purchasd cheap indeed

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

From Dobson and Judie

One of Clare's early narrative poems, set very firmly in Helpstone

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 137 to 160)

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

The crowing coks the morns for told (extract)

The crowing coks the morns for told
The Sun begins to peep
And Shepherds Wistling to the Fold
Sets free the Captive Sheep
Oer pathless plains at early hours
The Sleepy Rustic goes
The dews brushd off from Gras & flowers
Bemoists his hardend Shoes
For every leaf that forms a shade
& flowrets silken top
& every shivering bent & blade
Bends with a pearly drop
But soon shall fly these pearly drops
The Sun advances higher
& stretching oer the mountain tops
Sweet Gilds the Village spire

(lines 1-16)

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

Written in April at Walk Lodge

A little known Clare sonnet from 1818 that will figure in our collection "The Poet in Love", with Mike Hobson's image which will accompany it.

Long sweeping bends of croppings brightning green
That wind along the vallies sheltering crown
Large swelling hills that nauntle up the scene
Which winters pencil tips wi bleachy brown
Here steeple points & there a misty town
As stretching thro each opening to be seen
& woods enlivning from their gloomy hue
To sprout in freshness—while the heath hills lean
In triumph on the eye their blooming goss
Wild natures brightest ornaments as now
Speckt oer wi sheep & beast & nibbling horse
That still roamd free from the long lazy plough
& the horison sweeping faintly blue
That prickt its bordering circle round the view

EP II 120
Pet MS A11 p5