The Old Year

The Old Year's gone away
To nothingness and night
We cannot find him all the day
Nor hear him in the night
He left no footstep mark or place
In either shade or sun
Tho' last year he'd a neighbours face
In this he's known by none

All nothing every where
Mists we on mornings see
They have more substance when they're here
And more of form than he
He was a friend by every fire
In every cot and hall
A guest to every hearts desire
And now he's nought at all

Old papers thrown away
Or garments cast aside
E'en the talk of yesterday
Are things identified
But time once torn away
No voices can recall
The eve of new years day
Left the old one lost to all
Jany 1st/45

Tibbles II 465

The wind blows happily on every thing...


Driving across Woodbury Common yesterday I noticed that all the gorse was in blossom, thousands of bushes looking totally wonderful in the wind and intermittent sunlight.  Put me in mind of this little known poem from Clare's Asylum years.  I know it's not Spring, but tell that to the East Devon Heathland - Clare in 1845 describing the very scene as if he was sitting beside me.

The wind blows happily on every thing
The very weeds that shake beside the fold
Bowing they dance—do any thing but sing
& all the scene is lovely to behold
Blue mists of morning evenings of gold
How beautifull the wind will play with spring
Flowers beam with every colour light beholds
Showers oer the Landscape flye on wet pearl wings
& winds stir up unnumbered pleasant things

I love the luscious green before the bloom
The leaves & grass & even beds of moss
When leaves gin bud & spring prepares to come
The Ivys evergreen the brown green gorse
Plots of green weeds that barest roads engross
In fact I love the youth of each green thing
The grass the trees the bushes & the moss
That pleases little birds & makes them sing
I love the green before the blooms of spring

LP I 205

CHRISTMASS (II)














Wi merry mirth beguiling care
Old customs keeping wi the day
Friends meet their christmass cheer to share
And pass it in a harmless way
Old customs O I love the sound
However simple they may be
What ere wi time has sanction found
Is welcome and is dear to me

Pride grows above simplicity
And spurns it from her haughty mind
And soon the poets song will be
The only refuge they can find
The shepherd now no more afraid
Since custom doth the chance bestow
Starts up to kiss the giggling maid
Beneath the branch of mizzletoe

That neath each cottage beam is seen
Wi pearl-like-berrys shining gay
The shadow still of what hath been
Which fashion yearly fades away
And singers too a merry throng
At early morn wi simple skill
Yet imitate the angels song
And chant their christmass ditty still

And mid the storm that dies and swells
By fits—in humings softly steals
The music of the village bells
Ringing round their merry peals

(December - lines 37-64)
The Shepherd's Calendar - with village stories, and other poems.  Taylor - 1827

Christmas in Helpstone

CHRISTMASS

Christmass is come and every hearth
Makes room to give him welcome now
Een want will dry its tears in mirth
And crown him wi a holly bough
Tho tramping neath a winter sky
Oer snow track paths and ryhmey stiles
The hus wife sets her spining bye
And bids him welcome wi her smiles

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 noo


(December - lines 1-32)
The Shepherd's Calendar - with village stories, and other poems.  Taylor - 1827

To the memory of Keats

Clare's publisher John Taylor was also Keats’s publisher.   From the earnings of Clare first magnificent collection  "Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery" (1820), Taylor, without asking Clare, provided financial assistance for Keats’s journey to Rome.  Keats left in September 1820 but died in Rome on the 23rd February 1821.

Thy worldly hopes & fears have pass'd away
No more its trifling thou shalt feel or see
Thy hopes are ripening in a brighter day
While these left buds thy monument shall be
When rancours wounds are past in nought away
Enlarging failings known to more then thee
& beautys feign diminish few display
When these are past thou child of poesey

Thou shalt survive—ah while a being dwells
In natures joys with soul to warm as thine
With eye to view her fascinating spells
& dream entranced oer each form divine
Worth wild enthusiast shall be cherish'd here
& thine with him shall linger & be dear

Pet MS A13 p11
Village Minstrel II 207

Byron...

On the 12th July 1824 Clare found himself in the throng witnessing Lord Byron's funeral procession.  Here is an excerpt from Clare writing about Lord Byron just after this date, and as part of an essay on "Popularity" which was published in 'The European Magazine' in November 1825 (his only published essay).  As has been recorded elsewhere, there are dozens of manuscript texts of the essay, which Professor Eric Robinson and I have been working upon for some years. I am hoping to publish a complete essay in due course.  We have been particularly struck by Clare's line, "He had an ambition of attaining papularity either at discount or interest" which was overlooked in the published article.

He was an Oliver Cromwell with the critics he broke up their long standing parliment & placed his own will in the speakers chair which they humbly accepted     they submitted to one that scorned to be shackeld & changed the bit in his stead they praised & respected him    nay & worshiped him    he was all in all in their mouths & their writings   but I suspect their hearts had as much love for him as the peasantry had for witches in the last century     who spoke well of them to their faces because they dare not do otherwise for fear of meeting an injury

He had an ambition of attaining popularity either at discount or interest     he was singular in his genius by sporting with subjects that time has rendered {so} sacred as to become the universal hopes of {all} human existances     to him they appeared as the common infirmities of earthly happiness – universal doubts & visions of unrealizing happiness – he won the applause of popularity less by his sterling merit as a poet then by his odditys as a man (...)  there were his infirmities – they are but as spots in the sun – his merits & his excellences out shine them & make them of less consequense then shadows – his powers are beyond my pen & I shall not venture to praise them – the sun does want the light      the light of a lamp or candle to show its glory – he is enrolled among the immortals & shines as the jewel in the crown of modern literature

Pet MS A49 p6-7

"Een winter deemed so desolate a waste"

Let's have something new.  Not sure if this is published, I found it in a manuscript last June, and cannot find it anywhere.

Een winter deemed so desolate a waste
Hath crowds of beautys to the man of taste
& oft he walks about on quiet days
Full many things to notice & to praise
Where oer the snow clad fields the little feet
Of hares are printed that betray their seat
& woods so still he een may hear the sound
Of small wrens footsteps or the heaving ground
While trees & branches make a splendid show
Of lights & shadows hung in wreaths of snow

Beside the fire large apples lay to roast
& in a hugh brown pitcher creaming ale
Was warming seasoned with a nut meg toast
The merry group of gossips to regale
With in the chimney top the threating gale            
Howld angrily & loud but coud not scare                          
The crickets raptures from its merry tale                         
Around her feet the glad cat curld her tail
Listing the crickets song with half shut eyes           
While in the chimney top loud roars the gale

Pet MS A42 p105

The Fortune Teller

I had scarcely sat down to examine the beautiful flower before I discovered a smoke rising from the wood which I found to proceed from a camp of gispies & I had scarcely discovred the smoke before a fine dark gipsey girl stood before me with her fine black hair parted over her forhead wrapt in a red silk hankerchief & a red cloak negligently fastened with a hook & eye just below the swelling of a bosom that might win a wish from a prince to make a pillow of under the green wood tree & with as little ceremony as if she had known me a lifetime

Pet MS A46 p56-7

THE DAISY BUTTON TIPP'D WI' DEW

The daisy button tipped wi' dew Green like the grass was sleeping
On every thing 'neath heaven blue In moonlight dew was weeping
In dark wood sung the Nightingale The moon shone round above me
My arms were clasped round Mary Gale My dearest do you love me
Her head a woodbine wet wi' dew Held in the moonlight sleeping
And two in one together grew Wi' daisy buds a weeping
O' Mary Gale sweet Mary Gale How round and bright above thee
The moon looks down on grassy vale My dearest can you love me
How sweet the moonlight sleeps and still Firdale and hedge row brere
The mole wharps mound and distant hill Is moonlight every where
The totter grasses pendalums Are still as night above me
The bees are gone and nothing hums My dearest do you love me
The moonlight sleeps o'er wood and wall Sweet Mary While you'r nigh me
Can any charm O' courtship fail And any joy pass by me
The gossamer all wet wi' dew Hung on the brere above me
She leaned her cheek and said ‘I do’ And ever mean to love thee    


LP II 775

The Invitation


Come hither, my dear one, my choice one, and rare one,
And let us be walking the meadows so fair,
Where on pilewort and daisies the eye fondly gazes,
And the wind plays so sweet in thy bonny brown hair.

Come with thy maiden eye, lay silks and satins by;
Come in thy russet or grey cotton gown;
Come to the meads, dear, where flags, sedge, and reeds appear,
Rustling to soft winds and bowing low down.

Come with thy parted hair, bright eyes, and forehead bare;
Come to the whitethorn that grows in the lane;
To banks of primroses, where sweetness reposes,
Come, love, and let us be happy again.

Come where the violet flowers, come where the morning showers
Pearl on the primrose and speedwell so blue;
Come to that clearest brook that ever runs round the nook
Where you and I pledged our first love so true.


Tibbles II 480

Superstitions Dream (excerpt)

With All Hallows Eve fast approaching, I though it might well be in order to post one of Clare's little known 'gothic' works.  After all he shared a publisher with Percy Shelley, whose wife Mary published 'Frankenstein' anonymously in London in 1818, and under her own name in 1823 (I've always wondered if her husband's death in June 1822 prompted her to add her name to the second and subsequent editions?)  Such writing seemed to be 'in the air' in this post-Napoleonic world.

So here is part of 'The Dream', originally written as 'Superstitions Dream' before 1822.  Mrs Emmerson wrote to Clare on 7th January 1822, "What a treasure have you this day placed before me in your 'Superstitions Dream' "... John Taylor, his publisher wrote "perhaps the ablest Poem you have written".  A real surprise to me that it is not better known...

I felt all terrors of the d-----d & fell
With conscious horror that my doom was hell
And memory mockd me like a haunting ghost
With light & life & pleasures that were lost
As dreams turn night to day & day to night
So memory flashd her shadows of that light
That bade the mornings suns in glory rise
To bless green fields & trees & purple skies
& wakend life its pleasures to behold
That light flashd on me like a story told
& days mispent with friends & fellow-men
& sins committed all was with me then.
The boundless hell were tortures never tire
Glimmerd beneath me like a world on fire
That soul of fire like to its souls entombd
That still consumes & never is consumd
Seemd nigh at hand -- where oft the sulphry damps
Oerawd that light as glimmers dying lamps
Spreading a horrid gloom from side to side
A twilight scene of terrors half descryd
Sad boild the billows of that burning sea
And fates sad yellings dismal seemd to be
Blue rolld its waves with horrors uncontroled
& its live wrecks of souls dashd howling as they rolld
Again I struggld & the spell was broke
& midst the laugh of mocking ghosts I woke
& my eyes opend on a hopless sight
The early morning & its welcome light
& as I ponderd oer the past profound
I heard the cock crow and I blest the sound

(lines 143-172)
MP I 325

The Luckless Journey

Tho' fine prov'd the morning O sad prov'd the ramble
     Adown by the Willows adown by the lee
Adown by the cottage where Hedge rows of bramble
     Hides it from all strangers but unlucky me

For there I espied and admir'd a young rosie
      lov'd and had hopes in possesing the flower
Till Cupid flew laughing away with the posie
     And left me the thorns which I feel at this hour

O Willows and brambles—what deamon beset me
     To make me to go where your cottage arose
Yet still was you all I could hope to forget ye
     But o there's no hopes in forgetting the rose


The wounds are not lightly that abscence should ease 'em
     No no they'r so deep twill but poison the pain
Tho lifes sober autumn may wisely appease 'em
     A pang sad Remembrance will ever retain

EP I 218

Dear brother robin... (excerpt)

Dear brother robin this comes from us all
With our kind love & could Gip write and all
Though but a dog hed have his love to spare
For still he knows and by your corner chair
The moment he comes in he lyes him down
and seems to fancy you are in the town


This leaves us well in health thank God for that
For old acquaintance Sue has kept your hat
Which mother brushes ere she lays it bye
and every sunday goes upstairs to cry
Jane still is yours till you come back agen
& neer so much as dances with the men


& Ned the woodman every week comes in
& asks about you kindly as our kin
& he with this and goody Thompson sends
Remembrances with those of all our friends
Father with us sends love untill he hears
& mother she has nothing but her tears


Yet wishes you like us in health the same
& longs to see a letter with your name
So loving brother dont forget to write
Old Gip lies on the hearth stone every night
Mother cant bear to turn him out of doors
& never noises now of dirty floors


Father will laugh but lets her have her way
& Gip for kindness get a double pay
So Robin write & let us quickly see
You dont forget old friends no more than we
Nor let my mother have so much to blame
To go three journeys ere your letter came


(lines 1-30)

MP V 168

Autumn Change

The leaves of Autumn drop by two's and three's
And the black cloud hung o'er the old low church
Is fixed as is a rock that never stirs
But look again and you may well perceive
The weather cock is in another sky
And the cloud passing leaves the blue behind

Crimson & yellow bloch'd with Iron Brown
The Autumn tans and varigates the leaves
The nuts are ripe in woods about the Town
Russet the cleared fields where the bindweed weaves
Round stubbles and still flowers the trefoil seeds
And troubles all the land from rig to furrow
Ther's nothing left but rubbish and foul weeds
I love to see the rabbits snug made burrow
Under the old edge bank or hugh mossed oak
Claspt fast with Ivy there the rabbit breeds
Where the Kite pelews and the Ravens croak
And hares and Rabbits at their leisure feed
So varying Autumn thro her changes runs
Season of sudden storms and brillient suns.

LP I 523

O gentle star so placidly

Today, is national poetry day on the theme of 'light', so here is Clare reminding us of the beautiful qualities of a pinprick of light shining in the darkness.

O gentle star so placidly
That brings the news of pearly even
The first of all the arching sky
To whom the glinting light is given
O gentle star I hope to view
Thy bright eye smile the lonly lee
Reflecting in a globe of dew
Thy silver light is dear to me
O gentle herald thee I hail
Thou tellst the glaring day is gone
O coudst thou bring a better tale
From one sweet cot thourt shining on

EP I 443

Cloud Shapes

Clouds rack and drive before the wind
In shapes and forms of every kind,
Like waves that rise without the roar,
And rocks that guard an untrodden shore;
Now castles pass majestic by
And ships in peaceful havens lie;
These gone, ten thousand shapes ensue,
For ever beautiful and new.

The scattered clouds lie calm and still,
And day throws gold on every hill;
Their thousand heads in glory run,
As each were worlds and owned a sun.
The rime it clings to everything,
It beards the early buds of spring;
The mossy pales, the orchard spray,
Are feathered with its silver-grey.


Pet MS A59 r78

Clouds...

In spots like these the shepherd loves to fling
His careless limbs neath the young leaves of spring
To muse upon some wild brooks hasty streams
& idly revel over waking dreams


Or stretched in carless mood upon his back
To view the blue sky & its sweeping rack
Lifting his fancies to each passing cloud
& shaping every one that journeys proud

Oer its mysterious way to forms & things
That fancys visions to his memory brings

Some like to rocks gleam in their wondering eye
Mid shoreless seas & some go swifter bye

Like mighty ships still charging on their way
To other ships more beautiful than they
Soft as the paper ships they often make
& float on curdling brook or meadow lake

Some white like palaces of marble seems
The towers of heaven which they’re called in dreams
& which his waking fancys grandly shine
The abodes of one that instant suns divine

Some like to mountains shadow high & some
Like the dear vales that nestle round their home
With cots & groves & fountains streaming bye
Spread lengthening seems to the musing eye

& thus they dream away their idle hours
Stretched on the trembling grass & nodding flowers
& wishing often on their summer beds
For the larks wings that whistles oer their heads

To realize their artless dreams & flye
To the soft bosom of the summer sky
To trace the seeming vales and mountains there
That hopeless distance personifys so fair

Each flower agen smiles thro the aching dew
Like lovly absent faces seen anew
Rich with the same purfumes & luscious smiles
They wake agen ones leisure to beguile

Like an old tale of pleasure told again
After long years of desolating pain

Pet MS A21 p6
(one of the alternative readings of 'Spring' from Midsummer Cushion - there are quite a few)

The sallows...

A treat for us all...

The sallows glisten in their gay palm bloom
Studded with golden down where earliest come
The solitary wild bees that servive
Their trance & ere the tenants of the hive
Dare venure out are searching field & wood
& from scarce blossoms seeking scanty food
Hanging there yet half doubtful hopes along
& humming wearily a lonly song

Pet MS A21 p4

"The frog croaks loud..."

[Image: Anne Lee]

A sonnet, but WHAT a sonnet...

The frog croaks loud & maidens dare not pass 
But fear the noisome toad & shuns the grass
& on the sunny banks they fear to go 
Where hissing snakes run to the floods below
The nuthatch noises loud in wood & wild
Like women turning skreekers to a child
The schoolboy hears & brushes through the trees 
& runs about till drabbled to the knees
The old hawk winnows round the old crows nest
The schoolboy hears & wonder fills his breast
He throws his basket down to climb the tree 
& wonders what the red blotched eggs can be
The green woodpecker bounces from the view 
& hollow as they buzz along kew kew 


MP V 379

The crow sat on the willow tree

[Image: 'Deepings crowsong' by John Lincoln]

The crow sat on the willow tree
A-lifting up his wings,
And glossy was his coat to see,
And loud the ploughman sings,
"I love my love because I know
The milkmaid she loves me";
And hoarsely croaked the glossy crow
Upon the willow tree.
"I love my love" the ploughman sung,
And all the fields with music rung.

"I love my love, a bonny lass,
She keeps her pails so bright,
And blythe she trips the dewy grass
At morning and at night.
A cotton dress her morning gown,
Her face was rosy health:
She traced the pastures up and down
And nature was her wealth."
He sung, and turned each furrow down,
His sweetheart's love in cotton gown.

John Clare, Bird Poems

introduced by Peter Levi (London: Folio Society, 1980)