Though bonsmen enslave thee...

With these stark final lines, written in December 1841, the composition of Child Harold comes to an end:
But now loves hopes are all bereft
A lonely man I roam
& abscent Mary long hath left
My heart without a home
Just a few days later Clare is removed from the Northborough cottage to the Northampton General Asylum.  Nevertheless, his Scriptural paraphrases continued right up to his removal, finishing with these prophetic (for Clare) lines from Isaiah 47v15:
Thy merchants from thy youth
They shall wander one & all
To his quarters & the truth
Shall leave thee more in thrall
Though slave dealers take thee
        though bondsmen enslave thee
There's none shall be able to shield thee or save thee
Although rather changed from the text of the Authorised Version of the Bible that Clare knew, had memorised and loved, these words are dredged up from the depth of his subconscious and desolate state of mind; arguably a true reflection of his inner life at the end of this, the most difficult year of his life.

Obsessed as he is with the veracity of his memory of Mary, Clare finds himself dwelling on a biblical passage of doom and loss.  Composing a long paraphrase of the prophecy, with that final denouement — ‘though bondsmen enslave thee’ — laying in wait.  He finds himself writing a prophecy of his own judgment and removal.

I must admit that these poetic paraphrases, coupled with the final four lines of ‘I think of thee…’ to me do read like a prophetic utterance, a premonition of his of own fate.
While life breaths on this earthly ball
What e'er my lot may be
Wether in freedom or in thrall
Mary I think of thee
(Child Harold)
Shall leave thee more in thrall
Though slave dealers take thee
(Isaiah 47v15b)
In due course the ‘slave dealers’, in the form of Parson Glossop, Fenwick Skrimshire and William Page, arrive at the cottage and there are none able to shield him or save him, estranged as he was… ‘a stranger to his own family’.

Clare arrived at the asylum committed ‘After years addicted to poetical prossing’ (sic), and became in his own words, ‘a thrall’ — one who is enslaved, or in bondage.

Roger Rowe

My latest 'gleanings'...

Another Monday and Tuesday this week in the Peterborough Archive, and as always it seems, came up with quite a few Clare poems I did not recognise.  Here is just one, written in pencil, an alternative version of "Pleasures of Spring" (lines 283-292).  I must admit I do think the alternatives in these lines are somewhat more 'Clarean'!?

Forth walks the man of taste among the woods
& fields & where small channels run their floods
Loud laughing on their errands watering flowers
& down the narrow lanes he walks for hours
All carpeted anew with young swathes [of] grass
So soft that birds hear not the feet that pass
Close by their nests he peeps the leaves among
& marks with rapture how they brood their young
He drops beneath the bush [beside] the running brook
To read some pages of a favourite book

Pet MS A31 p23 if you are interested in exactly where I found it.


Compare the final two lines with the PoS (published) version, which do you prefer?

  1. Then drops beneath the bushes to peruse
  2. A pocket poet of some favoured muse 

Left Alone






















Left in the world alone,
Where nothing seems my own,
And everything is weariness to me,
'T is a life without an end,
'T is a world without a friend,
And everything is sorrowful I see.

There's the crow upon the stack,
And other birds all black,
While bleak November's frowning wearily;
And the black cloud's dropping rain,
Till the floods hide half the plain,
And everything is dreariness to me.

The sun shines wan and pale,
Chill blows the northern gale,
And odd leaves shake and quiver on the tree,
While I am left alone,
Chilled as a mossy stone,
And all the world is frowning over me.


Tibbles II 522