Child Harold

[The next four postings will be excerpts from Clare’s Child Harold]

[Image: 'Out of Doors' by Carry Akroyd]

From: The Spring Canto: High Beech
The Blackbird Has Built In The Pasture Agen
& The Thorn Oer The Pond Shows A Delicate Green
Where I Strolled With Patty Adown In The Glen
& Spent Summer Evenings & Sundays Unseen
How Sweet The Hill Brow
& The Low Of The Cow
& The Sunshine That Gilded The Bushes So Green

When Evening Brought Dews Natures Thirst To Allay
& Clouds Seemed To Nestle Round Hamlets & Farms
While In The Green Bushes We Spent The Sweet Day
& Patty Sweet Patty Was Still In My Arms
The Love Bloom That Redded Upon Her Sweet Lips
The Love Light That Glistened Within Her Sweet Eye
The Singing Bees There That The Wild Honey Sips
From Wild Blossoms Seemed Not So Happy As I
How Sweet Her Smile Seemed
While The Summer Sun Gleamed
& The Laugh Of The Spring Shadowed Joys From On High

While The Birds Sung About Us & Cattle Grazed Round
& Beauty Was Blooming On Hamlets & Farms
How Sweet Steamed The Inscence Of Dew From The Ground
While Patty Sweet Patty Sat Locked In My Arms

(lines 1108 to 1129)

“Clare’s habit of capitalising the first letter of all words informs every piece of extant date material between 17 March and 1 May 1841. It seems very likely that such ‘upper-casing’ characterised all his writing between early March and mid-May, and that the capitalised stanzas of Child Harold can therefore be reliably ascribed to this period”

John Clare – The Living Year 1841 (Tim Chilcott, editor) Trent Editions 1999

I am

[“The grass below — above the vaulted sky”]
[And the madhouse walls nowhere in sight]
I am: yet what I am none cares or knows,
My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shades in love and death's oblivion lost;
And yet I am! and live with shadows tost

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems;
And e'en the dearest — that I loved the best —
Are strange — nay, rather stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man has never trod;
A place where woman never smil'd or wept;
There to abide with my creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie;
The grass below — above the vaulted sky.

An interesting piece on Clare’s “I am”, including a reading and the quote above, can be found on The Atlantic Online at

Tis Martinmass* from rig to rig

[Image: Carry Akroyd]
Tis martinmass from rig to rig
Ploughed fields & meadow lands are blea
In hedge & field each restless twig
Is dancing on the naked tree

Flags in the dykes are bleached & brown
Docks by its sides are dry & dead
All but the ivy bows are brown
Upon each leaning dotterels head

Crimsoned with awes the awthorns bend
Oer meadow dykes & rising floods
The wild geese seek the reedy fen
& dark the storm comes oer the woods

The crowds of lapwings load the air
With buzes of a thousand wings
There flocks of starnels too repair
When morning oer the valley springs

*Martinmas the feast day of Martin of Tours, is on the 11th November each year.

Old Ballad

O silly love! O cunning love!
An old maid to trepan:
I cannot go about my work
For loving of a man
I cannot bake, I cannot brew,
And, do the best I can
I burn the bread and chill the mash,
Through loving of a man

Shrove Tuesday last I tried, and tried,
To turn the cakes in pan
And drop’t the batter on the floor
Through thinking of a man
My mistress screamed, my master swore,
Boys cursed me in a troop
The cat was all the friends I had
Who helped to clean it up

Last Christmas eve, from off the spit
I took the goose to table
Or should have done, but teasing Love
Did make me quite unable
And down slip’t dish, and goose, and all
With din and clitter-clatter
All but the dog fell foul on me
He licked the broken platter

Although I'm ten years past a score
Too old to play the fool
My mistress says I must give o'er
My service for a school
Good faith! What must I do, and do
To keep my service still
I'll give the winds my thoughts to love
Indeed and so I will

And if the wind my love should lose
Right foolish were the play
For I should mourn what I had lost
And love another day
With crosses and with losses
Right double were the ill
So I'll e'en bear with love and all
Alack, and so I will

Recorded in 1991 as ‘Mad Meg’ by Vikki Clayton:
Midsummer Cushion -- Prestige Records [CDSGP008]
(The odd word changed)


Vikki’s version includes the following alternative verse (also in a Clare Manuscript held in Peterborough), instead of the final verse above with the additional two lines completing the song:

I’ll sit from morn till dewy eve
Tho chairs & tables dance
Till on the midnight’s sutty wings
The witches ride to France
I’ll sit on till I’m roaring full
& well can hold no more
& then I’ll like Tom Hickathrift*
To bed upon the floor

Thro’ the loving of a man
Thro’ the lusting of a man

*Tom Hickathrift was a legendary figure of East Anglian folklore — he famously battled a giant, and is sometimes said to be a giant himself, though normally he is just represented as possessing giant-like strength.

Song: My buxome young Lassie

My buxome young Lassie my bonny young Lassie
To see thy white bosom I'm all of a flutter
My bonny young lassie there’s nought to surpass ye
While staring afore thee I nothing can utter

Words broken in halves make me stutter and stammer
I ache to say something but can’t get [it] out
A frown from thy face love is like a sledge hammer
Mashing bones into powder and knocking brains out

But the look o thy smile love is soft as a feather
And the hue o thy bosom is whiter than down
We'd both be in heaven love completed together
God 'd may be sent Angels as comforters down

My fair bonny lassie my dear bonny Lassie
Thy face is as sweet as the rose bloom o June
Thy eyes are as bright as the brooks while they pass ye
And thy voice like the Nightingales sweetly i' tune

My happy young maiden my bonny young maiden
As dear as the Apple & light o' my eye
How rich is thy beauty arrayed in the Plaiden
The rose on thy cheek wears an heavenly dye

Thy legs & thy arms are the marble o nature
Thy bosoms the seat & the pillow o joy
Come to my arms thou divinest young creature
And let me enfold thee all blushing & coy

From "The Wish"

My chamber window should oer look the east
That in delicious views my eyes might feast
There girt with crimson see the morning sun
Thro distant trees his journey just begun
Still mounting every moment stages higher
And as his height increases so the fire
At other times succeeds the vapouring mist
Hiding each object quite from east to west.
While other mornings shine with pearly dews
Then is the time to look for distant views.

(lines 79-88)

Somthing New (excerpt)

How varying is the taste of man
Still eager to pursue
That ever pleasing novelty
In meeting somthing new

In infancy the rage begins
(So tempting is the view)
Babes throw aside their once lov'd things
To sigh for somthing new

The hoop to day which boys are seen
So eager to pursue
To morrow lies a toy despis'd
Exchang'd for somthing new

Young miss's (if not catch'd in time)
-- Be lovers ere so true
Grow fickle tires & turns 'em off
To seek for somthing new

Old maids whom every hope forsakes
The self same end pursue
& put their wrinkl'd mouths in form
To look for somthing new


I love the fitfull gusts that shakes
The casement all the day
And from the mossy elm tree takes
The faded leaf away

Twirling it by the window pane
With thousand others down the lane
I love to see the shaking twig
Dance till the shut of eve

The sparrow on the cottage rig
Whose chirp would make believe
That spring was just now flirting by
In summers lap with flowers to lie

I love to see the cottage smoke
Curl upwards through the naked trees
The pigeons nestled round the coat
On dull november days like these

The cock upon the dunghill crowing
The mill sails on the heath agoing
The feather from the ravens breast
Falls on the stubble lea

The acorns near the old crows nest
Fall pattering down the tree
The grunting pigs that wait for all
Scramble and hurry where they fall

Left in the World Alone

Left in the world alone
Where nothing seems my own
And everything is weariness to me
'Tis a life without an end
'Tis a world without a friend
And everything is sorrowful I see

There's the crow upon the stack
And other birds all black
While november's frowning wearily
And the black-clouds dropping rain
'Till the floods hide half the plain
And everything is weariness to me

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

Written in November

Autumn I love thy latter end to view
In cold novembers day so bleak & bare
When like lifes dwindld thread worn nearly thro
Wi lingering pottering pace & head bleachd bare
Thou like an old man bids the world adieu
I love thee well & often when a child
Have roamd the bare brown heath a flower to find
& in the moss clad vale & wood bank wild
Have cropt the little bell flowers paley blue
That trembling peept the sheltering bush behind
When winnowing north winds cold & blealy blew
How have I joyd wi dithering hands to find
Each fading flower & still how sweet the blast
Would bleak November’s hour restore the joy that’s past