The Green Wood Side

I wandered down a green wood side
On Sunday noon in spring
Where little birds their dwellings hide
And Thrushes sweetly sing
The moss so green round Hazel roots
The Primrose by its side
That in its brimstone livery shoots
In bunches far and wide

Oh there I met a pretty maid
The fairest of her kind
She stood beneath the Hazels shade
Where lightly blew the wind
I gave her cheek a hearty smack
As leaning on her neck
Her soft hair trailed adown her back
Without a mark or Speck

Within the dyke the bullrush grew
Although the place was dry
And Thrushes nest wi’ Eggs o' blue
Did on the hedge ribs lye
The Woodbines in green leaves look'd wan
The Blue bell stooped i' pride
And there I claspt my bonny Ann
Along the greenwood side

Oh bonny Ann Oh bonny Ann
What makes you look so fair
Is it the love for some fond man
Or is't for none you care
My love to thee my bonny Ann
Where primrose blooms wi’ pride
I’ll talk and please thee all I can
Down by the greenwood side

(for a lady...)

A Christmas Treat

[Image: from the Shepherds Calendar ~ Carry Akroyd]

An excerpt from Ronnie Blythe's Word from Wormingford, published weekly in the Church Times...

"I HAD hardly turned my back on the late afternoon when the vast, bleached Advent moon swung up in the north-east. It whitened the puddles and lit the wet fields. The paths are darkened with sodden leaves, and rainwater dribbles from a blocked gutter.

Carry Akroyd arrives from far Northamptonshire, and we splash off to Lavenham for Sunday lunch. My boyhood lanes twist and turn through a scrubbed universe. The pub restaurants boom in and out of season.

When we walked here long ago, Lavenham was still asleep after all the toil of the Middle Ages, when the looms clattered in every cottage, the sheep were Abrahamic, and wool was gold. We visit Carry’s exhibition in the wildlife gallery, where her hares and foxes slink across canvas and paper. She is mistress of the fenland nocturn and of the geometry of sluices and cuts, of measureless skies, and this end-of-the-year moon. Our mutual passion is John Clare.

For everything I felt a love,
The weeds below, the birds above.

She can actually paint that amazing second when a thousand starlings turn left, turn right, all at once. Their only human equivalent is a thousand North Korean soldiers on parade, a breathtaking drill not without its absurdity.

Carry gone, I take part in the Advent carol service at Little Horkesley. Packed church and much expectancy. The stunning Advent antiphons, the gloriously scary Advent hymns. The first andsecond coming, the one precipit­ating the other... "

A very Happy and Blessed Christmas to all followers of this weblog... it's a labour of love for me.

The Stranger

His presence was a peace to all,
He bade the sorrowful rejoice.
Pain turned to pleasure at his call,
Health lived and issued from his voice.
He healed the sick and sent abroad
The dumb rejoicing in the Lord.

The blind met daylight in his eye,
The joys of everlasting day;
The sick found health in his reply;
The cripple threw his crutch away.
Yet he with troubles did remain
And suffered poverty and pain.

Yet none could say of wrong he did,
And scorn was ever standing bye;
Accusers by their conscience chid,
When proof was sought, made no reply.
Yet without sin he suffered more
Than ever sinners did before.


I would not feign a single sigh
Nor weep a single tear for thee:
The soul within these orbs burns dry;
A desert spreads where love should be.
I would not be a worm to crawl
A writhing suppliant in thy way;
For love is life, is heaven, and all
The beams of an immortal day.

For sighs are idle things and vain,
And tears for idiots vainly fall.
I would not kiss thy face again
Nor round thy shining slippers crawl.
Love is the honey, not the bee,
Nor would I turn its sweets to gall
For all the beauty found in thee,
Thy lily neck, rose cheek, and all.

I would not feign a single tale
Thy kindness or thy love to seek;
Nor sigh for Jenny of the Vale,
Her ruby smile or rosy cheek.
I would not have a pain to own
For those dark curls and those bright eyes
A frowning lip, a heart of stone,
False love and folly I despise.

From: Poems Chiefly from Manuscript

Walks in the Woods (excerpt)

Oh, I do love to force a way
Through woods where lone the woodman goes,
Through all the matted shades to stray,
The brambles tearing at my clothes;
And it may tear; I love the noise
And hug the solitary joys.

The woodman, he from top to toe
In leathern doublet brushes on;
He cares not where his rambles go,
Thorns, briers, he beats them every one;
Their utmost spite his armour foils;
Unhurt, he dares his daily toils.

Knee-deep in fern he daily stoops
And loud his bill or hatchet chops,
As snug he trims the faggot up
Or gaps in mossy hedges stops;
While echo chops as he hath done
As if she counted every one.

You promised me, a year ago

You promised me, a year ago,
When autumn bleach'd the mistletoe,
That you and I should be as one;
But now another autumn's gone—
Its solemn knell is in the blast,
And love's bright sun is overcast;
Yet flowers will bloom and birds will sing,
And e'en the winter claim the spring.

The hedges will be green again,
And flowers will come on hill and plain;
And though we meet a rainy day,
The hawthorn will be white with May.
If love and nature still agree,
Green leaves will clothe the trysting-tree;
And when these pleasing days you view,
Think Lucy's heart yet be true.

After a fine winter's day

The sun lookd out the dreary scene to bless
Old winters grinning horrors forcful smild
His flinty bosom thawd wi tenderness
So fiercfull savages have melted mild
Neath the sweet looks of womans lovliness
So poesy thy witcheries so wild
Doth warm the chilly heart of wants distress
& forcful give a joy to natures child
Spite of his anguish—ah he coud express
Full many a pleasure & full many a pain
Mingling like gaul & honey sun & rain
A fine decembers day thou art to me
Tho winter still beneath thy rays remain
Her grinning frowns are melted soft by thee

from 'November'

The cleanly maiden thro the village streets
In pattens clicks down causways never drye
While eaves above head drops—where oft she meets
The school boy leering on wi mischiefs eye
Trying to splash her as he hurrys bye
While swains afield returning to their ploughs
Their passing aid wi gentle speech apply
And much loves rapture thrills when she allows
Their help wi offerd hand to lead her oer the sloughs
The hedger soakd wi the dull weather chops
On at his toils which scarcly keeps him warm
And every stroke he takes large swarms of drops
Patter about him like an april storm

The Shepherd’s Calendar

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

Song [Child Harold lines 840-863]

Clare in a bleak mood as the weather, although autumnal, seems to him hardly to mirror his realisation of his inner loss -- from Autumn 1841.

The floods come oer the meadow leas
The dykes are full & brimming
Field furrows reach the horses knees
Where wild ducks oft are swimming

The skyes are black the fields are bare
The trees their coats are loosing
The leaves are dancing in the air
The sun its warmth refusing

Brown are the flags & fadeing sedge
& tanned the meadow plains
Bright yellow is the osier hedge
Beside the brimming drains

The crows sit on the willow tree
The lake is full below
But still the dullest thing I see
Is self that wanders slow

The dullest scenes are not so dull
As thoughts I cannot tell
The brimming dykes are not so full
As my hearts silent swell

I leave my troubles to the winds
With none to share a part
The only joy my feeling finds
Hides in an aching heart

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
Woud bleak novembers hour Restore the joy thats past

Kitty's Song

If Kitty’s rosy presence now
Should chance to bless my sight
Again the oft repeated vow
She'd witness with delight
Again the church again the spire
Would prom’t her bosom with desire
But O sweet kitt spurn not delay
Time will bring the promis'd day.’

Thus sung the poor enamoured swain
As labouring along
Echo vibrating catch’d the strain
And brought him back the song
Again the rocks again the plains
In mellower sound repeat the strains
Till all in chorus roundelay
Join and sing the ‘promisd day.’

[The latest of Clare's songs that we have set to music]

The Secret

I loved thee, though I told thee not,
Right earlily and long,
Thou wert my joy in every spot,
My theme in every song.

And when I saw a stranger face
Where beauty held the claim,
I gave it like a secret grace
The being of thy name.

And all the charms of face or voice
Which I in others see
Are but the recollected choice
Of what I felt for thee.

Song: I saw her in my Spring's young choice

I saw her in my Spring's young choice
Ere loves hopes looked upon the crowd
Ere loves first secrets found a voice
Or dared to speak the name aloud

I saw her in my boyish hours
A Girl as fair as heaven above
When all the world seemed strewn with flowers
& every pulse & look was love

I saw her when her heart was young
I saw her when my heart was true
When truth was all the themes I sung
& Love the only muse I knew

Ere infancy had left her brow
I seemed to love her from her birth
& thought her then as I do now
The dearest angel upon earth

[from Child Harold]

My Love's like a lily...

[Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925]

My love’s like a lily my loves like a rose
My love’s like a smile the spring morning’s disclose
And sweet as the rose on her cheek—her love glows
When sweetly she smileth on me
& as cold as the snow of the lily—my rose
Behaves to pretenders who ever they be
In vain higher stations their passions disclose
To win her affections from me

My love’s like the lily my love’s like the rose
My love’s like the smile the spring morning’s disclose
& fine as the lily & sweet as the rose
My loves beauty bloometh to me
& smiles of more pleasure my heart only knows
To think that pretenders who ever they be
But vainly their love & their passions disclose
My love remains constant to me

[One of Clare’s songs recent set to music and submitted for a possible forthcoming Clare CD project]

Earth's Eternity

Man, Earth's poor shadow! talks of Earth's decay:
But hath it nothing of eternal kin?
No majesty that shall not pass away?
No soul of greatness springing up within?
Thought-marks without? hoar shadows of sublime?
Pictures of power, which if not doomed to win
Eternity, stand laughing at old Time
For ages, in the grand ancestral line
Of things eternal, mounting to divine?—
I read Magnificence where ages pay
Worship, like conquered foes to the Apennine,
Because they could not conquer. There sits Day,
Too high for Night to come at — mountains shine,
Outpeering Time, too lofty for Decay.

John Taylor, speaking of Clare

Adam Foulds’ fictional account of Clare in High Beech asylum.

“But at the height of his powers, his inspiration - it was something to behold. He lacked rhetoric. He lacked shape and used many unfamiliar words of his own dialect. But the living earth, the world he knew… if you will permit me an extravagant formulation, it sang itself through him. England sang through him, its eternal, living nature. Thousands of lines, and all of it fresh, seen, melodic, real. It was genius, absolutely. No can that power be destroyed…”

The Quickening Maze (page 175)
Jonathan Cape 2009

Child Harold (lines 864-872)

[Image : Solitude (c) Rosiehardy]

Abscence in love is worse than any fate
Summer is winter’s desert & the spring
Is like a ruined city, desolate.
Joy dies & hope retires on feeble wing;
Nature sinks heedless — birds unheeded sing.
‘Tis solitude in cities — crowds all move
Like living death — though all to life still cling —
The strongest bitterest thing that life can prove
Is woman’s undisguise of hate & love.

Child Harold (lines 732-749)

Written in the autumn of 1841.
Clare still haunted by thoughts of Mary Joyce.

Sweet solitude thou partner of my life
Thou balm of hope & every pressing care
Thou soothing silence o’er the noise of strife
These meadow flats & trees—the Autumn air
Mellows my heart to harmony—I bear
Life’s burthen happily—these fenny dells
Seem Eden in this sabbath rest from care
My heart with loves first early memory swells
To hear the music of those village bells

For in that hamlet lives my rising sun
Whose beams hath cheered me all my lorn life long
My heart to nature there was early won
For she was natures self—& still my song
Is her through sun & shade through right & wrong
On her my memory forever dwells
The flower of Eden—evergreen of song
Truth in my heart the same love story tells
—I love the music of those village bells

Enclosure (part)

Far spread the moory ground, a level scene
Bespread with rush and one eternal green,
That never felt the rage of blundering plough,
Though centuries wreathed spring blossoms on its brow.
Autumn met plains that stretched them far away
In unchecked shadows of green, brown, and grey.
Unbounded freedom ruled the wandering scene;
No fence of ownership crept in between
To hide the prospect from the gazing eye;
Its only bondage was the circling sky.
A mighty flat, undwarfed by bush and tree,
Spread its faint shadow of immensity,
And lost itself, which seemed to eke its bounds,
In the blue mist the horizon's edge surrounds.

Song: "Swamps of wild rush..."

There are few places in England today that are remotely like the 'pre-enclosure' heaths that just 200 years ago would have been common. I am fortunate to live within a mile or so of one such surviving heath ~ Woodbury Commons ~ and yesterday spent a happy morning wandering through its "wild rush beds and sloughs squashy traces". Clare's poem describes almost exactly what I walked through. A stunning landscape, never cultivated, that Clare would instantly recognise as akin to his own 'Helpston' Commons.

~~ Double Click on my photo for the full effect ~~

Swamps of wild rush beds & sloughs squashy traces
Grounds of rough fallows wi thistle & weed
Flats & low vallies of king cups & daiseys
Sweetest of subjects are ye for my reed

Ye commons left free in the rude rags of nature
Ye brown heaths be cloathed in furze as ye be
My wild eye in rapture adores e'ery feature
Yere as dear as this heart in my bosom to me

O native endearments I woud not forsake ye
I woud not forsake ye for sweetest of scenes
For sweetest of gardens that nature coud make me
I woud not forsake ye dear vallies & greens

Tho nature neer dropt thee a cloud resting mountain
Nor water falls tumble their music to thee
Had nature denyd thee a bush tree or fountain
Thou still woud bin lovd as an eden by me

& long my dear vallies long long may ye flourish
Tho rush beds & thistles make most of your pride
May showers never fail the greens daiseys to nourish
Nor suns dry the fountain that rills by its side

Yer skies may be gloomy & misty yer mornings
Yer flat swampy vallies unholsome may be
Still refuse of nature wi out her adorning[s]
Yere as dear as this heart in my bosom to me

The Fall of the Year

[Maxey Mill]

Maxey Mill is still in use -- milling animal feeds. The Mill pond sluice passes under the mill. A couple of ancient mill stones are propped up against the rear wall, perhaps as a reminder of how grain was ground into flour in the past.

The Autumn's come again,
And the clouds descend in rain,
And the leaves are fast falling in the wood;
The Summer's voice is still,
Save the clacking of the mill
And the lowly-muttered thunder of the flood.

There's nothing in the mead
But the river's muddy speed,
And the willow leaves all littered by its side.
Sweet voices are all still
In the vale and on the hill,
And the Summer's blooms are withered in their pride.

Fled is the cuckoo's note
To countries far remote,
And the nightingale is vanished from the woods;
If you search the lordship round
There is not a blossom found,
And where the hay-cock scented is the flood.

My true love's fled away
Since we walked 'mid cocks of hay,
On the Sabbath in the Summer of the year;
And she's nowhere to be seen
On the meadow or the green,
But she's coming when the happy Spring is near.

When the birds begin to sing,
And the flowers begin to spring,
And the cowslips in the meadows reappear,
When the woodland oaks are seen
In their monarchy of green,
Then Mary and love's pleasures will be here.

The Shepherd's Calendar ~ October

[Image: 'October' by Carry Akroyd]

The inly pleased tho solitary boy
Journeying and muttering o’er his dreams of joy
Haunting the hedges for the wilding fruit
Of sloe or blackberry just as fancys suit
The sticking groups in many a ragged set
Brushing the woods their harmless loads to get
And gipseys camps in some snug sheltered nook
Where old lane hedges like the pasture brook
Run crooking as they will by wood and dell
In such lone spots these wild wood roamers dwell
On commons where no farmers claims appear
Nor tyrant justice rides to interfere
Such the abodes neath hedge or spreading oak
And but discovered by its curling smoke
Puffing and peeping up as wills the breeze
Between the branches of the coloured trees
Such are the pictures that October yields
To please the poet as he walks the fields

Song: O Love is but a Butterfly (Part)

[Image: Meadow Brown or Gatekeeper]
O Love is but a Butterfly
Fond of Green fields and the blue sky

Aye, love is fond of liberty
Green valleys and bright flowers
Sings seeking honey with the bee
For all the summer hours
A silent solitary thing
That lives within itself
You only see his azure wing
That flies from pride and pelf*

O Love is like a Butterfly
Fond of green fields and purple sky

This love's a very tender thing
That withering fades from crime
A singing bee without a sting
A flower in frost and rime
More tender then the simple maid
Who from seduction flies
More fair then flowers that love can braid
The birth of Paradise

(* pelf, OE 'riches')

The Shepherd's Calendar

September (excerpt)

Anon the fields are wearing clear
And glad sounds hum in labours ear

When children halloo ‘here they come’
And run to meet the harvest home

Stuck thick with boughs and thronged with boys
Who mingle loud a merry noise

Glad that the harvests end is nigh
And weary labour nearly bye

Where when they meet the stack thronged yard
Cross bunns or pence their shouts reward

Then comes the harvest supper night
Which rustics welcome with delight

When merry game and tiresome tale
And songs increasing with the ale

Their mingled up roar interpose
To crown the harvests happy close

While rural mirth that there abides
Laughs till she almost cracks her sides

Song: 'My love's like a lily my love's like a rose'

My love’s like a lily my loves like a rose
My love’s like a smile the spring morning’s disclose
And sweet as the rose on her cheek—her love glows
When sweetly she smileth on me

& as cold as the snow of the lily—my rose
Behaves to pretenders who ever they be
In vain higher stations their passions disclose
To win her affections from me

My love’s like the lily my love’s like the rose
My love’s like the smile the spring morning’s disclose
& fine as the lily & sweet as the rose
My loves beauty bloometh to me

& smiles of more pleasure my heart only knows
To think that pretenders who ever they be
But vainly their love & their passions disclose
My love remains constant to me
[A song that is part of the collection of Clare Songs & Ballads that I have chosen and for which my son has composed tunes in a 'folk' idiom ~ we hope to record 'demos' this week]

Turn again thou sweet beguiling

[Image: "The beguiling of Merlin" ~ Edward Burne-Jones]

Turn again thou sweet beguiling
Tho like summer suns they be
Painting shadows from thy smiling
While thy heart is false to me

Turn again & let me languish
If thy heart is falsly seen
In lovd scenes if death shoud ambush
Sure his weapons not so keen

Turn again & be't my duty
Thus to rob my soul of rest
If while feasting on thy beauty
Serpents wrankle to my breast

Turn again thou false alluring
Sweet the tale thy smilings tell
Sure in death theres small enduring
Killd by weapons lovd so well

Sun-Rising in September

With the settled and beautiful weather of the past week, and we are promised the coming week, a poem from Clare which beautifully summarises what many will feel this September.

How delightfuly pleasant when the cool chilling air
By September is thrown o’er the globe
When each morning both hedges and bushes do wear
Instead of their green—a grey robe.
To see the sun rise thro the skirts of the wood
In his mantle so lovely and red
It cheers up my spirits and does me much good
As thro the cold stubbles I tread.

Tho’ not that his beams more advances the scene
Or adds to the Landscape a charm
But all that delights me by him may be seen
That the ensuing hours will be warm.
And this with the poet as yet in the world
In a parallel sense will comply
For when he does view the gay scenes there unfurl'd
‘Tis only to light him on high.

Summer Evening (excerpt)

The sinking sun is taking leave
& sweetly gilds the edge of eve
While purple clouds of deepening dye
Huddling hang the western sky

Crows crowd quaking over head
Hastening to the woods to bed
Cooing sits the lonely dove
Calling home her absent love

'Kirchip Kirchip' among the wheat
Partridge, distant partridge, greet
Beckoning call to those that roam
Guiding the squandering covey home

Swallows check their rambling flight
& twittering on the chimney light
Round the pond the martins flirt
Their snowy breasts bedaubed in dirt

While the mason 'neath the slates
Each morter bearing bird awaits
Untaught by art each labouring spouse
Curious daubs his hanging house

Tuesday, 7th September 1824

I have read Foxes Book of Martyrs & finished it today & the sum of my opinion is Tyranny & Cruelty appear to be the inseparable companions of Religious Power & the aphorism is not far from truth that says: 'All priests are the same' the great moral presept of a meek & unoffending teacher was 'Do as ye would be done by' & 'love those that hate you' if religious opinion had done so her history had been praise­worthy.
Clare's next entry, for the 8th September 1824, will revert to the 'Journal Blog' (Clare Links, left).

Monday, 6th September 1824

Monday 6th was the day that Clare began a Journal, which was to last just a year. Since May 2009 I have been serialising it (see Clare Links on the left of this page). Here is his first entry...

I have determine! this day of beginning a sort of journal to give my opinion of things I may read or see & set down any thoughts that may arise either in my reading at home or my musings in the Fields & this day must fill up a sort of Introduction for I have nothing else to set down all I have read today is Moore's Almanack for the account of the weather which speaks of rain tho it's very hot & fine

Sweet comes...

Sweet comes the misty mornings in September
Among the dewy paths how sweet to stray
Greensward or stubbles as I well remember
I once have done — the mist curls thick & grey
As cottage smoke — like net work on the sprey
Or seeded grass the cobweb draperies run
Beaded with pearls of dew at early day
& o’er the pleachy stubbles peeps the sun
The lamp of day when that of night is done

(lines 696-704, Child Harold)

Supression of a Sigh (II)

Yon pair of birds that weary roam
Have far more cause to grieve then I
Their rest is gone—their peaceful home
Could not escape the schoolboys eye

Their sorrow still its toil resumes
& of their loss they make the best
They chirp again & smooth their plumes
& painful build another nest

No nest have they from night to hide
Then fool to think that I alone
The killing frowns of fate abide
While Ive a cot to call my own

Poor bee that labours hard the hour
In hopes to find some honied store
Vainly peeps in each rifl'd flower
To prove its sweets was rob’d before

Yet still his toil his hopes recruits
& on he hums till setting sun—
O God thou knowst my station suits
& as thou wilt—thy will be done

Toil on poor bee companion sweet
Live on vain world thy joys are small
Compar'd to those I hope to meet
From God my peace, my hope, my all!

Supression of a Sigh (I)

Why do I tread my wilds around
Where peace its silence whispers here
& not one comfort to be found
To wipe aside the falling tear

Why thus to mourn my fate severe
Why hope alas to hope in vain
I am no worse then erst I were
I was but poor & so remain

While others more distressed then I
Severer urg'd to mourn then me
Look up beyond the tear the sigh
& deem them foolish vanity

Yon wreck of many a famish'd week
That only begs to be deny'd
A smile still prints this beggars cheek
& sorrows tear is wip'd aside

There tied to family & wife
Does labour bear wants chilling frown
Still the rough edge of irksome life
Contentment smoothly evens down

The Poet and the Nest

In Clare's 'Biographys of Birds', one of my favourite book titles and his 'Bird List' which he made for the tantalising 'Natural History of Helpstone', birds' nests stretch out like an ornithological city. The Large Wood Owle, by which Clare possibly means the tawny owl, 'attacks boys in a bold manner', the Raven builds where it is difficult to climb, the jackdaw in uninhabited houses, and as to magpies which sway about in nests filled with teaspoons, well they are apt to keep their loot. It horrifies him to see the overseers of Helpston rewarding boys who kill sparrows and he would give:

To tyrant boys a fee
To buy the captive sparrows liberty

As he wrote in his poem 'The Fate of Genius'. The fate of genius in the villages of his day could be quite terrifying. So hide away, hide away. Take Cover. Find cover on 'our plain':

Boys thread the woods
To their remotest shades
But in these marshy flats, these stagnant floods,
Security pervades.

From year to year
Places untrodden lie
Where man nor boy nor stock ventured near
-Naught gazed on but the sky

And fowl that dread
The very breath of man
Hiding in spots that never knew his tread
A wild and timid clan

In these thy haunts
I've gleaned habitual love
From the vague world where pride and folly taunts
I muse and look above

Thy solitudes
The unbounded heaven esteems
And here my heart warms into higher moods
And dignifying dreams

Excerpt from 'A Writer's Day-Book', by Ronald Blythe
Trent Editions, 2006.

Pleasant Sounds

The rustling of leaves under the feet in woods and under hedges. The crumping of cat-ice and snow down wood rides, narrow lanes and every street causeways. Rustling through a wood, or rather rushing while the wind hallows in the oak tops like thunder. The rustles of birds wings startled from their nests, or flying unseen into the bushes. The whizzing of larger birds over head in a wood, such as crows, puddocks, buzzards &c. The trample of roburst wood larks on the brown leaves, and the patter of Squirrels on the green moss. The fall of an acorn on the ground, the pattering of nuts on the hazel branches, ere they fall from ripeness. The flirt of the ground-larks wing from the stubbles, how sweet such pictures on dewy mornings when the dew flashes from its brown feathers.

Ballad ~ Rose of the World

The Rose Of The World Was Dear Mary To Me
In The Days Of My Boyhood & Youth
I Told Her In Songs Where My Heart Wished To Be
& My Songs Were The Language of Truth

I Told Her In Looks When I Gazed In Her Eyes
That Mary Was Dearest To Me
I Told Her In Words & The Language Of Sighs
Where My Whole Heart’s Affections Would Be

I Told her in love that all nature was true
I convinced her that nature was kind
But love in his trials had labour to do
Mary would be in the mind

Mary met me in spring where the speedwell knots grew
& the king cups were shining like flame
I chose her all colours red yellow & blue
But my love was one hue & the same

Spring summer & winter & all the year through
In the sunshine the shower & the blast
I told the same tale & she knows it all true
& Mary's my blossom at last

Child Harold (1139-1158)

Written between April & May of 1841, this is a most interesting poem in that during its composition Clare stopped capitalising every word. It is not known why he started this practice, nor why he ceased doing so.

Remember, Dear Mary

Poem 9 ~ Glinton 2009

Remember, dear Mary, love cannot deceive
Loves truth cannot vary, dear Mary, believe.
You may hear and believe it, believe it and hear--
Love could not deceive it those features so dear

Believe me dear Mary to press thy soft hand
Is sweeter than riches, in houses and Land;
Where I pressed thy soft hand at the dew fall o' eve--
I felt the sweet tremble that cannot deceive

If love you believe in, Belief is my love
As it lived once in Eden ere we fell from above
To this heartless, this friendless, this desolate earth--
And kept in first love Immortality's birth

‘Tis there we last met I adore thee and love thee
There's nothing beneath thee around thee above thee
I feel it and know it, I know so and feel
If your love cannot show it mine cannot conceal

But knowing I love, I feel, and adore
And the more I behold — only love thee the more

To Mary

[Image: Chris Spracklen]

Poem 8 ~ Glinton 2009

It is the evening hour,
How silent all doth lie,
The horned moon he shows his face
In the river with the sky.
Just by the path on which we pass,
The flaggy lake lies still as glass.
Spirit of her I love,
Whispering to me,
Stories of sweet visions, as I rove,
Here stop, and crop with me
Sweet flowers that in the still hour grew,
We’ll take them home, nor shake off the bright dew.
Mary, or sweet spirit of thee,
As the bright sun shines tomorrow.
Thy dark eyes these flowers shall see,
Gathered by me in sorrow.
In the still hour when my mind was free
Walk alone - yet wish I walked with thee.

Here's where Mary loved to be

[Image: Carry Akroyd]

Poem 7 ~ Glinton 2009

Here’s where Mary loved to be
& here are flowers she planted
Here are books she loved to see
& here the kiss she granted

Here on the wall with smiling brow
Her picture used to cheer me
Both walls & rooms are naked now
No Mary’s nigh to hear me

The church spire still attracts my eye
& leaves me broken hearted
Though grief hath worn their channels dry
I sigh o'er days departed

The churchyard where she used to play
My feet could wander hourly
My school walks there was every day
Where she made winter flowery

But where is angel Mary now
Loves secrets none disclose 'em
Her rosy cheeks & broken vow
Live in my aching bosom
[from Child Harold]

Two 'Glinton' Poems

Poems 5 & 6 ~ Glinton 2009
I love to see the slender spire
For there the maid of beauty dwells
And stand agen’ the hollow tree
And hear the sound of Glinton Bells


Her face to me was memory for life
Her looks her ways in winning forms would steal
& left a pain I never ceased to feel
Her very voice would memory’s partner be
& music lingered in the sound with me
Her troubling form was long about my sight
O’er day dreams dozing or in sleep by night
My dreams wore constantly that pleasing pain
The face of her I loved & could not gain

The Milking Hour

This post dedicated to our new member Simona Cola from Italy. Lovely to think that the Society is spreading its wings in another direction. Simona is of course not portrayed in the photo above - it's one from the BBC Library!

Poem 4 ~ Glinton 2009

The sun had grown on lessening day
A table large and round
And in the distant vapours grey
Seemed leaning on the ground
When Mary like a lingering flower
Did tenderly agree
To stay beyond her milking hour
And talk awhile with me

We wandered till the distant town
Had silenced nearly dumb
And lessened on the quiet ear
Small as a beetles hum
She turned her buckets upside and down
And made us each a seat
And there we talked the evening brown
Beneath the rustling wheat

And while she milked her breathing cows
I sat beside the streams
In musing o’er our evening joys
Like one in pleasant dreams
The bats and owls to meet the night
From hollow trees had gone
And e’en the flowers had shut for sleep
And still she lingered on

We mused in rapture side by side
Our wishes seemed as one
We talked of times retreating tide
And sighed to find it gone
And we had sighed more deeply still
O’er all our pleasures past
If we had known what now we know
That we had met the last.


[Image: Chris Spracklen ~]

Poem 3 from the Glinton readings...

Right rosy gleamed the autumn morn
Right golden shone the autumn sun
The mowers swept the bleach├ęd corn
While long their early shades did run

The leaves were burnt to many hues
The hazel nuts were ripe & brown
My Mary’s kindness could but choose
To pluck them when I bore them down

The shells her auburn hair did show
A semblance faint yet beautiful
She smiled to hear me tell her so
Till I forgot the nuts to pull

She started at each little sound
The branches made—yet would her eye
Regret the gloom encroaching round
That told her night was in the sky

I helped her through the hedge row gap
& thought the very thorns unkind
As not to part—while in her lap
She sought the ripest bunch to find

T’was Mary’s smiles & sweet replies
That gave the sky so sweet a stain
So bright I never saw him rise
Nor ever set so sweet again

Glinton 2009

[Image: 'Deep Solitute' Carry Akroyd]

Following requests for the text of the poem that Carry Akroyd sang in Glinton Church during the coach outing during the 2009 Festival, here it is. As many readers of this weblog will know, Clare wrote many, many poems that bear the title 'songs', but with few has the original music survived. Perhaps members and friends should think about composing some new melodies?

Where is the heart thou once hast won
Can cease to care about thee
Where is the eye thou'st smiled upon
Can look for joy without thee
Lorn is the lot one heart hath met
That’s lost to thy caressing
Cold is the hope that loves thee yet
Now thou art past possessing
Fare thee well

We met we loved we’ve met the last
The farewell word is spoken
O Mary canst thou feel the past
& keep thy heart unbroken
To think how warm we loved & how
Those hopes should blossom never
To think how we are parted now
& parted, oh! for ever
Fare thee well

Thou wert the first my heart to win
Thou art the last to wear it
& though another claims akin
Thou must be one to share it
Oh, had we known when hopes were sweet
That hopes would once be thwarted
That we should part no more to meet
How sadly we had parted
Fare thee well

The Courtship

[Image: Carry Akroyd]
At 3pm on Saturday 11th July, a party left Helpston for a coach outing to Glinton, where Clare went to school and Mary Joyce is buried. During the afternoon in the village, there was a short village walk to the Joyce farmhouse, Society Chair Linda unveiled a new 'Mary Joyce' plaque on the grave, and a programme of poems and songs was held in the church. Over the next few posts, I will record for all to enjoy the poem/song programme -- read by Peter Moyse, Carry Akroyd and myself on the day.

A woman’s is the dearest love
There’s nought on earth sincerer
The leisure upon beauty’s breast
Can any thing be dearer?

The muses they are living things
& beauty ever dear
& though I worshipped stocks & stones
T’was woman every-where

In loves delight my steps was led
I sung of beauty’s choice
I saw her in the books I read
& all was Mary Joyce

I saw her love in beauty’s face
I saw her in the rose
I saw her in the fairest flowers
In every weed that grows

Poet John Clare's home renovated to celebrate rural Britain

The educational centre in Cambridgeshire is dedicated to his odes to ants, April daisies and other natural world minutiae.

Jonathan Bate, a Romantic poetry professor and the author of a biography on the poet, said Clare had hugely influenced modern poets writing on the environment. "Many of the young poets interested in the environment today, such as John Burnside, Paul Farley, and Alice Oswald, are deeply influenced by Clare," he said. "It's partly his style of writing about nature with great precision, but also his concern with the local. His imagination is always grounded in a sense of place, which is a huge issue for modern poets - being universal by being local."

The former poet laureate Andrew Motion wrote of him: "Clare may not have the epic sweep of Wordsworth, or the compact excellence of Keats at his best, or the intellectual depth of Coleridge, but his best writing combines sharp seeing and deep feeling to a pitch of greatness." The son of a farm labourer, Clare also wrote poetry on unrequited love, the sometimes fragile nature of his mental health – he was twice admitted to asylums – and described the natural world in his local vernacular rather than the standard English deployed by his Romantic peers. The process of water beginning to freeze is known as "crizzling", stumps of trees are "stulps", and meddling is "proggling".

Robyn Llewellyn, head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said: "John Clare wrote some of his most memorable work in Helpston, labouring for much of his life in the fields of the English countryside, and this is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate one of our nation's most important poets. Our funding has transformed the Clare cottage site and has enabled the important education programme inspiring visitors to share in his creativity and love of the environment and the English countryside."
The Guardian - 9th July 2009 (Excerpt & Photo)
Click on the title for the full article.

Festival 2009

Just back from a wonderful weekend:

It all starts with a roomful of friends… the hubbub, smiles and laughter that says “We’re SO glad that you could make it this year”. Helpston looking its July best – is there any other month in the village? Hollyhocks and roses everywhere. A new Journal to devour and a host of Clare friends to share our passion.

An outing to Glinton and the church and green. Poems and stimulating talk, of which more later.

For now, a 'Glinton' poem:

Glinton, thy taper spire predominates
over the landscape and the mind
musing the pleasing picture contemplates
like elegance of beauty much refined
by taste that almost defies and elevates
once admiration making common things
around it glow with beauty not their own.
Thus all around the earth superior things
those struggling trees though lonely seem not lone
but in thy presence wear superior power
and e'en each mossed and melancholy stone,
gleaning cold memories round oblivion's bower
seems types of fair eternity - and hire
a lease from fame by thy enchanting spire.

Clare on Radio 4

[Clare's Cottage in Helpston]

This morning at 7:20ish Paul Chirico was interviewed about the Epping to Helpston walk starting today, cluminating in the opening of Clare's Cottage. Here is the programme running order extract:
The Cambridgeshire cottage where 19th century poet John Clare lived is to open to the public. Members of the John Clare Trust are retracing an 80 mile walk to the cottage, that the poet once made, to celebrate the opening. Dr Paul Chirico, senior tutor at Fitzwilliman College Cambridge, discusses why the cottage is being turned into a centre dedicated to environmental education.
Here is John Clare on the same walk in 1841
I've wandered many a weary mile
Love in my heart was burning
To seek a home in Mary[s] smile
But cold is loves returning
The cold ground was a feather bed
Truth never acts contrary
I had no home above my head
My home was love & Mary

I had no home in early youth
When my first love was thwarted
But if her heart still beats with truth
We'll never more be parted
& changing as her love may be
My own shall never vary
Nor night nor day I'm never free
But sigh for abscent Mary

Nor night nor day nor sun nor shade
Week month nor rolling year
Repairs the breach wronged love hath made
There madness—misery here
Lifes lease was lengthened by her smiles
—Are truth & love contrary
No ray of hope my life beguiles
I've lost love home & Mary

Helpstone (lines 1-10, 30-40)

In the week of the 2009 John Clare Festival at Helpston (see below), a short extract from Clare's poem 'Helpstone' - above a photo of the Clare monument in the centre of the village.

Hail, humble Helpstone! where thy valleys spread,
And thy mean village lifts its lowly head;
Unknown to grandeur, and unknown to fame;
No minstrel boasting to advance thy name:
Unletter’d spot! unheard in poets’ song;
Where bustling Labour drives the hours along;
Where dawning Genius never met the day;
Where useless Ignorance slumbers life away;
Unknown nor heeded, where, low Genius tries
Above the vulgar, and the vain, to rise.

Hail, scenes obscure! so near and dear to me,
The church, the brook, the cottage, and the tree:
Still shall obscurity rehearse the song,
And hum your beauties as I stroll along.
Dear, native spot! which length of time endears;
The sweet retreat of twenty lingering years,
And, oh! those years of infancy the scene;
Those dear delights, where once they all have been;
Those golden days, long vanish’d from the plain;
Those sports, those pastimes, now belov’d in vain.

Festival 2009

7:00pm - 11th July 2009 - John Clare Festival (Helpston)
The landscape holds the memory of everyone who has ever trodden it… all we have to do is listen. In this programme of story, music, poetry and song Chris Wood and Hugh Lupton put their ears to the ground and tell the story of John Clare. It is a performance that explores the porous boundaries between language and place, madness and exile, love and loss.

Hugh is a master wordsmith, Chris is the leading folk musician of his generation, together they weave a beguiling magic.

“Sheer wizardry in the guise of utter simplicity…a packed house sat in a thrall of enchantment, no movement, no intrusive sounds… Hugh Lupton is joined by singer/fiddler Chris Wood, whose style is timeless and beguiling, his songs wonderfully evocative.”
Eastern Daily Press

“It's rare to hear work as powerful as Chris Wood and Hugh Lupton's. With beautifully sculpted prose and carefully honed music they seduce the minds of those who listen, skilfully drawing on the past to make sense of the present... This is welcome nourishment for those who like to think for themselves"
Verity Sharpe (Late Junction & The Culture Show)

“…. The images that billowed and faded in that darkened auditorium were quite different from those that unspool across a screen. I could put my hands in front of my face and the pictures would not vanish. They were inside me. They belonged to me. They were part of the history of the whole of human life.”
The Times

This is a programme that sings of the unsung and remembers the forgotten histories of the soil. Hugh & Chris are the winners of BBC Folk Award for Best Original Song 2006 for ‘One in a Million’.