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’.