The Return: Northborough, 1841 (excerpt)

Now melancholy autumn comes anew
With showery clouds and fields of wheat tanned brown;
Along the meadow banks I peace pursue
And see the wild flowers gleaming up and down,
Like sun and light; the ragwort's golden crown
Mirrors like sunshine when sunbeams retire,
And silver yarrow: there's the little town,
And o'er the meadows gleams that slender spire,
Reminding me of one, and waking fond desire.
I love thee, nature, in my inmost heart;
Go where I will, thy truth seems from above;
Go where I will, thy landscape forms a part
Of heaven: e'en these fens, where wood nor grove
Are seen, their very nakedness I love,
For one dwells nigh that secret hopes prefer
Above the race of women; like the dove,
I mourn her absence; fate, that would deter
My hate for all things, strengthens love for her.

Written in a Thunderstorm, 15 July 1841

THE heavens are wroth; the thunder's rattling peal
Rolls like a vast volcano in the sky;
Yet nothing starts the apathy I feel,
Nor chills with fear eternal destiny.
My soul is apathy, a ruin vast;
Time cannot clear the ruined mass away;
My life is hell, the hopeless die is cast,
And manhood's prime is premature decay.
Roll on, ye wrath of thunders, peal on peal,
Till worlds are ruins, and myself alone;
Melt heart and soul, cased in obdurate steel,
Till I can feel that nature is my throne.
I live in love, sun of undying light,
And fathom my own heart for ways of good;
In its pure atmosphere, day without night
Smiles on the plains, the forest, and the flood.
Smile on, ye elements of earth and sky,
Or frown in thunders as ye frown on me;
Bid earth and its delusions pass away,
But leave the mind, as its creator, free.

[Image: George Morland]

John Clare Tweets (Click here)

"Tweets have become a contemporay Haiku, at their best artfully worded moments of linguistic economy, abbreviation, and beauty." (Simon Pegg)  Clare, in all his vast output, was ahead of his time in his ability to capture a scene or mood in just a few lines, just like a Tweet.  So here we are, my experiment in Clare Tweet postings... suggestions will be used!

Ronald Blythe on the Festival

You might like to read Ronnie's 'report' of the 30th Festival... 

"Back once more from the John Clare Festival at Helpston. Our Society has outgrown the school named after him, and has to fill a marquee. Rows and rows of familiar faces. The village has wide Enclosure roads and handsome Barnack-stone houses, toppling hollyhocks, and bird-filled skies. As always, I see the poet running over the fields to Glinton, to be taught to read and write for a penny a week, and to do his arithmetic in the dust of the threshing barn, and to lie hidden with a book in a deserted quarry.

What a good education he got, one that was perfect for our greatest rural voice. Clare, too, had a violin. The gypsies showed him how to play it. We had lunch in the Blue Bell, where he would be found with his beer and his finds — wild flowers. They would straggle from his velvet pockets. Have you read John Clare? If not, do so at once. His life was bitter-sweet with a vengeance. Poor Clare. Great Clare."

Hail, humble Helpstone ! where thy vallies 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.

Sonnet: "I am"

I might have inserted several praises from friends in extracts from their letters mentioning my poems etc but I leave the books I have published and the poems that may yet be published to speak for them selves. If they cannot go without leading strings let them fall and be forgotten. They [ha]ve gaind me many pleasures and freinds that have smoothed the rugged road of my early life and made my present lot. And if they are deemd unworthy of the notice of posterity I have neither the power nor the wish to save them from the fate that awaits them I am proud of the notice they have gained me and I shall feel a prouder gratification still if my future publications be found worthy of further [notice]

[Autobiographical Fragments]

I feel I am — I only know I am,
And plod upon the earth, as dull and void:
Earth's prison chilled my body with its dram
Of dullness, and my soaring thoughts destroyed,
I fled to solitudes from passions dream,
But strife persued — I only know, I am.
I was a being created in the race
Of men disdaining bounds of place and time:
A spirit that could travel o'er the space
Of earth and heaven — like a thought sublime,
Tracing creation, like my maker, free —
A soul unshackled — like eternity,
Spurning earth's vain and soul debasing thrall
But now I only know I am — that's all.

I am

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 oblivion's host,
Like shadows in love's frenzied stifled throes: —
And yet I am, and live — like vapours tost
Into the nothingness of scorn and noise, —
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life or joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my lifes esteems;
Even the dearest, that I love the best
Are strange — nay, rather stranger than the rest.
I long for scenes, where man hath never trod
A place where woman never smiled 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.

[Image: Chris Spracklen]

from "A Hunt for Dobin or the Force of Love"

Fair was the morn and Summer in its prime
For whats more lovlier than hay-making time
When sweet perfumes from every flower arise
And sweeter still from swaths that withering lyes
When work-folks stript appear in every ground
And thronging waggons ever rattling round
And Cows and Sheep as full as they can snive
In grounds made clear—where shepherds all alive


[Image: The Shepherd’s Calendar (July) – Carry Akroyd]

Still may be seen the mowing swain
On balks between the fields of grain
Who often stops his thirst to ease
To pick the juicy pods of pease
And oft as chances bring to pass
Stoops oer his scythe stick in the grass
To suck the brimming honey comb
Which bees so long were toiling home
And rifld from so many flowers
And carried thro so many hours
He tears their small hives mossy ball
Where the brown labourers hurded all
Who gather homward one by one
And see their nest and honey gone
Humming around his rushy toil
Their mellancholly wrongs awhile
Then oer the sweltering swaths they stray
And hum disconsolate away
And oft neath hedges cooler screen
Where meadow sorrel lingers green
Calld ‘sour grass’ by the knowing clown
The mower gladly chews it down
And slakes his thirst the best he may
When singing brooks are far away

John Clare – The Shepherd’s Calendar (July - excerpt)

Poor John. He is the creature of his joys and sorrows. He's one moment thinking of Wisdom and fancying the rasp of the noose about his throat, the next remembering Mary, and then all of a sudden some text or tract will come into his mind, and then some sharp sound will startle him, and then he will be soothed by a line of verse he's learned. All day he is at the mercy of his wayward thoughts and at night he tosses and turns and finds but little rest. He is unsettled, and though he works at the hay harvest with the other men and women - mowing or raking or helping build the stacks - he swings with nervous thought like the weather-cock on Glinton Spire, turning with each interior wind. His eyes and ears, by habit so fine-tuned to all sensation, are drawn inward. He does not take his accustomed delight in the horses, their heads bowed as they pull the wains to the yards, the loaded hay rising up behind them like new-risen loaves; or the fly-crazed cattle flicking their tails; or the sudden regiments of purple-headed thistles grown shoulder high by the hedge-rows.

And sometimes, forgetting himself or thinking himself alone, he mutters his monologue aloud, to the delight of any village boys who chance to hear him.

John's one stay and anchor is Mary Joyce, She is become his solace. Every Sabbath when the village is at prayer he walks to Glinton and waits at the lych-gate.

This last Sabbath past when Mary came out of the church porch she whispered a word into her father's ear, pushed her prayer book into his pocket and slipped away across the churchyard. She ran to the lych-gate and took John's arm. They followed North Fen Lane to the bridge over Brook Drain. It was a hot, close morning and the warm wind that they could feel on their faces as they stood on the hump of the bridge was a sweet relief.

Hugh Lupton – The Ballad of John Clare (Chapter 6 – July Storm)