The Flower Pot

or Morality and Reflection

On a fine Sunday morning the house swep so clean
And a flower pot for ornament plac'd
Compos'd of oak branches so spreading and green
Intermingled with blue-bells the window-board grac'd.
To view their gay colors I rather inclin'd
While resting myself near the wall
Which soon brought morality into my mind
And thus I had model'd their fall.

‘Tho your charms seem so tempting ye gay blooming flowers
‘As to make every stranger look on
‘Yet if I stay here three or four passing hours
‘I shall see you all whither'd and gone!’
But afterwards thinking on what I had said
Reflection soon made me to sigh
And once more reviewing their sweet smelling shade
I suppos'd from the flowers this reply.

‘Vain unthinking mortal how ready thou'rt prone
‘To condemn the short date of our flowers
‘But stop with thy morals—turn the case to thine own!
‘And thou'l find it a deal worse than our's.’
‘For go where thou pluck't us next year o'er the ground
‘There thou'lt find us as gay as before!
‘But when once moralizer thy spring's gone its round
‘It never will blossom no more!’

The Early Poems of John Clare 1804-1822,
ed. Eric Robinson, David Powell and Margaret Grainger
(Oxford, 2 volumes, I-II, 1989)

Song: Mary leave thy lowly cot

Mary leave thy lowly cot
When thy thickest jobs are done
When thy friends will miss the[e] not
Mary to the pasture run
Where we met the other night
Neath the bush upon the plain
Be it dark or be it light
Ye may guess we'll meet again
Shoud ye go or shoud ye not
Never shilly shally dear
Leave yer work & leave yr cot
Nothing need ye doubt or fear
Chaps may tell ye lies in spite
Calling me a roving swain
Think what passd the other night
Then Ill bound yell meet again

Poems: Chiefly from Manuscript
ed. Edmund Blunden and Alan Porter
(London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1920)

from "Helpstone"

Oh happy Eden of those golden years
Which memory cherishes & use endears
Thou dear beloved spot may it be thine
To add a comfort to my life[s] decline
When this vain world & I have nearly done
& times drain'd glass has little left to run
When all the hopes that charm'd me once are oer
To warm my soul in extacys no more

By dissapointments prov'd a foolish cheat
Each ending bitter & beginning sweet
When weary age the grave a r[e]scue seeks
& prints its image on my wrinkl'd cheeks
Those charms of youth that I again may see
May it be mine to meet my end in thee
& as reward for all my troubles past
Find one hope true to die at home at last

So when the Traveller uncertain roams
On lost roads leading every where but home
Each vain desire that leaves his heart in pain
Each fruitless hope to cherish it in vain
Each hated track so slowly left behind
Makes for the home which night denies to find
& every wish that leaves the aching breast
Flies to the spot where all its wishes rest

Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery (1820)

The Pansy

It does me good, thou flower of spring,
Thy blossoms to behold;
Thou bloom'st when birds begin to sing,
In purple and in gold.
Along the garden-beds so neat
Thy flowers their blooms display,
When sparrows chirp and lambkins bleat
And hopes look up for May.

Then Emma thinks the heart's-ease blooms
When she the pansy sees;
But I see sleep among the tombs,
With heart that's ill at ease,
That asks for what it's lost and loved—
A quiet home and friends,
Where nature's feelings were approved
And peace made life amends.

Where love was all I had to sing,
And there these pansy flowers
Came shining in the dews of spring
To cheer the sunny hours.
But years may pass, as they have passed,
And I may hope in vain,
With hopes that linger to the last,
To see them bloom again.

The fairest flower that ever bloomed,
Or garden ever blest,
Looks cold to care, and ne'er was doomed
To ease the heart's unrest.
The heart's-ease in her happy hour
Might Emma's fancy please,
But life will often pluck the flower
And feel but ill at ease.

The Later Poems of John Clare 1837-1864,
ed. Eric Robinson and David Powell
(Oxford, 2 volumes, I-II, 1984)

from "The Shepherd's Calendar - May"

Each morning now the weeders meet
To cut the thistle from the wheat
And ruin in the sunny hours
Full many wild weeds of their flowers
Corn poppys that in crimson dwell
Calld ‘head achs’ from their sickly smell
And carlock yellow as the sun
That oer the may fields thickly run

And ‘iron weed’ content to share
The meanest spot that spring can spare
Een roads where danger hourly comes
Is not wi out its purple blooms
And leaves wi pricks like thistles round
Thick set that have no strength to wound
That shrink to childhoods eager hold
Like hair—and with its eye of gold

And scarlet starry points of flowers
Pimpernel dreading nights and showers
Oft calld ‘the shepherds weather glass’
That sleep till suns have dryd the grass
Then wakes and spreads its creeping bloom
Till clouds or threatning shadows come
Then close it shuts to sleep again
Which weeders see and talk of rain

And boys that mark them shut so soon
Will call them ‘John go bed at noon’
And fumitory too a name
That superstition holds to fame
Whose red and purple mottld flowers
Are cropt by maids in weeding hours
To boil in water milk and whey
For washes on an holiday

To make their beauty fair and sleak
And scour the tan from summers cheek
And simple small forget me not
Eyd wi a pinshead yellow spot
Ith middle of its tender blue
That gains from poets notice due
These flowers their toil by crowds destroys
And robs them of their lonly joys

That met the may wi hopes as sweet
As those her suns in gardens meet
And oft the dame will feel inclind
As childhoods memory comes to mind
To turn her hook away and spare
The blooms it lovd to gather there
My wild field catalogue of flowers
Grows in my ryhmes as thick as showers

The Shepherd's Calendar, with Village Stories, and Other Poems (1827) - 'May' (lines 147 to 194)

Song on Tobacco

Some sing about love in their season of roses,
But love has in sorrow no blossoms to wear;
So I'll sing tobacco, that cheers and composes,
And lulls us asleep in our trouble and care.
So here's to tobacco, the Indian weed,
The peaceful companion through trouble and strife;
May it prove every smoker's best friend in his need,
And be to his heart a restorer through life.

There's the husbandman hourly tormented with care,
By his daily companion, a troublesome wife;
But a pipe of tobacco will soothe his despair,
And bring him sunshine in the shadows of life.
Then here's to tobacco, the Indian weed,
May it bless honest smokers with peace to the end,
For such a companion is friendship indeed,
Since it proves in the midst of all trouble a friend.

The statesman, the lawyer, the parson will find,
When business oppresses and sorrow grows ripe,
To steer clear of follies and strengthen the mind,
There's nothing like leisure and smoking a pipe.
So here's to that cheering tobacco once more;
May each honest smoker prove blest with the weed,
May it mend broken hopes and lost pleasures restore,
And always prove dear as a friend in his need.

The Later Poems of John Clare 1837-1864
ed. Eric Robinson and David Powell
(Oxford, 2 volumes, I-II, 1984)

from "The Wish"

[My garden in East Devon - click on the image for the full effect]

And now a garden pland with nicest care
Should be my next attention to prepare;
For this I'd search the soil of different grounds
Nor small nor great should mark its homley bounds:
Between these two extreems the plan should be
Compleat throughout and large enough for me;
A strong brick wall should bound the outward fence
Where by the suns allcheering influence
Walltrees should flourish in a spreading row
And Peach and Pear in ruddy lustre glow.
A five foot bed should follow from the wall
To look compleat or save the trees withall
On which small seeds for sallading I'd sow
While curl-leaf Parsley should for edges grow.
My Garden in four quarters I'd divide
To show good taste and not a gaudy pride;
In this the middle walk should be the best
Being more to sight exposed than the rest

How beautiful May and its morning comes in!

[A beautiful, May day poem - largely unknown]

How beautiful May and its morning comes in!
The song of the maidens you hear them begin,
To sing the old ballads while cowslips they pull,
While the dew of the morning fills many pips full.
The closes are spangled with cowslips like gold,
Girls cram in their aprons what baskets can't hold;
And still gather on to the heat of the day,
Till force often throws the last handful away.

Then beneath an old hawthorn they sit one and all,
And make the May garlands and round cuck a ball
Of cowslips and blossoms so showy and sweet,
And laugh when they think of the swains they shall meet.
Then to finish the garland they trudge away home,
And beg from each garden the flowers then in bloom;
Then beneath the old eldern, beside the old wall,
They sit out to make it, maids, misses, and all.

The ribbons the ploughmen bought maids at the fair,
Are sure to be seen in a garland so fair;
And dolls from the children they dress up and take,
While children laugh loud at the show they will make.
Then they take round the garland to shew at each door,
With kerchief to hide the fine flowers cover'd o'er;
At cottages also, when willing to pay,
The maidens their much admired garland display.

Then at duck under water adown the long road,
They run with their dresses all flying abroad;
And ribbons all colours how sweet they appear!
May seems to begin the new life of the year.
Then the garland on ropes is hung high over all,
One end to a tree and one hooked to a wall;
Where they cuck the ball over till day is nigh gone,
And then tea and cakes and the dancing comes on.

And then, lawk! what dancing and laughing is there,
While the fiddler makes faces within the arm chair;
And then comes the cushion, the girls they all shriek
And fly to the door from the old fiddler's squeak;
But the doors they are fastened, so all must kneel down
And take the rude kiss from the unmannerly clown.
Thus the May games are ended, to their houses they roam,
With the sweetheart she chooses each maiden goes home.

The Later Poems of John Clare 1837-1864
ed. Eric Robinson and David Powell
(Oxford, 2 volumes, I-II, 1984)