Sweet are the blossoms...

Sweet are the blossoms the summer adorning
Shed in profusion oer meadow & lea
Deckt wi the charms of the dew bedded morning
Ere the suns spangles dry blossom & tree

While as I wander by wood bank & fountain
Hushing my sorrows wi moments decline
Many selections of blossoms I’m counting
To trace in their beauty some likeness of thine

The vally’s wild lily where wood channels wimple
Neath the rude hazels low blooming unseen
They are thy beauty so artless so simple
Their hue thy two white breasts love bedded between

The warm streaked woodbine that decks the lanes bushes
The soft smelling rose the heaths brambles adorn
These are the paint of thy cheeks maiden blushes
& modesty’s guardians expressed in the thorn

Alas my sweet Mary but mem'ry alarming
Soon starts at lost moments when once we did meet
When I prest that soft bosom so white & so warming
& kissd thy cheeks freshness so lushious & sweet

Soon then from flowers is thy image extinguishd
Still pleasures past sting my soul as before
As I turn to that hour when our bliss was relinquishd
That hour when I left thee to meet thee no more

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

The Wish

And now a garden planned 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 homely bounds:
Between these two extremes the plan should be
Complete throughout and large enough for me.

A strong brick wall should bound the outward fence
Where by the suns all cheering 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 complete or save the trees withal

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 [all] the rest.

The woodbine tree should all her sweets unfurl
Close to my door in many a wanton curl.
Aside my wall the vine should find a place
While damask roses did my window grace:
And now a walk as was the plan before
Exactly corresponding with the door
Should lead my footsteps to another bower
Whenever leisure gave the pleasant hour.

(Lines 104-164)
The Early Poems of John Clare 1804-1822,
ed. Eric Robinson, David Powell and Margaret Grainger
(Oxford, 2 volumes, I-II, 1989)

Song: I peeled bit o straws..."

I peeled bits o straws and I got switches too
From the grey peeling willow as idlers do
And I switched at the flies as I sat all alone
Till my flesh, blood & marrow wasted to the dry bone;
My illness was love though I knew not the smart
But the beauty o love was the blood o my heart.

Crowded places I shunned them as noises too rude
And flew to the silence of sweet solitude;
Where the flower in green darkness, buds, blossoms & fades
Unseen of a shepherds & flower loving maids
The hermit bees find them but once & away
There I'll burry alive & in silence decay

I looked on the eyes of fair woman too long
Till silence and shame stole the use of my tongue
When I tried to speak to her I’d nothing to say
So I turned myself round & she wandered away;
When she got too far off—why Id. something to tell
So I sent sighs behind her & talked to my sell.

Willow switches I broke, & I peeled bits o straws
Ever lonely in crowds in natures own laws.
My ballroom the pasture, my music the bees
My drink was the fountain, my church the tall trees
Whoever would love or be tied to a wife
When it makes a man mad all the days of his life.

John Clare, Selected Poems,
ed. Elaine Feinstein (1968)


I'm silverless, and pennyless
I've no small coin about me
And yet I'm not in wants distress
The rich may live without me

Though money makes the married glad
And finds the single nappy
Yet wanting wealth—I'm never sad
While health can make me happy

For health's the flower of mountains pride
The lily of the valley
The red rose by the cottage side
While sickness keeps the alley

In poverty there is no shame
Industry's not the slave on't
And self-content's a happy name
So I whistle o'er the leave on't

I'm silverless, and pennyless
And poor enough God knows
Yet in no pinfold of distress
While I get food and clothes

The heart that keeps its own command
Of little makes the more
Content—and all may understand
I've no wishes from my door

John Clare, Selected Poems,
ed. J.W. and Anne Tibble (Everyman, 1965)


Mary Appleby
I look upon the hedge row flower
I gaze upon the hedge-row tree
I walk alone the silent hour
And think of Mary Appleby
I see her in the brimming streams
I see her in the blooming hour
I hear her in the summer dreams
Of singing bird, and blooming flower
For Mary is the dearest bird
And Mary is the sweetest flower
That in spring bush was ever heard
That ever bloomed on bank or bower
O bonny Mary Appleby

J.L. Cherry, Life and Remains of John Clare
(London and Northampton: Frederick Warne and J. Taylor and Son, 1873)

The Gipsies Evening Blaze

To me how wildly pleasing is that scene
Which does present in evenings dusky hour
A Group of Gipsies center'd on the green
In some warm nook where Boreas has no power
Where sudden starts the quivering blaze behind
Short shrubby bushes nibbl'd by the sheep
That alway on these shortsward pastures keep
Now lost now shines now bending with the wind
And now the swarthy sybil kneels reclin'd
With proggling stick she still renews the blaze
Forcing bright sparks to twinkle from the flaze
When this I view the all attentive mind
Will oft exclaim (so strong the scene prevades)
‘Grant me this life, thou spirit of the shades!’

Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery (1820)