From "The Autumn Robin"

Sweet little bird in russet coat
The livery of the closing year
I love thy lonely plaintive note
& tiney whispering song to hear
While on the stile or garden seat
I sit to watch the falling leaves
The songs thy little joys repeat
My lonliness relieves
& many are the lonely minds
That hear & welcome thee anew
Not taste alone but humble hinds
Delight to praise & love thee too
The veriest clown biside his cart
Turns from his song with many a smile
To see thee from the hedgerow start
To sing upon the stile

(lines 1-16)

Poems by John Clare, ed. Norman Gale
(Rugby: George E. Over, 1901)

From "The Last of Autumn"

A wild confusion hangs upon the ear,
And something half romantic meets the view;
Arches half fill'd with wither'd leaves appear,
Where white foam stills the billow boiling through.

Those yellow leaves that litter on the grass,
'Mong dry brown stalks that lately blossom'd there,
Instil a mournful pleasure as they pass:
For melancholy has its joy to spare—

A joy that dwells in autumn's lonely walks,
And whispers, like a vision, what shall be,
How flowers shall blossom on those wither'd stalks,
And green leaves clothe each nearly naked tree.

Oft in the woods I hear the thundering gun;
And, through the brambles as I cautious creep,
A bustling hare, the threatening sound to shun,
Oft skips the pathway in a fearful leap;

And spangled pheasant, scared from stumpy bush,
Oft blunders rustling through the yellow boughs;
While farther off, from beds of reed and rush,
The startled woodcock leaves its silent sloughs.
The Shepherd's Calendar, with Village Stories, and Other Poems (1827) - (lines 29 – 48)


Lo! Autumn's come—wheres now the woodlands green?
The charming Landscape? and the flowrey plain?
All all are fled and left this motly scene
Of fading yellow tingh'd with russet stain
Tho these seem desolatley wild and drear
Yet these are spring to what we still shall find
Yon trees must all in nakednes appear
'Reft of their folige by the blustry wind
Just so 't'will fare with me in Autumns life
Just so I'd wish—but may the trunk and all
Die with the leaves—nor taste that wintry strife
Where Sorrows urge,—but still impede the fall.

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

Falling Leaves

Hail falling leaves that patter round
Admonishers & friends
Reflection wakens at the sound
—So life thy pleasure ends
How frail the bloom how short the stay
That terminates us all
To day we flourish green & gay
Like leaves tomorrow fall

Alas how short is fourscore years
Lifes utmost stretch—a span
& shorter still when past apears
The vain, vain life of man
These falling leaves once flaunted high
O pride how vain to trust
Now witherd on the ground they lye
To mingle with the dust

So death serves all—& wealth & pride
Must all their pomp resign
Een kings shall lay their crowns aside
To mix their dust wi' mine!
—The leaves how once they cloath'd the trees
Nones left behind to tell
The branch is naked to the breeze
Nor known from whence they fell

A few more years as they—the same
Are now I then shall be
With nothing left to tell my name
Or answer—‘who was he?’
Green turfs alow'd forgotten heaps
Is all that I shall have
Save that the little daisy creeps
To deck my humble Grave

Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery (1820)

SONG : Since Edward departed and lef me behind

Since Edward departed and lef me behind
My heart is for ever in fear
But if a short hope in his abscence I find
Tis in Summer the prime of the year
When the wind with the Zephers can scarce intervene
A Curse on the billows to form
When the Sky's Cloudless aspect so clear and serene
Puts me out of doubt of a storm

Then a Moments Composure I catch from the breeze
And fancy my Edward as safe on the seas

But O when in Autumn I shrink at the thought
The Hurricanes terribly rise
With such force as to meet with resistance from naught
And toss the ships up to the skies
& o to experience the lightnings red flash
Which darts thro' my window at night
When instant the thunder rolls off with a Clash
That stuns me to death with affright

And when it is over my heart know's no ease
From thinking what Edward endures on the seas

O then thou almighty that rides on the wind
And makes the dread thunder to roar
To a poor timid maiden in pity be kind
And Bid it to thunder no more
Make the wind all his strength so oerbearing resign
Or let him have no other power
Then the Zephers so harmles:—with them let him join
To dance in the Leaves of my Bower

Then a daily composure I'll catch from the Breeze
And for ever think Edward as safe on the seas

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

Song: Theres pleasure on the pasture lea

Theres pleasure on the pasture lea
& peace within the cottage
But theres na peace at a' for me
While love is in its dotage

I never have a thought o' gude
But worser thoughts will soil it
When heaven is man's happiest mood
The deil is sure to spoil it

Mans sweetest choice is womans yet
Scenes where her kiss was granted
The choicest place where first they met
Mid flowers bye nature planted

& there they dwell in fancys flights
In valley field & glen
In pleasant dreams & heart delights
Till neist they meet agen

The Later Poems of John Clare
ed. Eric Robinson and Geoffrey Summerfield
(Manchester University Press, 1964)

A tribute to David Powell

          David Powell has been one of the most significant 20th-century scholars to proclaim the genius of John Clare, and it was very appropriate that he was in charge of the Clare manuscripts in the Northampton Central Library.  He wrote his thesis for his B.A. on Clare and published an anthology of Clare’s poems, especially assembled for children.  That book is still the best book published on Clare specifically directed to the young.

          He and I worked together for many years and David always was reliable, and – as a librarian should be – excellent at finding obscure details of Clare’s background.  What Margaret Grainger did for the Helpston Clare, David did for the Northampton Clare.  They were both great champions of the poet because they both drew upon their own roots for sustenance.  David and I worked together in some of the great British and American collections of Clare’s papers – at the British Library, at Oxford and Cambridge, at Harvard and Yale, at the University of Texas, and, of course, at Northampton and Peterborough in England.

          He enjoyed his visits to North America and soon made his way around New York and Philadelphia as if he were a commercial traveler.  I think of him as a loyal friend in a great undertaking.  He is irreplaceable.  I must also add that he was the most loyal fan of the Northamptonshire Cricket Club – and so a man of good taste!  He was an inveterate walker – in that role as well, Clare would have appreciated him.

Eric Robinson
1 October 2012

           In the following pages children — of all ages — can come into the kingdom of the child-like Clare, and even when he speaks of the ways of nature and the inhabitants of the countryside beyond our immediate acquaintance with them we may feel at home. For him beauty certainly was truth, and there was plenty for his watchful, grateful poetic self to receive. It is with particular regard that I view Mr Powell's selection of the poems. He is one who has already done faithful service in another way for Clare, and for those who 'sue to know Clare better', he has indeed, through his access to many manuscripts and books and relics of the poet, been living in his spiritual company for years past. The sensitive quality in the choice of poems will be quickly acknowledged by all who look into the book, town dwellers equally with those who may still notice Clare's birds, flowers, trees, weathers and village children at their threshold or near it.

Edmund Blunden

(from the Introduction to "The Wood is Sweet" - Bodley Head 1966)

Song, from Child Harold

The floods come o’er the meadow leas
The dykes are full & brimming
Field furrows reach the horses knees
Where wild ducks oft are swimming
The skies 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 & fading 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 heart’s 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

Child Harold (840 - 863)
Poems of John Clare's Madness
ed. Geoffrey Grigson (RKP, 1949)