On a cold autumn day, an excerpt from the Shepherds Calendar

[Image: A first edition of 'The Shepherds Calendar', signed by Clare. In the Oundle School collection]

Farmers behind the tavern screne
Sit — or wi elbow idly prest
On hob reclines the corners guest
Reading the news to mark again
The bankrupt lists or price of grain
Or old moores anual prophecys
That many a theme for talk supplys
Whose almanacks thumbd pages swarm
Wi frost and snow and many a storm
And wisdom gossipd from the stars
Of politics and bloody wars
He shakes his head and still proceeds
Ne'er doubting once of what he reads
All wonders are wi faith supplyd
Bible at once and weather guide
Puffing the while his red tipt pipe
Dreaming oer troubles nearly ripe
Yet not quite lost in profits way
He'll turn to next years harvest day
And winters leisure to regale
Hopes better times and sips his ale

The Shepherd's Calendar, with Village Stories, and Other Poems (1827)

Will ye gang wi' me to Scotland dear

Will ye gang wi' me to Scotland dear
Where the mountains touch the sky
And leave your humdrum labours here
And climb the hills sa'e high
Come leave your fowl your pigs and kye
And your mud-floor dwelling here
Come put your wheel and knitting bye
We'll be off to Scotland dear
For the summer lark is in the sky
The daisys gold in silver rim
Is blazing on the mountain side
And the skylarks wing in the sky grows dim
While the clouds like racers ride
So come with me to Scotland dear
And thy tartan plaid put on
The swallow has come to the new green year
And we'll to Scotland now be gone
So go wi' me to Scotland dear
Ere the winter of lifes comes on
And go with me to Scotland dear
And leave your English home
The gowans bloom, and the scented brere
Will tempt your steps to roam
And go with me to Scotland dear
Where the crimpled brackens grow
Where the rose blooms on the mountain brere
As white as driven snow
Then in the green bloom of the year
With me to Scotland go

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

The Winters Spring

Clare, after over five years in Northampton General Asylum, describing the winter that lies within?  Bereft as he is of his family, and the familiar haunts of Helpston - solitary, yet able to describe with piercing clarity his desolation.  Or is it about the weather?

The winter comes I walk alone
I want no birds to sing
To those who keep their hearts their own
The winter is the Spring
No flowers to please—no bees to hum
The coming Springs already come
I never want the christmas rose
To come before its time
The seasons each as God bestows
Are simple and sublime
I love to see the snow storm hing
'Tis but the winter garb of Spring
I never want the grass to bloom
The snow-storm's best in white
I love to see the tempest come
And love its piercing light
The dazzled eyes that love to cling
O'er snow white meadows sees the Spring
I love the snow the crimpling snow
That hangs on every thing
It covers every thing below
Like white doves brooding wing
A landscape to the aching sight
A vast expance of dazzling light
It is the foliage of the woods
That winter's bring—The dress
White easter of the year in bud
That makes the winter Spring
The frost and snow his poseys bring
Natures white spirits of the Spring

Feby 23rd/47

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

SONG : "The spring my forget..."

[Image: 'Rookery' Carry Akroyd]

The spring may forget that he reigns in the sky
& winter again hide her flowers in the snow
The summer may thirst when her fountains are dry
But I'll think of Mary wherever I go
The bird may forget that her nest is begun
When the snow settles white on the new budding tree
& nature in tempests forget the bright sun
But I'll ne'er forget her—that was plighted to me
How could I—how should I—that loved her so early
Forget—when I've sung of her beauty in song
How could I forget—what I've worshiped so dearly
From boyhood to manhood—& all my life long—
As leaves to the branches in summer comes duly
& blossoms will bloom on the stalk & the tree
To her beauty I'll cling—& I'll love her as truly
& think of sweet Mary wherever I be

Tim Chilcott (ed),
John Clare, The Living Year, 1841
(Nottingham: Trent Editions, 1999)


[Image: 'December' - Carry Akryod]


Christmass is come and every hearth
Makes room to give him welcome now
Een want will dry its tears in mirth
And crown him wi a holly bough
Tho tramping neath a winter sky
Oer snow track paths and ryhmey stiles
The hus wife sets her spining bye
And bids him welcome wi her smiles
Each house is swept the day before
And windows stuck wi evergreens
The snow is beesomd from the door
And comfort crowns the cottage scenes
Gilt holly wi its thorny pricks
And yew and box wi berrys small
These deck the unusd candlesticks
And pictures hanging by the wall

(lines 1-16)

The Shepherd's Calendar (1827)

BALLAD "Where is the heart thou once hast won"

A sad 'Mary' poem, although in a number of collections it was unknown to me until I heard Carry Akroyd sing it some years ago in Helpston Church at a Festival.

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 Rural Muse (1835)

Mary mary charming mary

One of the 'steamy' poems that will figure in our 3rd Book "A Ghostly Love", which will explore, in John's poems and prose, his illusory relationship with Mary Joyce.  Very little chance of this being published in Clare's time of course.  It dates from around 1819, whilst he was courting Patty Turner.

Mary mary charming mary
Now the sun has sunk to rest
& the even breeze so airy
Tries to bare thy snowy breast
How I love wi thee to wander
Mary o how sweet wi thee
Dusky meadows to meander
Where no soul can hear or see

As we pause by lake or fountain
On thy bosom bending free
Ah how sweet sensations counting
When I know each throbs for me

As thy face turns on the azure
Looking where the moon may dwell
As I fold thy beautys treasure
Wheres the kiss can taste so well

As the hour of even closes
& my lingering wi thy charms
Plants thy cheek wi maiden roses
& thy modesty alarms
Who sweet girl coud not adore thee
& tho beauty thee has blest
When that modesty comes oer thee
Prove that virtue pleases best

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

“I long to think of thee...”

I long to think of thee in lonely midnight
When thy spirit comes warm as an angel of light
Thy face is before me in rosey & flame
Which my kiss canna reach & I know not thy name
My heart aches to think on't—tis long sin' we met
If love is the truth love how can I forget
My arms would have clasped thee to pull thy face down
But when I embraced thee the Vision was flown

& was it true luv' & cud I forget
Thy name when I feel how enraptured we met
& can love forget thee sae much & keep true
Thy vision brought daylight before the cock crew
I saw thee above me in roseate hue
Thy cheeks they were red & thy bosom swelled too
My arm could na reach those pearl shoulders sae white
Nor my lips cud na kiss wi' thy lips to unite

& can it be love to have loved & forget
To see thee in visions nor know thy name yet
Thy face is my own that was worshipped in love
& thou comest before me a light from above
Tis thyself but I canna yet think o' thy name
Though my cells light at midnight before the day came
Thy face is still beauty thy breast roseys hue
But thy name I cant think of & yet love is true

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


[Image : 'Crow' - Carry Akroyd]

The village sleeps in mist from morn till noon
And if the sun wades thro tis wi a face
Beamless and pale and round as if the moon
When done the journey of its nightly race
Had found him sleeping and supplyd his place
For days the shepherds in the fields may be
Nor mark a patch of sky—blind fold they trace
The plains that seem wi out a bush or tree
Wistling aloud by guess to flocks they cannot see
The timid hare seems half its fears to loose
Crouching and sleeping neath its grassy lare
And scarely startles tho the shepherd goes
Close by its home and dogs are barking there
The wild colt only turns around to stare
At passers bye then naps his hide again
And moody crows beside the road forbeer
To flye tho pelted by the passing swain
Thus day seems turned to night and trys to wake in vain

The Shepherd's Calendar, with Village Stories, and Other Poems (1827)
'November' (lines 1-18)

Effusion (excerpt)

Ah little did I think in times thats past
By summer burnt or numbd by winters frost
Delving the ditch a livlihood to earn
Or lumping corn out in a dusty barn
With aching bones returning home at night
& sitting down with weary hand to write
Ah little did I think as then unknown
Thou artless ryhmes I even blusht to own
Woud be one day applauded & approvd
By learning notic'd & by genius lovd
God knows my hopes were many but my pain
Dampt all the prospects which I hopd to gain
I hardly dard to hope—thou corner chair
In which Ive oft slung back in deep despair
Hadst thou expression thou midst easy tell
The pains & all that I have known too well
Twoud be but sorrows tale yet still twoud be
A tale of truth & passing sweet to me
How oft upon my hand Ive laid my head
& thought how poverty deformd our shed
Lookd on each parents face I feign had cheerd
Where sorrow triumphd & pale want appeard
& sighd & hopd & wishd some day woud come
When I might bring a blessing to their home

The Village Minstrel, and Other Poems (2 volumes, 1821)


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)

from "The Wish"

Ah scenes so happy void of all controul
Your seeming prospects heightens up my soul;
E'en now so bright the fairy vision flies,
I mark its flight as with possesing eyes
But thats in vain—to hope the wish was gave
It clogs the mind and binds the heart a slave.
Tis nothing but a wish one vents at will
Still vainly wishing and be wanting still
For when a wishing mind enjoys the view
He dont expect it ever will come true,
Yet when he cherishes the pleasing thought
He still keeps wishing till he wants for nought,
And so will I—My eyes shall wander oer
A Pleasent prospect, Acres just threescore,
And this the measure of my whole domains
Should be divided into woods and plains,
O'er the fair plains should roam a single cow
For not one foot should ever want the plough
This would be toiling so I'd never crave
One single thing where labour makes a slave.
Tho health from exercise is said to spring
Foolhardy toil that health will never bring.
But 'stead of health—dire ills a numerous train
Will shed their torments with afflictive pain.
Be as it will I hold in spite of strife
That health ne'er rises from a labouring life

(lines 177 to 202)

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

from "Walks in the Woods"

[Image : Anne Lee]

It doth one's spirits good to go
Through beds of fern that fan below.
The rustle that the branches make
While giving way to let me through,
The leaves that for a moment shake
As out a blackbird hasty flew—
Oh, there is stillness in the noise
That brings to quiet many joys.
Yes, as the bouncing branches start
And backward hurry to their place,
A rapture rushes at the heart,
A joy comes flushing in the face;
I feel so glad I can't explain
My joy, and on I rush again.
And now I meet a stoven full
Of clinging woodbines all in flower;
They look so rich and beautiful—
Though loath to spoil so sweet a bower—
My fingers itch to pull them down
To take a handful to the town.
So then I mix their showy bloom
With many pleasant-looking things,
And fern leaves in my posy come;
And then so beautifully clings
The heart-leaved bryony round the tree,
It too must in a posy be.
Enchanter's nightshade, some few sprigs
—So sweet a spot it blossoms in—
And within reach the leafiest twigs
Of oak, if such my reach can win;
And still unwilling to give o'er
I stoop till I can hold no more.

(lines 113 to 144)
The Poems of John Clare
ed. J. W. Tibble
(2 volumes, Dent, 1935)

I saw thee in lifes witching hour...

[Image: Anne Lee]

I saw thee in lifes witching hour
  I thought thee all divine
& sweeter still thou fairey flower
  Frail hope bespoke her mine
But why need I repent the day
  Which years have left with thee
Since one frail spring scarce stopt to say
  That hope can never be

The world full early frowned on me
  & shaped our lives contrary
It dashed the hopes I had for thee
  & made thee haughty Mary
For still methinks had I been born
  To meet lifes smiles so early
Pride neer had made me treat with scorn
  A name I loved so dearly

I felt in times now fled and gone
  By many a cheery token
The links that our hearts seem one
  Should not so soon be broken
But life a seeming shower at best
    Is nothing that it seems
& dreams of love were hope will rest
  Are nothing else but dreams

Poems of the Middle Period
ed. Eric Robinson, David Powell and P.M.S. Dawson
Volumes I-II (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996)

"What is Joy..."

[Image of Clare's Grave : Ann Lee]

A recent discovery, hidden in Clare's Prose...

& what is joy or bliss or happiness
Mere trifling parents of a laugh or smile
That are but cares decked in a different dress
To cheat our hearts & sooth our hopes awhile
Mere sabbaths in lifes agonizing toil
To catch our breath while in its style we dwell
Prolonging (?life) by shadows that beguile
For joys beginnings have one tale to tell
& bring their end a heart  ach[e] & far[e]well


from "The Travellers"

Being rather faint for want o' drink
(Yet not so sadly off for chink)
I went to ha' some beer
On entering in a house at hand
(As alehouses do mostly stand
To catch all passers by)
I told my wants & sat me down
'Gen two near neighbours o' the town
A talking very sly
At which so eager o' my beer
I first ga' little heed to hear
Untill I 'gan to see
Some queerish beckons come in vogue
& hear the name o' thief & rogue
& then a look at me

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

Mid summer cushions

[Children's Midsummer Cushions round Clare's Grave on the Friday nearest his birthday, the 13th July.  BUT not 'field flowers' of course.)

Found this on Friday, whilst looking for something else... well known, but this is the original manuscript:

It is a very old tho not a very common custom now among villagers in summer time to stick a piece of green sward full of field flowers & place it as an ornament in their cottages which ornaments are called mid summer cushions & as these trifles are field flowers of humble pretentions & of various

I thought the the (sic) above cottage custom gave one an opportunity to select a little that was not inapplicable to the contents of the vol - not that I wish the reader to imagine that by so doing

I consider these poems in the light of flowers that can even ornament a cottage by their presence yet if the eye of beauty can feel any entertainment in their perusal I shall take it as the proudest of commendations & if the lover of simple images & rural scenery finds anything to commend my end & aim is gratified

(Written on both sides of a newspaper label which is addressed to
          Mr John Clare
          Mk. Deeping )

(Clare did write anything after 'various' in the first paragraph, or 'doing' in the second.  Pretty typical of much of his prose work.)

SONG : "Come beautiful maiden while autumn delays"

[Image : Anne Lee]

Come beautiful maiden while autumn delays
And the sunsets so sweet in the gold tinted west
While the fading beach tree sets the woods in a blaze

And the lark sings his song e're he sinks into rest
In Autumns gone by how fondly I press't thee
And loved thee sincerely, and so I do now
As I wandered along with thee ever near me
While the leaves they were fading on every bough

The sky rolls away with its ocean of clouds
The earth seems as ocean, as billows the grove
Woods roar like the sea or the ships flapping shrouds
But earth has warm places for beings that love
By the hedges my sweet one we'll wander unseen
Where the leaves of all colours are leaving the trees
Where the rush beds all ripple like water so green
And not a wild flower is in bloom on the lea's—

Yet love is as warm as the sun in the sky
And the winds they breath[e] music though ever so loud
The lark pipes its song in the fleecy clouds high
And the crow o'er the ploughed fields walks lonely and proud—
Then come my dear maiden enjoy the sweet morning
Down the walk in the meadows we'll wander away
There the bramble hedge hangs o'er the path like an awning
And the hedge sparrow hides at the bottom all day

Come in the fields then my first loved Mary
Come while the harp of the woods is in tune
Here neath the knotty old oak we will tarry
While the sun press the hedges as warm as in June
Though time passes on thy name is a pleasure
So come my sweet Mary we'll wander alone
And I'll tell thee the trials I've suffered, My treasure
Yet forget every one if you'll call me your own—

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

The Autumnal Morning (excerpt)

Wild woods ring in echos round
Wi many a lusty rural sound
Thro the day the wooping call
Of ramping nutters ceasless brawl
Weaving branches tearing down
Plucking nuts now ripe & brown
Boys as soon as loosd from school
Run to get their pockets full
& many a village clown [in extacys]
Rustling mong the faded trees
That bend beside her path is seen
Like the woodlands rural queen
Snatching hastes handfuls while she hies
To milking where her red cow lies
Venturing oer the woodland stile
Shepherds leave their sheep awhile
Dreading squalls & turning back
They snached a nut or 2 to crack
While the pindard* quirking out
As the lawyer squints about
Siezes on the chances found
& drives the straying sheep to pound
The Hedger who wi many a tap
Drives the stake down in the gap
Leaves his gaps & leaves his toil
& claims a share of autumns spoil
In short as full as it can snive*
The hamlets dead & woods alive
The once so still & silent shade
Is now a scene of uproar made

(lines 55 to 84)
'Bird's Nest: Poems by John Clare'
Anne Tibble (Ashington: Mid-NAG, 1973)

*Pindard = The impounder straying livestock
*Snive = Cram or stuff

See also my post ‘Gleaners or Thieves?’ for a piece by Professor Eric Robinson on, amongst other things, nutting : http://johnclare.blogspot.co.uk/2009/02/gleaners-or-thieves.html

From "Solitude"...

A minute's length, a zephyr's breath,
Sport of fate, and prey of death,
Tyrant to-day, to-morrow gone,
Distinguish'd only by a stone,
That fain would have the eye to know
Pride's better dust is lodg'd below—
While worms like me are mouldering laid,
With nothing set to say ‘they're dead’—
All the difference, trifling thing,
That notes at last the slave and king.
As wither'd leaves, life's bloom when stopt,
That drop in autumn, so they dropt;
As snails, which in their painted shell
So snugly once were known to dwell,
When in the schoolboy's care we view
The pleasing toys of varied hue,
By age or accident are flown,
The shell left empty, tenant gone—
So pass we from the world's affairs,
And careless vanish from its cares;
So leave, with silent, long farewell,
Vain life—as left the snail his shell.

(lines 213 to 234)
The Poems of John Clare
ed. J. W. Tibble (2 volumes, Dent, 1935)


[Image: Peter de Wint]

Summer is gone & all the merry noise
Of busy harvest in its labouring glee
The shouts of toil the laughs of gleaning boys
Sweeing at dinner hours on willow tree
The cracking whip the scraps of homely song
Sung by the boys that drive the loaded wain
The noise of geese that haste & hiss along
For corn that litters in the narrow lane
Torn from the waggon by the hedge row trees
Tinkles of wetting scythes amid the grain
The bark of dogs stretched at their panting ease
Watching the stouk were mornings dinner lay
All these have past & silence at her ease
Dreams autumns mellancholly life away

Selected Poems of John Clare (1964)
Leonard Clark (ed)


‘Go wipe your shoes’ says mistress shrew
To Hodge who up for's dinner drew
‘'Tis'n't fitting that such hogs as you
‘Shou'd come into a house’
‘Why not’ says hodge—‘if thats the case
‘I cant come in a better place
‘For surely there is no disgrace
For hogs to herd wi' Sows

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

On Mr -------- Locking up the Public Pump

To lock up Water—must undoubted stand
Among the Customs of a Christian land
An Action quite Uncommon and unknown
Or only practic'd in this place alone
A Thing unheard of yet in Prose or Rhyme
And only witness'd at this present time
—But some there is—a stain to Christian Blood
That cannot bear to do a Neighbour good
—No!—to be kind and use another well
With them's a torment ten times worse then hell

Such Fiends as these whose charity wornt give
The begging Wretch a single chance to live
—Who to nor Cats nor Dogs one crumb bestows
Who even grut[c]h the droppings of their Nose
—Its my Opinion of such Marngrel curs
Whom Nature scorns to own and Man abhors
That could they find a f---t of any use
They'd even burst before they'd set it loose!

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

"How could I how should I..."

Yesterday morning in the Clare archive I was examining Pet MS D20, which is simply a (blue) cover of a quarto exercise book that belonged to Clare son.  It's dated 1841.  I copied one of the poems scribbled thereon (it did not seem familiar), but when I checked I found a slightly different version is part of Child Harold from, of course, 1841.  Below is my copied version from yesterday.

How could I how should I — that loved her so early
Forget when I've sung of her beauty in song
How could I forget what I've worshiped so dearly
From boyhood to manhood and all my life long
As leaves to the branches in summer comes daily
& blossoms will bloom on the stalk & the tree
To her beauty I'll cling & i'll love her as truly
& think of sweet Mary wherever I be

Child Harold
(lines 485-492)

The Clown

With hands in pocket hid and buttoned up,
The clown goes jogging merrily along;
The wind blows in his face and makes him stoop,
And rain beats hard and stops his merry song;
His shaggy coat is buttoned with a loop,
With whip held up for stroke robust and strong,
And hat half stuffed with straw to keep it up;
He gruffly hollos ‘whop’ and lobs along;
He never turns, but with a careless switch
Whoos up his team that answers with a jerk;
When friends are met he gives his coat a hitch
And cocks his beaver up and talks of work;
To lose no time he trails his whip along
And bends it 'neath his arm to tie the thong.

Northborough Sonnets
ed. Eric Robinson, David Powell and P.M.S. Dawson
(Ashington/Manchester: Mid-NAG/Carcanet, 1995)