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)