"There is a charm in nature felt and seen"

There is a charm in nature felt and seen
In every season of the varied year
In winters frost in springs reviving green
        'Tis every where

In foreign lands how beautiful the sight
Over a thousand mountains of snow sprey
With nought of green—but mountains pale as light
        And all the way

The springs green herbage full of flowers
And fields where lives the lark mid greener grain
We love and worship them in April hours
        Then wish again

That spring with all her joys would longer last
But summer with young buds is left to cho[o]se
And brings once more in memory of the past
        Flowers of all hues

Then autumn red and yellow quickly pass
Like broods of nestling birds upon the wing
Till all is gone and nothing but the grass
        Remembers spring

The wind the shower, the drapery of the sky
When day cools over meadows into dun
And clouds in gold and crimson glories lie
        In set of sun

A globe of fire and as a table round
Then wastes to half still shutting out the day
Till the curved rim drops quickly in the ground
        And all is gray

The Wood is Sweet (1966)
The Bodley Head

Stingo white froathing oer the polisht can

Stingo white froathing oer the polisht can
Thou boast thou glory of the English man
Thou downright death to every care & strife
Thou best of charms to foil a scolding wife
Known by the name of nappy ale or beer
Nicknamd ‘old stout’ ‘nock down’ & ‘barley cheer’
Tis thee I sing do thou thy strength infuse
& warm my song I ask no better muse
If woes distress me let me charm my soul
Where the bell calls to c---h wi out a knoll

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

Spirit of the woods awake (extract)

A recent finding... only published, as far as I am aware, in the Clarendon Editions.  An early Clare poem virtually impossible to read from the manuscript notebook. Clare wrote all the poems in pencil, then erased to reuse the little book - he was very short of paper.  The notebook dates from 1819 or thereabouts, certainly before his marriage to Patty in March 1820. Because of the difficulties in transcription, most of the poems therein have been largely overlooked.  Here is an excerpt, the first two verses.  The poem will figure in its entirety in Anne Lee and my fourth book, "Wood Pictures" which is now some weeks into its planning stage.

Spirit of the woods awake
In thy wildest dress appear
Trace with me the curdled brake
Sound thy wildness in my ear
Genius of the woods that dwells
Sweeping boughs & grains among
As I climb thy rough rude dells
Breath thy roughness in my song

While I brush the branches by
& this woods still ways forsake
Woodland spirit meet my eye
Genius of the woods awake

Breath thy wildness in my ear
To thy trees  I do belong
Genius of the woods appear
Sound thy roughness in my song

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

Adventures of a Grasshopper (excerpt)

A grasshopper idle the whole summer long
Played about the tall grass with unthinking delight
& spent the whole day with his hopping & song
& sipp'd of the dew for his supper at night
Thus night brought him food & the red rising sun
Awoke him fresh fed to his singing agen
& thus he went on with his frolic & fun
Till winter winds whistled & where was he then

The plain wore no longer the hue of his wing
All withered & brown as a desert could be
In vain he looked round for the shelter of spring
While the longest green sprig scarcely reached to his knee
The rime feathered night fell as white as a sheet
& dewdrops were frozen before they could fall
The shy creeping sun too denied him his heat
Thus the poor silly soul was deserted of all

The ant had forewarned him of what he would be
When he laughed at his toil on the parched summer plain
He now saw the folly he then could not see
But advice taen too late is but labour in vain
If he wished to work now there was nothing to find
The winter told plain twas too late in the day
In vain he looked round in the snow & the wind
Unable to toil & too saddened for 

He looked back & sighed on his singing & racket
& employed the last hope he had left him to beg
So he sought in the woods withered leaves for a jacket
Of a rushe he made crutches & limped of a leg
The winds whistled round him while seeking for pity
Oer the white crimping snows he went limping along
Sighing sad at each cottage his sorrowful ditty
But a song out of season is povertys song  

John Clare, The Rural Muse (1835)

Meet me Tonight

O meet me to-night by the bright starlight,
     Now the pleasant Spring's begun.
My own dear maid, by the greenwood shade,
     In the crimson set of the sun,
                    Meet me to-night.

The sun he goes down with a ruby crown
     To a gold and crimson bed;
And the falling dew, from heaven so blue,
     Hangs pearls on Phoebe's head.
                    Love, leave the town.

Come thou with me; 'neath the green-leaf tree
     We'll crop the bonny sweet brere.
O come, dear maid, 'neath the hazlewood shade,
     For love invites us there.
                    Come then with me.

The owl pops, scarce seen, from the ivy green,
     With his spectacles on I ween:
See the moon's above and the stars twinkle, love;
     Better time was never seen.
                    O come, my queen.

The fox he stops, and down he drops
     His head beneath the grass.
The birds are gone; we're all alone;
     O come, my bonny lass.
                    Come, O come!

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

John Clare Poet facebook group

[Holme Fen this year]

In December 2012, poet Angela Topping and I decided it was time to start a proper John Clare Facebook page. As of today (23rd November 2014), my how we have grown, with today no fewer than 473 members. Last year in August we held our inaugural 'group' weekend in the Helpston area, and over 19/20th May this year a gathering remembering our great poet by his graveside, and the gravesides of his wife Patty and muse Mary Joyce.  Over the weekend of the 12th/14th September, initially again in the Helpston area, we visited Holme Fen and Woodwalton Fen.  Lunch at the Admiral Wells at Holme Fen was fun!

We have writers, musicians, painters, photographers & illustrators, film-makers, poets, sculptors, several descendants of Clare, academics, and plain old fans of his work. We have a rolling virtual exhibition of work "John Clare 150" dedicated to Clare (more contributions would be welcomed), and several books have been published from members of the group who met via these pages, as well as other collaborations.

And to add to all that, the weekend of the 11th to 13th July was the 33rd Annual Festival in the village organised by our friends from the John Clare Society (many of us are of course, members of that organisation - one of the largest literary societies in the country).
Our cup runneth over...
Click here to go to the facebook page.

A dark and gothic excerpt...

[Image: Peterbrough Cathedral by Thomas Girtin - Very likely the inspiration for these lines, Clare would have known it well]

... from Clare's 'Solitude' for All Hallow's Eve :

But as sorrows more opress
As the world does more distress
Yielding as misfortunes lower
Dulging mellancholys hour
Wishing to despise as then
Brunts of fate & scorn of men
When fates demons thus intrude
Then I seek thee solitude

Where the abbys height appears
Hoary neath a weight of years
Where the mouldering walls are seen
Hung wi pelitorry green (*)
Where the steeples taper stretch
Tries the eye its length to reach
Dizzy nauntling high & proud
Top stone loosing in a cloud

Where the cross to time resignd
Creaking harshly in the wind
Crowning high the rifted dome
Points the pilgrims wisht for home
While the look fear turns away
 Shuddering at its dread decay
 Then let me my peace pursue
 Neath the shades of gloomy yew

 Dolfull hung wi mourning green
 Suiting well the solemn scene

Pet MS C2 p36
Published in altered form in Village Minstrel, Volume 1 (1821)

(*)  Ben Johnson:
‘A good old woman . . . did cure me with sodden ale and pellitorie o’ the wall.’
Pellitory likes to grow in the cracks of walls, hence "Hung wi pelitorry green".  Often called Pellitory-of-the-wall.

John Clare: Beginner's Luck

[This talk was prepared by Edmund Blunden for the 1964 centenary of Clare's death, and was published as a pamphlet in 1971 by Bridge Books / Kent Editions, in an edition of 250, to celebrate Blunden's 75th birthday]

     My purpose on this occasion is to give some account of amateur researches which have yielded greater results than those who under­took them could have counted on, although there were faith and fire within them. To judge by anthologies, broadcast programmes, the books of new poets, the catalogues of famous book-collections and other evidences, the reputation of John Clare is now considerable and probably lasting. In 1964 he will be honoured by many, including lovers of our literature from other nations, at his county town Northampton, his familiar city Peterborough, and sundry places besides: the Aldeburgh Festival will include a Clare occasion. Numerous publications on and of his poems are in preparation: the Oxford edition in several volumes may of course take longer to appear than the selections of which I am told. It is noteworthy that Clare attracts some whose first interest or training is not literary.

The rest of this talk may be found on

The link also appears on the left hand side of this posting... John Clare Ephemera

At the foot of Clifford Hill

Who loves the white-thorn tree,
And the river running free?
There a maiden stood with me
In Summer weather.
Near a cottage far from town,
While the sun went brightly down
O'er the meadows green and brown,
We loved together.

How sweet her drapery flowed,
While the moor-cock oddly crowed;
I took the kiss which love bestowed,
Under the white-thorn tree.
Soft winds the water curled,
The trees their branches furled;
Sweetest nook in all the world
Is where she stood with me.

Calm came the evening air,
The sky was sweet and fair,
In the river shadowed there,
Close by the hawthorn tree.
Round her neck I clasped my arms,
And kissed her rosy charms;
O'er the flood the hackle swarms,
Where the maiden stood with me.

O there's something falls so dear
On the music of the ear,
Where the river runs so clear,
And my lover met with me.
At the foot of Clifford Hill
Still I hear the clacking mill,
And the river's running still
Under the trysting tree.

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

from "October"

Like to a painted map the landscape lies
And wild above shine the cloud thronged skies
The flying clouds urged on in swiftest pace
Like living things as if they runned a race
The winds that oer each coming tempest broods
Waking like spirits in their startling moods
Fluttering the sear leaves on the blackning lea
That litters under every fading tree
And pausing oft as falls the patting rain
Then gathering strength and twirling them again
Till drops the sudden calm—the hurried mill
Is stopt at once and every noise is still
The startld stockdove hurried wizzing bye
As the still hawk hangs oer him in the sky
Crows from the oak trees quawking as they spring
Dashing the acorns down wi beating wing

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