The Old Year

The Old Year's gone away
To nothingness and night
We cannot find him all the day
Nor hear him in the night
He left no footstep mark or place
In either shade or sun
Tho' last year he'd a neighbours face
In this he's known by none

All nothing every where
Mists we on mornings see
They have more substance when they're here
And more of form than he
He was a friend by every fire
In every cot and hall
A guest to every hearts desire
And now he's nought at all

Old papers thrown away
Or garments cast aside
E'en the talk of yesterday
Are things identified
But time once torn away
No voices can recall
The eve of new years day
Left the old one lost to all
Jany 1st/45

Tibbles II 465

The wind blows happily on every thing...

Driving across Woodbury Common yesterday I noticed that all the gorse was in blossom, thousands of bushes looking totally wonderful in the wind and intermittent sunlight.  Put me in mind of this little known poem from Clare's Asylum years.  I know it's not Spring, but tell that to the East Devon Heathland - Clare in 1845 describing the very scene as if he was sitting beside me.

The wind blows happily on every thing
The very weeds that shake beside the fold
Bowing they dance—do any thing but sing
& all the scene is lovely to behold
Blue mists of morning evenings of gold
How beautifull the wind will play with spring
Flowers beam with every colour light beholds
Showers oer the Landscape flye on wet pearl wings
& winds stir up unnumbered pleasant things

I love the luscious green before the bloom
The leaves & grass & even beds of moss
When leaves gin bud & spring prepares to come
The Ivys evergreen the brown green gorse
Plots of green weeds that barest roads engross
In fact I love the youth of each green thing
The grass the trees the bushes & the moss
That pleases little birds & makes them sing
I love the green before the blooms of spring

LP I 205


Wi merry mirth beguiling care
Old customs keeping wi the day
Friends meet their christmass cheer to share
And pass it in a harmless way
Old customs O I love the sound
However simple they may be
What ere wi time has sanction found
Is welcome and is dear to me

Pride grows above simplicity
And spurns it from her haughty mind
And soon the poets song will be
The only refuge they can find
The shepherd now no more afraid
Since custom doth the chance bestow
Starts up to kiss the giggling maid
Beneath the branch of mizzletoe

That neath each cottage beam is seen
Wi pearl-like-berrys shining gay
The shadow still of what hath been
Which fashion yearly fades away
And singers too a merry throng
At early morn wi simple skill
Yet imitate the angels song
And chant their christmass ditty still

And mid the storm that dies and swells
By fits—in humings softly steals
The music of the village bells
Ringing round their merry peals

(December - lines 37-64)
The Shepherd's Calendar - with village stories, and other poems.  Taylor - 1827

Christmas in Helpstone


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

Neighbours resume their anual cheer
Wishing wi smiles and spirits high
Glad christmass and a happy new year
To every morning passer bye
Milk maids their christmass journeys go
Accompanyd wi favourd swain
And childern pace the crumping snow
To taste their grannys cake again

Hung wi the ivys veining bough
The ash trees round the cottage farm
Are often stript of branches now
The cotters christmass hearth to warm
He swings and twists his hazel band
And lops them off wi sharpend hook
And oft brings ivy in his hand
To decorate his chimney nook

(December - lines 1-32)
The Shepherd's Calendar - with village stories, and other poems.  Taylor - 1827

To the memory of Keats

Clare's publisher John Taylor was also Keats’s publisher.   From the earnings of Clare first magnificent collection  "Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery" (1820), Taylor, without asking Clare, provided financial assistance for Keats’s journey to Rome.  Keats left in September 1820 but died in Rome on the 23rd February 1821.

Thy worldly hopes & fears have pass'd away
No more its trifling thou shalt feel or see
Thy hopes are ripening in a brighter day
While these left buds thy monument shall be
When rancours wounds are past in nought away
Enlarging failings known to more then thee
& beautys feign diminish few display
When these are past thou child of poesey

Thou shalt survive—ah while a being dwells
In natures joys with soul to warm as thine
With eye to view her fascinating spells
& dream entranced oer each form divine
Worth wild enthusiast shall be cherish'd here
& thine with him shall linger & be dear

Pet MS A13 p11
Village Minstrel II 207


On the 12th July 1824 Clare found himself in the throng witnessing Lord Byron's funeral procession.  Here is an excerpt from Clare writing about Lord Byron just after this date, and as part of an essay on "Popularity" which was published in 'The European Magazine' in November 1825 (his only published essay).  As has been recorded elsewhere, there are dozens of manuscript texts of the essay, which Professor Eric Robinson and I have been working upon for some years. I am hoping to publish a complete essay in due course.  We have been particularly struck by Clare's line, "He had an ambition of attaining papularity either at discount or interest" which was overlooked in the published article.

He was an Oliver Cromwell with the critics he broke up their long standing parliment & placed his own will in the speakers chair which they humbly accepted     they submitted to one that scorned to be shackeld & changed the bit in his stead they praised & respected him    nay & worshiped him    he was all in all in their mouths & their writings   but I suspect their hearts had as much love for him as the peasantry had for witches in the last century     who spoke well of them to their faces because they dare not do otherwise for fear of meeting an injury

He had an ambition of attaining popularity either at discount or interest     he was singular in his genius by sporting with subjects that time has rendered {so} sacred as to become the universal hopes of {all} human existances     to him they appeared as the common infirmities of earthly happiness – universal doubts & visions of unrealizing happiness – he won the applause of popularity less by his sterling merit as a poet then by his odditys as a man (...)  there were his infirmities – they are but as spots in the sun – his merits & his excellences out shine them & make them of less consequense then shadows – his powers are beyond my pen & I shall not venture to praise them – the sun does want the light      the light of a lamp or candle to show its glory – he is enrolled among the immortals & shines as the jewel in the crown of modern literature

Pet MS A49 p6-7

"Een winter deemed so desolate a waste"

Let's have something new.  Not sure if this is published, I found it in a manuscript last June, and cannot find it anywhere.

Een winter deemed so desolate a waste
Hath crowds of beautys to the man of taste
& oft he walks about on quiet days
Full many things to notice & to praise
Where oer the snow clad fields the little feet
Of hares are printed that betray their seat
& woods so still he een may hear the sound
Of small wrens footsteps or the heaving ground
While trees & branches make a splendid show
Of lights & shadows hung in wreaths of snow

Beside the fire large apples lay to roast
& in a hugh brown pitcher creaming ale
Was warming seasoned with a nut meg toast
The merry group of gossips to regale
With in the chimney top the threating gale            
Howld angrily & loud but coud not scare                          
The crickets raptures from its merry tale                         
Around her feet the glad cat curld her tail
Listing the crickets song with half shut eyes           
While in the chimney top loud roars the gale

Pet MS A42 p105