Clare having a bit of fun with the Northamptonshire dialect of his day.  Most of us are used to having a glossary of Northamptonshire words and phrases when we read almost any of Clare's work, but the four verses of 'John Bumkins Lucy' almost need a glossary of their own.  I particularly like lines 7 & 8 :

"How-so-miver she beets all the wenches I kno
An' hur big-roundy bosom is witer then sno"

Well stop bill wi' dogging me so oer an' oer
I've told yah hur name—what and now summot more?
Gosh boy but thats hardish to tell yah wi out—hur
Hur looks an hur tallnes an all things about—hur
—La' us see whot is like to tha straitness of hur
Theres summot cums near to't d' yah see yender fur
Well then do yah mind me she's straiter then that
An' hur eye's an' hur hair is az blak az my hat
     O' my pritty deer Lucy az I am a sinnur
Hite op wi' old byard go on
     I'll zartinly do all I can for to win hur
     Ha az shure az my crisn'd name's jon

Hur face is not like to yahr kitts i' the town
Nor fine coking jinny's so roozy an' brown
No if yah did kno hur yah'd think em a site
Its so wite an' red sumhow I cant tell yah rite
But I think if tha rosey an' may grow'd togither
'Tw'd be summot like-it but not so fine nither
How-so-miver she beets all the wenches I kno
An' hur big-roundy bosom is witer then sno
     O' my pritty deer lucy az I am a sinnur
Hite op wi old byard go on
     I'll zartinly do all I can for to win hur
     Ha az shure az my crisn'd name's jon

Now Ive told yah about hur az much az I can
How to get hur bill-boy is the next thing to plan
Well that I can deel wi' an' soon yah shal see
Jon Bumkin a shentleman fine oz can be
An' now then to tell yah a bit o' my pride
This greezey old smokfrok I'll fost thro aside
Nex I'll change this old crap for a fine beaver hat
Drest about wi a blak ribbin bo' an' all that
     Then so wastly fine bill-boy az I am a sinnur
Hite op wi' old byard go on
     'T'will zartinly be a good shilling to win hur
     Ha oz shure oz my crisn'd name's jon

Then there'll be the waiscot an' briches an' cote
An' lite shoo's an stokin's wi' all tha' best sote
Then old women will chatter an' say ‘he looks neet
‘From tha crown of his hed to tha sole of his feet’
But I shal think more wen they cum to be mine
That better then neetnes they'll look very fine
How-so-miver it sing-i-fys nothink to me
If thee will but noistish an' do but agree
     Wi' my pritty deer Lucy—for az I am a sinnur
Hite op wi' old byard go on
     I'll zartinly do all I can for to win hur
     Ha az shure oz my crisn'd name's jon

EP I 196

Some 'fragments'

A few years ago I was flying out to Tunis visiting family, I sat next to a lady who was very interested in what I was reading... John Clare.  I showed her these small fragments on my iPad, and she promptly photographed the screen.  The power of even Clare's shortest fragmentary poems!

Natures sweet bard of spring the sable bee
Hums round each cottage wall its minstrelsy
& the gay wasp in its stript jacket comes
To sunny banks in terryfying hums
Waking the herd boys fears that ramble nigh
& threatning vengance to each passer bye

Swarthy yet lovly by each zepher fan'd
As the soft cheek of milkmaids summer tan'd

EP II 522


My favourite poem from this whole series, I read “Crummaching Cow” to a church full of Clare Society members at Upton Church a few years ago, with dear Peter Moyse.  Upton is at the farthest extremity of Emmonsales Heath, on what would have been the old Roman Road King Street, if it did not take a sharp right turn at Langley Bush. 

I've got an ould crimmocking Cow
And a Dairy for butter I ween
Three hens that lays eggs just enow
To boil one for Roger at een
A rusty flick hangs i' the neuk
All sooty and salt to the bone
A Frying pan ready to cook
When Roger comes courting alone

For Roger's a handsome young Man
And I am his sweetheart Kate
I give him a kiss when I can
And spend a few hours at the gate
When the sparrows go bed in the eves
And to roost goes the three speckled hens
I turn down my cotton drab sleeves
And go to kiss Roger agen

He lovs me for dearly I ken
And kisses my cheek on his breast
And dearly I love him my sen
While in his fond arms I am prest
The bee seeks the hole i' the wall
In the eves the ould sparrows go bed
To night Roger sed he would call
And fix on the day we should wed

LP II 863

BALLAD : ‘The heavy thick mist hangs over the sun’

I’m afraid the squire proved too much of a temptation, poor Roger has had his doubts, but now has been ousted from Jenny’s affections.

The heavy thick mist hangs over the sun
The grass is all wet wi the dew
I cannot come out to thee roger till noon
Fear o' spoiling my sealskin shoe
No mists need to tarry my jenny till noon
The mist simmers thin on the hill
Sun beams getting yellow will master him soon
& ye may walk out if ye will

But she a new ribbon put on at the time
Which roger neer bought for her brow
& tho he neer knew of his jenny a crime
Fears jealousy wisperd it now
& she had a mantle all fringed wi silk
& a new gown as smart as coud be
Far too fine for the hassard of going to milk
Full o tucks even up to the knee

& shed a green purse which a gold tassel drew
& gold in it plenty beside
Such tokens spoke more then hard labour coud do
Rich rivals had gen her the pride
So rogers fears dreamt & his dreams to pursue
To green bowers in ambush he hies
Where jane like a lady soon hazards the dew
—He wishd twas a dream of his eyes

Jane lightly skipt by wipd away the bower briar
Where roger conseald from the view
& who shoud be shooting hard by but the squire
That provd rogers dreamings too true
They kissd & they toyd upon loves pleasant lap
& thought roger true at the end
But he like a fox saw em baiting the trap
& never sought jenny agen

EP II 428

Again from the amazing 1819-20 period when Clare was, shall we say, “baiting the trap” in “loves pleasant lap” with Patty.


Roger now has another suitor to worry about.  All’s fair in love and war they say, but he didn’t expect to be ousted by Tim Teg.

Oh me muther a'l'ays keeps running her rigs on
& s a'l'ays tongue banging poor meg
& calling one nicknames ‘base baggage’ & fixon
Becaus' Im in love wi tim teg

Caus' shes an old mizer & hes a poor codger
& I am her on'y wench meg
But she may keep mouthing bout money & roger
Ill neer turn my back on tim teg

She tells me Im driving my hogs to a market
That'll scarce buy me matches to beg
That she wornt gi me sixpence for being so forked
But Ill hazard all wi tim teg

She leads me a life like a toad neath a harrow
The deuce tak' her bother thinks meg
She prophesies nothing but trouble & sorrow
& Ill suffer all wi tim teg

& tho I may come to want salt to my porridge
& tramp out wi matches & beg
Tho a squire string his purse wi the proffers of marriage
Ill neer turn my back on tim teg

From the quite wonderful second volume of the OUP Clarendon Early Poems (my favourite of the 9 volumes) : EP II 278 (Pet MS B2 p232a-233)

Think what we would lose if this wonderful slice of Helpstone rustic life was ‘translated’ into ‘proper’ English.  I am unequivocally on the side of leaving Clare’s words exactly as he wrote them.  Priceless.

Incidentally, I wonder if Clare invented the wonderful proverb / aphorism “I’m driving my hogs to a market”?  So expressive…

'Come the back way dear'

Roger is still up to his old tricks, but is this Jenney or not?

Now Granny's gone to bed    Steal in the back way
Ye shall be my favoured lad    I'll be your lass alway
Come in this happy night    For Granny's fast asleep
And I'll put out the light    Fear some should come to peep

So come the back way dear    To love me ye'll be free
Should ye kick at Grannys chair    Till furder ye'll find me
The fire it may be out    Or there'll may be be a spark
For there's nothing half so sweet    As kisses i' the dark

Love come the back way in    By the Mint and lads love tree*
And where my Grannys bin    I' the next chair feel for me
The fire's upo' the hearth    And there'll may be [be] a spark
The crickets sing i' mirth    And the kiss is sweet at dark

So Roger pulled the string    She from the window flew
She was a Lassie sweet    He was a lover true
He fell o'er Granny's chair    And felt his hearts delight
I' kisses sweet and fair    Till morning brought a light

LP II 886

Three poems in one, it can certainly be read in that way.  
Not the only time that Clare used this little 'trick'...

She from the window flew
He was a lover true
And felt his hearts delight
Till morning brought a light

* lads love tree = southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum)

BALLAD - "Ere the church bell i the morn had tung four"

Another little known 'dialect' Clare poem from the 1818-20 period, here printed exactly as Clare wrote it.  Love the Clare words... tung, claumpt, cockt and nockt, braken, mun... and that's only the first 8 lines!  Line 16 is interesting in its use of 'bunting' - this is what Professor Robinson has to say on the word, "since a bunter is a low street-woman this probably means, in a vulgar way, courting".

Jemmy might think he's won, but Roger is lurking...

Ere the church bell i the morn had tung four
Fudging old Jemmy claumpt over the moor
He cockt up his beaver & nockt at the door
& up wi ye Jenney bawls he
Deuce take him god knows I een wisht him neck braken
But mizerdly dad & old mam was awaken
Who telld me take chance when it is to be taken
So jemmys fair drudge I mun be

Tho Id promisd roger full late i' the even
& hed pledgd his honor of fairings being given
Besides invitations from ten or eleven
All better then droning old Jim
But parents full often nick love full of crosses
Old jim he coud brag of his waggons & horses
Obey 'em I mun or abide by the losses
I forcd to go bunting wi him

& pleasd wer his heart & his pockets wer lind too
& fairings he bought me what ere Id a mind too
But sly rascal roger shuffd close up behind too
& gave me a lear from his eye
Old jemmy poor lad all in vain he might bother
Hed taen me too far from the reach of my mother
I humourd him till I got loosd from my tether
Then wi roger I bid him good bye

EP II 101

Spring love... (titled by Clare, 'Song')

When Jimmy did leave me the thorns wer in blossom
Three years have gone bye but I think on the day
I stoopt for a cowslip to stick in my bosom
While he from the bush got a branch of the may
& when we had done wi our vows & our parling
My heart when I think ont wi doubtfulness burns
He held it to me & he calld me his darling
Saying take this & keep it till Jimmy returns

A keep sake so odd did he mean to abuse me
& give me the thorn that his scorn I might see
But how foolish girl—coud he mean to ill use me
When he rubd off the pricks ere he gave it to me
We parted good friends & he hugld me dearly
& telld me hed neer gi me cause for a pain
& so coud I think were his last vow sincerly
Saying go where I will my heart stick to my Jane

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

Written in Clare's wonderful Northamptonshire dialect, with a word Clare no doubt learned from his gypsy friends   Written in what a recent anonymous 'scholar' writing of Clare in a recent paper called 'the stark "textual primitivism" of the Oxford edition', in which this poem may be found (EP II 208) in precisely the way that Clare wrote it (I've examined the manuscript).  An amazingly ignorant comment showing his/her total disregard for the incredible work of the lifetime of scholarship that the 9 volumes of the OUP Clarendon editions represents.