Bean Blossoms

I love the black e'en o' the scented bean blossom
And think o the dark eye of somebody

Its whiteness is just like the hue o her bosom

And thats my ain beautiful somebody

I luik on the flowers as I think on her face

They remind me o' sweet somebody

I long then to meet her in just such a place

A loving kiss I'd gie to somebody

How sweet the bean blossoms how rich the hedge rose

They seem like the presence of somebody

There's some like her features some hued like her clothes

They make me keep thinking o' somebody

In the west white and red clouds of even

Still bring me the image o' somebody

The fairest of all under Heaven

Is my beautiful lovely Miss somebody

Bean blossoms from furrow to ridge

Scenting sweetly remind me o somebody

The roses in bloom on the hedge

Are just like the image o somebody

I loo the black e'e o bean blossoms

Theyre like the sweet eyes o somebody

The lily reminds me of bosoms

And that is the bosom o somebody

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Unpublished elsewhere


Here is final poem in the story of Roger’s romantic adventures - sorry it's a bit late, but I got distracted by other things, as one does.

In the end Roger meets a visiting Scot (a drover’s daughter?) and finds in her something he seemed not to be able to find in the local Northamptonshire lasses.  The Kirk at Upton, incidentally is very much worth a visit.  The church (photo above) is virtually unchanged from Clare’s time, and the little village a reminder of how much of the county used to be.

Coy Maidens o' Drysail bonny Girls o' Buckhiven
Young beauty's o' Largo bonny Lasses o' Leven
I loved them the gether I loved one alone
And the rest followed with her Else I'd made her my own

Nay stop there auld Sodger Yo're nae kin o' her kind
She belongs to young Rodger our Shepherd—sae mind
Her voice shouted Rodger like throwing a stone
Sae gae on oud Sodger and let her alane

The voice it gaed through me like throwing a stone
And sair did it rue me knocking at my breast bone
Gae awa' wi' yer Rodger young Man do I see
If you'r then auld Sodger you may march on wi' me

Sae I went with the Maiden over heath and o'er plain
And when Sunday was come too I saw her again
I saw her and courted the sun from the West
And left my last kiss on the mole of her breast

I kissed and were married and bedded and a'
And the auld Kirk at Upton the green Wedding saw
For the grass it was green and our years was the same
And frae morning to E'en Nane ca'd us to blame

LP II 843

“Her voice shouted Rodger like throwing a stone” – as I child my mother, often in the late afternoon, would call me in for tea.  I could have been anywhere as we lived in the country, so she shouted my name at the top of her voice – I have experience of what ‘the voice it gaed through me’ sounds like.  The volume, the inflection… even the memory makes shudder just a little!

The Nightingales Nest

Of the many notable examples of Clare’s ability to grasp the unique particularity of the wild world, his poem ‘The Nightingale’s Nest’ is arguably the greatest.  Here the rural epiphany figured in Clare’s poem is so persuasively delivered that we cannot evade the implications of our dual potential: as ‘rude’ desecrators or privileged caretakers.  Clare’s use of the inclusive ‘we’ positions us within a drama of whispered complicity, even culpability, as we ‘trample’ nearer to witness the fugitive showing forth of the nightingale’s nest.

The exactitude of his gaze, Clare’s attentive regard of and for all natural objects is now, more than ever, essential to our humanity.  If poetry lives in the ear, before taking root in mind and heart, there can be no better way to connect with the lyrical specificity of John Clare’s world than this.

 (Kaye Kossick – 2012)

Aye as I live her secret nest is here
upon this white thorn stump––I’ve  searched about
for hours in vain––there! put that bramble bye
Nay trample on its branches and get near
How subtle is the bird! she started out
And raised a plaintive note of danger nigh
Ere we were past the brambles and now near
Her nest she sudden stops––as choking fear
That might betray her home so even now
We’ll leave it as we found it… our presence doth retard

Her joys, and doubt turns every rapture chill.
Sing on sweet bird may no worse hap befall
Thy visions than the fear that now deceives
We will not plunder music of its dower
Nor turn this spot of happiness to thrall

(lines  53-70)

John Clare - Major Works (OUP) 1984

Betty Sell

[Image: Annie Lee]

‘They ask me who I love the best’

They ask me who I love the best
But who I never tell
& when I laugh among the rest
I think of Betty Sell

They ask me who my heart preferred
& much on beauty dwell
I never say a single word
But think of Betty Sell

They talk of who their hearts has won
But mine I never tell
& look as if I knew of none
But think of Betty Sell

Pet MSA61 p91
MP V 303

Betty Sell was the daughter of a labourer at Southorp, near Barnack.  “… and while I was at home in the winter (1819/20) I renewd my acquaintance with a former love and had made a foolish confidence with a young girl at Southorpe and tho it began in a heedless <       >* at Stamford fair from accompanying her home it grew up in to an affection that made my heart ach to think it must be broken for patty was then in a situation that marriage coud only remedy”  *The manuscript leaves a space between 'heedless' and 'at Stamford fair'

John Clare By Himself p111

Betty Sell

When woodbine blossoms twining high
Comingld with the thorn
& busy bees wewed bumming bye
To sip the sweets of morn
A stranger lass with rake afield
Blyth stepping thro the dell
As wisht a swain her name reveald
‘Good morning betty Sell’

She gave me room to climb the stile
I lingerd soodling bye
My jumping heart beheld the smile
& vanishd in a sigh
As bird lime daubs the linnets nest
By her enchantments fell
I pausd me trembling at her feet
A slave to betty sell

Her ringlets black as gloss rind sloes
The hazel melts her eye
As flusht as the dayrosey blows
Who coud gang safly bye
Love unmasked wi a sigh
I gan my story tell
While new charms shone in curls wip'd bye
O charming betty Sell

Ye busy bees intruding round
Some meaner blossom seek
Think not your welcom tho your found
A rose upon her cheek
Your medling insults here decline
To hunt the ether bell
The honey of the flower is mine
While courting betty Sell

While woodbine flowers in wanton twine
Weave round the matted thorn
While bees their humming musick join
To rob the sweets of morn
When ere I wipe the boughs away
To tread the bushy dell
Or be't a year or be't a day
I'll think of Betty Sell

Pet MS B1 p58
EP 1 487
(April 1819)