Childhood's Glory - Chapbook No.12

The innocence and freshness of Clare’s early years are grounded in the specific places and occasions in which his early sense of ‘glory’ was first experienced.  The landscape of his childhood, therefore, is not only a particular physical landscape – where certain kinds of fields, trees, flowers, birds and animals may be found and where even the names of places become incantations – but it is also a cultural landscape of infant affections and pastimes. 

His childhood innocence may have been sometimes darkened by a sense of loss and of guilt, or of fear and foreboding, but it certainly was a time of his life when his perceptions were particularly vivid, more direct, more natural than the time of  “knowledge of good and evil” — of disillusionment, and the sickness that accompanied his later years.

I look behind & like to eden find
Too late the Eden I have left behind

To lose this extacy, this rapture, is to be excluded from a direct relationship with the unsullied glory of creation, and to have to live one’s life with a sense of loss.

Childhood's Glory (Arbour Chapbook No. 12) is available from me at £4.00 + £1.00 postage and packing (UK). 

--- oOo ---

John Clare facebook group

In December 2012, poet Angela Topping and I decided it was time to start a proper John Clare Facebook page. In the 6 years since then, my how we have grown, with today no fewer than 1,000 members. In August 2013 we held our inaugural 'group' weekend in Helpston, and over 19/20th May 2014 we gathered to remember our great poet by his graveside, and the gravesides of his wife Patty and muse Mary Joyce.
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.

We plan a fourth (or is that fifth) gathering over a weekend in September 2019 (mark your diaries now), again in the Helpston area, but with the possibility of visits a bit further afield to Holme Fen and Woodwalton Fen, weather depending of course.

And to add to all that, the weekend of the 12th to 14th July are the dates of the 2019 John Clare Society  Festival in the village (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.

The Lovers Meeting

This is the first time John Clare's "The Lovers Meeting" - a reworking of Ovid's Fifth Elegy, has been published outside the Oxford University Press ‘Clarendon’ edition.  Authenticity has been at the heart of our volume.  The poem is presented exactly as Clare wrote it and has been typeset in a font designed in Northamptonshire in Clare's time (the Founder's Caslon type of Justin Howes).  A beautiful calligraphic ampersand has been specially created by Patrick Roe of The Logan Press to acknowledge its characteristic use by Clare.  Background information about the poem and its context is included. The book is bound by hand in two cloths of complimentary colours with gold blocked titles and has hand printed end papers designed by Anne Lee.


"The Lovers Meeting"

Clare's version of the Fifth Elegy of the First Book of Ovid

Our hand-made book was originally launched at John Clare Cottage, Helpston on Saturday, 9th November 2013 all now sold.

However, following a meeting with Patrick Roe of The Fine Book Bindery just two days before the launch of that edition,  it was agreed that he will produce the book for us, in an edition limited to 200 copies.  

So... the book has been produced in two versions - the initial one sold out, but The Fine Book Bindery edition still available at £20. 

Whilst we would have been able to continue to produce the books ourselves, being offered this opportunity to have our book printed and hand bound by a leading Fine Press maker of limited edition books is too important for us to ignore.  The level of quality in this artisan field of letterpress printed and hand bound books will be higher than we can possibly produce, yet we will still retain control of the book’s design and content.

Photos taken in the Cottage cafe on launch day, Friday 7th February 2014


Hot was the noon in summers sultry hour
The sun then raging with meridian power
When I more burning with the scorching heat
Of hot desire—lay hid in close retreat
Beneath the covert of a secret shade
Flush'd “with expectance of the lovley maid”
Sweet was the spot no one throughout the grove
Was better suited to the sports of Love

There is little doubt in our minds that Clare’s poetic vision was somewhat more carnal, fleshy, voluptuous than his advisers thought fitting, and of course, as a mere peasant what did he know about such sensibilities?

As Professor Robinson says in his introduction to Early Poems of John Clare (OUP) : “To survey the whole range of his poetry about Woman is to encounter a many-faceted, exhilarating, and erotic sensibility.”  This Clare certainly explored in his reworking of the Fifth Elegy of the First Book of Ovid, dating from 16 - 15 B.C. 

'The Lovers Meeting' as published by John Clare Cottage Press