Spirit of the woods awake (excerpt)

[Image of Holm Fen by Anne Lee]

A manuscript I dug out of the Peterborough Archives... which had originally only been published in the Clarendon Editions, but now also in my Arbour Editions Chapbook (No.6) 'Trees - In a Strange Stillness'.  An early Clare poem that is virtually impossible to read from the manuscript notebook. Clare wrote all the poems therein 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 in the notebook have been largely overlooked.  Here is an excerpt, the first two verses.

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)

John Clare gains recognition on a post stamp

As part of the 250th anniversary of William Wordsworth birthday on the 5th April 2020, the Royal Mail have issued a set of 10 stamps celebrating the romantic poets. Included in this set is John Clare, others include Blake, Keats and Byron. The set of stamps comes in a presentation pack which also contains a write of the romantic poets by Jonathan Bate. 

Twas love & pleasure all along
I felt that I'd a right to song
& sung—but in a timid strain
Of fondness for my native plain
For everything I felt a love
The weeds below the birds above
& weeds that bloomed in summers hours
I thought they should be reckoned flowers
They made a garden free for all
& so I loved them great & small
& sung of some that pleased my eye
Nor could I pass the thistle bye
But paused & thought it could not be
A weed in natures poesy
(lines 79-92)

A considerable surprise

Working through a huge pile of inherited transcripts and notes made largely by Professor Robinson over many years, I came across a transcript I had forgotten.  Entitled 'For tale of fisherman' is it an incomplete short story written by Clare, judged by its manuscript context, in the late 1820s.  I am still working on it, and searching for the missing text, but here is a short extract.

he was astonished even to fear & saw the waters for miles above him & miles about him & yet he breathed as free from choaking as he did before he started [while dibbing cabbages in his garden]     how it could be he could not tell but so it was    & as his eyes began to clear of their supprise as began to look about him to see the strange country he was in     & every thing was new & nothing like what he had seen be fore     there were large forrests as high as his own wood but leafey & when he came to examine them they were of pearls & corral    there were monsters of extradinary size & shape 

& what he had never expected to have accosted    a lady approached him   not very handsome to be sure   for she had green hair   red eyes   & teeth of odd shape   yet she seemed young & wellshaped     he accosted her but she seemed not to understand him & stooping as if to amuse her self by picking up things from the sand   she offered him a handful     & they were guineas & Portugal dollars & bright as if minted but yesterday    

Pet MS A18 p R254