A dark and gothic excerpt...






















[Image: Peterbrough Cathedral by Thomas Girtin - Very likely the inspiration for these lines, Clare would have known it well]

... from Clare's 'Solitude' for All Hallow's Eve :

But as sorrows more opress
As the world does more distress
Yielding as misfortunes lower
Dulging mellancholys hour
Wishing to despise as then
Brunts of fate & scorn of men
When fates demons thus intrude
Then I seek thee solitude
Where the abbys height appears
Hoary neath a weight of years
Where the mouldering walls are seen
Hung wi pelitorry green (*)
Where the steeples taper stretch
Tries the eye its length to reach
Dizzy nauntling high & proud
Top stone loosing in a cloud
Where the cross to time resignd
Creaking harshly in the wind
Crowning high the rifted dome
Points the pilgrims wisht for home
While the look fear turns away
 Shuddering at its dread decay
 Then let me my peace pursue
 Neath the shades of gloomy yew
 Dolfull hung wi mourning green
 Suiting well the solemn scene

Pet MS C2 p36
Published in altered form in Village Minstrel, Volume 1 (1821)

(*)  Ben Johnson:
‘A good old woman . . . did cure me with sodden ale and pellitorie o’ the wall.’
Pellitory likes to grow in the cracks of walls, hence "Hung wi pelitorry green".  Often called Pellitory-of-the-wall.

from 'The Fallen Elm'

Thus came enclosure—ruin was its guide
But freedom's clapping hands enjoyed the sight
Though comfort's cottage soon was thrust aside
And workhouse prisons raised upon the site.
E'en nature's dwellings far away from men—
The common heath—became the spoiler's prey.
. . .
No matter—wrong was right and right was wrong
And freedom's bawl was sanction to the song.
. . .
As thou wert served, so would they overwhelm
In freedom's name the little that is mine.
And there are knaves that brawl for better laws
And cant of tyranny in stronger powers
Who glut their vile unsatiated maws
And freedom's birthright from the weak devours


John Clare, Poems of the Middle Period
ed. Eric Robinson, David Powell and P.M.S. Dawson,
Volume III (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998)

And, here is Clare on a related subject (well, related in my mind anyway) :

The wigs & torys may be better classified
perhaps by the terms of outs & ins for
be they wigs or torys in those situations the
outs are always vociverators of “liberty”
“cruelty of taxation” & “good of the people”
while the ins are inflexible tyrants
& determined supporters of all that is
oppressing & annoying to the people &
benefitting to themselves & their connections

Pet MS A42 p94
(Unpublished as far as I know)

John Clare: Beginner's Luck


[This talk was prepared by Edmund Blunden for the 1964 centenary of Clare's death, and was published as a pamphlet in 1971 by Bridge Books / Kent Editions, in an edition of 250, to celebrate Blunden's 75th birthday]

     My purpose on this occasion is to give some account of amateur researches which have yielded greater results than those who under­took them could have counted on, although there were faith and fire within them. To judge by anthologies, broadcast programmes, the books of new poets, the catalogues of famous book-collections and other evidences, the reputation of John Clare is now considerable and probably lasting. In 1964 he will be honoured by many, including lovers of our literature from other nations, at his county town Northampton, his familiar city Peterborough, and sundry places besides: the Aldeburgh Festival will include a Clare occasion. Numerous publications on and of his poems are in preparation: the Oxford edition in several volumes may of course take longer to appear than the selections of which I am told. It is noteworthy that Clare attracts some whose first interest or training is not literary.

The rest of this talk may be found on
http://johnclareephemera.blogspot.co.uk/p/john-clare-beginners-luck.html

The link also appears on the left hand side of this posting... John Clare Ephemera

At the foot of Clifford Hill














Who loves the white-thorn tree,
And the river running free?
There a maiden stood with me
In Summer weather.
Near a cottage far from town,
While the sun went brightly down
O'er the meadows green and brown,
We loved together.

How sweet her drapery flowed,
While the moor-cock oddly crowed;
I took the kiss which love bestowed,
Under the white-thorn tree.
Soft winds the water curled,
The trees their branches furled;
Sweetest nook in all the world
Is where she stood with me.

Calm came the evening air,
The sky was sweet and fair,
In the river shadowed there,
Close by the hawthorn tree.
Round her neck I clasped my arms,
And kissed her rosy charms;
O'er the flood the hackle swarms,
Where the maiden stood with me.

O there's something falls so dear
On the music of the ear,
Where the river runs so clear,
And my lover met with me.
At the foot of Clifford Hill
Still I hear the clacking mill,
And the river's running still
Under the trysting tree.


J.L. Cherry, 'Life and Remains of John Clare'
(London and Northampton: Frederick Warne and J. Taylor and Son, 1873)

from "October"

Like to a painted map the landscape lies
And wild above shine the cloud thronged skies
The flying clouds urged on in swiftest pace
Like living things as if they runned a race
The winds that oer each coming tempest broods
Waking like spirits in their startling moods
Fluttering the sear leaves on the blackning lea
That litters under every fading tree
And pausing oft as falls the patting rain
Then gathering strength and twirling them again
Till drops the sudden calm—the hurried mill
Is stopt at once and every noise is still
The startld stockdove hurried wizzing bye
As the still hawk hangs oer him in the sky
Crows from the oak trees quawking as they spring
Dashing the acorns down wi beating wing


The Shepherd's Calendar, with Village Stories, and Other Poems (1827)

Ive sung farewell...

[Image : Anne Lee]

No idea of the context?  A young friend's death possibly? From a mid-1820s manuscript.  I must admit I immediately thought of Clare's return to Northborough in 1841, it being three years after Mary Joyce had died in 1838.  But the poem is much too early, and the 'scarce lived out fifteen' line rendered meaningless.

Ive sung farewell in many a rhyme
to pleasures that are fled
& I have thought me many a time
oer [my loved ones] cold & dead
but little thought when thus I sung
[and wandered neath the moon]
to one so fair so loved & young
could find a grave so soon.
The daisy now three years hath grown
above thy bed so green
and hadst thou been as living yet
& thou a flower the fairest known
scarce lived out fifteen

John Clare, Poems of the Middle Period
ed. Eric Robinson, David Powell and P.M.S. Dawson
Volumes I-II (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996); Volumes III-IV (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998)

'Come maiden dear maiden...' (excerpt)
























[Image: Anne Lee]

Come maiden dear maiden a beautiful troop
Of images now the young morning doth wear
The lark leaves her nest & the dew splashes up
As she flies through the clover & sings in the air

The bushes that rustle & catch at thy gown
The trees that thy pathway envelopes in leaves
The grass smooth as velvet runs green up and down
& from the young morning a rapture receives

& from the green hedge that the path brushes nigh
The flight of a bird shakes the rain in the place
& the blackbird frit off from her nest rushing bye
Shakes a shower on the path that will sprinkle thy face

John Clare, Poems of the Middle Period,
ed. Eric Robinson, David Powell and P.M.S. Dawson