'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

The Lovers Meeting (excerpt)


  [Image : 'Shadows in a Winter Wood' by Nora S. Unwin]

When day declining usher'd to a Close
& evening silence bid the world repose
& deep'ning darkness hover'd oer the grove
Compell'd (not weary with the joys of love)
We fearless ventur'd from the blissfull seat
& blest the night that kept us still discreet
Unheeded home ward down the dusky plain
I led my charmer to her home again

& as weak troubles discompos'd her breast
I vow'd to love & kiss'd its fears to rest—
‘O do you love me? sighs the timerous maid
‘Will you still come?—I really am afraid
‘—O am I not Or am I to complain?—
‘When will you come?—O will you come again?
‘—Stay Strephon stay—I cannot let you go
‘Promise me truly—will to morrow do?’

Roger Rowe & Anne Lee
John Clare Cottage Press (2014)

(Handmade, numbered, limited edition copies still available from me at £35 inc. P&P - just leave a comment here, or send me a message on Facebook - 'Roger Arborfield')

Rural Morning (excerpt)

[Image: Clare Leighton]

Soon as the twilight through the distant mist 
In silver hemmings skirts the purple east, 
Ere yet the sun unveils his smiles to view 
And dries the morning's chilly robes of dew, 
Young Hodge the horse-boy, with a soodly gait, 
Slow climbs the stile, or opes the creaky gate, 
With willow switch and halter by his side 
Prepared for Dobbin, whom he means to ride; 
The only tune he knows still whistling oer, 
And humming scraps his father sung before, 
As "Wantley Dragon," and the "Magic Rose," 
The whole of music that his village knows, 
Which wild remembrance, in each little town, 
From mouth to mouth through ages handles down. 
Onward he jolls, nor can the minstrel-throngs 
Entice him once to listen to their songs; 
Nor marks he once a blossom on his way; 
A senseless lump of animated clay— 

In hobbling speed he roams the pasture round,
Till hunted Dobbin and the rest are found;
Where some, from frequent meddlings of his whip,
Well know their foe, and often try to slip;
While Dobbin, tamed by age and labour, stands
To meet all trouble from his brutish hands,
And patient goes to gate or knowly brake,
The teasing burden of his foe to take;
Who, soon as mounted, with his switching weals,
Puts Dob's best swiftness in his heavy heels,
The toltering bustle of a blundering trot
Which whips and cudgels neer increased a jot,
Though better speed was urged by the clown--
And thus he snorts and jostles to the town.

The Village Minstrel, and Other Poems (2 volumes, 1821)

The weeders...

[Image: Peter de Wint]

The weeders go to weed the wheat
The weather fine & fair
& find a pleasant dinner seat
To eat their dinner there

The ploughman gets a pleasant boon
& whistles all the way
& leaves his team in after noon
For weeding half the day

The maiden plagued for being fair
Laps thistles in her gown
& gets behind him unawares
To prick the noisey clown

He only turns again & smiles
Nor tries to get away
& runs & stops her at the stile
& so they end the day

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

John & Patty - Great Casterton, March 1820

Ronald Blythe deep in conversation with David and Roger Rowe in the garden of the Crown Inn, Great Casterton just opposite the church in which Clare and Patty were married in March 1820. David sang two of Clare's poems -'Maid of Walkherd' and 'The Courtship' as part of the presentation of poems, songs and readings in the Church. It is hoped that these songs will form part of a Clare CD in the near future. At present I can offer a 'Demo' recording of David's settings of 9 of Clare's poems for the princely sum of £3-00.

A womans is the dearest love
Theres nought on earth sincerer
The leisure upon beautys breast
Can any thing be dearer

I saw her love in beauty’s face
I saw her in the rose
I saw her in the fairest flowers
In every weed that grows

(from 'The Courtship')

Oh!  And here is a photocopy of the Clare / Turner Marriage Certificate from that memorable day in March 1820.  Notice "with the consent of" has been scored out, her father refused to attend as Patty was 6 months pregnant.    With the publication of "Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery" in January of the same year, Clare was the new sensation.  With grateful thanks to Clare descendant Pat Jones.

The 'John Clare Poet' facebook group

In December 2012, poet Angela Topping and I decided it was time to start a proper John Clare Facebook page. In the 20 months since then, my how we have grown, with today no fewer than 423 members. Last year in August we held our inaugural 'group' weekend in the Helpston area, and over 19/20th May this year a gathering remembering 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 second (or is that third) gathering over the weekend of the 12th/14th September (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 11th to 13th July was the Festival in the village organised by our friends from the John Clare Society (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.

Market Day

With arms and legs at work and gentle stroke
That urges switching tail nor mends his pace,
On an old ribbed and weather beaten horse,
The farmer goes jogtrotting to the fair.
Both keep their pace that nothing can provoke
Followed by brindled dog that snuffs the ground
With urging bark and hurries at his heels.
His hat slouched down, and great coat buttoned close
Bellied like hooped keg, and chuffy face
Red as the morning sun, he takes his round
And talks of stock: and when his jobs are done
And Dobbin's hay is eaten from the rack,
He drinks success to corn in language hoarse,
And claps old Dobbin's hide, and potters back.

Northborough Sonnets (1995)