To lock up Water—must undoubted stand
Among the Customs of a Christian land
An Action quite Uncommon and unknown
Or only practic'd in this place alone
A Thing unheard of yet in Prose or Rhyme
And only witness'd at this present time
—But some there is—a stain to Christian Blood
That cannot bear to do a Neighbour good
—No!—to be kind and use another well
With them's a torment ten times worse then hell

Such Fiends as these whose charity wornt give
The begging Wretch a single chance to live
—Who to nor Cats nor Dogs one crumb bestows
Who even grut[c]h the droppings of their Nose
—Its my Opinion of such Marngrel curs
Whom Nature scorns to own and Man abhors
That could they find a f---t of any use
They'd even burst before they'd set it loose!

The Early Poems of John Clare 1804-1822
ed. Eric Robinson, David Powell and Margaret Grainger 
(Oxford, 2 volumes, I-II, 1989)

In the Shadows

It seems somehow to have been a long time in gestation, but on Tuesday, 17th March we collected "In the Shadows" from The Fine Book Bindery who have again lovingly created them for us.  Every copy of the limited edition is handmade and hand-finished.  The cherry cover is offset by a grey spine with a gilt title.  This is the third volume in our trilogy.

The three books taken together explore the sensuous nature of Clare's early (pre 1820 poetry in the main) from his own verse and prose.

Book One - The Lovers Meeting - (from 1818) is a reworking by Clare of Ovid's first century erotic poem.   It seems to us very much with Patty in mind. 

Book Two - The Poet in Love - is the very real story of Clare's meeting, courtship of Patty Turner, and then her subsequent pregnancy and their marriage in 1820.

Book Three - In the Shadows - is the story of Clare's largely illusory relationship with Mary Joyce ranging over his whole life.

Both 'Poet' 'and "Shadows' contain newly discovered Clare works and little known poems rejected by his publishers.

The reviews of the first two books were wonderful, here is Ronnie Blythe on 'Poet':

"I read, and re-read 'The Poet in Love'... it is a delight; beautifully presented and even revolutionary in its demand that we should look at Clare 'passionately and practically'. You have re-instated Patty... and you have dethroned Mary Joyce. The book makes us look at Clare in a fresh way, and this is no easy matter considering the stream of Clare criticism. Anne Lee's illustrations are fascinating - a kind of poetry in themselves."

"So beautiful, such treasures for my John Clare bookcase. They should lie on a table where everyone can see them, pick them up and delight in them. The end-papers themselves are a treat... they real are very beautiful." (Of TPIL and TLM)

And from Eric Robinson's Afterword to 'The Poet in Love': "No one can read this book without learning much of Clare's courtship of Patty during these formative years. It is a very strange story, but it reveals much of the essential character of a poet who had at last been recognised as a very great writer. Roger Rowe and Anne Lee have made an important contribution to Clare studies. And I am pleased to know that more is yet to come from their joint efforts."

Each book is signed and numbered and is available from me.  Simply leave a comment at the foot of this page, or message me via the John Clare Poet facebook page, and I will get back to you.

Each book measures 11" x 8"

The cost?

"The Lovers Meeting' is £35 + £3 (P&P)
"The Poet in Love" is £45 + £3 (P&P)
"In the Shadows" is £45 + £3 (P&P)

TLM & TPIL £80 post free
TLM & ITS £80 post free
TPIL & ITS £90 post free

All three books £115 post free

SOLITUDE (VM Deleted line sonnet)

[Image: Shelly Rolinson]

   O how sweet I cannot tell
   With thee at that hour to dwell
    Stretchd the mossy bank beside
    Lye to view the random tide
    Where no clowns has chopt from thence
    Bush nor stake to mend his fence
    Cornerd stones & pebbles round
    Breaking dasht wi mellow sound
    Wether this or that to see
    I am blest if Im wi thee
    & full dear has been the hour
    Spent wi in thy noon day bower
    Prest wi thee thy mossy seat
    O its unexpressive sweet

John Taylor removed these lines from the published version of ‘The Village Minstrel’ (Vol 1, p 200 ff).  I’ve just put them together in the order in which they appear in the manuscript (Pet MS B2 p256a, C2 p36).  The whole 'Solitude' poem in its restored form was published – with many variant readings - in the wonderful OUP Clarendon Editions (EP II 338).  I don’t think the poem has been published in its original state apart from that, until Anne Lee and I came along.

The Crab Tree

Spring comes anew & brings each little pledge
That still as wont my childish heart decieves
I stoop again for violets in the hedge
Among the Ivy & old withered leaves
& often mark amid the clumps of sedge
The pooty shells I gathered when a boy
But cares have claimed me many an evil day
& chilled the relish which I had for joy
Yet when crab blossoms blush among the may
As wont in years gone bye I scramble now
Up mid the brambles for my old esteems
Filling my hands with many a blooming bough
Till the heart stirring past as present seems
Save the bright sunshine of those fairey dreams

The Rural Muse (1835)

To an early Butterfly

Thrice welcome here again, thou flutt'ring thing,
That gaily seek'st about the opening flower,
And opest and shutt'st thy gaudy-spangled wing
Upon its bosom in the sunny hour;
Fond grateful thoughts from thy appearance spring:
To see thee, Fly, warm me once more to sing
His universal care who hapt thee down,
And did thy winter-dwelling please to give.
That Being's smiles on me dampt winter's frown,
And snatch'd me from the storm, and bade me live.
And now again the welcome season's come,
'Tis thine and mine, in nature's grateful pride,
To thank that God who snatch'd us from the tomb,
And stood our prop, when all gave way beside.

The Village Minstrel, and Other Poems (1821)


Clare's 1819 hymn to being alone... with Patty.

The first 14 lines, illustrated by Anne Lee.  The book may be obtained from Anne direct.  As is the way with scans of paper images on special paper, this is really a pale imitation of the real thing.

Song: "The spring may forget that he reigns in the sky"

The spring may forget that he reigns in the sky
& winter again hide her flowers in the snow
The summer may thirst when her fountains are dry
But I'll think of Mary wherever I go
The bird may forget that her nest is begun
When the snow settles white on the new budding tree
& nature in tempests forget the bright sun
But I'll ne'er forget her—that was plighted to me
How could I—how should I—that loved her so early
Forget—when I've sung of her beauty in song
How could I forget—what I've worshiped so dearly
From boyhood to manhood—& all my life long—
As leaves to the branches in summer comes duly
& blossoms will bloom on the stalk & the tree
To her beauty I'll cling—& I'll love her as truly
& think of sweet Mary wherever I be

(lines 477-492) - Child Harold

The Later Poems of John Clare
ed. Eric Robinson and Geoffrey Summerfield
(Manchester University Press, 1964)