Rich & Poor -- or Saint & Sinner

Actually published in a Stamford newspaper in July 1821, but it could have been written this morning judging by the state of our nation in late 2014

The rich mans sins are under
The rose of wealth & station
     & escape the sight
     Of the children of light
Who are wise in their generation

But the poor mans sins are glaring
In the face of all ghostly warning
     He is caught in the fact
     Of an overt act
Buying greens on a sunday morning


The rich man has a kitchen
Wherein to cook his dinner
     But the poor who would roast
     To the bakers must post
& thus he becomes a sinner

The rich man has a cellar
& a ready butler by him
     The poor man must steer
     For his pint of beer
Where the saint is sure to spy him

The rich man's open windows
Hide the concerts of the quality:
     The poor can but share
     A crack'd fiddle in the air,
Which offends all sound morality.

The rich man is invisible
In the crowd of his gay society
     But the poor mans delight
     Is a sore in the sight
& a stench in the nose of piety

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

Spirit of the woods awake (extract)

A recent finding... only published, as far as I am aware, in the Clarendon Editions.  An early Clare poem virtually impossible to read from the manuscript notebook. Clare wrote all the poems 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 therein have been largely overlooked.  Here is an excerpt, the first two verses.  The poem will figure in its entirety in Anne Lee and my fourth book, "Wood Pictures" which is now some weeks into its planning stage.

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)

Adventures of a Grasshopper (excerpt)

A grasshopper idle the whole summer long
Played about the tall grass with unthinking delight
& spent the whole day with his hopping & song
& sipp'd of the dew for his supper at night
Thus night brought him food & the red rising sun
Awoke him fresh fed to his singing agen
& thus he went on with his frolic & fun
Till winter winds whistled & where was he then


The plain wore no longer the hue of his wing
All withered & brown as a desert could be
In vain he looked round for the shelter of spring
While the longest green sprig scarcely reached to his knee
The rime feathered night fell as white as a sheet
& dewdrops were frozen before they could fall
The shy creeping sun too denied him his heat
Thus the poor silly soul was deserted of all


The ant had forewarned him of what he would be
When he laughed at his toil on the parched summer plain
He now saw the folly he then could not see
But advice taen too late is but labour in vain
If he wished to work now there was nothing to find
The winter told plain twas too late in the day
In vain he looked round in the snow & the wind
Unable to toil & too saddened for 
play

He looked back & sighed on his singing & racket
& employed the last hope he had left him to beg
So he sought in the woods withered leaves for a jacket
Of a rushe he made crutches & limped of a leg
The winds whistled round him while seeking for pity
Oer the white crimping snows he went limping along
Sighing sad at each cottage his sorrowful ditty
But a song out of season is povertys song  


John Clare, The Rural Muse (1835)

Meet me Tonight






















O meet me to-night by the bright starlight,
     Now the pleasant Spring's begun.
My own dear maid, by the greenwood shade,
     In the crimson set of the sun,
                    Meet me to-night.

The sun he goes down with a ruby crown
     To a gold and crimson bed;
And the falling dew, from heaven so blue,
     Hangs pearls on Phoebe's head.
                    Love, leave the town.

Come thou with me; 'neath the green-leaf tree
     We'll crop the bonny sweet brere.
O come, dear maid, 'neath the hazlewood shade,
     For love invites us there.
                    Come then with me.

The owl pops, scarce seen, from the ivy green,
     With his spectacles on I ween:
See the moon's above and the stars twinkle, love;
     Better time was never seen.
                    O come, my queen.

The fox he stops, and down he drops
     His head beneath the grass.
The birds are gone; we're all alone;
     O come, my bonny lass.
                    Come, O come!

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

John Clare Poet facebook group

[Holme Fen this year]

In December 2012, poet Angela Topping and I decided it was time to start a proper John Clare Facebook page. As of today (23rd November 2014), my how we have grown, with today no fewer than 473 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.  Over the weekend of the 12th/14th September, initially again in the Helpston area, we visited Holme Fen and Woodwalton Fen.  Lunch at the Admiral Wells at Holme Fen was fun!

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.

And to add to all that, the weekend of the 11th to 13th July was the 33rd Annual 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.

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)