Poems Chiefly From Manuscript
by John Clare
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House or Window Flies

These little window dwellers, in cottages and halls, were always entertaining to me; after dancing in the window all day from sunrise to sunset they would sip of the tea, drink of the beer, and eat of the sugar, and be welcome all summer long. They look like things of mind or fairies, and seem pleased or dull as the weather permits. In many clean cottages and genteel houses, they are allowed every liberty to creep, fly, or do as they like; and seldom or ever do wrong. In fact they are the small or dwarfish portion of our own family, and so many fairy familiars that we know and treat as one of ourselves.


The dewdrops on every blade of grass are so much like silver drops that I am obliged to stoop down as I walk to see if they are pearls, and those sprinkled on the ivy-woven beds of primroses underneath the hazels, whitethorns and maples are so like gold beads that I stooped down to feel if they were hard, but they melted from my finger. And where the dew lies on the primrose, the violet and whitethorn leaves they are emerald and beryl, yet nothing more than the dews of the morning on the budding leaves; nay, the road grasses are covered with gold and silver beads, and the further we go the brighter they seem to shine, like solid gold and silver. It is nothing more than the sun's light and shade upon them in the dewy morning; every thorn-point and every bramble-spear has its trembling ornament: till the wind gets a little brisker, and then all is shaken off, and all the shining jewelry passes away into a common spring morning full of budding leaves, primroses, violets, vernal speedwell, bluebell and orchis, and commonplace objects.


The cataract, whirling down the precipice, Elbows down rocks and, shouldering, thunders through. Roars, howls, and stifled murmurs never cease; Hell and its agonies seem hid below. Thick rolls the mist, that smokes and falls in dew; The trees and greenwood wear the deepest green. Horrible mysteries in the gulph stare through, Roars of a million tongues, and none knows what they mean.

From "A Rhapsody"

Sweet solitude, what joy to be alone— In wild, wood-shady dell to stay for hours. Twould soften hearts if they were hard as stone To see glad butterflies and smiling flowers. Tis pleasant in these quiet lonely places, Where not the voice of man our pleasure mars, To see the little bees with coal black faces Gathering sweets from little flowers like stars.

The wind seems calling, though not understood. A voice is speaking; hark, it louder calls. It echoes in the far-outstretching wood. First twas a hum, but now it loudly squalls; And then the pattering rain begins to fall, And it is hushed—the fern leaves scarcely shake, The tottergrass it scarcely stirs at all. And then the rolling thunder gets awake, And from black clouds the lightning flashes break.

The sunshine's gone, and now an April evening Commences with a dim and mackerel sky. Gold light and woolpacks in the west are leaving, And leaden streaks their splendid place supply. Sheep ointment seems to daub the dead-hued sky, And night shuts up the lightsomeness of day, All dark and absent as a corpse's eye. Flower, tree, and bush, like all the shadows grey, In leaden hues of desolation fade away.

Tis May; and yet the March flower Dandelion Is still in bloom among the emerald grass, Shining like guineas with the sun's warm eye on— We almost think they are gold as we pass, Or fallen stars in a green sea of grass. They shine in fields, or waste grounds near the town. They closed like painter's brush when even was. At length they turn to nothing else but down, While the rude winds blow off each shadowy crown.

Secret Love

I hid my love when young till I Couldn't bear the buzzing of a fly; I hid my love to my despite Till I could not bear to look at light: I dare not gaze upon her face But left her memory in each place; Where eer I saw a wild flower lie I kissed and bade my love good bye.

I met her in the greenest dells Where dewdrops pearl the wood blue bells The lost breeze kissed her bright blue eye, The bee kissed and went singing by, A sunbeam found a passage there, A gold chain round her neck so fair; As secret as the wild bee's song She lay there all the summer long.

I hid my love in field and town Till een the breeze would knock me down, The bees seemed singing ballads oer, The fly's bass turned a lion's roar; And even silence found a tongue, To haunt me all the summer long; The riddle nature could not prove Was nothing else but secret love.

Bantry Bay

On the eighteenth of October we lay in Bantry Bay, All ready to set sail, with a fresh and steady gale: A fortnight and nine days we in the harbour lay, And no breeze ever reached us or strained a single sail. Three ships of war had we, and the great guns loaded all; But our ships were dead and beaten that had never feared a foe. The winds becalmed around us cared for no cannon ball; They locked us in the harbour and would not let us go.

On the nineteenth of October, by eleven of the clock, The sky turned black as midnight and a sudden storm came on— Awful and sudden—and the cables felt the shock; Our anchors they all broke away and every sheet was gone. The guns fired off amid the strife, but little hope had we; The billows broke above the ship and left us all below. The crew with one consent cried "Bear further out to sea," But the waves obeyed no sailor's call, and we knew not where to go.

She foundered on a rock, while we clambered up the shrouds, And staggered like a mountain drunk, wedged in the waves almost. The red hot boiling billows foamed in the stooping clouds, And in that fatal tempest the whole ship's crew were lost. Have pity for poor mariners, ye landsmen, in a storm. O think what they endure at sea while safe at home you stay. All ye that sleep on beds at night in houses dry and warm, O think upon the whole ship's crew, all lost at Bantry Bay.

Peggy's the Lady of the Hall

And will she leave the lowly clowns For silk and satins gay, Her woollen aprons and drab gowns For lady's cold array? And will she leave the wild hedge rose, The redbreast and the wren, And will she leave her Sunday beaus And milk shed in the glen? And will she leave her kind friends all To be the Lady of the Hall?

The cowslips bowed their golden drops, The white thorn white as sheets; The lamb agen the old ewe stops, The wren and robin tweets. And Peggy took her milk pails still, And sang her evening song, To milk her cows on Cowslip Hill For half the summer long. But silk and satins rich and rare Are doomed for Peggy still to wear.

But when the May had turned to haws, The hedge rose swelled to hips, Peggy was missed without a cause, And left us in eclipse. The shepherd in the hovel milks, Where builds the little wren, And Peggy's gone, all clad in silks— Far from the happy glen, From dog-rose, woodbine, clover, all To be the Lady of the Hall.

I Dreamt of Robin

I opened the casement this morn at starlight, And, the moment I got out of bed, The daisies were quaking about in their white And the cowslip was nodding its head. The grass was all shivers, the stars were all bright, And Robin that should come at e'en— I thought that I saw him, a ghost by moonlight, Like a stalking horse stand on the green.

I went bed agen and did nothing but dream Of Robin and moonlight and flowers. He stood like a shadow transfixed by a stream, And I couldn't forget him for hours. I'd just dropt asleep when I dreamed Robin spoke, And the casement it gave such a shake, As if every pane in the window was broke; Such a patter the gravel did make.

So I up in the morning before the cock crew And to strike me a light I sat down. I saw from the door all his track in the dew And, I guess, called "Come in and sit down." And one, sure enough, tramples up to the door, And who but young Robin his sen? And ere the old folks were half willing to stir We met, kissed, and parted agen.

The Peasant Poet

He loved the brook's soft sound, The swallow swimming by. He loved the daisy-covered ground, The cloud-bedappled sky. To him the dismal storm appeared The very voice of God; And when the evening rack was reared Stood Moses with his rod. And everything his eyes surveyed, The insects in the brake, Were creatures God Almighty made, He loved them for His sake— A silent man in life's affairs, A thinker from a boy, A peasant in his daily cares, A poet in his joy.

To John Clare

Well, honest John, how fare you now at home? The spring is come, and birds are building nests; The old cock robin to the stye is come, With olive feathers and its ruddy breast; And the old cock, with wattles and red comb, Struts with the hens, and seems to like some best, Then crows, and looks about for little crumbs, Swept out by little folks an hour ago; The pigs sleep in the stye; the bookman comes— The little boy lets home-close nesting go, And pockets tops and taws, where daisies bloom, To look at the new number just laid down, With lots of pictures, and good stories too, And Jack the Giant-killer's high renown.

Feb. 10, 1860.

Early Spring

The Spring is come, and Spring flowers coming too, The crocus, patty kay, the rich hearts' ease; The polyanthus peeps with blebs of dew, And daisy flowers; the buds swell on the trees; While oer the odd flowers swim grandfather bees In the old homestead rests the cottage cow; The dogs sit on their haunches near the pail, The least one to the stranger growls "bow wow," Then hurries to the door and cocks his tail, To knaw the unfinished bone; the placid cow Looks oer the gate; the thresher's lumping flail Is all the noise the spring encounters now.

May 28, 1860.


In the cowslip pips I lie, Hidden from the buzzing fly, While green grass beneath me lies, Pearled with dew like fishes' eyes, Here I lie, a clock-a-clay, Waiting for the time of day.

While the forest quakes surprise, And the wild wind sobs and sighs, My home rocks as like to fall, On its pillar green and tall; When the pattering rain drives by Clock-a-clay keeps warm and dry.

Day by day and night by night, All the week I hide from sigh; In the cowslip pips I lie, In rain and dew still warm and dry; Day and night, and night and day, Red, black-spotted clock-a-clay.

My home shakes in wind and showers, Pale green pillar topped with flowers, Bending at the wild wind's breath, Till I touch the grass beneath; Here I live, lone clock-a-clay, Watching for the time of day.

Little Trotty Wagtail

Little trotty wagtail he went in the rain, And tittering, tottering sideways he neer got straight again, He stooped to get a worm, and looked up to get a fly, And then he flew away ere his feathers they were dry.

Little trotty wagtail, he waddled in the mud, And left his little footmarks, trample where he would. He waddled in the water-pudge, and waggle went his tail, And chirrupt up his wings to dry upon the garden rail.

Little trotty wagtail, you nimble all about, And in the dimpling water-pudge you waddle in and out; Your home is nigh at hand, and in the warm pig-stye, So, little Master Wagtail, I'll bid you a good-bye.

Graves of Infants

Infant' graves are steps of angels, where Earth's brightest gems of innocence repose. God is their parent, and they need no tear; He takes them to His bosom from earth's woes, A bud their lifetime and a flower their close. Their spirits are an Iris of the skies, Needing no prayers; a sunset's happy close. Gone are the bright rays of their soft blue eyes; Flowers weep in dew-drops oer them, and the gale gently sighs

Their lives were nothing but a sunny shower, Melting on flowers as tears melt from the eye. Their deaths were dew-drops on Heaven's amaranth bower, And tolled on flowers as Summer gales went by. They bowed and trembled, and they left no sigh, And the sun smiled to show their end was well. Infants have nought to weep for ere they die; All prayers are needless, beads they need not tell, White flowers their mourners are, Nature their passing bell.

The Dying Child

He could not die when trees were green, For he loved the time too well. His little hands, when flowers were seen, Were held for the bluebell, As he was carried oer the green.

His eye glanced at the white-nosed bee; He knew those children of the Spring: When he was well and on the lea He held one in his hands to sing, Which filled his heart with glee.

Infants, the children of the Spring! How can an infant die When butterflies are on the wing, Green grass, and such a sky? How can they die at Spring?

He held his hands for daisies white, And then for violets blue, And took them all to bed at night That in the green fields grew, As childhood's sweet delight.

And then he shut his little eyes, And flowers would notice not; Birds' nests and eggs caused no surprise, He now no blossoms got: They met with plaintive sighs.

When Winter came and blasts did sigh, And bare were plain and tree, As he for ease in bed did lie His soul seemed with the free, He died so quietly.

Love Lives Beyond the Tomb

Love lives beyond The tomb, the earth, which fades like dew! I love the fond, The faithful, and the true.

Love lives in sleep, The happiness of healthy dreams: Eve's dews may weep, But love delightful seems.

Tis seen in flowers, And in the morning's pearly dew; In earth's green hours, And in the heaven's eternal blue.

Tis heard in Spring When light and sunbeams, warm and kind, On angel's wing Bring love and music to the mind.

And where is voice, So young, so beautiful, and sweet As Nature's choice, Where Spring and lovers meet?

Love lives beyond The tomb, the earth, the flowers, and dew. I love the fond, The faithful, young and true.

I Am

I AM: yet what I am none cares or knows, My friends forsake me like a memory lost; I am the self-consumer of my woes, They rise and vanish in oblivious host, Like shades in love and death's oblivion lost; And yet I am, and live with shadows tost

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise, Into the living sea of waking dreams, Where there is neither sense of life nor joys, But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems; And een the dearest—that I loved the best— Are strange—nay, rather stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man has never trod; A place where woman never smiled or wept; There to abide with my Creator, GOD, And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept: Untroubling and untroubled where I lie; The grass below—above the vaulted sky.



A Specimen of Clare's rough drafts

In a huge cloud of mountain hue The sun sets dark nor shudders through One single beam to shine again Tis night already in the lane

The settled clouds in ridges lie And some swell mountains calm and high

Clouds rack and drive before the wind In shapes and forms of every kind Like waves that rise without the roars And rocks that guard untrodden shores Now castles pass majestic bye And ships in peaceful havens lie These gone ten thousand shapes ensue For ever beautiful and new

The scattered clouds lie calm and still And day throws gold on every hill Their thousand heads in glorys run As each were worlds and owned a sun The rime it clings to every thing It beards the early buds of spring The mossy pales the orchard spray Are feathered with its silver grey

Rain drizzles in the face so small We scarce can say it rains at all

The cows turned to the pelting rain No longer at their feed remain But in the sheltering hovel hides That from two propping dotterels strides

The sky was hilled with red and blue With lighter shadows waking through Till beautiful and beaming day Shed streaks of gold for miles away

The linnet stopt her song to clean Her spreading wings of yellow green And turn his head as liking well To smooth the dropples as they fell

One scarce could keep one's path aright From gazing upward at the sight

The boys for wet are forced to pass The cuckoo flowers among the grass To hasten on as well they may For hedge or tree or stack of hay Where they for shelter can abide Safe seated by its sloping side That by the blackthorn thicket cowers A shelter in the strongest showers

The gardens golden gilliflowers Are paled with drops of amber showers

Dead leaves from hedges flirt about The chaff from barn doors winnows out And down without a wing to flye As fast as bees goes sailing bye The feather finds a wing to flye And dust in wirl puffs winnows bye

When the rain at midday stops Spangles glitter in the drops And as each thread a sunbeam was Cobwebs glitter in the grass

The sheep all loaded with the rain Try to shake it off in vain And ere dryed by wind and sun The load will scarcely let them run

The shepherds foot is sodden through And leaves will clout his brushing shoe The buttercups in gold alloyed And daiseys by the shower destroyed

The sun is overcast clouds lie And thicken over all the sky

Crows morn and eve will flock in crowds To fens and darken like the clouds So many is their cumberous flight The dull eve darkens into night

Clouds curl and curdle blue and grey And dapple the young summers day

Through the torn woods the violent rain Roars and rattles oer the plain And bubbles up in every pool Till dykes and ponds are brimming full

The thickening clouds move slowly on Till all the many clouds are one That spreads oer all the face of day And turns the sunny shine to grey

Now the meadow water smokes And hedgerows dripping oaks Fitter patter all around And dimple the once dusty ground The spinners threads about the weeds Are hung with little drops in beads Clover silver green becomes And purple blue surrounds the plumbs And every place breaths fresh and fair When morning pays her visit there

The day is dull the heron trails On flapping wings like heavy sails And oer the mead so lowly swings She fans the herbage with her wings

The waterfowl with suthering wings Dive down the river splash and spring Up to the very clouds again That sprinkle scuds of coming rain That flye and drizzle all the day Till dripping grass is turned to grey

The various clouds that move or lye Like mighty travellers in the sky All mountainously ridged or curled That may have travelled round the world

The water ruckles into waves And loud the neighbouring woodland raves All telling of the coming storm That fills the village with alarm

Ere yet the sun is two hours high Winds find all quarters of the sky With sudden shiftings all around And now the grass upon the ground And now the leaves they wirl and wirl With many a flirting flap and curl JOHN CLARE: A BIBLIOGRAPHICAL OUTLINE



POEMS DESCRIPTIVE OF RURAL LIFE AND SCENERY. By John Clare, a Northamptonshire Peasant. London: Printed for Taylor and Hessey. 1820. 12mo. Pp. xxxii, 222. The second and third editions, 1820; excisions and alterations occur, but not in all copies. Fourth edition, 1821.


THE VILLAGE MINSTREL AND OTHER POEMS. Taylor and Hessey. 1821. Two volumes 12mo. Pp. xxviii, 216; vi, 211. Second edition, 1823. The two volumes were also, at a later date, bound in one cover lettered "Poetic Souvenir."




THE RURAL MUSE. London: Whittaker & Co. 1835. 12mo. Pp. x, 175.

Biographies and Selections


THE LIFE OF JOHN CLARE. By Frederick Martin, London and Cambridge: Macmillan & Co. 1865. Fcp. 8vo. Pp. viii, 301.


LIFE AND REMAINS OF JOHN CLARE. By J. L. Cherry. London: Frederick Warne & Co. Northampton: J. Taylor & Son. 1873. (Issued in the Chandos Classics, 1873-1877.) Fcap. 8vo. Pp. xiii, 349.


POEMS BY JOHN CLARE, selected and introduced by Norman Gale. With a Bibliography by C. Ernest Smith. Geo. E. Over, Rugby, 1901. Fcp. 8vo. Pp. 206.


POEMS BY JOHN CLARE, edited with an Introduction by Arthur Symons. Frowde, London, 1908. I2mo. Pp. 208.


NORTHAMPTONSHIRE BOTANOLOGIA. JOHN CLARE. By G. Claridge Druce. Pamphlet: no printer's name. 1912. (It includes a memoir, and a classification of the flowers described in Clare's poems.)

Miscellaneous Clare Volumes


FOUR LETTERS from the Rev. W. Allen, to the Right Honourable Lord Radstock, G.C.B., on the Poems of John Clare, the Northamptonshire Peasant. Hatchards' (1823). 12mo. Pp. 77.


THREE VERY INTERESTING LETTERS (two in curious rhyme) by the celebrated poets Clare, Cowper, and Bird. With an Appendix (Clare's "Familiar Epistle to a Friend"). ff.13. Charles Clarke's private press, Great Totham, 1837. 8vo. Only 25 copies printed. THE JOHN CLARE CENTENARY EXHIBITION CATALOGUE. Introduction by C. Dack. Peterborough Natural History Society, 1893. Pamphlet. Pp. viii, 28. An edition of 50 copies was printed on large paper.

Clare's Contributions to Periodicals

A detailed list of Clare's work in the magazines is a lengthy affair. His main connections were with the "London Magazine" (1821-1823), "European Magazine" (1825, 1826), "Literary Magnet" (1826, 1827), "Spirit and Manners of the Age" (1828, 1829), the publications of William Hone, "Athenaeum" (1831), "Englishman's Magazine" (1831), "Literary Receptacle" (1835). He contributed once or twice to the "Sheffield Iris," "Morning Post," and the "Champion"; and much of his best work seems to have been printed in local papers, such as the "Stamford Bee." The annuals often included short poems by him: the "Amulet," "Forget-Me-Not," "Friendship's Offering," "Gem," "Juvenile Forget-Me-Not," "Literary Souvenir," etc.

Clare's magazine writings are not always signed, and in the annuals his poems often bear no ascription except "By the Northamptonshire Peasant." After 1837 he appears not to have contributed poems to any journals other than local; though Cyrus Redding in the "English Journal," 1841, gives many of his later verses.

Incidental Reference Volumes

ALLIBONE, S. A.—Dictionary of English Literature.

ASKHAM, JOHN—Sonnets on the Months ("To John Clare," p. 185)—1863.

BAKER, Miss A. E.—Glossary of Northamptonshire Words and Phrases (Clare contributed)—1854.

CARY, H. F.—MEMOIR OF; ii. 52-53, 94-95—1847.

CHAMBERS, R.—Cyclopaedia of English Literature, ii. 386-390—1861.

DE QUINCZY, T.—London Reminiscences, pp. 143-145—1897.

DE WILDE, G.—Rambles Round About, and Poems: pp. 30-49—1872.


DOBELL, B.—Sidelights on Charles Lamb—1903.


(GALIGNANI'S)—Living Poets of England: pp.172-174—1827.

HALL, S. C.—Book of Gems: pp. 162-166—1838. —A Book of Memories: pp. 107-109.

HEATH, RICHARD—The English Peasant: pp. 292-319—1893.

HOLLAND, J.—James Montgomery: iv. 96, 175—1854.

HOOD, E. P.—The Peerage of Poverty—1870.

HOOD, THOMAS—Works, ii. 374-377—1882.

LAMB, CHARLES—LETTERS (Ed. W. Macdonald), ii. 22—1903.

LOMBROSO, CESARE—The Man of Genius, 162, 205—1891.

MEN OF THE TIME—earlier issues.

MILES, A. H.—Poets and Poetry of the Nineteenth Century. Vol. "Keats to Lytton," pp. 79-106 (by Roden Noel)—1905.

MITFORD, M. R.—Recollections of a Literary Life. I. 147-163—1857.

REDDING, CYRUS—Fifty Years' Recollections: ii. 211—1858. —Past Celebrities Whom I Have Known: ii. 132 sq.

STODDARD, R. H.—Under the Evening Lamp: pp.120-134—1893.

SYMONS, ARTHUR—The Romantic Movement in English Poetry: pp. 288-293—1908.

TAYLOR, JOHN—Bibliotheca Northantonesis—1869.

THOMAS, EDWARD—Feminine Influence on the Poets—1908. —A Literary Pilgrim in England—1917.

WALKER, HUGH—The Literature of the Victorian Era: pp. 241-245—1913.

WILSON, JOHN—Recreations of Christopher North, i. 313-318—1842.

Magazine Articles, &c.

1820 Analectic Magazine June Antijacobin Review April Eclectic Review February Gentleman's Magazine January, March London Magazine July Monthly Magazine March New Monthly January, May New Times February Northamptonshire County Magazine May Quarterly Review

1821 October Ackermann's Repository June British Critic Eclectic Review November European Magazine Gentleman's Magazine October Literary Chronicle October Literary Gazette November London Magazine Monthly Review

1822 January Eclectic Review

1823 London Magazine

1827 June Ackermann's Repository June Eclectic Review John Bull Literary Chronicle March Literary Gazette Morning Chronicle

1829 British Almanac and Companion

1831 November Blackwood's 1832 October The Alfred Athenaeum August True Sun

1835 July 25 Athenaeum August Blackwood's July 25 Literary Gazette New Monthly

1840 June Athenaeum June Times

1841 May English Journal May Gentleman's Magazine

1852 August 28 Notes and Queries

1855 March 31 Illustrated London News

1857 November 21 London Journal January Quarterly

1858 March 6 Notes and Queries

1860 Living Age (U.S.A.)

1863 October 31 Notes and Queries Once a Week

1864 Annual Register July Gentleman's Magazine July St. James's Magazine

1865 June 17 Athenaeum Chambers' Journal August Eclectic Review November 11 Leisure Hour Spectator

1866 January Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine

1869 November Harper's New Monthly

1870 June 17 Literary World

1872 February 3 Notes and Queries Overland (U.S.A.)

1873 April Athenaeum Leisure Hour January Literary World Notes and Queries Saturday Review, and many other reviews of Cherry's volume

1874 October 17 Notes and Queries

1877 Living Age

1886 Northamptonshire Notes and Queries; 97.

1890 December 13 All the Year Round September 6 Notes and Queries

1893 August, September Literary World

1901 July Current Literature (U.S.A.) Freethinker Monthly Review

1902 April Gentleman's Magazine

1908 December 17 Nation (New York)

1909 March Current Literature T.P.'s Weekly

1913 January South Atlantic Quarterly

1914 October Yale Review

1915 May Fortnightly Review

1917 July 19 Dial (U.S.A.)

1919 September Cornhill Magazine

1920 February 22 Nation March, April Athenaeum May Oxford Outlook July London Mercury October Poetry Review

In addition to these references, valuable material is contained in such local papers as the Northampton Herald, Northampton Mercury, Stamford Mercury, Stamford Guardian, and the Peterborough Express, and the Peterborough Standard; particularly under the important dates 1820, 1864, 1873, and 1893.


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