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´╗┐Title: Life and Remains of John Clare, The "Northamptonshire Peasant Poet"
Author: Clare, John
Language: English
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The "Northamptonshire Peasant Poet"






"And he sat him down in a lonely place,
And chanted a melody loud and sweet."





Among the papers which John Clare, the "Peasant Poet" of our county,
left behind him, was one in which he desired that the Editor of his
"Remains" should dedicate them "to Earl Spencer, with the Author's
last wishes."

That memorandum was written in the year 1825, when the poet was
anticipating, to use his own words, a speedy entrance into "the dark
porch of eternity, whence none returns to tell the tale of his

These melancholy forebodings were not realized, for although in a few
years Clare became dead to the world, he lived on in seclusion to a
patriarchal age. Meanwhile the Earl Spencer to whom he desired that
his "Remains" should be dedicated passed away, and the title
descended first to your lordship's uncle, then to your lordship's
father, and lastly to your lordship. But through all these years the
Earls Spencer were the steadfast and generous friends of the unhappy
Poet, nor did your lordship's bounty cease with his life, but was
continued to his widow.

In dedicating this volume to your lordship, as I now do, I am
complying with the spirit and almost with the very letter of poor
Clare's injunction.

I am, with unfeigned respect,

Your lordship's most obedient servant,



The Editor begs the reader to believe that he under took the
compilation of this volume with diffidence and trepidation, lest by
any defect of judgment he might do aught to diminish the reputation
which John Clare has always enjoyed with the lovers of pastoral
poetry. He trusts that the shortcomings of an unskilful workman will
be forgotten in admiration of the gems for which he has been required
to find a setting.

Shortly after Clare's death his literary "Remains" came into the
possession of Mr. Taylor, of Northampton. The MSS included several
hundreds of hitherto unpublished poems, more than a thousand letters
addressed to Clare by his friends and contemporaries, (among them
Charles Lamb, James Montgomery, Bloomfield, Sir Chas. A. Elton, Hood,
Cary, Allan Cunningham, Mrs. Emmerson, Lord Radstock, &c), diary,
pocket books in which Clare had jotted down passing thoughts and
fancies in prose and verse, a small collection of curious "Old
Ballads" which he says he wrote down on hearing them sung by his
father and mother, and numerous other valuable and interesting

This volume has been compiled mainly from these manuscripts. The
contents are divided into five sections, namely:--Life and Letters,
Asylum Poems, Miscellaneous Poems, Prose Fragments, Old Ballads.

For much of the information relating to the Poet's earlier years the
Editor is indebted to Mr. Martin's "Life of Clare," and the
narratives of his youthful struggles and sufferings which appeared in
the "Quarterly Review" and other periodicals at the time of the
publication of his first volume. From that time the correspondence
already mentioned became the basis of the biographical sketch, and
was of the greatest value. In the few pages which relate to Clare's
residence at Northampton, the Editor was enabled to write principally
from personal knowledge.

It is almost incumbent upon him to add, that in several important
particulars he dissents from Mr. Martin, but he will not engage in
the ungracious task of criticizing a work to which he is under an

While an inmate of the Northampton County Lunatic Asylum, Clare wrote
more than five hundred poems. These were carefully preserved by Mr.
W. F. Knight, of Birmingham, a gentleman who for many years held a
responsible office in that institution, and was a kind-hearted friend
of the unhappy bard. From this pile of manuscripts the Editor has
selected those which appear under the title of Asylum Poems. The
selection was a pleasing, mournful task. Again and again it happened
that a poem would open with a bright, musical stanza giving promise
of a finished work not unworthy of Clare's genius at its best. This
would be followed by others in which, to quote a line from the
"Village Minstrel," were "Half-vacant thoughts and rhymes of careless
form." Then came deeper obscurity, and at last incoherent nonsense.
Of those which are printed, scarcely one was found in a state in
which it could be submitted to the public without more or less of
revision and correction.

The Miscellaneous Poems are chiefly fugitive pieces collected from
magazines and annuals. One or two, referred to in the correspondence
with James Montgomery, have been reprinted from the "Rural Muse," and
there are a few which, like the Asylum Poems, have not been published
before. "Maying; or, Love and Flowers," to which the Editor presumes
specially to direct attention, is one of these.

The Prose Fragments are of minor literary importance, but they help
to a knowledge and an understanding of the man. The Old Ballads have
an interest of their own, apart from their association with Clare.
The majority are no doubt what they purport to be, but in two or
three instances Clare's hand is discernible.

J. L. C.

Havelock-place, Hanley,

December, 1872.




'T is Spring, My Love, 't is Spring
Love of Nature
The Invitation
To the Lark
Graves of Infants
Bonny Lassie O!
Phoebe of the Scottish Glen
Maid of the Wilderness
Mary Bateman
When Shall We Meet Again?
The Lover's Invitation
Nature's Darling
I'll Dream Upon the Days to Come
To Isobel
The Shepherd's Daughter
Lassie, I Love Thee
The Gipsy Lass
At the Foot of Clifford Hill
To My Wife--A Valentine
My True Love is a Sailor
The Sailor's Return
Birds, Why Are Ye Silent?
Meet Me Tonight
Young Jenny
My Bonny Alice and Her Pitcher
The Maiden I Love
To Jenny Lind
Little Trotty Wagtail
The Forest Maid
Bonnny Mary O!
Love's Emblem
The Morning Walk
To Miss C....
I Pluck Summer Blossoms
The March Nosegay
Left Alone
To Mary
The Nightingale
The Dying Child
Clock-a Clay
The Swallow
Jockey and Jenny
The Face I Love So Dearly
The Beanfield
Where She Told Her Love
Milking O' the Kye
A Lover's Vows
The Fall of the Year
Early Love
A Valentine
To Liberty
Approach of Winter
Mary Dove
Spring's Nosegay
The Lost One
The Tell-Tale Flowers
The Skylark
Poets Love Nature--A Fragment
Home Yearnings
My Schoolboy Days
Love Lives Beyond the Tomb
My Early Home
Mary Appleby
Among the Green Bushes
To Jane
The Old Year


Maying; or, A Love of Flowers
Two Sonnets to Mary
The Vanities of Life
The Old Man's Lament
Spring Flowers
Poem on Death
The Wanton Chloe
The Old Shepherd
To a Rosebud in Humble Life
The Triumphs of Time
To John Milton
The Birds and St. Valentine
Farewell and Defiance to Love
The Gipsy's Song
Peggy Band
To a Brook


A Confession of Faith
Essay on Popularity
Scraps for an Essay on Criticism and Fashion
Scraps for an Essay on Criticism


Adieu to My False Love Forever
O Silly Love! O Cunning Love!
Nobody Cometh to Woo
Fare Thee Well
Mary Neele
Love Scorned By Pride
The Maiden's Welcome
The False Knight's Tragedy
Love's Riddle
The Banks of Ivory


Bedlam cowslip: the paigle, or larger kind of cowslip.
Bents: tall, coarse, rushy stems of grass.
Blea: high, exposed.
Bleb: a bubble, a small drop.
Clock-a-clay: the ladybird.
Daffies: daffodils.
Dithering: trembling, shivering.
Hing: preterite of hang.
Ladysmock: the cardamine pratensis.
Pink: the chaffinch.
Pooty: the girdled snail shell.
Ramping: coarse and large.
Rawky: misty, foggy.
Rig: the ridge of a roof.
Sueing: a murmuring, melancholy sound.
Swaly: wasteful.
Sweltered: over-heated by the sun.
Twitchy: made of twitch grass.
Water-Hob: the marsh marigold.



John Clare, son of Parker and Ann Clare, commonly called "the
Northamptonshire Peasant Poet," was born at Helpstone, near
Peterborough, on the 13th of July, 1793. The lowliness of his lot
lends some countenance to the saying of "Melancholy" Burton, that
"poverty is the Muses' patrimony." He was the elder of twins, and was
so small an infant that his mother used to say of him that "John
might have been put into a pint pot." Privation and toil disabled his
father at a comparatively early age, and he became a pauper,
receiving from the parish an allowance of five shillings a week. His
mother was of feeble constitution and was afflicted with dropsy.
Clare inherited the low vitality of his parents, and until he reached
middle age was subject to depressing ailments which more than once
threatened his life, but after that time the failure of his mental
powers caused him to be placed in circumstances favourable to bodily
health, and in his old age he presented the outward aspect of a
sturdy yeoman.

Having endowed Clare with high poetic sensibility, Nature
capriciously placed him amid scenes but little calculated to call
forth rapturous praises of her charms. "Helpstone," wrote an old
friend of the poet, lately deceased, "lies between six and seven
miles NNW of Peterborough, on the Syston and Peterborough branch of
the Midland Railway, the station being about half a mile from the
town. A not unpicturesque country lies about it, though its beauty is
somewhat of the Dutch character; far-stretching distances, level
meadows, intersected with grey willows and sedgy dikes, frequent
spires, substantial watermills, and farm houses of white stone, and
cottages of white stone also. Southward, a belt of wood, with a
gentle rise beyond, redeems it from absolute flatness. Entering the
town by the road from the east you come to a cross, standing in the
midst of four ways. Before you, and to the left, stretches the town,
consisting of wide streets or roadways, with irregular buildings on
either side, interspersed with gardens now lovely with profuse blooms
of laburnum and lilac."

The cottage in which John Clare was born is in the main street
running south. The views of it which illustrate his poems are not
very accurate. They represent it as standing alone, when it is in
fact, and evidently always has been, a cluster of two if not of three
tenements. There are three occupations now. It is on the west side of
the street, and is thatched. In the illustration to the second volume
of "The Village Minstrel" (1821), an open stream runs before the door
which is crossed by a plank. Modern sanitary regulations have done
away with this, if it ever existed and was not a fancy of the artist.


Clare, whose local attachments were intense, bewails in indignant
verse the demolition of the Green:--

  Ye injur'd fields, ye once were gay,
  When Nature's hand displayed
  Long waving rows of willows grey
  And clumps of hawthorn shade;
  But now, alas! your hawthorn bowers
  All desolate we see!
  The spoiler's axe their shade devours,
  And cuts down every tree.

  Not trees alone have owned their force,
  Whole woods beneath them bowed,
  They turned the winding rivulet's course,
  And all thy pastures plough'd.

Clare also wrote in the "Village Minstrel" in the following candid
and artless strain, "a sort of defiant parody on the Highland poets",
of the natural features of his native place:--

  Swamps of wild rush-beds and sloughs' squashy traces,
  Grounds of rough fallows with thistle and weed.
  Flats and low valleys of kingcups and daisies,
  Sweetest of subjects are ye for my reed:
  Ye commons left free in the rude rags of nature,
  Ye brown heaths beclothed in furze as ye be,
  My wild eye in rapture adores every feature,
  Ye are dear as this heart in my bosom to me.

  O native endearments! I would not forsake ye,
  I would not forsake ye for sweetest of scenes:
  For sweetest of gardens that Nature could make me
  I would not forsake ye, dear valleys and greens:
  Though Nature ne'er dropped ye a cloud-resting mountain,
  Nor waterfalls tumble their music so free,
  Had Nature denied ye a bush, tree, or fountain,
  Ye still had been loved as an Eden by me.

  And long, my dear valleys, long, long may ye flourish,
  Though rush-beds and thistles make most of your pride!
  May showers never fail the green's daisies to nourish,
  Nor suns dry the fountain that rills by its side!
  Your skies may be gloomy, and misty your mornings,
  Your flat swampy valleys unwholesome may be,
  Still, refuse of Nature, without her adornings
  Ye are dear as this heart in my bosom to me.

That the poet's attachment to his native place was deeprooted and
unaffected was proved by the difficulty which he found in tearing
himself from it in after years, and it is more than probable that the
violence which, for the sake of others, he then did to his sensitive
nature aggravated his constitutional melancholy and contributed to
the ultimate overthrow of his reason.


Clare's opportunities for learning the elements of knowledge were in
keeping with his humble station. Parker Clare, out of his miserable
and fluctuating earnings as a day labourer, paid for his child's
schooling until he was seven years of age, when he was set to watch
sheep and geese on the village heath. Here he made the acquaintance
of "Granny Bains," of whom Mr. Martin, quoting, doubtless, from
Clare's manuscript autobiography, says:--

"Having spent almost her whole life out of doors, in heat and cold,
storm and rain, she had come to be intimately acquainted with all the
signs of foreboding change of weather, and was looked upon by her
acquaintances as a perfect oracle. She had also a most retentive
memory, and being of a joyous nature, with a bodily frame that never
knew illness, had learnt every verse or melody that was sung within
her hearing, until her mind became a very storehouse of songs. To
John, old Granny Bains soon took a great liking, he being a devout
listener, ready to sit at her feet for hours and hours while she was
warbling her little ditties, alternately merry and plaintive. But
though often disturbed in the enjoyment of these delightful
recitations, they nevertheless sank deep into John Clare's mind,
until he found himself repeating all day long the songs he had heard,
and even in his dreams kept humming:--

  There sat two ravens upon a tree,
  Heigh down, derry O!
  There sat two ravens upon a tree,
  As deep in love as he and she.

It was thus that the admiration of poetry first awoke in Parker
Clare's son, roused by the songs of Granny Bains, the cowherd of


From watching cows and geese, the boy was in due course promoted to
the rank of team-leader, and was also set to assist his father in the
threshing barn. "John," his father used to say, "was weak but
willing," and the good man made his son a flail proportioned to his
strength. Exposure in the ill-drained fields round Helpstone brought
on an attack of tertiary ague, from which the boy had scarcely
rallied when he was again sent into the fields. Favourable weather
having set in, he recovered his health, and was able that summer to
make occasionally a few pence by working overtime. These savings were
religiously devoted to schooling, and in the following winter, he
being then in his tenth year, he attended an evening school at the
neighbouring village of Glinton. John soon became a favourite of the
master, Mr. James Merrishaw, and was allowed the run of his little
library. His passion for learning rapidly developed itself, and he
eagerly devoured every book that came in his way, his reading ranging
from "Robinson Crusoe" to "Bonnycastle's Arithmetic" and "Ward's
Algebra." He refers to this in later life when he thus speaks of the
"Village Minstrel":--

  And oft, with books, spare hours he would beguile,
  And blunder oft with joy round Crusoe's lonely isle.

John pursued his studies for two or three winters under the guidance
of the good-natured Merrishaw, and at the end of that time an
unsuccessful effort was made to obtain for him a situation as clerk
in the office of a solicitor at Wisbeach. After this failure he
returned contentedly to the fields, and about this time found a new
friend in the son of a small farmer named Turnill. The two youths
read together, Turnill assisting Clare with books and writing
materials. He now began to "snatch a fearful joy" by scribbling on
scraps of paper his unpolished rhymes. "When he was fourteen or
fifteen," to use his mother's own words, "he would show me a piece of
paper, printed sometimes on one side and scrawled all over on the
other, and he would say, 'Mother, this is worth silver and gold,' and
I used to say to him, 'Ay, boy, it looks as if it wur,' but I thought
he was only wasting his time." John deposited a bundle of these
fragments in a chink in the cottage wall, whence "they were duly and
daily subtracted by his mother to boil the morning's kettle," but we
do not find that he was greatly disturbed by the loss, for being
sympathetically asked on one occasion whether he had not kept copies
of his earliest poems he replied that he had not, and that they were
very likely good for nothing.

While he was yet in his early youth an important and, in some
respects, a favourable change took place in the nature of his daily
occupation. Among the few well-to-do inhabitants of Helpstone was a
person named Francis Gregory, who owned a small public-house, under
the sign of the Blue Bell, and rented besides a few acres of land.
Francis Gregory, a most kind and amiable man, was unmarried, and kept
house with his old mother, a female servant, and a lad, the latter
half groom and half gardener. This situation, a yearly hiring, being
vacant, it was offered to John, and eagerly accepted, on the
understanding that he should have sufficient time of his own to
continue his studies. It was a promise abundantly kept, for John
Clare had never more leisure, and perhaps was never happier in his
life than during the year that he stayed at the Blue Bell. Mr.
Francis Gregory, suffering under constant illness, treated the pale
little boy, who was always hanging over his books, more like a son
than a servant, and this feeling was fully shared by Mr. Gregory's
mother. John's chief labours were to attend to a horse and a couple
of cows, and occasionally to do some light work in the garden or the
potato field; and as these occupations seldom filled more than part
of the day or the week, he had all the rest of the time to himself. A
characteristic part of Clare's nature began to reveal itself now.
While he had little leisure to himself, and much hard work, he was
not averse to the society of friends and companions either, as in the
case of Turnill, for study, or, as with others, for recreation; but
as soon as he found himself to a certain extent his own master he
forsook the company of his former acquaintances, and began to lead a
sort of hermit's life. He took long strolls into the woods, along the
meres, and to other lonely places, and got into the habit of
remaining whole hours at some favourite spot, lying flat on the
ground with his face towards the sky. "The flickering shadows of the
sun, the rustling of the leaves on the trees, the sailing of the
fitful clouds over the horizon, and the golden blaze of the sun at
morn and eventide were to him spectacles of which his eye never
tired, with which his heart never got satiated." (Martin.)


The age at which Clare's poetic fancies first wrought themselves into
verse cannot be definitely fixed. We know from his steadfast friend
and first editor, the late Mr. John Taylor, publisher to the London
University, that his fondness for poetry found expression before even
he had learnt to read. He was tired one day with looking at the
pictures in a volume of poems, which he used to say he thought was
Pomfret's, when his father read him one piece in the book to amuse
him. This thrilled him with a delight of which he often afterwards
spoke, but though he distinctly recollected the vivid pleasure which
the recital gave him he could never recall either the incidents or
the language. It may almost be taken for granted that so soon as
Clare could write he began to rhyme. The Editor of this volume has
before him the book in which the boy set down his arithmetical and
geometrical exercises while a pupil of Mr. Merrishaw, and in this
book are scribbled in pencil a few undecipherable lines commencing,
"Good morning to ye, ballad-singing thrush." He was thirteen years
old when an incident occurred which gave a powerful impulse to his
dawning genius. A companion had shown him Thomson's "Seasons," and he
was seized with an irrepressible desire to possess a copy. He
ascertained that the book might be bought at Stamford for
eighteenpence, and he entreated his father to give him the money. The
poor man pleaded all too truthfully his poverty, but his mother, by
great exertions, contrived to scrape together sevenpence, and the
deficiency was made up by loans from friends in the village. Next
Sunday, John rose long before the dawn and walked to Stamford, a
distance of seven miles, to buy a copy of the "Seasons," ignorant or
forgetful of the fact that business was suspended on that day. After
waiting for three or four hours before the shop to which he had been
directed, he learnt from a passer-by that it would not be re-opened
until the following morning, and he returned to Helpstone with a
heavy heart. Next day he repeated his journey and bore off the
much-coveted volume in triumph. He read as he walked back to
Helpstone, but meeting with many interruptions clambered over the
wall surrounding Burghley Park, and throwing himself on the grass
read the volume through twice over before rising. It was a fine
spring morning, and under the influence of the poems, the singing of
birds, and the bright sunshine, he composed "The Morning Walk." This
was soon followed by "The Evening Walk," and some other minor

At the age of sixteen, if we may trust the account given by his early
friend Mr. Octavius Gilchrist, in the "London Magazine" for January,
1820, Clare composed the following sonnet "To a Primrose":--

  Welcome, pale primrose, starting up between
  Dead matted leaves of oak and ash, that strew
  The every lawn, the wood, and spinney through,
  'Mid creeping moss and ivy's darker green!
  How much thy presence beautifies the ground!
  How sweet thy modest, unaffected pride
  Glows on the sunny bank and wood's warm side!
  And where thy fairy flowers in groups are found
  The schoolboy roams enchantedly along,
  Plucking the fairest with a rude delight,
  While the meek shepherd stops his simple song,
  To gaze a moment on the pleasing sight,
  O'erjoyed to see the flowers that truly bring
  The welcome news of sweet returning Spring.

As we have traced the poet's history down to his sixteenth year, the
next incident of importance may be anticipated: of course he fell in
love, and the object of his first and purest affection was Mary
Joyce, daughter of a farmer at Glinton. Little is known of this
episode excepting that the maiden was very beautiful, that after a
few months of blissful intercourse their frequent meetings came to
the knowledge of Mary's father, who sternly forbad their continuance,
and that although "Patty," Clare's future wife, was the theme of some
pretty verses, Mary Joyce was always Clare's ideal of love and
beauty, and when thirty years afterwards, he lost his reason, among
the first indications of the approaching calamity was his declaration
that Mary, who had then long been in her grave, had passed his
window. While under the influence of this delusion he wrote the poem
entitled "First Love's Recollections," of which the following are the
first two stanzas:--

  First love will with the heart remain
  When all its hopes are bye,
  As frail rose-blossoms still retain
  Their fragrance when they die;
  And joy's first dreams will haunt the mind
  With shades from whence they sprung,
  As summer leaves the stems behind
  On which spring's blossoms hung.

  Mary! I dare not call thee dear,
  I've lost that right so long;
  Yet once again I vex thine ear
  With memory's idle song.
  Had time and change not blotted out
  The love of former days,
  Thou wert the last that I should doubt
  Of pleasing with my praise.

Clare's engagement at the Blue Bell having terminated, a stone mason
of Market Deeping offered to teach him his craft on payment of a
premium which, though a very moderate sum, was far beyond the means
of Parker Clare. A shoemaker in the village next offered to take him
as an apprentice, on condition that Clare found his own tools, but
the youth's aversion to the trade was too great to be overcome.
After that his father applied to the head gardener at Burghley Park,
who engaged Clare on the terms of a three years' apprenticeship,
with eight shillings per week for the first year and an advance of
one shilling per week in each succeeding year. The engagement was
considered by Clare's father and mother to be a very fortunate and
promising one, but it proved to be in a high degree prejudicial to
his welfare. He was thrown into the society of a set of coarse-
minded, intemperate fellows who insisted on his accompanying them in
their frequent and forbidden visits to public houses in the
neighbourhood. Mr. Martin informs us that it was the custom at
Burghley to lock up at night all the workmen and apprentices
employed under the head gardener, to prevent them from robbing the
orchards, and that they regularly made their escape through a
window. On several occasions Clare was overcome by drink and slept
in the open air, with consequences to his delicate frame which may
easily be imagined. It would appear that the head gardener set the
example of habitual drunkenness to his subordinates, and that he
was, moreover, of brutal disposition, which will account for the
circumstance of the flight of Clare from Burghley Park, after he had
been there nearly a year. Accompanied by a fellow-apprentice he
walked to Grantham, a distance of twenty-two miles, and thence to
Newark, where the youths obtained employment under a nurseryman. But
Clare very shortly became homesick, and he returned to his parents
in a state of complete destitution.

The most lamentable consequence of the roystering life which Clare
led with the gardeners at Burghley was, that he acquired a fondness
for strong drink with which he had to struggle, not always
successfully, for years. That he did struggle manfully is evident
from his correspondence, and at length, acting upon the advice of Dr.
Darling, a London physician, who for a long time generously
prescribed for him without fee or reward beyond the poet's grateful
thanks, he abstained altogether. It will be seen hereafter that in
all probability Dr. Darling's advice was given upon the supposition
that Clare was able to procure a sufficient supply of nourishing
food, when unhappily he was almost literally starving himself, in
order that his family might not go hungry.

On returning from Nottinghamshire Clare took again to the work of a
farm labourer, and the poetic fervour which had abated in the
uncongenial society of Burghley once more manifested itself. After
taking infinite pains to that end, he had the satisfaction of
convincing his father and mother that his poetry was of somewhat
greater merit than the half-penny ballads sold at the village feast;
but his neighbours could not bring themselves to approve John's
course of life, and they adopted various disagreeable modes of
showing that they thought he was a mightily presumptuous fellow. His
shy manners and his habit of talking to himself as he walked led some
to set him down as a lunatic; others ridiculed his enthusiasm, or
darkly whispered suspicions of unhallowed intercourse with evil
spirits. This treatment, operating upon a sensitive mind and a body
debilitated both by labour and scanty and unwholesome food, had the
natural effect of robbing him of hope and buoyancy of spirits. In a
fit of desperation he enlisted in the militia, and with other
Helpstone youths was marched off to Oundle, a small town lying
between Peterborough and Northampton. He remained at Oundle for a few
weeks, at the end of which time the regiment was disbanded and Clare
returned to Helpstone, carrying with him "Paradise Lost" and "The
Tempest," which he had bought at a broker's shop in Oundle. This
brings us down to 1812, when Clare was nineteen years old.

Little is known of Clare's manner of life for the next four or five
years, excepting that he continued to work as a farm labourer
whenever work could be found, that he tried camp life with some
gipsies, and speedily had his romantic ideas of its attractiveness
rudely dispelled, that he had a love passage or two with girls of the
village and that he accumulated a large number of poems of varying
degrees of excellence.

In 1817 he obtained employment as a lime burner at Bridge Casterton,
in the neighbouring county of Rutland, where he earned about ten
shillings per week. The labour was very severe, but Clare was
contented, and during his stay at Bridge Casterton several of the
best among his earlier poems were produced. It was probably this
period of his life which he had in his mind when he said:--

  I found the poems in the fields,
  And only wrote them down.

In the course of this year 1817 Clare fell in love with Martha
Turner, the daughter of a cottage farmer living at a place called
Walkherd Lodge, and this is the maiden who after the lapse of three
or four years became his wife. "She was a fair girl of eighteen,
slender, with regular features, and pretty blue eyes." Clare entered
into this new engagement with passionate ardour, but the courtship
ultimately took a more prosaic turn, and having once done so, there
was little in the worthy but illiterate and matter-of-fact "Patty" to
elevate the connection into the region of poetry. In his
correspondence Clare more than once hints at want of sympathy on the
part of those of his own household, and at one time domestic
differences, for which there is reason to think he was mainly
responsible, and which occurred when he was mentally in a very morbid
condition, caused him to contemplate suicide. It is due, however, to
the memory of "Patty" to say that Clare's latest volume of poems
("The Rural Muse," 1835) contains an address "To P * *" which is
honourable to the constancy of both parties. It is as follows:--

  Fair was thy bloom when first I met
  Thy summer's maiden-blossom;
  And thou art fair and lovely yet,
  And dearer to my bosom.
  O thou wert once a wilding flower,
  All garden flowers excelling,
  And still I bless the happy hour
  That led me to thy dwelling.

  Though nursed by field, and brook, and wood,
  And wild in every feature,
  Spring ne'er unsealed a fairer bud,
  Nor found a blossom sweeter.
  Of all the flowers the spring hath met,
  And it has met with many,
  Thou art to me the fairest yet,
  And loveliest of any.

  Though ripening summers round thee bring
  Buds to thy swelling bosom,
  That wait the cheering smiles of spring
  To ripen into blossom.
  These buds shall added blessings be,
  To make our loves sincerer,
  For as their flowers resemble thee
  They'll make thy memory dearer.

  And though thy bloom shall pass away,
  By winter overtaken,
  Thoughts of the past will charms display,
  And many joys awaken.
  When time shall every sweet remove,
  And blight thee on my bosom,
  Let beauty fade!--to me, my love,
  Thou'lt ne'er be out of blossom!


Although Clare's engagement to Martha Turner added to his
perplexities, it was really the immediate moving cause of his
determination to be up and doing. He resolved at length to publish a
collection of his poems, and consulted Mr. Henson, a printer, of
Market Deeping, on the subject. Mr. Henson offered to print three
hundred copies of a prospectus for a sovereign, but he firmly
declined the invitation of the poet to draw up that document. Clare
resolutely set to work to save the money for the printer, and soon
succeeded; but then there was the difficulty with regard to the
composition of the address to the public. He could write poetry; that
he knew; he had done so already, and he felt plenty more within; but
prose he had never yet attempted, and the task was a really grievous
one. This is his own account of his trouble, given in the
introduction to the "Village Minstrel:"--

"I have often dropped down five or six times, to plan an address. In
one of these musings my poor thoughts lost themselves in rhyme.
Taking a view, as I sat beneath the shelter of a woodland hedge, of
my parents' distresses at home, of my labouring so hard and so vainly
to get out of debt, and of my still added perplexities of ill-timed
love, striving to remedy all to no purpose, I burst out into an
exclamation of distress, 'What is life?' and instantly recollecting
that such a subject would be a good one for a poem, I hastily
scratted down the two first verses of it, as it stands, and continued
my journey to work." When he got to the limekiln he could not work
for thinking of the address which he had to write, "so I sat me down
on a lime scuttle," he says, "and out with my pencil, and when I had
finished I started off for Stamford with it." There he posted the
address to Mr. Henson. It ran as follows:--

"Proposals for publishing by subscription a Collection of Original
Trifles on Miscellaneous Subjects, Religious and Moral, in verse, by
John Clare, of Helpstone. The public are requested to observe that
the Trifles humbly offered for their candid perusal can lay no claim
to eloquence of composition: whoever thinks so will be deceived, the
greater part of them being juvenile productions, and those of later
date offsprings of those leisure intervals which the short remittance
from hard and manual labour sparingly afforded to compose them. It is
to be hoped that the humble situation which distinguishes their
author will be some excuse in their favour, and serve to make an
atonement for the many inaccuracies and imperfections that will be
found in them. The least touch from the iron hand of Criticism is
able to crush them to nothing, and sink them at once to utter
oblivion. May they be allowed to live their little day and give
satisfaction to those who may choose to honour them with a perusal,
they will gain the end for which they were designed and the author's
wishes will be gratified. Meeting with this encouragement it will
induce him to publish a similar collection of which this is offered
as a specimen."

The specimen was the "Sonnet to the Setting Sun," in which a
comparison is drawn between sunset and the death of a Christian. The
address was too artless, too honest, and the people of the Fens,
taking Clare at his word, subscribed for exactly seven copies! The
state of excitement, caused by mingled hopes and fears, in which
Clare was at this time may be seen from the following extract from a
letter to Mr. Henson:--"Good God! How great are my expectations! What
hopes do I cherish! As great as the unfortunate Chatterton's were, on
his first entrance into London, which is now pictured in my mind.
And, undoubtedly, like him I may be building castles in the air, but
time will prove it. Please to do all in your power to procure
subscribers, as your address will be looked upon better than that of
a clown. When two are got you may print it, if you please; so do your


But now fresh troubles came upon Clare in rapid succession. He
quarrelled with Patty and was forbidden the house by her parents. He
was discharged by his master on the probably well-grounded plea that
he was writing poetry and distributing his address when he ought to
be at work, and he was soon without a penny in the world. He returned
to Helpstone and tried to get employment as a day labourer, but
failed; the farmers, who had heard of the publishing project,
considering that "he did not know his place." In this extremity he
was compelled to apply for and accept relief from the parish. This
was in the autumn of 1818, and Clare was twenty-five years old.
Henson declined to begin the printing of the book unless Clare
advanced the sum of L15, and this being impossible the negotiation
fell through. Clare shortly afterwards, with the two-fold object of
finding employment and obtaining relief from mental distraction by
change of scene, was on the point of setting out for Yorkshire, when
a copy of his prospectus fell under the notice of Mr. Edward Drury, a
bookseller, of Stamford. Mr. Drury called upon Clare at his own home,
and with difficulty induced him to show him a few of his manuscript
poems. Having read, among others, "My love, thou art a nosegay
sweet," he was unable to conceal his gratification, and told Clare,
to the poor poet's intense delight, that if he would procure the
return of the poems in the possession of Mr. Henson he would publish
a volume and give Clare the profits after deducting expenses.

On this footing the poet became intimate with Mr. Drury, who
frequently entertained him at his house. His letters to Clare are
cordial, and disclose an honest desire to be of service to him, on
which account it is the more to be regretted that, owing to a dispute
which afterwards took place between Mr. Drury and Mr. Taylor, Clare's
London publisher, Clare rather ungraciously separated himself from
his early friend. He was clearly indebted to Mr. Drury in the first
instance for the opportunity of emerging from obscurity into public
notice, and also for introductions to Mr. Taylor and Mr. Octavius
Gilchrist, both men of influence in literary circles, and both of
whom took an active and genuine interest in the young poet. Mr.
Taylor, as has been already stated, became his editor and publisher,
and remained his faithful friend until after Clare had been lost to
public view within the walls of a lunatic asylum.

Towards the end of 1819 Clare met Mr. Taylor at the house of Mr.
Gilchrist, in Stamford, and the latter gentleman gave the following
account of the interview in a patronizing and not very judicious
article which appeared in the "London Magazine" for January, 1820:--

"Mr. Taylor had seen Clare, for the first time, in the morning; and
he doubted much if our invitation would be accepted by the rustic
poet, who had now just returned from his daily labour, shy, and
reserved, and disarrayed as he was. In a few minutes, however, Clare
announced his arrival by a hesitating knock at the door--'between a
single and a double rap'--and immediately upon his introduction he
dropped into a chair. Nothing could exceed the meekness, simplicity,
and diffidence with which he answered the various enquiries
concerning his life and habits, which we mingled with subjects
calculated or designed to put him much at his ease. Of music he
expressed himself passionately fond, and had learnt to play a little
on the violin, in the humble hope of obtaining a trifle at the annual
feasts in the neighbourhood, and at Christmas. The tear stole
silently down the cheek of the rustic poet as one of our little party
sang 'Auld Robin Gray.'"

Mr. Martin gives a somewhat different account of this interview. He
states that the poet took decidedly too much wine, and that while
under its influence he wrote some doggerel verses which Mr. Gilchrist
had the cruelty to print in the article intended formally to
introduce Clare to the notice of the English public. Mr. Gilchrist
was an accomplished and warm-hearted man, and it was by his desire
that Hilton, the Royal Academical, painted Clare's portrait for
exhibition in London, but he presumed too much upon his social
superiority, and his judgment was at fault in supposing that the poet
was all meekness and diffidence. On one occasion he took him sharply
to task for associating with a Nonconformist minister, and Clare
warmly resented this interference and for a time absented himself
from Mr. Gilchrist's house. A conciliation, however, soon took place,
and the poet and the learned grocer of Stamford were fast friends
until the death of the latter in 1823.


Clare's first volume was brought out by Taylor and Hessey in January,
1820. It was entitled "Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery,"
and contained an introduction from the pen of Mr. Taylor. In this
preface the peculiarities of Clare's genius were described with force
and propriety, his perseverance in the face of great discouragements
was commended, and the sympathy and support of the public were
invited in the following passage:--

"No poet of our country has shown greater ability under circumstances
so hostile to its development. And all this is found here without any
of those distressing and revolting alloys which too often debase the
native worth of genius, and make him who was gifted with powers to
command admiration live to be the object of contempt or pity. The
lower the condition of its possessor the more unfavourable,
generally, has been the effect of genius on his life. That this has
not been the case with Clare may, perhaps, be imputed to the absolute
depression of his fortune. When we hear the consciousness of
possessing talent, and the natural irritability of the poetic
temperament, pleaded in extenuation of the follies and vices of men
in high life, let it be accounted no mean praise to such a man as
Clare that with all the excitements of their sensibility to his
station he has preserved a fair character amid dangers which
presumption did not create and difficulties which discretion could
not avoid. In the real troubles of life, when they are not brought on
by the misconduct of the individual, a strong mind acquires the power
of righting itself after each attack, and this philosophy, not to
call it by a better name, Clare possesses. If the expectations of a
'better life,' which he cannot help indulging, should all be
disappointed by the coldness with which this volume may be received,
he can 'put up with distress, and be content.' In one of his letters
he says, 'If my hopes don't succeed the hazard is not of much
consequence: if I fall, I am advanced at no great distance from my
low condition: if I sink for want of friends my old friend Necessity
is ready to help me as before. It was never my fortune as yet to meet
advancement from friendship: my fate has ever been hard labour among
the most vulgar and lowest conditions of men, and very small is the
pittance hard labour allows me, though I always toiled even beyond my
strength to obtain it.' To see a man of talent struggling under great
adversity with such a spirit must surely excite in every generous
heart the wish to befriend him. But if it be otherwise, and he should
be doomed to remediless misery,

  Why, let the stricken deer go weep,
  The hart ungalled play,
  For some must watch, while some sleep,--
  Thus runs the world away."

Towards the end of January 1820, the Rev Mr. Holland of Northborough,
the minister already referred to, called upon Clare with the joyful
news that his poems had been published, and that the volume was a
great success. Next day a messenger arrived from Stamford with an
invitation to the poet to meet Mr. Drury and Mr. Gilchrist. They
confirmed the favourable report made by Mr. Holland, and at length
Clare had an opportunity of seeing the book which had caused him so
many anxious days and sleepless nights. He made no attempt to conceal
the honest pride he felt on receiving the congratulations of his
friends, and acknowledged his obligation to Mr. Taylor for the
editorial pains he had taken to prepare his manuscripts for the
press, but he was deeply mortified at the tone of the "Introduction"
in which Mr. Taylor dwelt, perhaps unconsciously, on Clare's poverty
as constituting his chief claim to public notice.

The success of the "Poems" could scarcely be overstated. The eager
curiosity of the public led to the first edition being exhausted in a
few days, and a second was promptly announced. "The Gentleman's
Magazine," the "New Monthly Magazine," the "Eclectic Review," the
"Anti-Jacobin Review," the "London Magazine," and many other
periodicals, welcomed the new poet with generous laudation. Following
these came the "Quarterly Review," then under the editorship of the
trenchant Gifford. To the astonishment of the reading public, the
"Quarterly," which about this time "killed poor Keats," admitted a
genial article on the rustic bard, and gave him the following
excellent advice:--

"We counsel, we entreat him to continue something of his present
occupations, to attach himself to a few in the sincerity of whose
friendship he can confide, and to suffer no temptations of the idle
and the dissolute to seduce him from the quiet scenes of his youth
(scenes so congenial to his taste) to the hollow and heartless
society of cities, to the haunts of men who would court and flatter
him while his name was new, and who, when they had contributed to
distract his attention and impair his health, would cast him off
unceremoniously to seek some other novelty. Of his again encountering
the difficulties and privations he lately experienced there is no
danger. Report speaks of honourable and noble friends already
secured: with the aid of these, the cultivation of his own excellent
talents, and a meek but firm reliance on that good Power by whom
these were bestowed, he may, without presumption, anticipate a rich
reward in the future for the evils endured in the morning of his

The estimate formed by the writer of the liberality of Clare's
patrons was exaggerated, and instead of there being no danger of his
ever again having to encounter difficulties and privations he was
scarcely ever free from them until the crowning privation had placed
him beyond their influence.


The "Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery" were about seventy
in number, including twenty-one sonnets. The volume opened with an
apostrophe to Helpstone, in the manner of Goldsmith, and among the
longer pieces were "The Fate of Amy," "Address to Plenty in Winter,"
"Summer Morning," "Summer Evening," and "Crazy Nell." The minor
pieces included the sonnet "To the Primrose," already quoted, "My
love, thou art a Nosegay sweet," and "What is Life?", a reflective
poem produced under circumstances with which the reader has been made
acquainted. The compositions last named are inserted here as examples
of Clare's style at this early period of his career:--


  My love, thou art a nosegay sweet,
  My sweetest flower I'll prove thee,
  And pleased I pin thee to my breast,
  And dearly do I love thee.

  And when, my nosegay, thou shalt fade,
  As sweet a flower thou'lt prove thee;
  And as thou witherest on my breast
  For beauty past I'll love thee.

  And when, my nosegay, thou shalt die,
  And heaven's flower shalt prove thee,
  My hopes shall follow to the sky,
  And everlasting love thee.


  And what is Life? An hour-glass on the run,
  A mist retreating from the morning sun,
  A busy, bustling, still repeated dream;
  Its length?--A minute's pause, a moment's thought;
  And happiness?--a bubble on the stream,
  That in the act of seizing shrinks to nought.

  What are vain hopes?--The puffing gale of morn,
  That of its charms divests the dewy lawn,
  And robs each flow'ret of its gem,--and dies;
  A cobweb hiding disappointment's thorn,
  Which stings more keenly through the thin disguise.

  And what is Death? Is still the cause unfound?
  That dark, mysterious name of horrid sound?--
  A long and lingering sleep, the weary crave.
  And Peace? where can its happiness abound?
  No where at all, save heaven, and the grave.
  Then what is Life?--When stripp'd of its disguise,
  A thing to be desir'd it cannot be,
  Since everything that meets our foolish eyes
  Gives proof sufficient of its vanity.
  'T is but a trial all must undergo,
  To teach unthankful mortals how to prize
  That happiness vain man's denied to know
  Until he's called to claim it in the skies.

The following lines in the "Address to Plenty" have always been
admired for their Doric strength and simplicity, and the vivid
realism of the scene which they depict:--

  Toiling in the naked fields,
  Where no bush a shelter yields,
  Needy Labour dithering stands,
  Beats and blows his numbing hands,
  And upon the crumping snows
  Stamps, in vain, to warm his toes.
  Leaves are fled, that once had power
  To resist a summer shower;
  And the wind so piercing blows,
  Winnowing small the drifting snows;

Clare used at first, without hesitation, the provincialisms of his
native county, but afterwards, as his mind matured, he saw the
propriety of adopting the suggestions which Charles Lamb and other
friends made to him on this subject, and his style gradually became
more polished, until in the "Rural Muse" scarcely any provincialisms
were employed, and the glossary of the earlier volumes was therefore

The article in the "Quarterly" was, with the exception, perhaps, of
the concluding paragraph just quoted, from the pen of Clare's friend
and neighbour, Mr. Gilchrist, who wrote to Clare on the subject in
the following jocular strain:--

"What's to be done now, Maester? Here's a letter from William Gifford
saying I promised him an article on one John Clare, for the
'Quarterly Review.' Did I do any such thing? Moreover, he says he has
promised Lord Radstock, and if I know him, as he thinks I do, I know
that the Lord will persecute him to the end. This does not move me
much. But he adds, 'Do not fail me, dear Gil, for I count upon you.
Tell your simple tale, and it may do the young bard good.' Think you
so? Then it must be set about. But how to weave the old web anew--how
to hoist the same rope again and again--how to continue the interest
to a twice-told tale? Have you committed any arsons or murders that
you have not yet revealed to me? If you have, out with 'em straight,
that I may turn 'em to account before you are hanged; and as you will
not come here to confess, I must hunt you up at Helpstone; so look to
it, John Clare, for ere it be long, and before you expect me, I shall
be about your eggs and bacon. I have had my critical cap on these two
days, and the cat-o'-nine-tails in my hands, and soundly I'll flog
you for your sundry sins, John Clare, John Clare!

Given under my hand the tenth of the fourth month, anno Domini 1820."


Following close upon the complimentary criticisms in the principal
monthlies, the condescension of the "Quarterly" completed the little
triumph, and Clare's verses became the fashion of the hour. One of
his poems was set to music by Mr. Henry Corri, and sung by Madame
Vestris at Covent Garden. Complimentary letters, frequently in rhyme,
flowed in upon him, presents of books were brought by nearly every
coach, [2] and influential friends set about devising plans (of which
more presently) to rescue him from poverty and enable him to devote
at all events a portion of his time to the Muses. On the other hand,
visitors from idle curiosity were far more numerous than was
agreeable, and he was pestered with applications for autographs and
poems for ladies' albums, with patronage and advice from total
strangers, with tracts from well-meaning clergymen, and with
invitations to lionizing parties. One of these communications was in
its way a unique production, and for the entertainment of the reader
a portion of it is here introduced:--

"The darksome daughter of Chaos has now enveloped our hemisphere
(which a short time since was enubilous of clouds) in the grossest
blackness. The drowsy god reigns predominantly, and the obstreperous
world is wrapped in profound silence. No sounds gliding through the
ambient air salute my attentive auricles, save the frightful notes
which at different intervals issue from that common marauder of
nocturnal peace--the lonesome, ruin-dwelling owl. Wearied rustics,
exhausted by the toils of the day, are enjoying a sweet and tranquil
repose. No direful visions appal their happy souls, nor terrific
ghosts of quondam hours stand arrayed before them. Every sense is
lost in the oblivious stream. Even those who on the light, fantastic
toe lately tripped through the tangled dance of mirth have sunk into
the arms of Tired Nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep. Meditation,
avaunt! Respected (tho' unknown) Sir,--Out of the abundant store of
your immutable condescension graciously deign to pardon the bold
assurance and presumptuous liberty of an animated mass of
undistinguished dust, whose fragile composition is most miraculously
composed of congenial atoms so promiscuously concentred as to
personify in an abstracted degree the beauteous form of man, to
convey by proxy to your brilliant opthalmic organs the sincere thanks
of a mild, gentle, and grateful heart for the delightful amusement I
have experienced and the instruction I have reaped by reading your
excellent poems, in (several of) which you have exquisitely given
dame nature her natural form, and delineated her in colours so
admirable that on the perusal of them I was led to exclaim with
extacy Clare everywhere excels in the descriptive. But your literary
prowess is too circuitously authenticated to admit of any punctilious
commendation from my debilitated pen, and under its umbrageous
recess, serenely segregated, from the malapert and hypochondriachal
vapours of myopic critics (as I am no acromatic philosopher) I trust
every solecism contained in this autographical epistle will find a
salvable retirement. Tho' no Solitaire, I am irreversibly resolved to
be on this occasion heteroclitical. I will not insult your good sense
by lamenting the exigencies of the present times, as doubtless it
always dictates to you to be (whilst travelling through the mazy
labyrinth of joy and sorrow) humble in the lucent days of prosperity
and omnific in the tenebricous moments of adversity."

Clare's claim to the title of poet having been established, his noble
neighbours at Milton and Burghley invited him to visit them. At
Milton Park he was graciously received by Earl Fitzwilliam and Lord
and Lady Milton, after he had dined with the servants. A long
conversation on his health, means, expectations, and principles was
held, and he was dismissed with a very handsome present--an earnest
of greater favours to come.

The visit to the Marquis of Exeter was equally gratifying. His
lordship made himself acquainted with the state of the poet's
affairs, and having read a number of unpublished effusions which
Clare had taken with him, told him that it was his intention to allow
him an annuity of fifteen pounds for life. The delight of the poor
bard may be imagined without difficulty, for now he doubted not he
could reconcile Patty's parents to the long hoped-for marriage, and
deliver his mistress from anxieties which had for some time made life
almost intolerable. He dined in the servants' hall. About the same
time Clare also visited by invitation General Birch Reynardson, of
Holywell Park--a visit full of romance, as narrated by Mr. Martin, a
beautiful young lady, governess to the General's children, having to
all appearances fallen desperately in love with the poet at first
sight. The only unromantic incident of the day was the customary
dinner at the servants' table. Clare's biographer, with excusable
warmth, says that his local patrons, however much they might differ
on other subjects, held that the true place of a poet was among
footmen and kitchen maids. But it should not be forgotten that the
noblemen named were life-long friends of Clare and his family, and it
would be unjust to reflect upon their memory because the relations of
"the hearty and generous Oxford," the Duke and Duchess of Queensbury,
and Lord Bolingbroke with the polite and scholarly Prior, Gay, and
Pope were not immediately established between the Marquis of Exeter
or Earl Fitzwilliam and the gifted but unlettered rustic who had
toiled in their fields.

Clare's proud spirit was almost always restive under the burden of
patronage, especially if bestowed on account of his poverty, but we
may feel sure that he did not expect to dine with these noblemen,
that no indignity was intended in sending him to the common hall, and
that it did not occur to him that he ought to feel insulted. Clare
was married to Martha Turner at Great Casterton Church on the 16th of
March, 1820, and for a time Mrs. Clare remained at her father's
house. She afterwards joined her husband at the house of his parents
in Helpstone, his "own old home of homes," as he fondly called the
lowly cottage in one of his most pathetic poems, and there they all
remained, with the offspring of the marriage, until the removal to
Northborough in 1832. Flushed with his recent good fortune, Clare
distributed bride cake among his friends, and received from all
hearty good wishes for his future happiness.


Early in the same month, and before his marriage, Clare accepted the
invitation of his publishers, Messrs. Taylor and Hessey, to pay them
a visit in Town. He was accompanied by Mr. Gilchrist, and remained
for a week, making his home at his publishers' house in Fleet Street.
With great difficulty Mr. Taylor persuaded him to meet a party of
friends and admirers at dinner. It was impossible for him to overcome
with one effort his natural shyness, but the cordial manner in which
he was welcomed by Mr. Taylor's guests put him comparatively at his
ease, for he was made to feel that the labourer was forgotten in the
poet and that he was regarded as an equal. The host placed him at
dinner next to Admiral Lord Radstock, an intimate friend of Mrs.
Emmerson, a lady whose name will frequently occur in the course of
this memoir. His lordship had taken great interest in Clare from the
first appearance of his poems, and had already made him several
presents of books. By mingled tact and kindness he got from the poet
an account of his life, his struggles, his hopes, his fears, and his
prospects. Clare's share in the conversation made so deep an
impression upon Lord Radstock that he conceived for him an attachment
approaching to affection, and never ceased to exert all the influence
of his position and high character in favour of his protege. The
Editor has before him many letters addressed to Clare by his
excellent friend, but is restrained, by a wish expressed in one of
the number, from publishing any portion of them. The request does
not, however, apply to the inscriptions in books which Lord Radstock
presented to Clare, and as the intimacy had a very important
influence on the poet's career, those who are sufficiently interested
in the subject to read these pages will not look upon the following
passages as a superfluity.

In a work by Thomas Erskine on the Christian Evidences his lordship

"The kindest and most valuable present that Admiral Lord Radstock
could possibly make to his dear & affectionate friend, John Clare.
God grant that he may make the proper use of it!"

In a copy of Owen Feltham's "Resolves":--

"The Bible excepted, I consider Owen Feltham's 'Resolves' and Boyle's
'Occasional Reflections' to be two as good books as were ever usher'd
into the world, with a view to direct the heart and keep it in its
right place; consequently, to render us happy in this life and lay a
reasonable foundation for the salvation of our souls through Jesus
Christ our only Mediator and Redeemer. It was, therefore, under this
conviction that I not long since presented you with both these truly
valuable books, earnestly hoping, trusting, and, let me add, not
doubting that you will make that use of them which is intended by
your ever truly and affectionate friend, Radstock."

In a copy of Mason's "Self-Knowledge":--

"I give this little pocket companion to my friend John Clare, not
with a view to improve his heart, for that, I believe, would be no
easy task, but in order to enable him to acquire a more perfect
knowledge of his own character, and likewise to give him a close peep
into human nature."

In a copy of Hannah More's "Spirit of Prayer":--

"My very dear Clare,--If this excellent little book, and the others
which accompany it, do not speak sufficiently for themselves, it
would be in vain to think of offering you any further earthly
inducement to study them and seek the truth. The grace of God can
alone do this, and Heaven grant that this may not be wanting! So
prays your truly sincere and affectionate Radstock."

Similar inscriptions accompanied a copy of Watson's "Apology for the
Bible," Bishop Wilson's "Maxims of Piety and Christianity," and other
works of a corresponding character.


Soon after his arrival in London Lord Radstock took Clare to see Mrs.
Emmerson, who had already been in correspondence with him, and thus
commenced a friendship the ardour and constancy of which knew no
abatement until poor Clare was no longer able to hold rational
intercourse with his fellow-creatures. Mrs. Emmerson was the wife of
Mr. Thomas Emmerson, of Berners Street, Oxford Street, and afterwards
of Stratford Place. She was a lady in easy circumstances, and
occupied a good social position. [3] Being of refined and elegant
tastes, and singularly generous disposition, she associated herself
with young aspirants for fame in poetry, painting, and sculpture, and
to the utmost of her power endeavoured to procure for them public
notice and patronage. She was herself a frequent writer of graceful
verses, and her letters disclose a sensitive, poetic mind, a habit of
self-denial when the happiness of her friends was concerned, and a
delicate physical organization liable to prostrating attacks of
various nervous disorders. Clare preserved nearly three hundred of
her letters, the dates ranging from February, 1820, to July, 1837, or
an average of one letter in about every three weeks; and the Editor,
having read the whole of them, feels constrained, a different version
of the relationship having been given, to state his conviction that
no poor struggling genius was ever blessed with a tenderer or a truer
friend. No man of feeling could rise from the perusal of them without
the deepest respect and admiration for the writer. The style is
effusive, and the language in which the lady writes of Clare's poetry
is occasionally eulogistic to the point of extravagance, and was to
that extent injudicious; but all blemishes are forgotten in the
presence of overwhelming evidences of pure and disinterested

Although by no means insensible to the reception given to her own
verses, Clare's literary reputation lay much nearer to her heart. She
firmly believed that he was a great genius, and she insisted upon all
her friends believing so too, and buying his books. She very soon
began to feel an interest in his domestic affairs, and to send him
valuable presents. She was godmother to his second child, which was
named after her, Eliza Louisa, and for years the coach brought
regularly, a day or two before Christmas, two sovereigns "to pay for
little Eliza's schooling," another sovereign for the Christmas
dinner, and a waistcoat-piece and two India silk neckerchiefs "for my
dear Clare" with many kind wishes "for all in his humble cot." At
another time Patty's eyes were gladdened by the present of a dozen
silver teaspoons and a pair of sugar tongs. These were followed by a
silver seal, engraved for Clare in Paris and mounted in ivory, while
under the pretext that he must find postage expensive she several
times sent him a sovereign "under the wax." At one time she would
appear to have given him sufficient clothing to equip the entire
family, and when in 1832 Clare made his venture as a cottage farmer,
his thoughtful friend gave him L10 with which to buy a cow,
stipulating only (for the kind-hearted little woman must be
sentimental) that it should be christened "May." After that, she
strove hard to obtain for one of his boys admission to Christ's
Hospital, and in conjunction with Mr. Taylor discharged a heavy
account sent in by a local medical practitioner.

But in higher matters than these the genuineness of Mrs. Emmerson's
friendship for Clare was demonstrated. The poet poured into her
listening and patient ear the story of every trial and every
annoyance which fell to his lot, not concealing from his friend those
mental sufferings which were caused solely by his own indiscretion
and folly. Under these latter circumstances she rebuked him with
affectionate solicitude and fidelity. In perplexities arising out of
matters of business she gave him the best advice in her power, and
when her knowledge of affairs failed her appealed to her husband, who
was always ready to do anything for "dear Johnny," as Clare came to
be called in Stratford Place. When he complained of being distressed
by wild fancies and haunted by gloomy forebodings, as he did many
years before his reason gave way, she first rallied him, though often
herself suffering acutely, and then entreated him to dispel his
melancholy by communing afresh with Nature and by meditations on the
Divine greatness and goodness.


Within a few weeks of the appearance of "Poems Descriptive of Rural
Life and Scenery," a private subscription was set on foot by Lord
Radstock for the benefit of Clare and his family. Messrs. Taylor and
Hessey headed the list with the handsome donation of L100. Earl
Fitzwilliam followed with a corresponding amount; The Duke of
Bedford and the Duke of Devonshire gave L20 each; Prince Leopold
of Saxe-Coburg (afterwards King of the Belgians), the Duke of
Northumberland, the Earl of Cardigan, Lord John Russell, Sir Thomas
Baring, Lord Kenyon, and several other noblemen and gentlemen,
L10 each, making with numerous smaller subscriptions a total of
L420-12-0. This sum was invested, in the name of trustees, in Navy
Five per Cents and yielded, until the conversion of that security
to a lower denomination, about L20 a year.

About the same time the attention of Earl Spencer was called to
Clare's circumstances by Mr. J. S. Bell, a Stamford surgeon, and his
lordship signified to Mr. Bell his intention to settle upon the poet
an annuity of L10 for life. These various benefactions, with the
Marquis of Exeter's annuity of L15, put Clare in the possession of
L45 a year, and his friends were profuse in their congratulations on
his good fortune. As he had now a fixed income greater than that he
had ever derived from labour, it was thought that by occasional farm
work and by the profit resulting from the sale of his poems he would
be relieved from anxiety about domestic affairs, and be enabled to
devote at least one half of his time to the cultivation of his poetic
faculties. The expectation appears to have been a reasonable one, but
as will be seen hereafter it was only imperfectly realized.

The first volume of poems passed rapidly through three editions, and
a fourth was printed. Several of Clare's influential friends took
exception to a few passages in the first issue on the ground that
they were rather too outspoken in their rusticity, and Lord Radstock
strongly urged the omission in subsequent editions of several lines
which he characterized as "Radical slang." Mr. Taylor contested both
points for some time, but Lord Radstock threatened to disown Clare if
he declined to oblige his patrons, and the poet at length made the
desired concessions. The following were the passages over which his
lordship exercised censorship:--

  Accursed Wealth! o'erbounding human laws,
  Of every evil thou remain'st the cause.

  Sweet rest and peace, ye dear, departed charms,
  Which industry once cherished in her arms,
  When ease and plenty, known but now to few,
  Were known to all, and labour had its due.

  The rough, rude ploughman, off his fallow-grounds,
  (That necessary tool of wealth and pride)--

Being strongly urged thereto by Mr. Taylor, Clare sent to London a
large bundle of manuscripts with permission to his editor to make a
selection therefrom for a new work. The correspondence connected with
this project extended over several months, and in the autumn of 1821
the "Village Minstrel and other Poems" made its appearance in two
volumes, with a portrait after Hilton and a view of the poet's


In the course of the correspondence there occurs the following
passage, which has an interest of its own, in a letter from Mr.

"Keats, you know, broke a blood-vessel, and has been very ill. He is
now recovering, and it is necessary for his getting through the
winter that he should go to Italy. Rome is the place recommended. You
are now a richer man than poor K., and how much more fortunate! We
have some trouble to get through 500 copies of his work, though it is
highly spoken of in the periodical works, but what is most against
him it has been thought necessary in the leading review, the
'Quarterly,' to damn his fame on account of his political opinions.
D--n them, I say, who could act in so cruel a way to a young man of
undoubted genius." And again (March 26, 1821):--

"The life of poor Keats is ended at last: he died at the age of
twenty-five. He used to say he should effect nothing which he would
rest his fame upon until he was thirty, and all hopes are over at
twenty-five. But he has left enough, though he did not think so, and
if his biographer cannot do him justice the advocate is in fault, and
not the cause. Poor fellow! Perhaps your feeling will produce some
lines to his memory. One of the very few poets of this day is gone.
Let another beware of Stamford. I wish you may keep to your
resolution of shunning that place, for it will do you immense injury
if you do not. You know what I would say. Farewell."


There is little doubt that by the closing hint Mr. Taylor desired to
put Clare on his guard against the indiscreet hospitality of well-to-do
friends at Stamford. While the "Village Minstrel" was in course of
preparation the "London Magazine" passed into the possession of
Messrs. Taylor & Hessey, and they at once invited Clare to
contribute, offering payment at the rate of one guinea per page, with
the right to re-publish at any time on the original terms of half
profits. Clare accepted the offer, and as he contributed almost
regularly for some time, a substantial addition was made to his
income. Among Clare's fellow-contributors in 1821 were Charles Lamb
and De Quincey, the former with "Essays of Elia," and the latter with
"Confessions of an English Opium-Eater." Two thousand copies of the
"Village Minstrel" were printed, and by the beginning of December
eight hundred had been sold. This was a very modified success, but a
number of circumstances combined to make the season an unfavourable
one for the publication of such a work. That the poetry of the
"Village Minstrel" is far superior both in conception and execution
to much contained in Clare's first book was undisputed, and indeed it
may be said at once that every successive work which he published was
an improvement upon its predecessor, until in the "Rural Muse" a
vigour of conception and polish of diction are displayed which the
most ardent admirers of Clare in his younger days--(Mrs. Emmerson
always excepted, who believed him to be at least Shakespeare's
equal)--would not have ventured to predict. The "Village Minstrel"
was so named after the principal poem, which contains one hundred and
nineteen Spenserian stanzas, and is to a considerable extent
autobiographical. It was composed in 1819, at which time Clare was
wretchedly poor, and this will no doubt account for the repining tone
of a few of the verses. It abounds, however, in poetical beauties, of
which the following stanzas may be taken as examples:--

  O who can tell the sweets of May-day's morn,
  To waken rapture in a feeling mind,
  When the gilt East unveils her dappled dawn,
  And the gay wood-lark has its nest resigned,
  As slow the sun creeps up the hill behind;
  Moon reddening round, and daylight's spotless hue,
  As seemingly with rose and lily lined;
  While all the prospect round beams fair to view,
  Like a sweet Spring flower with its unsullied dew.

  Ah, often, brushing through the dripping grass,
  Has he been seen to catch this early charm,
  List'ning to the "love song" of the healthy lass
  Passing with milk-pail on her well-turned arm,
  Or meeting objects from the rousing farm--
  The jingling plough-teams driving down the steep
  Waggon and cart, and shepherd dog's alarm,
  Raising the bleatings of unfolding sheep,
  As o'er the mountain top the red sun 'gins to peep.

The first volume contains also a poem entitled "William and Robin,"
of which Mr. Taylor says in his introduction:--

"The pastoral, 'William and Robin,' one of Clare's earliest efforts,
exhibits a degree of refinement and elegant sensibility which many
persons can hardly believe a poor uneducated clown could have
possessed: the delicacy of one of the lover towards the object of his
attachment is as perfectly inborn and unaffected as if he were a
Philip Sidney."

Among the minor pieces of the "Village Minstrel" are the following,
which are given as additional illustrations, the first of Clare's
descriptive and the latter of his amatory manner:--


  The sultry day it wears away,
  And o'er the distant leas
  The mist again, in purple stain,
  Falls moist on flower and trees:
  His home to find, the weary hind
  Glad leaves his carts and ploughs;
  While maidens fair, with bosoms bare,
  Go coolly to their cows.

  The red round sun his work has done,
  And dropp'd into his bed;
  And sweetly shin'd the oaks behind
  His curtains fringed with red:
  And step by step the night has crept,
  And day, as loth, retires;
  But clouds, more dark, night's entrance mark.
  Till day's last spark expires.

  Pride of the vales, the nightingales
  Now charm the oaken grove;
  And loud and long, with amorous tongue,
  They try to please their love:
  And where the rose reviving blows
  Upon the swelter'd bower,
  I'll take my seat, my love to meet,
  And wait th' appointed hour.

  And like the bird, whose joy is heard
  Now he his love can join,
  Who hails so loud the even's shroud,
  I'll wait as glad for mine:
  As weary bees o'er parched leas
  Now meet reviving flowers,
  So on her breast I'll sink to rest,
  And bless the evening hours.


  I love thee, sweet Mary, but love thee in fear;
  Were I but the morning breeze, healthful and airy,
  As thou goest a-walking I'd breathe in thine ear,
  And whisper and sigh, how I love thee, my Mary!

  I wish but to touch thee, but wish it in vain;
  Wert thou but a streamlet, a-winding so clearly,
  And I little globules of soft dropping rain,
  How fond would I press thy white bosom, my Mary!

  I would steal a kiss, but I dare not presume;
  Wert thou but a rose in thy garden, sweet fairy,
  And I a bold bee for to rifle its bloom,
  A whole Summer's day would I kiss thee, my Mary!

  I long to be with thee, but cannot tell how;
  Wert thou but the elder that grows by thy dairy,
  And I the blest woodbine to twine on the bough,
  I'd embrace thee and cling to thee ever, my Mary!


Mr. Taylor called at Helpstone in October, 1821, on his way from
Retford to London, and published, in the "London Magazine" for the
following month, an interesting and genial account of his visit to
Clare. While at Helpstone he urged Clare to accept an oft-repeated
invitation to come to London and prolong his stay to a few weeks, but
about this time the poet, always yearning after independence, became
possessed with a longing to acquire a small freehold of about seven
acres, which belonged to friends of his own who had mortgaged it to
the amount of L200, and being unable to meet the interest thereupon
were threatened with a foreclosure. The owners offered the property
to Clare, who at once applied to his friends in London to sell out
sufficient of the funded property to enable him to acquire it. His
disappointment and mortification appear to have been very keen on
learning that the funded property was vested in trustees who were
restricted to paying the interest to him. This resource having failed
him, he offered to sell his writings to his publishers for five years
for L200. To this proposal Mr. Taylor replied on the 4th of February,

"It will not be honourable in us to buy the interest in your poems
for five years for L200. It may be worth more than that, which would
be an injury to you, and a discredit to us; or less, which would be a
loss to us. Besides, if the original mortgage was for L200, it is not
that sum which would redeem it now. Many expenses have been created
by these money-lenders, all which must be satisfied before the
writings would be given up. It is meddling with a wasp's nest to
interfere rashly. I am happy that Lord Milton has taken the writings,
to look them over. He may be able to do some good, and to keep your
friends the Billingses in their little estate, but I fear it is not
possible for you to do it without incurring fresh risks, and
encountering such dangers from the want of sufficient legal advice as
would be more than you would get through."

Clare had set his heart upon accomplishing this little scheme; his
failure to compass it weighed upon his mind, and for a time he sought
an alleviation of his unhappiness in the society of the Blue Bell and
among hilarious friends at Stamford.


Clare paid a second visit to London in May, 1822, and was again
hospitably entertained by his publishers, at whose house he met
several literary men of note, whose friendship he afterwards enjoyed
for years. Among these were Charles Lamb, Thomas Hood, H. F. Gary,
Allan Cunningham, George Barley, and others; but his most frequent
companion in town would appear to have been Rippingille, the painter,
to whom he was introduced at the house of Mrs. Emmerson. Clare was
assured by that lady that he would find Mr. Rippingille an excellent
and discreet young man, but there is reason to suspect that "friend
Rip," as he was called by his intimates, had carefully concealed some
of his foibles from Mrs. Emmerson, for he and Clare had several not
very creditable drinking bouts, and were not particular in the class
of entertainments which they patronized. After Clare had returned to
Helpstone and Rippingille to Bristol, where he lived for several
years, the latter repeatedly urged his poet-friend to visit him, and
this is the way in which the amusing rattlepate wrote:--

"My dear Johnny Clare,--I am perfectly sure that I sha'nt be able to
write one word of sense, or spin out one decent thought. If the old
Devil and the most romping of his imps had been dancing, and
jostling, and running stark mad amongst the delicate threads and
fibres of my brain, it could not be in a worse condition, but I am
resolved to write in spite of the Devil, my stars, and want of
brains, for all of which I have most excellent precedents and
examples, and sound orthodox authority, so here goes. Tonight; but
what is tonight? 'T was last night, my dear Johnny. I was up till
past five this morning, during which time I was stupid enough to
imbibe certain potions of porter, punch, moselle, and madeira, that
have been all day long uniting their forces in fermenting and fuming,
and bubbling and humming. Are you coming, Clare, or are you going to
remain until all the fine weather is gone, and then come and see
nothing? Or do you mean to come at all? Now is your time, if you do.
You will just be in time for the fair, which begins on the 1st of
September and lasts ten days. And most glorious fun it is, I can tell
you. Crowds, tribes, shoals, and natives of all sorts! I looked at
the standings the other night, and thought of you. Will he come, said
I? D--n the fellow! Nothing can move him. There he sticks, and there
he will stick. Will none but a draggle-tailed muse suit him?

  His evening devotions and matins
  Both addressed to a muse that wears pattens:
  A poet that kneels in the bogs,
  Where his muse can't go out without clogs,
  Or stir without crushing the frogs!
                                 --Old Play.

  Where toads die of vapours and hip,
  And tadpoles of ague and pip.
                                 --Old Play.

  Give 'em all, my dear Johnny, the slip,
  And at once take to Bristol a trip.
  By G--, you should come, and you must.
  Do you mean I should finish your bust?
  If you don't, stay away and be cussed!

My muse is taken a little qualmish, therefore pray excuse her. She is
a well-meaning jade, and if it was not for the wild treatment she
received last night would, I have no doubt, have given you a very
polite invitation, but I fear, Johnny, nothing will move you. Your
heart is as hard as an overseer's. I dined at Elton's two days ago.
We talked about you, wondered if you would come, feared not,
regretted it, and the loss of the fine weather, and the fine scenery,
and the other fine things: in fine, we lamented finely. Come and
cheer our hearts. Bring Patty and all the little bardettes, if you
will. We will find room for them somewhere. I have read only my
introductory lecture yet, so that you may hear 'em or read 'em all,
if you like. Having thrown my bread upon the waters, where I hope it
will be found after many days. I take my leave, my dear Clare, in the
full hope I shall see you by the 1st of September. Write to me by
return, saying what day you will be here.

Yours for ever and after, E. V. RIPPINGILLE."


Clare visited Charles Lamb, and received from him the following
characteristic letter after his return to Helpstone:--

"India House, 1st Aug. 1822.

Dear Clare,--I thank you heartily for your present. I am an
inveterate old Londoner, but while I am among your choice collections
I seem to be native to them and free of the country. The quantity of
your observation has astonished me. What have most pleased me have
been 'Recollections after a Ramble,' and those 'Grongar Hill' kind of
pieces in eight-syllable lines, my favourite measure, such as 'Cowper
Hill' and 'Solitude.' In some of your story-telling ballads the
provincial phrases sometimes startle me. I think you are too profuse
with them. In poetry, slang of every kind is to be avoided. There is
a rustick Cockneyism as little pleasing as ours of London. Transplant
Arcadia to Helpstone. The true rustic style, the Arcadian English, I
think is to be found in Shenstone. Would his 'Schoolmistress,' the
prettiest of poems, have been better if he had used quite the Goody's
own language? Now and then a home rusticism is fresh and startling,
but where nothing is gained in expression it is out of tenor. It may
make folks smile and stare, but the ungenial coalition of barbarous
with refined phrases will prevent you in the end from being so
generally tasted as you deserve to be. Excuse my freedom, and take
the same liberty with my puns. I send you two little volumes of my
spare hours. They are of all sorts. There's a Methodist hymn for
Sundays, and a farce for Saturday night. Pray give them a place on
your shelf, and accept a little volume of which I have duplicate,
that I may return in equal number to your welcome present. I think I
am indebted to you for a sonnet in the 'London' for August. Since I
saw you I have been in France and have eaten frogs. The nicest little
rabbity things you ever tasted. Do look about for them. Make Mrs.
Clare pick off the hindquarters; boil them plain with parsley and
butter. The fore quarters are not so good. She may let them hop off
by themselves.

Yours sincerely,



During his second visit to London, Clare became for a few days the
guest of Mr. Cary, at Chiswick. Here, it is said, he wrote several
amorous sonnets in praise of Cary's wife, and presented them to the
lady, who passed them on to her husband. The learned translator of
Dante requested an explanation, which Clare at once gave. The
circumstance that Cary corresponded with Clare for at least ten years
afterwards will enable the reader to form his own estimate of the
importance of the incident. Among Cary's letters were the following:--

"Chiswick, London,

Jany. 3rd, 1822.

Many happy years to you, dear Clare.

Do not think because I have not written to you sooner that I have
forgot you. I often think of you in that walk we took here together,
and which I take almost every day, generally alone, sometimes musing
of absent friends and at others putting into English those old French
verses which I dare say sometimes occasion you to cry 'Pish!'--(I
hope you vent your displeasure in such innocent terms)--when turning
over the pages of the magazine. I was much pleased with a native
strain of yours, signed, I remember, 'Percy Green.' Mr. Taylor can
tell you that I enquired with much earnestness after the author of it
(it was the first with that signature), not knowing it to be yours,
and what pleasure it gave me to find it was so. I am glad to find a
new 'Shepherd's Calendar' advertised with your name. You will no
doubt bring before us many objects in Nature that we have often seen
in her but never before in books, and that in verse of a very musical
construction. There are two things, I mean description of natural
objects taken from the life, and a sweet melodious versification,
that particularly please me in poetry; and these two you can command
if you choose. Of sentiment I do not reck so much. Your admiration of
poets I felt most strongly earlier in life, and have still a good
deal of it left, but time deadens that as well as many of our other
pleasantest feelings. Still, I had rather pass my time in such
company than in any other, and the poetical part of my library is
increasing above all proportion above the rest. This you may think a
strange confession for me in my way of life to make, but whatever one
feels strongly impelled to, provided it be not wrong in itself and
can administer any benefit or pleasure to others, I am inclined to
think is the task allotted to one, and thus I quiet my conscience
about the matter. I did'nt intend to make you my father confessor
when I set out, but now it is done I hope you will grant me

Believe me, dear Clare,

Ever sincerely yours,

H. F. CARY."

"Chiswick, April 12th, 1823.

Dear Clare,--

Have you visited the haunts of poor Cowper which you were invited to
see? And if so, what accordance did you find between the places and
his descriptions of them? What a glory it is for poetry that it can
make any piece of trumpery an object of curiosity and interest! I had
the pleasure of meeting last week with Mr. Wordsworth. He is no piece
of trumpery, but has all the appearance of being that noblest work,
an honest man. I think I scarcely ever met with any one eminent for
genius who had not also something very amiable and engaging in his
manners and character. In Mr. Wordsworth I found much frankness and
fervour. The first impression his countenance gave me was one which I
did not receive from Chantrey's bust of him--that of his being a very
benevolent man. Have you seen Barry Cornwall's new volume? He is one
of the best writers of blank verse we have, but I think blank verse
is not much in favour with you. The rhyme that is now in fashion runs
rather too wild to please me. It seems to want pruning and nailing
up. A sonnet, like a rose tree may be allowed to grow straggling, but
a long poem should be trained into some order. I hope you and your
family have got well through this hard winter. Mrs. Cary, who has
hitherto almost uniformly enjoyed good health, has suffered much from
it. She and the rest of my family join in kind remembrances to you
with, dear Clare, Yours sincerely,

H. F. CARY."


London, February 19th, 1825.

My dear Clare,

I have been reproaching myself some time for not answering your last
letter sooner, and as I am telling my congregation this Lent that it
is no use to reproach oneself for one's sins if one does not amend
them, I will mend this. I will freely own I should not have felt the
same compunction if you had been in health and spirits, but when I
find you so grievously complaining of the want of both, I cannot
leave you any longer without such poor comfort as a line for two from
me can give. I wish I were a doctor, and a skilful one, for your
sake. I mean a doctor of medicine. For though I were a doctor of
divinity I doubt I could recommend to you no better prescription in
that way than I can as plain Mister. Nay, it is one that any old
woman in your parish could hit upon as readily as myself, and that
is, patience and submission to a Will that is higher and wiser than
our own. How often have I stood in need of it myself, and with what
difficulty have I swallowed it, and how hard have I found it to keep
on my stomach! May you, my friend, have better success! If you do not
want it in one way you are sure to have occasion for it before long
in some other. If you should be raised up from this sickness, as I
trust you will, do not suppose but that you will have something else
to try you. This, you will say, is not a very cheering prospect, but
remember these lines in Crowe's poem, which you so justly admire:--

  'Tis meet we jostle with the world, content,
  If by our Sovereign Master we be found
  At last not profitless.

What follows, I fear neither you nor I have philosophy enough to add
with sincerity:--

  For worldly meed,
  Given or withheld, I deem of it alike.

I will read the memoir of yourself which you purpose sending me, and
not fail to tell you if I think you have spoken of others with more
acrimony than you ought. There is no occasion for sending me with it
your new publication. I shall get it as I have those before. I hope
the last chapter of your memoir, if brought up to the present time,
will record your children's having got safely over the small pox, of
which you express apprehensions in your last letter. We have got well
through the winter hitherto. For want of better employment I have
been teaching my youngest boy Dicky to write. Perhaps you will think
me not over well qualified for so important an office, but I assure
you when I have two parallel lines ruled at proper distances I can
produce something like a copy. To teach others is no bad way to learn
one's self. In spite of the floggings which I had at school, I could
never learn that grammar for which you have so great an aversion,
thoroughly, till I began to instruct my own son in it, but then I
made a wonderful progress. I should not succeed so well in collecting
ferns. A physician once recommended to me the study of botany for the
good of my health, but he had published an edition of Linnaeus.
Another prescribed to me port wine, but, poor man, he soon fell a
martyr to his own system. In such matters common sense and one's own
inclination are the best guides. Mrs. C. and your other acquaintances
here remember you kindly. I am dear Clare, with best wishes for
yourself and family,

Your affectionate friend,

H. F. CARY."

"British Museum, April 13th, 1830,

Dear Clare,--

I have waited some time to answer your letter, in hopes of being able
to give you the information you require; but the information does not
come and I will wait no longer. I have not seen either Lamb or
Wainwright since last summer, when the former spent one day with me
here, and another day we all three met at the house of the latter,
who now resides in a place he has inherited from a relative at
Turnham Green. Lamb is settled at Endfield, about seven miles from
London, with his sister, who I fear is in a very indifferent state of
health; so his friends see very little of him. In this grand age of
utility, I suppose it will soon be discovered that a piece of canvas
is more advantageously employed as the door of a safe, where it will
secure a joint of meat from the flies, than if it was covered with
the finest hues that Titian or Rubens could lay upon it, and a piece
of paper better disposed of in keeping the same meat from being burnt
while it is roasting, than in preserving the idle fancies of a poet.
No matter: if it is so we must swim with the stream. You can employ
yourself in cultivating your cabbages and in handling the hay fork,
and I not quite so pleasantly in making catalogues of books. We will
not be out of fashion, but show ourselves as useful as the rest of
the world. In the meantime we may smile at what is going forward,
entertain ourselves with our own whims in private, and expect that
the tide some day may turn. My family, whom you are so kind as to
enquire about, are all well, and all following the order of the day,
except one, who has set himself to perverting canvas from its proper
use by smearing it over with certain colours, fair indeed to look
upon, but quite void of utility. I ought indeed to have made another
exception, which is, that they are multiplying much faster than Mr.
Malthus would approve. Cowper says somewhere of those who make the
world older than the Bible accounts of it, that they have found out
that He who made it and revealed its age to Moses was mistaken in the
date. May it not be said of the anti-populationers that they
virtually accuse him of as great ignorance in the command to multiply
and replenish the earth? Well, you and I, Clare, have kept to this
text. May we observe all the rest as well! which is so good a
conclusion for a parson that I will say no more than that I am ever

Yours truly,


Mrs. C. is at Chiswick, but I can assure you of her good wishes."

"Dear Clare,--

You ask me for literary news. I have very little of a kind likely to
interest you. Have you seen in the 'Edinburgh Review' an account of
some poems by Elliott, a Sheffield workman? In his rhymes on the Corn
Trade are not 'words that burn,' but words that scald. In his 'Love'
there is a story told in a very affecting manner. In short they are
the only new things I have been struck with for some time, and that
before I knew who the writer was. I heard lately that our friend Mr.
Lamb was very well, and his sister just recovered from one of those
illnesses which she is often afflicted with. I have just sent to the
press a translation of an old Greek poet. I do not expect he will
please you much, as he treats of little but charioteering, boxing,
running, and some old heathenish stories. But I will send you a copy,
not requiring you to read it. Mrs. C., if she were at my elbow,
would, I am sure, desire to be kindly remembered to you.

Believe me, dear Clare,

Sincerely yours,


British Museum, Oct. 30th, 1832."


Clare remained in London for several weeks, at the end of which time
he was suddenly recalled to Helpstone by alarming reports of the
state of his wife's health. It is to be feared that in more respects
than one this second visit to the metropolis had an unhealthy
influence upon the poet's mind and habits. At this time he appears to
have made very little effort to resist the pressing hospitality of
his friends, and to have complied only too readily with the convivial
customs of the time. He returned to Helpstone moody and discontented,
and in his letters to Mrs. Emmerson he complained fretfully of the
hardship of his lot in being compelled to spend his days without any
literary companionship whatsoever. About this time that lady wrote to
him two letters, which as illustrations of the style of her
correspondence are here given:--

"20 Stratford Place, 17th June, 1822.

My very dear Clare,--

"Your letter reached me this morning, and from the nature of its
contents it leaves me nothing to express in reply but my sincere
regrets that any necessity should have occurred to hasten your
departure from London without our again seeing each other. I wish, my
dear friend, you had expressed more fully the real cause of this
sudden measure, for you leave me with many painful fears upon my mind
for the safety of your dear wife, who I hope, ere this, has blessed
you with a little namesake, and that she is doing well with the dear
babe. I have also my own fears about yourself, your own health, your
state of mind, your worldly interests, &c., but perhaps I am wrong to
indulge in all these anxieties. Mr. Emmerson and myself had looked
for days past with great solicitude for your return to us, and we had
planned many little schemes for our mutual enjoyment while you were
with us, but these, with many other matters with which my mind and
heart were full, are now at an end, and God only knows when, or if
ever, we may meet again; but of this be assured, as long as my
friendship and correspondence are of value to you, you may command
them. In our, alas, too short interviews we had some interesting
conversations. These will not be forgotten by me, and I will hope on
your return to your own dear cot you will take the earliest
opportunity to write to your friend 'Emma.' Tell her all that affects
your happiness, and may you, my dear Clare, when restored to the calm
delights of retirement, experience also the restoration of mental
peace and every domestic blessing! Mr. E. desires his kindest regards
to you, and his sincere regrets you could not spend a few days with
him ere you quitted London. Our noble and dear friend [Lord Radstock]
will also feel much disappointment at not seeing you again. This is
not what we had hoped for and expected from your visit to Town. Yet
let me not reproach you with unkindness, though I feel much, very
much, at this moment. Mr. Rippingille spent last evening with us and
took his final leave. He goes off for Bristol this afternoon. I have
sent your silk handkerchief, with another for you, my dear Clare, as
a trifling remembrance of your very sincere and attached friend,


P.S. Please let me know as soon as you reach home of your safe
arrival, and if the little stranger has entered this world of woe,
and if she bears the name of E. L. Lord R. has just left me, and
sends his kind regards, and regrets at not having the opportunity to
see you in Portland-place. Farewell.


"Stratford Place, 26th June, 1822.

My very dear Friend,--

If it is necessary to make an apology for writing to you again so
soon, the only one I shall attempt to make is that of offering you my
sincere congratulations upon the birth of your sweet girl, Eliza
Louisa, if I did not misunderstand you when you were in Town, and the
certainty of which I wish to know in your next letter; also, if I may
be allowed to stand godmother to my little namesake, and likewise if
you have accepted the kind offer of Lord R. to become her noble
godfather. You mention your dear wife in language that alarms and
distresses me much for her safety. I hope in God, for your sake, and
for the sake of your dear children, that all danger is over, and that
she is now in a fair way to be speedily restored to you. Pardon me,
my clear Clare, when I entreat you to do all in your power to comfort
and compose her mind under her present delicate situation. Recollect
if she is now a faded flower she has become so under your influence,
and well may you be loth to lose the object who has shed her
brightest hues on you, and who in giving birth to your sweet
offspring may chance to fade almost to nothingness herself. But this
should serve to bind your affections still stronger to her. Forgive
me for talking thus to you, my dear Clare. I have no other motive
than your domestic happiness, which I anxiously pray may be
undisturbed by any event. I lament to learn by your letter that to
stifle recollections of the past, &c., you should have fled to such
resources on your journey home. Now you become the sufferer by such
means. Why not exert your philosophy, instead of seeking that which
serves to destroy your health and peace? You know, my dear Clare,
that you are injuring yourself in the deepest sense by such habits.
For God's sake, then, for your own dear children's sake, arm yourself
with a determination, a fortitude, which would do honour to your
excellent heart and good understanding, to fly from such a mode of
consolation as from a poison that will quickly destroy you. Remember
poor Burns! Let the solemn and affectionate warnings of your friend
'Emma' dissuade you, my dear Clare, from habits of inebriety.
Independent of the loss of your health and mental powers, your moral
character will be seriously injured by such means. You will charge me
with preaching a sermon, I fear, and will be inclined to commit my
good wishes to the flames, but you must not hate me for my counsel. I
can readily suppose how the 'good Quaker' would be shocked at your
'disguise' and I heartily regret the event, altho' I honour your
liberality and candour in telling me of it. I have not heard from our
friend Rippingille, but expect to do so daily. When I write to him I
will make known your wishes to correspond with him. You tell me you
'have many things to say to me in future about your journey, &c. &c.'
Pray do not be long, my dear Clare, ere you make such communications,
with all else that concerns you, for I shall be most anxious to hear
good accounts of your dear wife and the sweet babe. Mr. E. desires me
to say everything that is kind to you for him, as does our noble and
dear friend. Heaven bless you, my dear Clare.

Ever sincerely yours,



In 1823, Clare suffered from a long and serious illness; brought on,
in all probability, by an insufficiency of food, and by mental
anxiety caused by his inability to free himself from the importunity
of creditors. During his illness he was visited by Mr. Taylor, who
had come down to Stamford to attend the funeral of Mr. Gilchrist, and
Mr. Taylor, shocked at the poet's appearance, procured for him at
once the services of the principal physician in Peterborough. Clare
had also an excellent and warm-hearted friend in Mrs. Marsh, wife of
the Bishop of Peterborough, who corresponded with him frequently, in
a familiar and almost motherly manner, from 1821 to 1837. When Clare
complained of indisposition, a messenger would be dispatched from
"The Palace," with medicines or plaisters, camphor lozenges, or "a
pound of our own tea," with sensible advice as to personal habits and
diet. At another time hot-house grapes are sent, or the messenger
bears toys for the children, or a magnifying glass to assist Clare in
his observations in entomolgy, or books, or "three numbers of
Cobbett's penny trash, which Mr. Clare may keep." One day Mrs. Marsh

"To show you how I wish to cheer you I am sending you cakes, as one
does to children: they are harmless, so pray enjoy them, and write to
tell me how you are."

Engravings of the new chain pier are sent from Brighton, and on one
occasion (in 1829) a steel pen was enclosed in a letter, as a great
curiosity. Clare was on several occasions a visitor at the Bishop's
Palace, and in July, 1831, Mrs. Marsh wrote the following note, which
confirms the impression received from the perusal of other letters,
that about that time Clare's mind had been much exercised with
respect to his soul's health:--

"My dear Mr. Clare,--I must take my leave, and in doing so must add
that in thinking of you it is my greatest comfort to know that you
fix your trust where our only and never-failing trust rests."

Lady Milton also frequently sent her humble neighbour presents
suitable to his invalid condition.


Clare had not entirely recovered from this illness, when in May,
1824, he once more accepted the invitation of his publishers to visit
London. They were desirous that he should have the benefit of the
advice of Dr. Darling, the kind-hearted physician already mentioned.
On seeing him in Fleet Street, Dr. Darling ordered that he should be
kept perfectly free from excitement of all kinds, but at the end of
two or three weeks he was permitted to meet a literary party composed
chiefly of contributors to the "London Magazine." Among the guests
were Coleridge, Lamb, De Quincey, Hazlitt, and Allan Cunningham. In
the manuscript memoir to which reference has already been made, Clare
noted down his impressions of Coleridge and others, and they are
embodied in Mr. Martin's account of this visit. He was a frequent
visitor to Mrs. Emmerson, and a few days before he left London was
once more thrown into the society of Rippingille, who declared that
he had left Bristol solely for the purpose of meeting his friend.
Clare, obeying implicitly the injunctions of Dr. Darling, declined
all invitations to revelry, and therefore the companionship was less
prejudicial to his health and spirits than on the occasion of his
former visit. At his publishers, Clare made the acquaintance of
Mr.(afterwards Sir Charles) Elton, brother-in-law of Hallam, the
historian, and uncle to the subject of "In Memoriam." Mr. Elton, who
was a friend and patron of Rippingille, was much pleased with Clare,
and while he was yet in London sent him from Clifton the following
metrical epistle, which afterwards appeared in the "London Magazine."
It contains several interesting touches of portraiture:--

  So loth, friend John, to quit the town!
  'T was in the dales thou won'st renown;
  I would not, John, for half a crown,
  Have left thee there,
  Taking my lonely journey down
  To rural air.

  The pavement flat of endless street
  Is all unsuited to thy feet,
  The fog-wet smoke is all unmeet
  For such as thou,
  Who thought'st the meadow verdure sweet,
  But think'st not now.

  "Time's hoarse unfeather'd nightingales" [3]
  Inspire not like the birds of vales:
  I know their haunts in river dales,
  On many a tree,
  And they reserve their sweetest tales,
  John Clare, for thee.

  I would not have thee come to sing
  Long odes to that eternal spring
  On which young bards their changes ring,
  With buds and flowers:
  I look for many a better thing
  Than brooks and bowers.

  'T is true thou paintest to the eye
  The straw-thatched roof with elm trees high,
  But thou hast wisdom to descry
  What lurks below--
  The springing tear, the melting sigh,
  The cheek's heart-glow.

  The poets all, alive and dead,
  Up, Clare, and drive them from thy head!
  Forget whatever thou hast read
  Of phrase or rhyme,
  For he must lead and not be led
  Who lives through time.

  What thou hast been the world may see,
  But guess not what thou still may'st be:
  Some in thy lines a Goldsmith see,
  Or Dyer's tone:
  They praise thy worst; the best of thee
  Is still unknown.

  Some grievously suspect thee, Clare:
  They want to know thy form of prayer:
  Thou dost not cant, and so they stare,
  And hint free-thinking:
  They bid thee of the devil beware,
  And vote thee sinking.

  With smile sedate and patient eye,
  Thou mark'st the zealots pass thee by
  To rave and raise a hue and cry
  Against each other:
  Thou see'st a Father up on high;
  In man a brother.

  I would not have a mind like thine
  Its artless childhood tastes resign,
  Jostle in mobs, or sup and dine
  Its powers away,
  And after noisy pleasures pine
  Some distant day.

  And, John, though you may mildly scoff,
  That hard, afflicting churchyard cough
  Gives pretty plain advice, "Be off,
  While yet you can."
  It is not time yet, John, to doff
  Your outward man.

  Drugs! can the balm of Gilead yield
  Health like the cowslip-yellow'd field?
  Come, sail down Avon and be heal'd,
  Thou Cockney Clare.
  My recipe is soon reveal'd--
  Sun, sea, and air.

  What glue has fastened thus thy brains
  To kennel odours and brick lanes?
  Or is it intellect detains?
  For, faith, I'll own
  The provinces must take some pains
  To match the town.

  Does Agnus (1) fling his crotchets wild--
  "In wit a man," in heart a child?
  Has Lepus (2) sense thine ear beguiled
  With easy strain?
  Or hast thou nodded blithe, and smiled
  At Janus' (3) vein?

  Does Nalla, (4) that mild giant, bow
  His dark and melancholy brow?
  Or are his lips distending now
  With roaring glee
  That tells the heart is in a glow--
  The spirit free?

  Or does the Opium-eater (5) quell
  Thy wondering sprite with witching spell?
  Read'st thou the dreams of murkiest hell
  In that mild mien?
  Or dost thou doubt yet fear to tell
  Such e'er have been?

  And while around thy board the wine
  Lights up the glancing eyeballs' shine,
  Seest thou in elbow'd thought recline
  The Poet true (6)
  Who in "Colonna" seems divine
  To me and you?

  But, Clare, the birds will soon be flown:
  Our Cambridge wit resumes his gown:
  Our English Petrarch trundles down
  To Devon's valley:
  Why, when our Maga's out of town,
  Stand shilly-shally?
  The table-talk of London still
  Shall serve for chat by rock and rill,
  And you again may have your fill
  Of season'd mirth,
  But not if spade your chamber drill
  Six feet in earth.

  Come, then! Thou never saw'st an oak
  Much bigger than a wagon spoke:
  Thou only could'st the Muse invoke
  On treeless fen:
  Then come and aim a higher stroke,
  My man of men.

  The wheel and oar, by gurgling steam,
  Shall waft thee down the wood-brow'd stream,
  And the red channel's broadening gleam
  Dilate thy gaze,
  And thou shalt conjure up a theme
  For future lays.

  And thou shalt have a jocund cup
  To wind thy spirits gently up--
  A stoup of hock or claret cup
  Once in a way,
  And we'll take notes from Mistress Gupp (8)
  That same glad day.

  And Rip Van Winkle (9) shall awake
  From his loved idlesse for thy sake,
  In earnest stretch himself, and take
  Pallet on thumb,
  Nor now his brains for subjects rake--
  John Clare is come!

  His touch will, hue by hue, combine
  Thy thoughtful eyes, that steady shine,
  The temples of Shakesperian line,
  The quiet smile,
  The sense and shrewdness which are thine,
  Withouten guile.

The following key accompanied the letter on its publication:--

1. Agnus = Charles Lamb.

2. Lepus = Julius Hare, author of "Guesses at Truth."

3. Janus = The writer in the "London Magazine" who signed himself
           Janus Weathercock.

4. Nalla = Allan Cunningham.

5. Opium-eater = De Quincey, author of "The Confessions of an English

6. The Poet true = The writer who assumes the name of Barry Cornwall.

7. The English Petrarch = The Rev. Mr. Strong, translator of Italian

8. Mistress Gupp = A lady immortalized by her invention to keep
                   muffins warm on the lid of the tea-urn.

9. Rip Van Winkle = E. V. Rippingille, painter of the "Country Post
                    Office," the "Portrait of a Bird," &c.


The friendship of Allan Cunningham was always highly prized by Clare,
and shortly after his return from London he sent him an autograph of
Bloomfield, the receipt of which Cunningham acknowledged in the
following letter:--

"27, Belgrave Place, 23rd September, 1824.

Dear Clare,--

I thank you much for Bloomfield's note, and as much for your own kind
letter. I agree with you in the praise you have given to his verse.
That he has living life about his productions there can be little
doubt. He trusts too much to Nature and to truth to be a fleeting
favourite, and he will be long in the highway where Fame dispenses
her favours. I have often felt indignant at the insulting way his
name has been introduced both by critics and poets. To scorn him
because of the humility of his origin is ridiculous anywhere, and
most of all here, where so many of our gentles and nobles have come
from the clods of the valley. Learned men make many mistakes about
the value of learning. I conceive it is chiefly valuable to a man's
genius in enabling him to wield his energies with greater readiness
or with better effect. But learning, though a polisher and a refiner,
is not the creator. It may be the mould out of which genius stamps
its coin, but it is not the gold itself. I am glad to hear that you
are a little better. Keep up your heart and sing only when you feel
the internal impulse, and you will add something to our poetry more
lasting than any of the peasant bards of old England have done yet.

I remain, dear Clare, your very faithful friend,



George Darley, another member of the "London" brotherhood, conceived
a sincere regard for Clare, and frequently wrote to him. He was
author of several dramatic poems, and of numerous works on
mathematics, and was besides a candidate for the Professorship of
English Literature at the founding of the London University. The
following are among the more entertaining of the letters which he
addressed to the poet:--

"Friday, March 2 1827,

5, Upper Eaton Street, Grosvenor Place.

My dear Clare,--

You see in what a brotherly way I commence my letter: not with the
frigid 'Sir' as if I were addressing one of a totally unkindred clay,
one of the drossy children of earth, with whom I have no relationship
and feel I could never have any familiarity. Have you ever felt that
the presence of a man without feeling made you a fool? I am always
dumb, or pusillanimous or (if I speak) ridiculous, in the company of
such a person. I love a reasoner, and do not by any means wish to be
flashing lightning, cloud-riding, or playing with stars. But a
marble-hearted companion, who, if you should by chance give way to an
impetuous fancy, or an extravagant imagination, looks at you with a
dead fish's eye, and asks you to write the name under your picture--I
would as soon ride in a post chaise with a lunatic, or sleep with a
corse. Never let me see the sign of such a man over an alehouse! It
would fright me away sooner than the report of a mad dog or a
scolding landlady. I would as soon enter the house if it hung out a
pestle and mortar. The fear of a drug in my posset would not repel me
so inevitably as the horror with which I should contemplate the
frost-bitten face of a portrait such as I have described. But perhaps
with all your feeling you will think my heart somewhat less sound
than a ripe medlar, if it be so unhealthily sensitive as what I have
said appears to indicate. There is, I grant, as in all other things,
a mean which ought to be observed. Recollect, however, I am not an
Englishman [Darley was an Irishman.] I should have answered your
letter long since, without waiting for your poems, in order to say
something handsome upon them, but have been so occupied with a myriad
of affairs that I have scarcely had a moment to sleep in. It is now
long, long past midnight, and all is as silent around my habitation
as if it were in the midst of a forest, or the plague had depopulated
London. After a day's hard labour at mathematical operations and
corrections I sit down to write to you these hasty and, I fear,
almost unreadable lines. Will you excuse them for the promise of
something better when I have more leisure to be point-device? Your
opinion of my geometry was very grateful, chiefly as it confirmed my
own--that there has been a great deal too much baby-making of the
English people by those who pretend to instruct them in science.
These persons write upon the Goody-two-shoes plan, and seem to look
upon their readers as infants who have not yet done drivelling. To
improve the reason is quite beside their purpose; they merely design
to titillate the fancy or provide talking matter for village oracles.
In not one of their systems do I perceive a regular progression of
reasoning whereby the mind may be led, from truth to truth, to
knowledge, as we ride step by step up to a fair temple on a goodly
hill of prospect. They jumble together heaps of facts, the most
wonder-striking they can get, which may indeed be said to confound
the imagination by their variety; but there is no ratiocinative
dependence between them, nor are they referred to demonstrative
principles, which would render people knowledgeable, as well as
knowing, of them. Each is a syllabus indeed, but not a science. It
tells many things but teaches none. There is little merit due to me
for perceiving this error, and none for avoiding it. Algebra is the
only true arithmetic. The latter is founded on the former in almost
all its rules, and one is just as easily learned as the other. If
arithmetic is to be taught rationally it must be taught
algebraically. With half the pains that a learner takes to make
himself master of the rule of three and fractions, he would acquire
as much algebra as would render every rule in arithmetic as easy as
chalking to an inn-keeper. I am apt to speak in the King Cambyses'
vein, but you understand what I wish to convey. As to the
continuation of the "Lives of the Poets," it is a work sadly wanting,
but I am not the person to supply the desideratum, even were my power
equal to the deed. Criticism is abomination in my sight. It is fit
only for the headsmen and hangmen of literature, fellows who live by
the agonies and death of others. You will say this is not the
criticism you mean, and that there is a different species (the only
genuine and estimable species) which has an eye to beauty rather than
defect, and which delights in glorifying true poetry rather than
debating it. Aye, but have you ever considered how much harder it is
to praise than to censure piquantly? I should ever be running into
the contemptuous or abusive style, as I did in the "Letters to
Dramatists." Besides, even in the best of poets, Shakspeare and
Milton, how much is there justly condemnable? On the inferior
luminaries, I should have to be continually pointing out spots and
blemishes. In short, as a vocation I detest criticism. It is a
species of fratricide with me, for I never can help cutting,
slashing, pinking, and carbonadoing--a most unnatural office for one
of the brotherhood, one who presumes to enrol himself among those
whom he conspires with the Jeffreys and Jerdans to mangle and
destroy. It is a Cain-like profession, and I deserve to be branded,
and condemned to wander houseless over the world, if ever I indulge
the murderous propensity to criticism. I was sorry to hear from
Taylor yesterday that you were not in good health. What can be the
matter with you, so healthfully situated and employed? Methinks you
should live the life of an oak-tree or a sturdy elm, that groans in a
storm, but only for pleasure. Do you meditate too much or sit too
immovably? Poetry, I mean the composition of it, does not always
sweeten the mind as much as the reading of it. There is always an
anxiety, a fervour, an impatience, a vaingloriousness attending it
which untranquillizes even in the sweetest-seeming moods of the poet.
Like the bee, he is restless and uneasy even in collecting his
sweets. Farewell, my dear Clare, and when you have leisure and
inclination, write to me again.

Sincerely yours,


"London, 5 Upper Eaton Street, Grosvenor Place,

March 14th, 1829.

My dear Clare,--

You have been reproaching me, I dare say, for my long neglect of your
last letter, but you might have saved yourself that trouble, as my
own conscience has scourged me repeatedly these two months about it.
The truth is I have been a good deal harassed in several ways, and
now sit down, in the midst of a headache, to write, when I can hardly
tell which end of my pen is paper-wards. I will attempt, however, to
return your questions legible if not intelligible answers. There have
been so many 'Pleasures' of so-and-so that I should almost counsel
you against baptizing your poem on Spring the 'Pleasures' of
anything. Besides, when a poem is so designated it is almost
assuredly prejudged as deficient in action (about which you appear
solicitous). 'The Pleasures of Spring' from you, identified as you
are with descriptive poesy, would almost without doubt sound in the
public ear as an announcement of a series of literary scene
paintings. Beautiful as these may be, and certainly would be from
your pencil, there is a deadness about them which tends to chill the
reader: he must be animated with something of a livelier prospect,
or, as Hamlet says of Polonius, 'he sleeps'. It may be affirmed
without hesitation that, however independent of description a drama
may be, no descriptive poem is independent of something like dramatic
spirit to give it interest with human beings. How dull a thing would
even the great descriptive poem of the Creation be without Adam and
Eve, their history and hapless fall, to enliven it! But I cannot see
why you should not infuse a dramatic spirit into your poem on Spring,
which is only the development of the living principle in Nature. See
how full of life those descriptive scenes in the 'Midsummer Night's
Dream' and the 'Winter's Tale' are. Characters may describe the
beauties or qualities of Spring just as well as the author, and
nothing prevents a story going through the season, so as to gather up
flowers and point out every beautiful feature in the landscape on its
way. Thomson has a little of this, but not enough. Imagine his
'Lavinia' spread out into a longer story, incidents and descriptions
perpetually relieving each other! Imagine this, and you have a model
for your poem. Allan Ramsay's 'Gentle Shepherd' would be still
better, only that his poem is cast into actual dramatic characters.
Besides, though with plenty of feeling and a good deal of homestead
poetry, he wants imagination, elegance, and a certain scorn of mere
earth, which is essential to the constitution of a true poet. You
want none of these, but you want his vivacity, character, and action:
I mean to say you have not as yet exhibited these qualities. The
hooks with which you have fished for praise in the ocean of
literature have not been garnished with live bait, and none of us can
get a bite without it. How few read 'Comus' who have the 'Corsair' by
heart! Why? Because the former, which is almost dark with the
excessive bright of its own glory, is deficient in human passions and
emotions, while the latter possesses these although little else.

Your sincere friend and brother poet,



It was on the occasion of his third visit to London that Dr. Darling
exacted from Clare the promise, already referred to, that he would
observe the strictest moderation in drinking, and if possible abstain
altogether. Clare kept his word, but his domestic difficulties
remaining unabated he suffered much, not only from physical weakness
but from melancholy forebodings which were destined to be only too
completely realized. He made many ineffectual attempts to obtain
employment in the neighbourhood of Helpstone, and it is especially to
be regretted that his applications, first to the Marquis of Exeter's
steward and then to Earl Fitzwilliam's, for the situation of gardener
were unsuccessful, because the employment would have been congenial
to his tastes, and the wages, added to his annuities, would have been
to him a competence.

During the years 1824-23 Clare kept a diary, which, for those who
desire to know the man as well as the poet, is full of interest, on
account of the side-lights which it throws upon his character, and
also upon his pursuits during this period of involuntary leisure. The
following extracts are selected:--

September 7, 1824.--

I have read "Foxe's Book of Martyrs" and finished it to-day, and the
sum of my opinion is, that tyranny and cruelty appear to be the
inseparable companions of religious power, and the aphorism is not
far from truth that says "all priests are the same."

September 11.--

Wrote an essay to-day on the sexual system of plants, and began one
on the fungus tribe, and on mildew, blight, &c., intended for "A
Natural History of Helpstone," in a series of letters to Hessey, who
will publish it when finished. Received a kind letter from C.A.

September 12.--

Finished another page of my life. I have read the first chapter of
Genesis, the beginning of which is very fine, but the sacred
historian took a great deal upon credit for this world when he
imagined that God created the sun, moon, and stars, those mysterious
hosts of heaven, for no other purpose than its use. It is a harmless
and universal propensity to magnify consequences that pertain to
ourselves, and it would be a foolish thing to test Scripture upon
these groundless assertions, for it contains the best poetry and the
best morality in the world.

September 19.--

Read snatches of several poets and the Song of Solomon: thought the
supposed allusions in that luscious poem to our Saviour very
overstrained, far-fetched, and conjectural. It appears to me an
Eastern love poem, and nothing further, but an over-heated religious
fancy is strong enough to fancy anything. I think the Bible is not
illustrated by that supposition: though it is a very beautiful poem
it seems nothing like a prophetic one, as it is represented to be.

September 22.--

Very ill, and did nothing but ponder over a future existence, and
often brought up the lines to my memory said to have been uttered by
an unfortunate nobleman when on the brink of it, ready to take the

  In doubt I lived, in doubt I die,
  Nor shrink the dark abyss to try,
  But undismayed I meet eternity.

The first line is natural enough, but the rest is a rash courage in
such a situation.

September 23.--

A wet day: did nothing but nurse my illness: could not have walked
out had it been fine. Very disturbed in conscience about the troubles
of being forced to endure life and die by inches, and the anguish of
leaving my children, and the dark porch of eternity, whence none
return to tell the tale of their reception.

September 24.--

Tried to walk out and could not: have read nothing this week, my mind
almost overweighting me with its upbraidings and miseries: my
children very ill, night and morning, with a fever, makes me
disconsolate, and yet how happy must be the death of a child! It
bears its sufferings with an innocent patience that maketh man
ashamed, and with it the future is nothing but returning to sleep,
with the thought, no doubt, of waking to be with its playthings

September 29.--

Took a walk in the fields: saw an old wood stile taken away from a
familiar spot which it had occupied all my life. The posts were
overgrown with ivy, and it seemed akin to nature and the spot where
it stood, as though it had taken it on lease for an undisturbed
existence. It hurt me to see it was gone, for my affections claim a
friendship with such things; but nothing is lasting in this world.
Last year Langley Bush was destroyed--an old white-thorn that had
stood for more than a century, full of fame. The gipsies, shepherds,
and herdsmen all had their tales of its history, and it will be long
ere its memory is forgotten.

October 8.--

Very ill to-day and very unhappy. My three children are all unwell.
Had a dismal dream of being in hell: this is the third time I have
had such a dream. As I am more than ever convinced that I cannot
recover I will make a memorandum of my temporal concerns, for next to
the spiritual they ought to be attended to for the sake of those left
behind. I will insert them in No. 5 in the Appendix.

October 9.--

Patty has been to Stamford, and brought me a letter from Ned Drury,
who came from Lincoln to the mayor's feast on Thursday. It revives
old recollections. Poor fellow: he is an odd one, but still my
recollections are inclined in his favour. What a long way to come to
the mayor's feast! I would not go one mile after it to hear the din
of knives and forks, and to see a throng of blank faces about me,
chattering and stuffing, "that boast no more expression than a

October 12.--

Began to teach a poor lame boy the common rules of arithmetic, and
find him very apt and willing to learn.

October 16.--

Wrote two more pages of my life: find it not so easy as I at first
imagined, as I am anxious to give an undisguised narrative of facts,
good and bad. In the last sketch which I wrote for Taylor I had
little vanities about me to gloss over failings which I shall now
take care to lay bare, and readers, if they ever are published, to
comment upon as they please. In my last four years I shall give my
likes and dislikes of friends and acquaintances as free as I do of

December 25.--

Christmas Day: gathered a handful of daisies in full bloom: saw a
woodbine and dogrose in the woods putting out in full leaf, and a
primrose root full of ripe flowers. What a day this used to be when I
was a boy! How eager I used to be to attend the church to see it
stuck with evergreens (emblems of eternity), and the cottage windows,
and the picture ballads on the wall, all stuck with ivy, holly, box,
and yew! Such feelings are past, and "all this world is proud of."

January 7, 1825.--

Bought some cakes of colours with the intention of trying to make
sketches of curious snail horns, butterflies, moths, sphinxes, wild
flowers, and whatever my wanderings may meet with that are not too

January 19.--

Just completed the 9th chapter of my life. Corrected the poem on the
"Vanities of the World," which I have written in imitation of the old
poets, on whom I mean to father it, and send it to Montgomery's paper
"The Iris," or the "Literary Chronicle," under that character.

February 26.--

Received a letter in rhyme from a John Pooley, who ran me tenpence
further in debt, as I had not money to pay the postage.

March 6.--

Parish officers are modern savages, as the following will testify:
"Crowland Abbey.--Certain surveyors have lately dug up several
foundation stones of the Abbey, and also a great quantity of stone
coffins, for the purpose of repairing the parish roads."--Stamford

March 9.--

I had a very odd dream last night, and take it as an ill omen, for I
don't expect that the book will meet a better fate. I thought I had
one of the proofs of the new poems from London, and after looking at
it awhile it shrank through my hands like sand, and crumbled into
dust. The birds were singing in Oxey Wood at six o'clock this evening
as loud and various as in May.

March 31.--

Artis and Henderson came to see me, and we went to see the Roman
station agen Oxey Wood, which he says is plainly Roman.

April 16.--

Took a walk in the fields, bird-nesting and botanizing, and had like
to have been taken up as a poacher in Hilly Wood, by a meddlesome,
conceited gamekeeper belonging to Sir John Trollope. He swore that he
had seen me in the act, more than once, of shooting game, when I
never shot even so much as a sparrow in my life. What terrifying
rascals these woodkeepers and gamekeepers are! They make a prison of
the forest, and are its gaolers.

April 18.--

Resumed my letters on Natural History in good earnest, and intend to
get them finished with this year, if I can get out into the fields,
for I will insert nothing but what has come under my notice.

May 13.--

Met with an extraordinary incident to-day, while walking in Openwood.
I popt unawares on an old fox and her four young cubs that were
playing about. She saw me, and instantly approached towards me
growling like an angry dog. I had no stick, and tried all I could to
fright her by imitating the bark of a fox-hound, which only irritated
her the more, and if I had not retreated a few paces back she would
have seized me: when I set up an haloo she started.

May 25.--

I watched a bluecap or blue titmouse feeding her young, whose nest
was in a wall close to an orchard. She got caterpillars out of the
blossoms of the apple trees and leaves of the plum. She fetched 120
caterpillars in half an hour. Now suppose she only feeds them four
times a day, a quarter of an hour each time, she fetched no less than
480 caterpillars.

May 28.--

Found the old frog in my garden that has been there four years. I
know it by a mark which it received from my spade four years ago. I
thought it would die of the wound, so I turned it up on a bed of
flowers at the end of the garden, which is thickly covered with ferns
and bluebells. I am glad to see it has recovered.

June 3.--

Finished planting my auriculas: went a-botanizing after ferns and
orchises, and caught a cold in the wet grass, which has made me as
bad as ever. Got the tune of "Highland Mary" from Wisdom Smith, a
gipsy, and pricked another sweet tune without name as he riddled it.

June 4.--

Saw three fellows at the end of Royce Wood, who I found were laying
out the plan for an iron railway from Manchester to London. It is to
cross over Round Oak spring by Royce Wood corner for Woodcroft
Castle. I little thought that fresh intrusions would interrupt and
spoil my solitudes. After the enclosure they will despoil a boggy
place that is famous for orchises at Royce Wood end.

June 23.--

Wrote to Mrs. Emmerson and sent a letter to "Hone's Every-day Book,"
with a poem which I fathered on Andrew Marvel.

July 12.--

Went to-day to see Artis: found him busy over his antiquities and
fossils. He told me a curious thing about the manner in which the
golden-crested wren builds her nest: he says it is the only English
bird that suspends its nest, which it hangs on three twigs of the fir
branch, and it glues the eggs at the bottom of the nest, with the gum
out of the tree, to keep them from being thrown out by the wind,
which often turns them upside down without injury.

August 21.--

Received a letter from Mr. Emmerson which tells me that Lord Radstock
died yesterday. He was the best friend I have met with. Though he
possessed too much simple-heartedness to be a fashionable friend or
hypocrite, yet it often led him to take hypocrites for honest friends
and to take an honest man for a hypocrite.

September 11.--

Went to meet Mr. and Mrs. Emmerson at the New Inn at Deeping, and
spent three days with them.

From "No. 5 in the Appendix."--

I will set down before I forget it a memorandum to say that I desire
Mrs. Emmerson will do just as she pleases with any MSS. of mine which
she may have in her possession, to publish them or not as she
chooses; but I desire that any living names mentioned in my letters
may be filled up by * * * and all objectionable passages omitted--a
wish which I hope will be invariably complied with by all. I also
intend to make Mr. Emmerson one of the new executors in my new will.
I wish to lie on the north side of the churchyard, about the middle
of the ground, where the morning and evening sun can linger the
longest on my grave. I wish to have a rough unhewn stone, something
in the form of a mile stone, [sketched in the margin] so that the
playing boys may not break it in their heedless pastimes, with
nothing more on it than this inscription:--"Here rest the hopes and
ashes of John Clare." I desire that no date be inserted thereon, as I
wish it to live or die with my poems and other writings, which if
they have merit with posterity it will, and if they have not it is
not worth preserving. October 8th, 1824. "Vanity of vanities, all is

The "Artis" and "Henderson" referred to in the Diary were
respectively butler and head gardener at Milton Park. Artis made a
name for himself as the discoverer of extensive Roman remains at
Castor, the ancient Durobrivae, of which he published a description,
and Henderson was an accomplished botanist and entomologist. Their
uniform kindness to the poor poet did them great honour.


While Clare was amusing himself by rhyming in the manner of the poets
of the seventeenth century, he had the following correspondence with
James Montgomery:--

"Helpstone, January 5, 1825.

"My dear Sir,--

I copied the following verses from a MS. on the fly-leaves of an old
book entitled 'The World's Best Wealth, a Collection of Choice
Counsels in Verse and Prose, printed for A. Bettesworth, at the Red
Lion in Paternoster Row, 1720:' they seem to have been written after
the perusal of the book, and are in the manner of the company in
which I found [them]. I think they are as good as many old poems that
have been preserved with more care; and, under that feeling, I was
tempted to send them, thinking they might find a corner from oblivion
in your entertaining literary paper, the 'Iris;' but if my judgment
has misled me to overrate their merit, you will excuse the freedom I
have taken, and the trouble I have given you in the perusal; for,
after all, it is but an erring opinion, that may have little less
than the love of poesy to recommend it.

I am yours sincerely,


To this letter Montgomery replied in the following terms:--

"Dear Sir,--

Some time ago I received from you certain verses said to be copied
from the fly-leaves of an old printed book on which they were
written. The title was 'The Vanity of Life,' and the book's title
'The World's Best Wealth,' &c. Now though I suspected, from a little
ambiguity in the wording of your letter, that these verses were not
quite so old as they professed to be, and that you yourself perhaps
had written them to exercise your own genius, and sent them to
exercise my critical acuteness, I thought that the glorious offence
carried its own redemption in itself, and I would not only forgive
but rejoice to see such faults committed every day for the sake of
such merits. It is, however, now of some importance to me to know
whether they are of the date which they affect, or whether they are
of your own production. The supposition of your being capable of such
a thing is so highly in your favour, that you will forgive the wrong,
if there be any, implied in my enquiry. But I am making a
chronological collection of 'Christian Poetry,' from the earliest
times to the latest dead of our contemporaries who have occasionally
tried their talents on consecrated themes, and if these stanzas were
really the work of some anonymous author of the last century I shall
be glad to give them the place and the honour due, but if they are
the 'happy miracle' of your 'rare birth' then, however reluctantly, I
must forego the use of them. Perhaps the volume itself contains some
valuable pieces which I have not seen, and which might suit my
purpose. The title tempts one to think that this may be the case, and
as I am in search of such jewels as certainly constitute 'the world's
best wealth,' I hope to find a few in this old-fashioned casket,
especially after the specimen you have sent, and which I take for
granted to be a genuine specimen of the quality (whatever be its
antiquity) of the hidden treasures. If you will oblige me by sending
the volume itself by coach I will take great care of it, and
thankfully return it in due time free of expense. Or if you are
unwilling to trust so precious a deposit out of your own hands, will
you furnish me with a list of those of its contents (with the
authors' names, where these are attached) which you think are most
likely to meet my views, namely, such as have direct religious
subjects and are executed with vigour or pathos? I can then see
whether there be any pieces which I have not already, and if there
be, I dare say you will not grudge the labour of transcribing two or
three hundred lines to serve, not a brother poet only, but the
Christian public. At any rate, an early reply to this application
will be greatly esteemed, and may you never ask in vain for anything
which it is honest or honourable to ask for. I need not add that this
letter comes from one who sincerely respects your talents and
rejoices in the success which has so conspicuously crowned them, when
hundreds of our fraternity can get neither fame nor profit--no, nor
even a hearing--and a threshing for all their pains.

I am truly your friend and servant,


Sheffield, May 5, 1826."

Clare was a great admirer of Chatterton, and the melancholy fate of
"the marvellous boy" was frequently referred to by him in his
correspondence. The idea of imitating the older poets was no doubt
suggested to him by Chatterton's successful efforts, but he possessed
neither the special faculty nor the consummate artifice of his model,
and therefore we are not surprised to find him confessing at once to
the trick he had attempted. He replied to Montgomery:--

"Helpstone, May 8, 1826.

My dear Sir,--

I will lose no time in answering your letter, for I was highly
delighted to meet so kind a notice from a poet so distinguished as
yourself; and if it be vanity to acknowledge it, it is, I hope, a
vanity of too honest a nature to be ashamed of--at least I think so,
and always shall. But your question almost makes me feel ashamed to
own to the extent of the falsehood I committed; and yet I will not
double it by adding a repetition of the offence. I must confess to
you that the poem is mine, and that the book from whence it was
pretended to have been transcribed has no existence (that I know of)
but in my invention of the title. And now that I have confessed to
the crime, I will give you the reasons for committing it. I have long
had a fondness for the poetry of the time of Elizabeth, though I have
never had any means of meeting with it, farther than in the confined
channels of Ritson's 'English Songs,' Ellis's 'Specimens,' and
Walton's 'Angler;' and the winter before last, though amidst a severe
illness, I set about writing a series of verses, in their manner, as
well as I could, which I intended to pass off under their names,
though some whom I professed to imitate I had never seen. As I am no
judge of my own verses, whether they are good or bad, I wished to
have the opinion of some one on whom I could rely; and as I was told
you were the editor of the 'Iris,' I ventured to send the first thing
to you, with many 'doubts and fears.' I was happily astonished to see
its favourable reception. Since then I have written several others in
the same style, some of which have been published; one in Hone's
'Everyday Book,' on 'Death' under the name of Marvell, and some
others in the 'European Magazine;' 'Thoughts in a Churchyard,' the
'Gipsy's Song,' and a 'Farewell to Love.' The first was intended for
Sir Henry Wootton; the next for Tom Davies; the last for Sir John
Harrington. The last thing I did in these forgeries was an 'Address
to Milton,' the poet, under the name of Davenant. And as your kind
opinion was the first and the last I ever met with from a poet to
pursue these vagaries or shadows of other days, I will venture to
transcribe them here for the 'Iris,' should they be deemed as worthy
of it as the first were by your judgment, for my own is nothing: I
should have acknowledged their kind reception [sooner] had I not
waited for the publication of my new poems, 'The Shepherd's
Calendar,' which was in the press then, where it has been ever since,
as I wish, at its coming, to beg your acceptance of a copy, with the
other volumes already published, as I am emboldened now to think they
will be kindly received, and not be deemed intrusive, as one commonly
fears while offering such trifles to strangers. I shall also be very
glad of the opportunity in proving myself ready to serve you in your
present undertaking; and could I light on an old poem that would be
worth your attention, 300 or even 1,000 lines, would be no objection
against my writing it out; but I do assure you I would not make a
forgery for such a thing, though I suppose now you would suspect me;
for I consider in such company it would be a crime, where blossoms
are collected to decorate the 'Fountain of Truth.' But I will end,
for I get very sleepy and very unintelligible.

I am, my dear Sir,

Yours very sincerely and affectionately,



At intervals during the years 1825-26 Clare was occupied in supplying
his publishers with poems for his next volume--"The Shepherd's
Calendar," which was brought out in May, 1827, with a frontispiece by
De Wint. The descriptive poem which gives the title to the volume
consists of twelve cantos, of various measures, and is followed by
"Village Stories" and other compositions. Of the stories, that
entitled "Jockey and Jenny or, the Progress of Love," appears to have
made the most favourable impression upon Clare's contemporaries. In
this poem will be found the following bold and original apostrophe to

  Ah, powerful Night! Were but thy chances mine!
  Had I but ways to come at joys like thine!
  Spite of thy wizard look and sable skin,
  The ready road to bliss 't is thine to win.
  All nature owns of beautiful and sweet
  In thy embraces now unconscious meet:
  Young Jenny, ripening into womanhood,
  That hides from day, like lilies while in bud,

  To thy grim visage blooms in all her charms,
  And comes, like Eve, unblushing to thy arms.
  Of thy black mantle could I be possest,
  How would I pillow on her panting breast,
  And try those lips where trial rude beseems.
  Breathing my spirit in her very dreams,
  That ne'er a thought might wander from her heart,
  But I possessed it, or ensured a part!
  Of all the blessings that belong to thee,
  Had I this one how happy should I be!

In "The Dream," which appeared in the same volume, Clare's muse took
a still more ambitious flight--with what success the reader has here
an opportunity to judge for himself. The obscurities in the
composition must find their excuse in the nature of the subject:--


  Thou scarest me with dreams.--JOB.

  When Night's last hours, like haunting spirits, creep
  With listening terrors round the couch of sleep,
  And Midnight, brooding in its deepest dye,
  Seizes on Fear with dismal sympathy,
  "I dreamed a dream" something akin to fate,
  Which Superstition's blackest thoughts create--
  Something half natural to the grave that seems,
  Which Death's long trance of slumber haply dreams;
  A dream of staggering horrors and of dread,
  Whose shadows fled not when the vision fled,
  But clung to Memory with their gloomy view,
  Till Doubt and Fancy half believed it true.

  That time was come, or seem'd as it was come,
  When Death no longer makes the grave his home;
  When waking spirits leave their earthly rest
  To mix for ever with the damn'd or blest;
  When years, in drowsy thousands counted by,
  Are hung on minutes with their destiny:
  When Time in terror drops his draining glass,
  And all things mortal, like to shadows, pass,
  As 'neath approaching tempests sinks the sun--
  When Time shall leave Eternity begun.
  Life swoon'd in terror at that hour's dread birth;
  As in an ague, shook the fearful Earth;
  And shuddering Nature seemed herself to shun,
  Whilst trembling Conscience felt the deed was done.

  A gloomy sadness round the sky was cast,
  Where clouds seem'd hurrying with unusual haste;
  Winds urged them onward, like to restless ships;
  And light dim faded in its last eclipse;
  And Agitation turn'd a straining eye;
  And Hope stood watching like a bird to fly,
  While suppliant Nature, like a child in dread,
  Clung to her fading garments till she fled.

  Then awful sights began to be reveal'd,
  Which Death's dark dungeons had so long conceal'd,
  Each grave its doomsday prisoner resign'd,
  Bursting in noises like a hollow wind;
  And spirits, mingling with the living then,
  Thrill'd fearful voices with the cries of men.
  All flying furious, grinning deep despair,
  Shaped dismal shadows on the troubled air:
  Red lightning shot its flashes as they came,
  And passing clouds seem'd kindling into flame;
  And strong and stronger came the sulphury smell,
  With demons following in the breath of hell,
  Laughing in mockery as the doom'd complain'd,
  Losing their pains in seeing others pain'd.

  Fierce raged Destruction, sweeping o'er the land,
  And the last counted moment seem'd at hand:
  As scales near equal hang in earnest eyes
  In doubtful balance, which shall fall or rise,
  So, in the moment of that crushing blast,
  Eyes, hearts, and hopes paused trembling for the last.
  Loud burst the thunder's clap and yawning rents
  Gash'd the frail garments of the elements;
  Then sudden whirlwinds, wing'd with purple flame
  And lightning's flash, in stronger terrors came,
  Burning all life and Nature where they fell,
  And leaving earth as desolate as hell.
  The pleasant hues of woods and fields were past,
  And Nature's beauties had enjoyed their last:
  The colour'd flower, the green of field and tree,
  What they had been for ever ceased to be:
  Clouds, raining fire, scorched up the hissing dews;
  Grass shrivell'd brown in miserable hues;
  Leaves fell to ashes in the air's hot breath,
  And all awaited universal Death.
  The sleepy birds, scared from their mossy nest,
  Beat through the evil air in vain for rest;
  And many a one, the withering shades among,
  Wakened to perish o'er its brooded young.
  The cattle, startled with the sudden fright,
  Sicken'd from food, and madden'd into flight;
  And steed and beast in plunging speed pursued
  The desperate struggle of the multitude,
  The faithful dogs yet knew their owners' face.
  And cringing follow'd with a fearful pace,
  Joining the piteous yell with panting breath,
  While blasting lightnings follow'd fast with death;
  Then, as Destruction stopt the vain retreat,
  They dropp'd, and dying lick'd their masters' feet.

  When sudden thunders paus'd, loud went the shriek,
  And groaning agonies, too much to speak,
  From hurrying mortals, who with ceaseless fears
  Recall'd the errors of their vanish'd years;
  Flying in all directions, hope bereft,
  Followed by dangers that would not be left;
  Offering wild vows, and begging loud for aid,
  Where none was nigh to help them when they pray'd.
  None stood to listen, or to soothe a friend,
  But all complained, and sorrow had no end.
  Sons from their fathers, fathers sons did fly,
  The strongest fled, and left the weak to die;
  Pity was dead: none heeded for another;
  Brother left brother, and the frantic mother
  For fruitless safety hurried east and west,
  And dropp'd the babe to perish from her breast;
  All howling prayers that would be noticed never,
  And craving mercy that was fled for ever;
  While earth, in motion like a troubled sea,
  Open'd in gulfs of dread immensity
  Amid the wild confusions of despair,
  And buried deep the howling and the prayer
  Of countless multitudes, and closed--and then
  Open'd and swallow'd multitudes again.

  Stars, drunk with dread, roll'd giddy from the heaven,
  And staggering worlds like wrecks in storms were driven;
  The pallid moon hung fluttering on the sight,
  As startled bird whose wings are stretch'd for flight;
  And o'er the East a fearful light begun
  To show the sun rise-not the morning sun,
  But one in wild confusion, doom'd to rise
  And drop again in horror from the skies.
  To heaven's midway it reel'd, and changed to blood,
  Then dropp'd, and light rushed after like a flood,
  The heaven's blue curtains rent and shrank away,
  And heaven itself seem'd threaten'd with decay;
  While hopeless distance, with a boundless stretch,
  Flash'd on Despair the joy it could not reach,
  A moment's mockery-ere the last dim light
  Vanish'd, and left an everlasting Night;
  And with that light Hope fled and shriek'd farewell,
  And Hell in yawning echoes mock'd that yell.

  Now Night resumed her uncreated vest,
  And Chaos came again, but not its rest;
  The melting glooms that spread perpetual stains,
  Kept whirling on in endless hurricanes;
  And tearing noises, like a troubled sea,
  Broke up that silence which no more would be.

  The reeling earth sank loosen'd from its stay,
  And Nature's wrecks all felt their last decay.
  The yielding, burning soil, that fled my feet,
  I seem'd to feel and struggled to retreat;
  And 'midst the dread of horror's mad extreme
  I lost all notion that it was a dream:
  Sinking I fell through depths that seem'd to be
  As far from fathom as Eternity;
  While dismal faces on the darkness came
  With wings of dragons and with fangs of flame,
  Writhing in agonies of wild despairs,
  And giving tidings of a doom like theirs.
  I felt all terrors of the damn'd, and fell
  With conscious horror that my doom was hell:
  And Memory mock'd me, like a haunting ghost,
  With light and life and pleasures that were lost;
  As dreams turn night to day, and day to night,
  So Memory flash'd her shadows of that light
  That once bade morning suns in glory rise,
  To bless green fields and trees, and purple skies,
  And waken'd life its pleasures to behold;--
  That light flash'd on me like a story told;
  And days mis-spent with friends and fellow-men,
  And sins committed,-all were with me then.
  The boundless hell, whose demons never tire,
  Glimmer'd beneath me like a world on fire:
  That soul of fire, like to its souls entomb'd,
  Consuming on, and ne'er to be consum'd,
  Seem'd nigh at hand, where oft the sulphury damps
  O'er-aw'd its light, as glimmer dying lamps,
  Spreading a horrid gloom from side to side,
  A twilight scene of terrors half descried.
  Sad boil'd the billows of that burning sea,
  And Fate's sad yellings dismal seem'd to be;
  Blue roll'd its waves with horrors uncontrolled,
  And its live wrecks of souls dash'd howlings as they roll'd.

  Again I struggled, and the spell was broke,
  And 'midst the laugh of mocking ghosts I woke;
  My eyes were open'd on an unhoped sight--
  The early morning and its welcome light,
  And, as I ponder'd o'er the past profound,
  I heard the cock crow, and I blest the sound.


"The Shepherd's Calendar" sold very slowly, for several months after
its publication Mr. Taylor wrote to Clare:--

"The season has been a very bad one for new books, and I am afraid
the time has passed away in which poetry will answer. With that
beautiful frontispiece of De Wint's to attract attention, and so much
excellent verse inside the volume, the 'Shepherd's Calendar' has had
comparatively no sale. It will be a long time, I doubt, before it
pays me my expenses, but ours is the common lot. I am almost hopeless
of the sale of the books reimbursing me. Of profit I am certain we
have not had any, but that I should not care for: it is to be
considerably out of pocket that annoys me, and by the new works my
loss will probably be heavy."

And again, after the lapse of four or five months:--

"The poems have not yet sold much, but I cannot say how many are
disposed of. All the old poetry-buyers seem to be dead, and the new
ones have no taste for it."

And now for a time Clare eked out his scanty income by writing poems
for the annuals, the silk-bound illustrated favourites of fashion,
which for ten or twelve years almost sufficed to satisfy the languid
appetite of the English public for poetry. Clare was sought after by
several editors; among the rest, Allan Cunningham, editor of the
"Anniversary;" Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Hall, who severally conducted the
"Amulet" and the "Juvenile Forget-me-not." Alaric A. Watts, editor of
the "Literary Souvenir;" Thomas Hood, and others. "The Rural Muse,"
the last volume which Clare published, was composed almost entirely
of poems which had appeared in the annuals, or other periodicals. The
remuneration which Clare received was respectable, if not munificent.
His kind-hearted Scotch friend, Allan Cunningham, was certain to see
that he was treated with liberality: Mrs. Hall, on behalf of Messrs.
Ackermann, sent him in October, 1828, three guineas for "The
Grasshopper," and in the following month Mr. Hall wrote "Enclosed you
will receive L5, for your contributions to the 'Amulet' and the
'Juvenile Forget-Me-Not.' I am however still L2 in your debt, L7
being the sum I have set apart for you. How shall I forward you the
remaining L2?" Mr. Alaric Watts frequently importuned Clare for
contributions for the "Literary Souvenir" and the "Literary Magnet,"
but he was exceedingly fastidious and plain-spoken, and although he
sent Clare presents of books he never said in his letters anything
about payment. At length Clare hinted to him that some acknowledgment
of that kind would be acceptable, and then Mr. Watts replied, "I have
no objection to make you some pecuniary return if you send me any
poem worthy of yourself, but really those you have sent me of late
are so very inferior, with the exception of a little drinking song,
which I shall probably print, that it would do you no service to
insert them." This appears to have closed the correspondence.

A sketch of Clare's life would be incomplete which did not notice the
subject of his relations with his publishers. His first two works--
"Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery" and "The Village
Minstrel"--were published conjointly by Messrs. Taylor and Hessey and
Mr. Drury, of Stamford, on the understanding that Clare was to
receive one half of the profits, and that the London and local
publishers should divide the remaining half of the profits between
them. Before the publication of the third work--the "Shepherd's
Calendar"--an arrangement was come to by which Mr. Drury ceased to
have any interest in Clare's books, and the London firm renewed the
agreement which gave Clare one half of the profits. It was the
practice of Taylor and Hessey to remit to Clare money on account, in
sums of L10 or L20, and evidently at their own discretion--a
discretion which, considering Clare's position and circumstances,
appears to have been wisely and considerately exercised. Added
together, these remittances made, for a person in Clare's condition,
a considerable sum of money, but the poet fretted and chafed under
the want of confidence in his judgement which he thought was implied
by this mode of treatment, and he repeatedly applied to Taylor and
Hessey for a regular and businesslike statement of account. During
the time Mr. Drury had a pecuniary interest in the sale of Clare's
books, the London publishers excused themselves from furnishing an
account on the ground that it had been complicated by Mr. Drury's
claims, but years passed away after the latter had been arranged
with, and still the rendering of the account was postponed. This
irritated Clare, and he frequently spoke and wrote of his publishers
with a degree of bitterness which he afterwards regretted. His
suspicions, for which there was no real foundation, were at one time
encouraged rather than otherwise by influential friends in London,
and therefore in February, 1828, he resolved to take another journey
to Town, with the two-fold object of having a settlement with his
publishers and consulting Dr. Darling respecting a distressing
ailment with which he was then afflicted.

"My dear and suffering Clare," wrote Mrs. Emmerson at this time,
"your painful letter of to-day is no sooner read by me than I take up
my pen, and an extra-sized sheet of paper, to pour out the regrets of
my heart for your illness. God knows I am little able to give thee
'comfort,' for indeed, my Clare, thy friend is a beggar in
philosophy, so heavily have the ills of humanity pressed upon her of
late; but such 'comfort' as confiding and sympathizing souls can
offer do I give in full to thee. Receive it then, my poor Clare, and
let the utterings of my pen (which instead of gloomy ink I would dip
into the sweet balm of Gilead for thy afflictions) prove again and
again thy 'physician.' Forget not what you told me in your former
letter: 'your letters come over my melancholy musings like the dews
of the morning. I am already better, and you are my physician.' Now,
my dear Clare, let me, instead of listening to, or rather acting upon
your melancholy forebodings, entreat you to cheer up, and in the
course of another week make up a little bundle of clothes, and set
yourself quietly inside the Deeping coach for London. I will get your
'sky chamber' ready to receive you, or my niece Eliza shall yield to
you her lower apartment, the blue room. We can then, 'in council
met,' talk over wills, and new volumes of poems, and all other
worldly matters relating to yourself, myself, and posterity."

And again, on the 20th of February:--

"I was yesterday obliged to receive a whole family of foreigners to
dinner. I now hasten, my dear Clare, to entreat you will not allow
your kind resolves of coming to visit us to take an unfavourable
change. I would send down the money for your journey, but am fearful
it might be lost. Let me merely say then, that I shall have the
pleasure to give it you when we meet. I am sure you will benefit in
your health by coming to see us. I have a most worthy friend, a
physician, who will do everything, I am sure, to aid you. We shall
have a thousand things to chat over when we meet, and it will require
a calm head and a quiet heart to effect all we propose. Bring your
MSS. With you, and I will do all in my power."

The cordiality of this invitation was irresistible, and Clare, a few
days afterwards, presented himself in Stratford Place, where he was
entertained during his stay in London, which extended over five


Shortly after his arrival he called upon Mr. Taylor, who told him
that the sale of the "Shepherd's Calendar" had not been large, and
that if he chose to sell his books himself in his own neighbourhood
he might have a supply at cost price, or half-a-crown per volume.
Clare consulted his intimate friends on this project: Allan
Cunningham indignantly inveighed against Mr. Taylor for making a
suggestion so derogatory to the dignity of a poet, and Mrs. Emmerson
at first took a similar view, but afterwards changed her mind, on
seeing Clare himself pretty confident that he could sell a sufficient
number of copies not only to clear himself from debt but enable him
to rent a small farm. After Clare had accepted the offer she wrote to
him as follows:--

"I am sincerely happy to hear from your last communications about Mr.
Taylor that you can now become the merchant of your own gems, so get
purchasers for them as fast as possible, and, as Shakspeare says,
'put money in thy purse.' I hope your long account with T. may
shortly and satisfactorily be settled. 'Tis well of you to do things
gently and with kindly disposition, for indeed I think Mr. Taylor is
a worthy man at heart."

The promised statement of account was furnished in August or
September 1829, but Clare disputed its accuracy and some of his
corrections were accepted. Years elapsed before he could feel quite
satisfied that he had been fairly treated, and in the meantime a
rupture with his old friend and trustee, Mr. Taylor, was only averted
by that gentleman's kindness and forbearance. Clare gave the pedlar
project a fair trial, but it brought him little beyond fatigue,
mortification, and disappointment. About this time his fifth child
was born.


Not long after Clare's return from London, the Mayor of Boston
invited him to visit that town. He accepted the invitation and was
hospitably entertained. A number of young men of the town proposed a
public supper in his honour, and gave him notice that he would have
to reply to the toast of his own health. Clare shrank from this
terrible ordeal and quitted Boston with scant ceremony. This he
regretted on discovering that his warm-hearted friends and admirers
had, unknown to him, put ten pounds into his travelling bag. His
visit to Boston was followed by an attack of fever which assailed in
turn every member of his family, and rendered necessary the frequent
visits of a medical man for several months. For a long time Clare was
quite unable to do any work in the fields, or sell any of his poems,
and hence arose fresh embarrassments.

In the autumn of 1829 Clare once more made a farming venture on a
small scale, and for about eighteen months he was fairly successful.
This raised his spirits to an unwonted pitch, and his health greatly
improved; but the gleam of sunshine passed away and poverty and
sickness were again his portion. In 1831 his household consisted of
ten persons, a sixth child having been born to him in the previous
year. To support so large a family it was not sufficient that he
frequently denied himself the commonest necessaries of life: this for
years past he had been accustomed to do, but still he could not "keep
the wolf from the door." In his distress he consulted his
confidential friends, Artis and Henderson. While talking with
Henderson one day at Milton Park, Clare had the good fortune to meet
the noble owner, to whom he told all his troubles. His lordship
listened attentively to the story, and when Clare had finished
promised that a cottage and a small piece of land should be found for
him. The promise was kept, for we find Mr. Emmerson writing on the
9th of November, 1831:--

"Why have you not, with your own good pen, informed me of the
circumstance of your shortly becoming Farmer John? Yes, thanks to the
generous Lord Milton, I am told in a letter from your kind friend,
the Rev. Mr. Mossop (dated October 27th) that you have the offer of a
most comfortable cottage, which will be fitted up for your reception
about January the 1st 1832, that it will have an acre of orchard and
garden, inclusive of a common for two cows, with a meadow sufficient
to produce fodder for the winter."


The cottage which Lord Milton set apart for Clare was situated at
Northborough, a village three miles from Helpstone, and thus
described by the author of "Rambles Roundabout":--

"Northborough is a large village, not in the sense of its number of
houses or its population, but of the space of ground which it
covers. The houses are mostly cottages, half-hidden in orchards and
luxuriant gardens, having a prodigality of ground. There is not an
eminence loftier than a molehill throughout, yet the spacious roads
and the wealth of trees and flowers make it a very picturesque and
happy-looking locality. Clare's cottage stands in the midst of ample

It has been generally supposed that the cottage was provided for
Clare rent-free, but that this was not the case is shown by the fact
that in one of his letters to Mrs. Emmerson he told her that he had
had to sub-let the piece of common for less than he was himself
paying for it. The rent was either L13 or L15 a year, but whether the
regular payment of that amount was insisted upon is very doubtful. To
the astonishment and even annoyance of many of Clare's friends, when
he was informed that the cottage was ready for its new tenants, he
showed the utmost reluctance to leave Helpstone. Mr. Martin gives the
following account of what took place:--

"Patty, radiant with joy to get away from the miserable little hut
into a beautiful roomy cottage, a palace in comparison with the old
dwelling, had all things ready for moving at the beginning of June,
yet could not persuade her husband to give his consent to the final
start. Day after day he postponed it, offering no excuse save that he
could not bear to part from his old home. Day after day he kept
walking through fields and woods among his old haunts, with wild,
haggard look, muttering incoherent language. The people of the
village began to whisper that he was going mad. At Milton Park they
heard of it, and Artis and Henderson hurried to Helpstone to look
after their friend. They found him sitting on a moss-grown stone, at
the end of the village nearest the heath. Gently they took him by the
arm, and, leading him back to the hut, told Mrs. Clare that it would
be best to start at once to Northborough, the Earl being dissatisfied
that the removal had not taken place. Patty's little caravan was soon
ready, and the poet, guided by his friends, followed in the rear,
walking mechanically, with eyes half shut, as if in a dream. His look
brightened for a moment when entering his new dwelling place, a truly
beautiful cottage, with thatched roof, casemented windows, wild roses
over the porch, and flowery hedges all round. Yet before many hours
were over he fell back into deep melancholy, from which he was
relieved only by a new burst of song. His feelings found vent in the
touching verses beginning 'I've left my own old home of homes.'"

Shortly after removing to Northborough Clare made another ineffectual
attempt to induce his trustees to draw out a portion of his fund
money. Writing in connection with this subject Mr. Emmerson says:--

"Mrs. Emmerson and myself take a lively interest in your welfare, and
we shall be glad to know exactly how you stand in your affairs, what
debts you owe, and what stock you require for your present pursuit:
by stock, I mean a cow or cows, pigs, &c. Pray give me an early reply
to all these particulars, that we may see if anything can be done
here to serve you."

Clare replied at once, and in a few days Mrs. Emmerson wrote as

"We have consulted with Mr. Taylor. Mr. Emmerson went to him
yesterday on the receipt of your letter, and informed him of its
contents, and it was concluded to set on foot a private friendly
subscription to help Farmer John in his concerns. E. L. E. will give
L10, which must be laid out in the purchase of a cow, which she begs
may be called by the poetic name of Rose or Blossom, or May. Mr.
Taylor will kindly give L5 to purchase two pigs, and I dare say we
shall succeed in getting another L5 to buy a butter churn and a few
useful tools for husbandry, so that you may all set to work and begin
to turn your labour to account, and by instalments pay off the
various little debts which have accumulated in your own
neighbourhood. Your garden, and orchard, and dairy will soon release
you from these demands, I hope; at any rate you will thus have a
beginning, and with the blessing of Providence, and health on your
side, and care and industry on the part of your wife and children, I
hope my dear Clare will sit down happy ere long in his new abode,
rather than have cause to regret leaving his 'own old home of homes.'
It is a very natural and tender lament."

Clare had not lived long at Northborough when he was waited upon by
the editor of a London magazine who wormed from him an account of his
private affairs, and having dressed up that account in what would now
be called a sensational style, published it to the world. The article
contained many unjust insinuations against Clare's patrons and
publishers, and Mr. Taylor commenced actions, afterwards abandoned,
against the magazine in which it originally appeared, the "Alfred,"
and also against a Stamford paper, into which the article was copied.
Clare indignantly protested against the use to which his conversation
with his meddlesome visitor had been put, but it is impossible
entirely to acquit him of blame. Mr. Taylor remonstrated with him
upon his indiscretion, but with a consideration for his inexperience
which it is very pleasant to notice, refrained from a severity of
rebuke to which Clare had no doubt exposed himself. "I have been much
hurt," he says, "at finding that my endeavours to do you service have
ended no better than they have, but if you supposed that I had been
benefited by it, or that I had withheld from you anything you were
entitled to--any profit whatever on any of your works--you have been
grievously mistaken." Mr. Taylor was constant to the end, for after
this he promoted Clare's interests by every means in his power,
conferring with Dr. Darling on his behalf, discharging in conjunction
with Mrs. Emmerson a heavy account sent in by a local medical man,
advising him in all his troubles, offering him a home whenever he
chose to come to London to see Dr. Darling, editing his last volume
of poems, although it was brought out by a house with which he had no
connection, and, finally, contributing to his maintenance when it
became necessary to send him to a private asylum. Among the
indications which Clare gave of the approaching loss of reason were
frequent complaints that he was haunted by evil spirits, and that he
and his family were bewitched. Writing on this subject in February,
1833, Mr. Taylor said:--

"As for evil spirits, depend upon it, my dear friend, that there are
none, and that there is no such thing as witchcraft. But I am sure
that our hearts naturally are full of evil thoughts, and that God has
intended to set us free from the dominion of such thoughts by his
good Spirit. You will not expect me to say much on this subject,
knowing that I never press it upon my friends. I must, however, so
far depart from my custom as to say, that I am perfectly certain a
man may be happy even in this life if he will listen to the Word
which came down from heaven, and be as a little child in his
obedience and willingness to do what it requires of him. I am sure of
this, that if we receive the Spirit of God in our hearts we shall
never die. We shall go away from this scene, and our bodies will be
consigned to the grave, but with less pain than we have often felt in
life we shall be carried through what seem to be the pangs of death,
and then we shall be with that holy and blessed company at once who
have died fully believing in Christ, and who shall never again be
separated from him and happiness.

Farewell, my dear Clare.

Believe me ever most sincerely yours,



In 1832 Clare projected a new volume of poems, and with the
assistance of his friends obtained in a few months two hundred
subscribers. Mr. Taylor having represented that as publisher to the
London University poetry was no longer in his line of business, Mr.
Emmerson undertook the task of finding another publisher, and opened
a correspondence with Mr. How, a gentleman connected with the house
of Whittaker & Co. A large number of manuscript poems and of fugitive
pieces from the annuals were submitted to Mr. How, who was requested
by Mr. Emmerson to make the poet an offer. The negotiation was
successful, for on the 8th of March, 1834, Mr. Emmerson was enabled
to write to Clare as follows:--

"My very dear Clare,--

At length with great pleasure, although after great anxiety and
trouble, I have brought your affair with Mr. How to a conclusion. I
have enclosed a receipt for your signature, and if you will write
your name at the bottom of it and return it enclosed in a letter to
me, I shall have the L40 in ready money for you immediately. You will
perceive by the receipt that I have sold only the copyright of the
first edition, and that Mr. How stipulates shall consist of only 750
copies, or at the utmost 1000. And now, with the license of a friend,
I am about to talk to you about your affairs. This money has been
hardly earned by your mental labour, and with difficulty obtained by
me for you, only by great perseverance. We are therefore most anxious
it should be the means of freeing you from all debt or incumbrance,
in order that your mind may be once more at ease, and that you may
revel with your muse at will, regardless of all hauntings save hers,
and when she troubles you can pay her off in her own coin. The sum
you stated some time since I think was L35 as sufficient to clear all
your debts, and thus you will be able to start fairly with the world

While the "Rural Muse" was in the press, Mr. How, one of the very few
of Clare's earlier friends who are still living, suggested to him the
advisableness of his applying to the committee of the Literary Fund
for a grant, and promising to exert himself to the utmost to secure
the success of the application. Clare applied for L50, and obtained
it, whereupon Mrs. Emmerson, to whose heart there was no readier way
than that of showing kindness to poor Clare, writes:--

"In my last, I told you I had written to Mr. How on the subject of
the Literary Fund, &c. Yesterday morning the good little man came to
communicate to me the favourable result of the application. The
committee have nobly presented you with fifty pounds. Blessings on
them! for giving you the means to do honour to every engagement, and
leave you, I hope, a surplus to fly to when needed. Mr. How is just
the sort of man for my own nature. He is willing to do his best for
Clare. He has shown himself in the recent event as one of the few who
perform what they promise. God bless him for his kindly exertions to
emancipate you from your thraldom!"

"The Rural Muse" was published in July, and was cordially received by
the "Athenaeum," "Blackwood's Magazine," the "Literary Gazette," and
other leading periodicals. It was well printed and embellished with
engravings of Northborough Church and the poet's cottage. It has been
already intimated that the poems included within this volume, while
retaining all the freshness and simplicity of Clare's earlier works,
exhibit traces of the mental cultivation to which for years so large
a portion of his time had been devoted. The circle of subjects is
greatly expanded, the passages to which exception may be taken on the
score of carelessness or obscurity are few, and the diction is often
refined and elevated to a degree of which the poet had not before
shown himself capable. The following extracts are made almost at


  Syren of sullen moods and fading hues,
  Yet haply not incapable of joy,
  Sweet Autumn! I thee hail
  With welcome all unfeigned;

  And oft as morning from her lattice peeps
  To beckon up the sun, I seek with thee
  To drink the dewy breath
  Of fields left fragrant then,

  In solitudes, where no frequented paths
  But what thine own foot makes betray thine home,
  Stealing obtrusive there
  To meditate thy end;

  By overshadowed ponds, in woody nooks,
  With ramping sallows lined, and crowding sedge,
  Which woo the winds to play,
  And with them dance for joy;

  And meadow pools, torn wide by lawless floods,
  Where waterlilies spread their oily leaves,
  On which, as wont, the fly
  Oft battens in the sun;

  Where leans the mossy willow half way o'er,
  On which the shepherd crawls astride to throw
  His angle, clear of weeds
  That crown the water's brim;

  Or crispy hills and hollows scant of sward,
  Where step by step the patient, lonely boy,
  Hath cut rude flights of stairs
  To climb their steepy sides;

       *        *        *        *       *

  Now filtering winds thin winnow through the woods
  With tremulous noise, that bids, at every breath,
  Some sickly cankered leaf
  Let go its hold and die.

  And now the bickering storm, with sudden start,
  In flirting fits of anger carps aloud,
  Thee urging to thine end,
  Sore wept by troubled skies.

  And yet, sublime in grief, thy thoughts delight
  To show me visions of most gorgeous dyes,
  Haply forgetting now
  They but prepare thy shroud;

  Thy pencil dashing its excess of shades,
  Improvident of wealth, till every bough
  Burns with thy mellow touch
  Disorderly divine.

  Soon must I view thee as a pleasant dream
  Droop faintly, and so reckon for thine end,
  As sad the winds sink low
  In dirges for their queen;

  While in the moment of their weary pause,
  To cheer thy bankrupt pomp, the willing lark
  Starts from his shielding clod,
  Snatching sweet scraps of song.

  Thy life is waning now, and Silence tries
  To mourn, but meets no sympathy in sounds,
  As stooping low she bends,
  Forming with leaves thy grave;

  To sleep inglorious there mid tangled woods,
  Till parch-lipped Summer pines in drought away;
  Then from thine ivied trance
  Awake to glories new.


  Now comes the bonny May, dancing and skipping
  Across the stepping-stones of meadow streams,
  Bearing no kin to April showers a-weeping,
  But constant Sunshine as her servant seems.
  Her heart is up--her sweetness, all a-maying,
  Streams in her face, like gems on Beauty's breast;
  The swains are sighing all, and well-a-daying,
  Lovesick and gazing on their lovely guest.
  The Sunday paths, to pleasant places leading,
  Are graced by couples linking arm in arm,
  Sweet smiles enjoying or some book a-reading,
  Where Love and Beauty are the constant charm;
  For while the bonny May is dancing by,
  Beauty delights the ear, and Beauty fills the eye.

  Birds sing and build, and Nature scorns alone
  On May's young festival to be a widow;
  The children, too, have pleasures all their own,
  In gathering lady-smocks along the meadow.
  The little brook sings loud among the pebbles,
  So very loud, that water-flowers, which lie
  Where many a silver curdle boils and dribbles,
  Dance too with joy as it goes singing by.
  Among the pasture mole-hills maidens stoop
  To pluck the luscious marjoram for their bosoms;
  The greensward's littered o'er with buttercups,
  And whitethorns, they are breaking down with blossoms.
  'T is Nature's livery for the bonny May,
  Who keeps her court, and all have holiday.

  Princess of Months (so Nature's choice ordains,)
  And Lady of the Summer still she reigns.
  In spite of April's youth, who charms in tears,
  And rosy June, who wins with blushing face;
  July, sweet shepherdess, who wreathes the shears
  Of shepherds with her flowers of winning grace;
  And sun-tanned August, with her swarthy charms,
  The beautiful and rich; and pastoral, gay
  September, with her pomp of fields and farms;
  And wild November's sybilline array;--
  In spite of Beauty's calendar, the Year
  Garlands with Beauty's prize the bonny May.
  Where'er she goes, fair Nature hath no peer,
  And months do love their queen when she's away.


  I would not that my memory all should die,
  And pass away with every common lot:
  I would not that my humble dust should lie
  In quite a strange and unfrequented spot,
  By all unheeded and by all forgot,
  With nothing save the heedless winds to sigh,
  And nothing but the dewy morn to weep
  About my grave, far hid from the world's eye:
  I fain would have some friend to wander nigh
  And find a path to where my ashes sleep--
  Not the cold heart that merely passes by,
  To read who lies beneath, but such as keep
  Past memories warm with deeds of other years,
  And pay to friendship some few friendly tears.

"The Rural Muse" sold tolerably well for some months, and Mr.
Whittaker told Mr. Emmerson that "he thought they would get off" the
first edition. But the time was rapidly approaching when literary
fame or failure, the constancy or fickleness of friends, the pangs of
poverty or the joys of competence were to be alike matters of
indifference to John Clare. He began to write in a piteous strain to
Mrs. Emmerson, Mr. Taylor, and Dr. Darling, all of whom assured him
of their deep sympathy, and promised assistance. Mrs. Emmerson,
although completely prostrated by repeated and serious attacks of
illness, sent him cheering letters so long as she could hold her pen,
while Mr. Taylor wrote:--

"If you think that you can now come here for the advice of Dr.
Darling I shall be very happy to see you, and any one who may attend
you." The attacks of melancholy from which he had suffered
occasionally for many years became more frequent and more intense,
his language grew wild and incoherent, and at length he failed to
recognize his own wife and children and became the subject of all
kinds of hallucinations. There were times when he was perfectly
rational, and he returned to work in his garden or in his little
study with a zest which filled his family and neighbours with eager
anticipations of his recovery, but every succeeding attack of his
mental malady was more severe than that which preceded it. Of all
that followed little need be said, for it is too painful to be dwelt
upon, and the story of Clare's life hurries therefore to its close.
His lunacy having been duly certified, Mr. Taylor and other of
Clare's old friends in London charged themselves with the
responsibility of removing him to the private asylum of Dr. Allen at
High Beech, in Epping Forest. Mr. Taylor sending a trustworthy person
to Northborough to accompany him to London and take care of him on
the road. This was in June or July, 1837, and Clare remained under
Mr. Allen's care for four years. Allan Cunningham, Mr. S. C. Hall,
and others of Clare's literary friends energetically appealed to the
public on behalf of the unhappy bard. Mr. Hall in the "Book of Gems"
for 1838 wrote:--

"It is not yet too late: although he has given indications of a brain
breaking up, a very envied celebrity may be obtained by some wealthy
and good Samaritan who would rescue him from the Cave of Despair,"
adding, "Strawberry Hill might be gladly sacrificed for the fame of
having saved Chatterton."

This appeal brought Mr. Hall a letter from the Marquis of
Northampton, whose name is now for the first time associated with
that of the poet. The Marquis informed Mr. Hall that he was not one
of Clare's exceeding admirers, but he was struck and shocked by what
that gentleman had said about "our county poet," and thought it would
be "a disgrace to the county," to which Clare was "a credit," if he
were left in a state of poverty. The county was neither very wealthy
nor very literary, but his lordship thought that a collection of
Clare's poems might be published by subscription, and if that
suggestion were adopted he would take ten or twenty copies, or he
would give a donation of money, if direct assistance of that kind
were preferred. Mr. Hall says in his "Memories,":--

"The plan was not carried out, and if the Marquis gave any aid of any
kind to the peasant-poet the world, and I verily believe the poet
himself, remained in ignorance of the amount."


All that was possible was done for Clare at the house of Dr. Allen,
one of the early reformers of the treatment of lunatics. He was kept
pretty constantly employed in the garden, and soon grew stout and
robust. After a time he was allowed to stroll beyond the grounds of
the asylum and to ramble about the forest. He was perfectly harmless,
and would sometimes carry on a conversation in a rational manner,
always, however, losing himself in the end in absolute nonsense. In
March, 1841, he wrote a long and intelligible letter to Mrs. Clare,
almost the only peculiarity in which is that every word is begun with
a capital letter. There is no doubt that at this time he was
possessed with the idea that he had two wives--Patty, whom he called
his second wife, and his life-long ideal, Mary Joyce. In the letter
just referred to he begins "My dear wife Patty," and in a postscript
says, "Give my love to the dear boy who wrote to me, and to her who
is never forgotten." He wrote verses which he told Dr. Allen were for
his wife Mary, and that he intended to take them to her. He made
several unsuccessful attempts to escape in the early part of 1841,
but in July of that year he contrived to evade both watchers and
pursuers, and reached Peterborough after being four days and three
nights on the road in a penniless condition, and being so near to
dying of starvation that he was compelled to eat grass like the
beasts of the field. The day after his return to Northborough he
wrote what he called an account of his journey, prefacing the
narrative by this remark, "Returned home out of Essex and found no
Mary." Mr. Martin gives this extraordinary document in his "Life of
Clare." It is a weird, pathetic and pitiful story, "a tragedy all too
deep for tears." Having finished the journal of his escape he
addressed it with a letter to "Mary Clare, Glinton." In this letter
he says:--

"I am not so lonely as I was in Essex, for here I can see Glinton
Church, and feeling that my Mary is safe, if not happy I am
gratified. Though my home is no home to me, my hopes are not entirely
hopeless while even the memory of Mary lives so near to me. God bless
you, my dear Mary! Give my love to our dear beautiful family and to
your mother, and believe me, as ever I have been and ever shall be,
my dearest Mary, your affectionate husband, John Clare." Truly,

"Love's not Time's fool: though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come,
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out e'en to the edge of doom."


Clare remained for a short time at Northborough, and was then removed
under medical advice to the County Lunatic Asylum at Northampton, of
which establishment he continued an inmate until his death in 1864.
During the whole of that time the charge made by the authorities of
the Asylum for his maintenance was paid either by Earl Fitzwilliam or
by his son, the Hon. G. W. Fitzwilliam. It is to the credit of the
managers of the institution that although the amount paid on his
behalf was that usually charged for patients of the humbler classes,
Clare was always treated in every respect as a "gentleman patient."
He had his favourite window corner in the common sitting room,
commanding a view of Northampton and the valley of the Nen, and books
and writing materials were provided for him. Unless the Editor's
memory is at fault, he was always addressed deferentially as "Mr.
Clare," both by the officers of the Asylum and the townspeople; and
when Her Majesty passed through Northampton, in 1844, in her progress
to Burleigh, a seat was specially reserved for the poet near one of
the triumphal arches. There was something very nearly akin to
tenderness in the kindly sympathy which was shown for him, and his
most whimsical utterances were listened to with gravity, lest he
should feel hurt or annoyed. He was classified in the Asylum books
among the "harmless," and for several years was allowed to walk in
the fields or go into the town at his own pleasure. His favourite
resting place at Northampton was a niche under the roof of the
spacious portico of All Saints' Church, and here he would sometimes
sit for hours, musing, watching the children at play, or jotting down
passing thoughts in his pocket note-book.


In course of time it was found expedient not to allow him to wander
beyond the Asylum grounds. He wrote occasionally to his son Charles,
but appears never to have been visited by either relatives or
friends. The neglect of his wife and children is inexplicable. It was
no doubt while smarting under this treatment that he penned the lines
given below, of which an eloquent critic has said that "in their
sublime sadness and incoherence they sum up, with marvellous effect,
the one great misfortune of the poet's life--his mental isolation--
his inability to make his deepest character and thoughts intelligible
to others. They read like the wail of a nature cut off from all
access to other minds, concentrated at its own centre, and conscious
of the impassable gulf which separates it from universal humanity:"--

  I am! yet what I am who cares, or knows?
  My friends forsake me, like a memory lost.
  I am the self-consumer of my woes,
  They rise and vanish, an oblivious host,
  Shadows of life, whose very soul is lost.
  And yet I am--I live--though I am toss'd

  Into the nothingness of scorn and noise.
  Into the living sea of waking dream,
  Where there is neither sense of life, nor joys,
  But the huge shipwreck of my own esteem
  And all that's dear. Even those I loved the best
  Are strange--nay, they are stranger than the rest.

  I long for scenes where man has never trod--
  For scenes where woman never smiled or wept--
  There to abide with my Creator, God,
  And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
  Full of high thoughts, unborn. So let me lie,
  The grass below; above, the vaulted sky.

Clare's physical powers slowly declined, and at length he had to be
wheeled about the Asylum grounds in a Bath chair. As he felt his end
approaching he would frequently say "I have lived too long," or "I
want to go home." Until within three days of his death he managed to
reach his favourite seat in the window, but was then seized with
paralysis, and on the afternoon of the 20th of May, 1864, without a
struggle or a sigh his spirit passed away. He was taken home.

In accordance with Clare's own wish, his remains were interred in the
churchyard at Helpstone, by the side of those of his father and
mother, under the shade of a sycamore tree. The expenses of the
funeral were paid by the Hon. G. W. Fitzwilliam. Two or three years
afterwards a coped monument of Ketton stone was erected over Clare's
remains. It bears this inscription:--

"Sacred to the Memory of John Clare, the Northamptonshire Peasant
Poet. Born July 13, 1793. Died May 20th, 1864. A Poet is born, not

In 1869, another memorial was erected in the principal street of
Helpstone. The style is Early English, and it bears suitable
inscriptions from Clare's Works.


In looking back upon such a life as Clare's, so prominent are the
human interests which confront us, that those of poetry, as one of
the fine arts, are not unlikely to sink for a time completely out of
sight. The long and painful strain upon our sympathy to which we are
subject as we read the story is such perhaps as the life of no other
English poet puts upon us. The spell of the great moral problems by
which the lives of so many of our poets seem to have been more or
less surrounded makes itself felt in every step of Clare's career. We
are tempted to speak in almost fatalistic language of the disastrous
gift of the poetic faculty, and to find in that the source of all
Clare's woe. The well-known lines--

  We poets in our youth begin in gladness,
  But thereof come in the end despondency and madness--

ring in our ears, and we remember that these are the words of a poet
endowed with a well-balanced mind, and who knew far less than Clare
the experience of

  Cold, pain, and labour, and all fleshly ills.

In Clare's case we are tempted to say that the Genius of Poetry laid
her fearful hand upon a nature too weak to bear her gifts and at the
same time to master the untoward circumstances in which his lot was
cast. But too well does poor Clare's history illustrate that
interpretation of the myth which pictures Great Pan secretly busy
among the reeds and fashioning, with sinister thought, the fatal pipe
which shall "make a poet out of a man." And yet it may be doubted
whether, on the whole, Clare's lot in life, and that of the wife and
family who were dependent upon him, was aggravated by the poetic
genius which we are thus trying to make the scapegoat for his
misfortunes. It may be that the publicity acquired by the
Northamptonshire Peasant Poet simply brings to the surface the
average life of the English agricultural labourer in the person of
one who was more than usually sensitive to suffering. Unhappily there
is too good reason to believe that the privations to which Clare and
his household were subject cannot be looked upon as exceptional in
the class of society to which both husband and wife belonged,
although they naturally acquire a deeper shade from the prospect of
competency and comfort which Clare's gifts seemed to promise. In this
light, while the miseries of the poet are none the less real and
claim none the less of our sympathy, the moral problem of Clare's
woes belongs rather to humanity at large than to poets in particular.
We are at liberty to hope, then, that the world is all the richer,
and that Clare's lot was none the harder, by reason of that
dispensation of Providence which has given to English literature such
a volume as "The Rural Muse." How many are there who not only fail,
as Clare failed, to rise above their circumstances, but who, in
addition, leave nothing behind them to enrich posterity! We are
indeed the richer for Clare, but with what travail of soul to himself
only true poets can know.



  'T is Spring, my love, 'tis Spring,
  And the birds begin to sing:
  If 'twas Winter, left alone with you,
  Your bonny form and face
  Would make a Summer place,
  And be the finest flower that ever grew.

  'T is Spring, my love, 'tis Spring,
  And the hazel catkins hing,
  While the snowdrop has its little blebs of dew;
  But that's not so white within
  As your bosom's hidden skin--
  That sweetest of all flowers that ever grew.

  The sun arose from bed,
  All strewn with roses red,
  But the brightest and the loveliest crimson place
  Is not so fresh and fair,
  Or so sweet beyond compare,
  As thy blushing, ever smiling, happy face.

  I love Spring's early flowers,
  And their bloom in its first hours,
  But they never half so bright or lovely seem
  As the blithe and happy grace
  Of my darling's blushing face,
  And the happiness of love's young dream.


  I love thee, Nature, with a boundless love!
  The calm of earth, the storm of roaring woods!
  The winds breathe happiness where'er I rove!
  There's life's own music in the swelling floods!
  My heart is in the thunder-melting clouds,
  The snow-cap't mountain, and the rolling sea!
  And hear ye not the voice where darkness shrouds
  The heavens? There lives happiness for me!

  My pulse beats calmer while His lightnings play!
  My eye, with earth's delusions waxing dim,
  Clears with the brightness of eternal day!
  The elements crash round me! It is He!
  Calmly I hear His voice and never start.
  From Eve's posterity I stand quite free,
  Nor feel her curses rankle round my heart.

  Love is not here. Hope is, and at His voice--
  The rolling thunder and the roaring sea--
  My pulses leap, and with the hills rejoice;
  Then strife and turmoil are at end for me.
  No matter where life's ocean leads me on,
  For Nature is my mother, and I rest,
  When tempests trouble and the sun is gone,
  Like to a weary child upon her breast.


  Come hither, my dear one, my choice one, and rare one,
  And let us be walking the meadows so fair,
  Where on pilewort and daisies the eye fondly gazes,
  And the wind plays so sweet in thy bonny brown hair.

  Come with thy maiden eye, lay silks and satins by;
  Come in thy russet or grey cotton gown;
  Come to the meads, dear, where flags, sedge, and reeds appear,
  Rustling to soft winds and bowing low down.

  Come with thy parted hair, bright eyes, and forehead bare;
  Come to the whitethorn that grows in the lane;
  To banks of primroses, where sweetness reposes,
  Come, love, and let us be happy again.

  Come where the violet flowers, come where the morning showers
  Pearl on the primrose and speedwell so blue;
  Come to that clearest brook that ever runs round the nook
  Where you and I pledged our first love so true.


  Bird of the morn,
  When roseate clouds begin
  To show the opening dawn
  Thou gladly sing'st it in,
  And o'er the sweet green fields and happy vales
  Thy pleasant song is heard, mixed with the morning gales.

  Bird of the morn,
  What time the ruddy sun
  Smiles on the pleasant corn
  Thy singing is begun,
  Heartfelt and cheering over labourers' toil,
  Who chop in coppice wild and delve the russet soil.

  Bird of the sun,
  How dear to man art thou!
  When morning has begun
  To gild the mountain's brow,
  How beautiful it is to see thee soar so blest,
  Winnowing thy russet wings above thy twitchy nest.

  Bird of the Summer's day,
  How oft I stand to hear
  Thee sing thy airy lay,
  With music wild and clear,
  Till thou becom'st a speck upon the sky,
  Small as the clods that crumble where I lie.

  Thou bird of happiest song,
  The Spring and Summer too
  Are thine, the months along,
  The woods and vales to view.
  If climes were evergreen thy song would be
  The sunny music of eternal glee.


  Infants' gravemounds are steps of angels, where
  Earth's brightest gems of innocence repose.
  God is their parent, so 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 the 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 o'er them, and the gale gently sighs.

  Their lives were nothing but a sunny shower,
  Melting on flowers as tears melt from the eye.
  Each death
  Was tolled on flowers as Summer gales went by.
  They bowed and trembled, yet they heaved no sigh,
  And the sun smiled to show the 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.


  O the evening's for the fair, bonny lassie O!
  To meet the cooler air and join an angel there,
  With the dark dishevelled hair,
  Bonny lassie O!

  The bloom's on the brere, bonny lassie O!
  Oak apples on the tree; and wilt thou gang to see
  The shed I've made for thee,
  Bonny lassie O!

  'T is agen the running brook, bonny lassie O!
  In a grassy nook hard by, with a little patch of sky,
  And a bush to keep us dry,
  Bonny lassie O!

  There's the daisy all the year, bonny lassie O!
  There's the king-cup bright as gold, and the speedwell never cold,
  And the arum leaves unrolled,
  Bonny lassie O!

  O meet me at the shed, bonny lassie O!
  With the woodbine peeping in, and the roses like thy skin
  Blushing, thy praise to win,
  Bonny lassie O!

  I will meet thee there at e'en, bonny lassie O!
  When the bee sips in the beau, and grey willow branches lean,
  And the moonbeam looks between,
  Bonny lassie O!


  Agen I'll take my idle pen
  And sing my bonny mountain maid--
  Sweet Phoebe of the Scottish glen,
  Nor of her censure feel afraid.
  I'll charm her ear with beauty's praise,
  And please her eye with songs agen--
  The ballads of our early days--
  To Phoebe of the Scottish glen.

  There never was a fairer thing
  All Scotland's glens and mountains through.
  The siller gowans of the Spring,
  Besprent with pearls of mountain dew,
  The maiden blush upon the brere,
   Far distant from the haunts of men,
  Are nothing half so sweet or dear
  As Phoebe of the Scottish glen.

  How handsome is her naked foot,
  Moist with the pearls of Summer dew:
  The siller daisy's nothing to 't,
  Nor hawthorn flowers so white to view,
  She's sweeter than the blooming brere,
  That blossoms far away from men:
  No flower in Scotland's half so dear
  As Phoebe of the Scottish glen.


  Maid of the wilderness,
  Sweet in thy rural dress,
  Fond thy rich lips I press
  Under this tree.

  Morning her health bestows,
  Sprinkles dews on the rose,
  That by the bramble grows:
  Maid happy be.
  Womanhood round thee glows,
  Wander with me.

  The restharrow blooming,
  The sun just a-coming,
  Grass and bushes illuming,
  And the spreading oak tree;

  Come hither, sweet Nelly,
       *      *        *
  The morning is loosing
  Its incense for thee.
  The pea-leaf has dews on;
  Love wander with me.

  We'll walk by the river,
  And love more than ever;
  There's nought shall dissever
  My fondness from thee.

  Soft ripples the water,
  Flags rustle like laughter,
  And fish follow after;
  Leaves drop from the tree.
  Nelly, Beauty's own daughter,
  Love, wander with me.


  My love she wears a cotton plaid,
  A bonnet of the straw;
  Her cheeks are leaves of roses spread,
  Her lips are like the haw.
  In truth she is as sweet a maid
  As true love ever saw.

  Her curls are ever in my eyes,
  As nets by Cupid flung;
  Her voice will oft my sleep surprise,
  More sweet than ballad sung.
  O Mary Bateman's curling hair!
  I wake, and there is nothing there.

  I wake, and fall asleep again,
  The same delights in visions rise;
  There's nothing can appear more plain
  Than those rose cheeks and those bright eyes.
  I wake again, and all alone
  Sits Darkness on his ebon throne.

  All silent runs the silver Trent,
  The cobweb veils are all wet through,
  A silver bead's on every bent,
  On every leaf a bleb of dew.
  I sighed, the moon it shone so clear:
  Was Mary Bateman walking here?


  How many times Spring blossoms meek
  Have faded on the land
  Since last I kissed that pretty cheek,
  Caressed that happy hand.
  Eight time the green's been painted white
  With daisies in the grass
  Since I looked on thy eyes so bright,
  And pressed my bonny lass.

  The ground lark sung about the farms,
  The blackbird in the wood,
  When fast locked in each other's arms
  By hedgerow thorn we stood.
  It was a pleasant Sabbath day,
  The sun shone bright and round,
  His light through dark oaks passed, and lay
  Like gold upon the ground.

  How beautiful the blackbird sung,
  And answered soft the thrush;
  And sweet the pearl-like dew-drops hung
  Upon the white thorn bush.
  O happy day, eight years ago!
  We parted without pain:
  The blackbird sings, primroses blow;
  When shall we meet again?


  Now the wheat is in the ear, and the rose is on the brere,
  And bluecaps so divinely blue, with poppies of bright scarlet hue,
  Maiden, at the close o' eve, wilt thou, dear, thy cottage leave,
  And walk with one that loves thee?

  When the even's tiny tears bead upon the grassy spears,
  And the spider's lace is wet with its pinhead blebs of dew,
  Wilt thou lay thy work aside and walk by brooklets dim descried,
  Where I delight to love thee?

  While thy footfall lightly press'd tramples by the skylark's nest,
  And the cockle's streaky eyes mark the snug place where it lies,
  Mary, put thy work away, and walk at dewy close o' day
  With me to kiss and love thee.

  There's something in the time so sweet, when lovers in the evening
  The air so still, the sky so mild, like slumbers of the cradled
  The moon looks over fields of love, among the ivy sleeps the dove:
  To see thee is to love thee.


  Sweet comes the morning
  In Nature's adorning,
  And bright shines the dew on the buds of the thorn,
  Where Mary Ann rambles
  Through the sloe trees and brambles;
  She's sweeter than wild flowers that open at morn;
  She's a rose in the dew;
  She's pure and she's true;
  She's as gay as the poppy that grows in the corn.

  Her eyes they are bright,
  Her bosom's snow white,
  And her voice is like songs of the birds in the grove.
  She's handsome and bonny,
  And fairer than any,
  And her person and actions are Nature's and love.
  She has the bloom of all roses,
  She's the breath of sweet posies,
  She's as pure as the brood in the nest of the dove.

  Of Earth's fairest daughters,
  Voiced like falling waters,
  She walks down the meadows, than blossoms more fair.
  O her bosom right fair is,
  And her rose cheek so rare is,
  And parted and lovely her glossy black hair.
  Her bosom's soft whiteness!
  The sun in its brightness
  Has never been seen so bewilderingly fair.

  The dewy grass glitters,
  The house swallow twitters,
  And through the sky floats in its visions of bliss;
  The lark soars on high,
  On cowslips dews lie,
  And the last days of Summer are nothing like this.
  When Mary Ann rambles
  Through hedgerows and brambles,
  The soft gales of Spring are the seasons of bliss.


  I'll lay me down on the green sward,
  Mid yellowcups and speedwell blue,
  And pay the world no more regard,
  But be to Nature leal and true.
  Who break the peace of hapless man
  But they who Truth and Nature wrong?
  I'll hear no more of evil's plan,
  But live with Nature and her song.

  Where Nature's lights and shades are green,
  Where Nature's place is strewn with flowers.
  Where strife and care are never seen,
  There I'll retire to happy hours,
  And stretch my body on the green,
  And sleep among the flowers in bloom,
  By eyes of malice seldom seen,
  And dream upon the days to come.

  I'll lay me by the forest green,
  I'll lay me on the pleasant grass;
  My life shall pass away unseen;
  I'll be no more the man I was.
  The tawny bee upon the flower,
  The butterfly upon the leaf,
  Like them I'll live my happy hour,
  A life of sunshine, bright and brief.

  In greenwood hedges, close at hand,
  Build, brood, and sing the little birds,
  The happiest things in the green land,
  While sweetly feed the lowing herds,
  While softly bleat the roving sheep.
  Upon the green grass will I lie,
  A Summer's day, to think and sleep.
  Or see the clouds sail down the sky.


  Arise, my Isabel, arise!
  The sun shoots forth his early ray,
  The hue of love is in the skies,
  The birds are singing, come away!
  O come, my Isabella, come,
  With inky tendrils hanging low;
  Thy cheeks like roses just in bloom,
  That in the healthy Summer glow.

  That eye it turns the world away
  From wanton sport and recklessness;
  That eye beams with a cheerful ray,
  And smiles propitiously to bless.
  O come, my Isabella, dear!
  O come, and fill these longing arms!
  Come, let me see thy beauty here,
  And bend in worship o'er thy charms.

  O come, my Isabella, love!
  My dearest Isabella, come!
  Thy heart's affection, let me prove,
  And kiss thy beauty in its bloom.
  My Isabella, young and fair,
  Thou darling of my home and heart,
  Come, love, my bosom's truth to share,
  And of its being form a part.


  How sweet is every lengthening day,
  And every change of weather,
  When Summer comes, on skies blue grey,
  And brings her hosts together,
  Her flocks of birds, her crowds of flowers,
  Her sunny-shining water!
  I dearly love the woodbine bowers,
  That hide the Shepherd's Daughter--
  In gown of green or brown or blue,
  The Shepherd's Daughter, leal and true.

  How bonny is her lily breast!
  How sweet her rosy face!
  She'd give my aching bosom rest,
  Where love would find its place.
  While earth is green, and skies are blue,
  And sunshine gilds the water,
  While Summer's sweet and Nature true,
  I'll love the Shepherd's Daughter--
  Her nut brown hair, her clear bright eye,
  My daily thought, my only joy.

  She's such a simple, sweet young thing,
  Dressed in her country costume.
  My wits had used to know the Spring,
  Till I saw, and loved, and lost 'em.
  How quietly the lily lies
  Upon the deepest water!
  How sweet to me the Summer skies!
  And so's the Shepherd's Daughter--
  With lily breast and rosy face
  The sweetest maid in any place.

  My singing bird, my bonny flower,
  How dearly could I love thee!
  To sit with thee one pleasant hour,
  If thou would'st but approve me!
  I swear by lilies white and yellow,
  That flower on deepest water,
  Would'st thou but make me happy fellow,
  I'd wed the Shepherd's Daughter!
  By all that's on the earth or water,
  I more than love the Shepherd's Daughter.


  Lassie, I love thee!
  The heavens above thee
  Look downwards to move thee,
  And prove my love true.
  My arms round thy waist, love,
  My head on thy breast, love;
  By a true man caressed love,
  Ne'er bid me adieu.

  Thy cheek's full o' blushes,
  Like the rose in the bushes,
  While my love ardent gushes
  With over delight.
  Though clouds may come o'er thee,
  Sweet maid, I'll adore thee,
  As I do now before thee:
  I love thee outright.

  It stings me to madness
  To see thee all gladness,
  While I'm full of sadness
  Thy meaning to guess.
  Thy gown is deep blue, love,
  In honour of true love:
  Ever thinking of you, love,
  My love I'll confess.

  My love ever showing,
  Thy heart worth the knowing,
  It is like the sun glowing,
  And hid in thy breast.
  Thy lover behold me;
  To my bosom I'll fold thee,
  For thou, love, thou'st just told me,
  So here thou may'st rest.


  Just like the berry brown is my bonny lassie O!
  And in the smoky camp lives my bonny lassie O!
  Where the scented woodbine weaves
  Round the white-thorn's glossy leaves:
  The sweetest maid on earth is my gipsy lassie O!

  The brook it runs so clear by my bonny lassie O!
  And the blackbird singeth near my bonny lassie O!
  And there the wild briar rose
  Wrinkles the clear stream as it flows
  By the smoky camp of my bonny lassie O!

  The groundlark singeth high o'er my bonny lassie O!
  The nightingale lives nigh my gipsy lassie O!
  They're with her all the year,
  By the brook that runs so clear,
  And there's none in all the world like my gipsy lassie O!

  With a bosom white as snow is my gipsy lassie O!
  With a foot like to the roe is my bonny lassie O!
  Like the sweet birds she will sing,
  While echo it will ring:
  Sure there's none in the world like my bonny lassie O!


  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.


  O once I had a true love,
  As blest as I could be:
  Patty was my turtle dove,
  And Patty she loved me.
  We walked the fields together,
  By roses and woodbine,
  In Summer's sunshine weather,
  And Patty she was mine.

  We stopped to gather primroses,
  And violets white and blue,
  In pastures and green closes
  All glistening with the dew.
  We sat upon green mole-hills,
  Among the daisy flowers,
  To hear the small birds' merry trills,
  And share the sunny hours.

  The blackbird on her grassy nest
  We would not scare away,
  Who nuzzling sat with brooding breast
  On her eggs for half the day.
  The chaffinch chirruped on the thorn,
  And a pretty nest had she;
  The magpie chattered all the morn
  From her perch upon the tree.

  And I would go to Patty's cot,
  And Patty came to me;
  Each knew the other's very thought
  Under the hawthorn tree.
  And Patty had a kiss to give,
  And Patty had a smile,
  To bid me hope and bid me love,
  At every stopping stile.

  We loved one Summer quite away,
  And when another came,
  The cowslip close and sunny day,
  It found us much the same.
  We both looked on the selfsame thing,
  Till both became as one;
  The birds did in the hedges sing,
  And happy time went on.

  The brambles from the hedge advance,
  In love with Patty's eyes:
  On flowers, like ladies at a dance,
  Flew scores of butterflies.
  I claimed a kiss at every stile,
  And had her kind replies.
  The bees did round the woodbine toil,
  Where sweet the small wind sighs.

  Then Patty was a slight young thing;
  Now she's long past her teens;
  And we've been married many springs,
  And mixed in many scenes.
  And I'll be true for Patty's sake,
  And she'll be true for mine;
  And I this little ballad make,
  To be her valentine.


  'T was somewhere in the April time,
  Not long before the May,
  A-sitting on a bank o' thyme
  I heard a maiden say,
  "My true love is a sailor,
  And ere he went away
  We spent a year together,
  And here my lover lay.

  The gold furze was in blossom,
  So was the daisy too;
  The dew-drops on the little flowers
  Were emeralds in hue.
  On this same Summer morning,
  Though then the Sabbath day,
  He crop't me Spring pol'ant'uses,
  Beneath the whitethorn may.

  He crop't me Spring pol'ant'uses,
  And said if they would keep
  They'd tell me of love's fantasies,
  For dews on them did weep.
  And I did weep at parting,
  Which lasted all the week;
  And when he turned for starting
  My full heart could not speak.

  The same roots grow pol'ant'us' flowers
  Beneath the same haw-tree;
  I crop't them in morn's dewy hours,
  And here love's offerings be.
  O come to me my sailor beau
  And ease my aching breast;
  The storms shall cease to rave and blow,
  And here thy life find rest."


  The whitethorn is budding and rushes are green,
  The ivy leaves rustle around the ash tree,
  On the sweet sunny bank blue violets are seen,
  That tremble beneath the wild hum of the bee.
  The sunbeams they play on the brook's plashy ripples,
  Like millions of suns in each swirl looking on;
  The rush nods and bows till its tasseled head tipples
  Right into the wimpled flood, kissing the stones.

  'T was down in the cow pasture, just at the gloaming,
  I met a young woman sweet tempered and mild,
  I said "Pretty maiden, say, where are you roving?"
  "I'm walking at even," she answered, and smiled.
  "Here my sweetheart and I gathered posies at even;
  It's eight years ago since they sent him to sea.
  Wild flowers hung with dew are like angels from heaven:
  They look up in my face and keep whispering to me.

  They whisper the tales that were told by my true love;
  In the evening and morning they glisten with dew;
  They say (bonny blossoms) 'I'll ne'er get a new love;
  I love her; she's kindly.' I say, 'I love him too.'"
  The passing-by stranger's a stranger no longer;
  He kissed off the teardrop which fell from her e'e;
  With blue-jacket and trousers he is bigger and stronger;
  'T is her own constant Willy returned from the sea.


  Why are ye silent, Birds?
  Where do ye fly?
  Winter's not violent,
  With such a Spring sky.
  The wheatlands are green, snow and frost are away,
  Birds, why are ye silent on such a sweet day?

  By the slated pig-stye
  The redbreast scarce whispers:
  Where last Autumn's leaves lie
  The hedge sparrow just lispers.
  And why are the chaffinch and bullfinch so still,
  While the sulphur primroses bedeck the wood hill?

  The bright yellow-hammers
  Are strutting about,
  All still, and none stammers
  A single note out.
  From the hedge starts the blackbird, at brook side to drink:
  I thought he'd have whistled, but he only said "prink."

  The tree-creeper hustles
  Up fir's rusty bark;
  All silent he bustles;
  We needn't say hark.
  There's no song in the forest, in field, or in wood,
  Yet the sun gilds the grass as though come in for good.

  How bright the odd daisies
  Peep under the stubbs!
  How bright pilewort blazes
  Where ruddled sheep rubs
  The old willow trunk by the side of the brook,
  Where soon for blue violets the children will look!

  By the cot green and mossy
  Feed sparrow and hen:
  On the ridge brown and glossy
  They cluck now and then.
  The wren cocks his tail o'er his back by the stye,
  Where his green bottle nest will be made by and bye.

  Here's bunches of chickweed,
  With small starry flowers,
  Where red-caps oft pick seed
  In hungry Spring hours.
  And blue cap and black cap, in glossy Spring coat,
  Are a-peeping in buds without singing a note.

  Why silent should birds be
  And sunshine so warm?
  Larks hide where the herds be
  By cottage and farm.
  If wild flowers were blooming and fully set in the Spring
  May-be all the birdies would cheerfully sing.


  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!


  The cockchafer hums down the rut-rifted lane
  Where the wild roses hang and the woodbines entwine,
  And the shrill squeaking bat makes his circles again
  Round the side of the tavern close by the sign.
  The sun is gone down like a wearisome queen,
  In curtains the richest that ever were seen.

  The dew falls on flowers in a mist of small rain,
  And, beating the hedges, low fly the barn owls;
  The moon with her horns is just peeping again,
  And deep in the forest the dog-badger howls;
  In best bib and tucker then wanders my Jane
  By the side of the woodbines which grow in the lane.

  On a sweet eventide I walk by her side;
  In green hoods the daisies have shut up their eyes.
  Young Jenny is handsome without any pride;
  Her eyes (O how bright!) have the hue of the skies.
  O 'tis pleasant to walk by the side of my Jane
  At the close of the day, down the mossy green lane.

  We stand by the brook, by the gate, and the stile,
  While the even star hangs out his lamp in the sky;
  And on her calm face dwells a sweet sunny smile,
  While her soul fondly speaks through the light of her eye.
  Sweet are the moments while waiting for Jane;
  'T is her footsteps I hear coming down the green lane.


  "Adieu, my love, adieu!
  Be constant and be true
  As the daisies gemmed with dew,
  Bonny maid."
  The cows their thirst were slaking,
  Trees the playful winds were shaking;
  Sweet songs the birds were making
  In the shade.

  The moss upon the tree
  Was as green as green could be,
  The clover on the lea
  Ruddy glowed;
  Leaves were silver with the dew,
  Where the tall sowthistles grew,
  And I bade the maid adieu
  On the road.

  Then I took myself to sea,
  While the little chiming bee
  Sung his ballad on the lea,
  Humming sweet;
  And the red-winged butterfly
  Was sailing through the sky,
  Skimming up and bouncing by
  Near my feet.

  I left the little birds,
  And sweet lowing of the herds,
  And couldn't find out words,
  Do you see,
  To say to them good bye,
  Where the yellow cups do lie;
  So heaving a deep sigh,
  Took to sea.


  There's a bonny place in Scotland,
  Where a little spring is found;
  There Nature shows her honest face
  The whole year round.
  Where the whitethorn branches, full of may,
  Hung near the fountain's rim,
  Where comes sweet Alice every day
  And dips her pitcher in;
  A gallon pitcher without ear,
  She fills it with the water clear.

  My bonny Alice she is fair;
  There's no such other to be found.
  Her rosy cheek and dark brown hair--
  The fairest maid on Scotland's ground.
  And there the heather's pinhead flowers
  All blossom over bank and brae,
  While Alice passes by the bowers
  To fill her pitcher every day;
  The pitcher brown without an ear
  She dips into the fountain clear.

  O Alice, bonny, sweet, and fair,
  With roses on her cheeks!
  The little birds come drinking there,
  The throstle almost speaks.
  He dips his wings and wimples makes
  Upon the fountain clear,
  Then vanishes among the brakes
  For ever singing near;
  While Alice, listening, stands to hear,
  And dips her pitcher without ear.

  O Alice, bonny Alice, fair,
  Thy pleasant face I love;
  Thy red-rose cheek, thy dark brown hair,
  Thy soft eyes, like a dove.
  I see thee by the fountain stand,
  With the sweet smiling face;
  There's not a maid in all the land
  With such bewitching grace
  As Alice, who is drawing near,
  To dip the pitcher without ear.


  How sweet are Spring wild flowers! They grow past the counting.
  How sweet are the wood-paths that thread through the grove!
  But sweeter than all the wild flowers of the mountain
  Is the beauty that walks here--the maiden I love.
  Her black hair in tangles
  The rose briar mangles;
  Her lips and soft cheeks,
  Where love ever speaks:
  O there's nothing so sweet as the maiden I love.

  It was down in the wild flowers, among brakes and brambles,
  I met the sweet maiden so dear to my eye,
  In one of my Sunday morn midsummer rambles,
  Among the sweet wild blossoms blooming close by.
  Her hair it was coal black,
  Hung loose down her back;
  In her hand she held posies
  Of blooming primroses,
  The maiden who passed on the morning of love.

  Coal black was her silk hair that shaded white shoulders;
  Ruby red were her ripe lips, her cheeks of soft hue;
  Her sweet smiles, enchanting the eyes of beholders,
  Thrilled my heart as she rambled the wild blossoms through.
  Like the pearl, her bright eye;
  In trembling delight I
  Kissed her cheek, like a rose
  In its gentlest repose.
  O there's nothing so sweet as the maiden I love!


  I cannot touch the harp again,
  And sing another idle lay,
  To cool a maddening, burning brain,
  And drive the midnight fiend away.
  Music, own sister to the soul.
  Bids roses bloom on cheeks all pale;
  And sweet her joys and sorrows roll
  When sings the Swedish Nightingale.

       *       *       *       *       *

  I cannot touch the harp again;
  No chords will vibrate on the string;
  Like broken flowers upon the plain,
  My heart e'en withers while I sing.
  Aeolian harps have witching tones,
  On morning or the evening gale;
  No melody their music owns
  As sings the Swedish nightingale.


  Little trotty wagtail he went in the rain,
  And twittering, tottering sideways he ne'er 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.


  O once I loved a pretty girl, and dearly love her still;
  I courted her in happiness for two short years or more.
  And when I think of Mary it turns my bosom chill,
  For my little of life's happiness is faded and is o'er.
  O fair was Mary Littlechild, and happy as the bee,
  And sweet was bonny Mary as the song of forest bird;
  And the smile upon her red lips was very dear to me,
  And her tale of love the sweetest that my ear has ever heard.

  O the flower of all the forest was Mary Littlechild;
  There's few could be so dear to me and none could be so fair.
  While many love the garden flowers I still esteem the wild,
  And Mary of the forest is the fairest blossom there.
  She's fairer than the may flowers that bloom among the thorn,
  She's dearer to my eye than the rose upon the brere;
  Her eye is brighter far than the bonny pearls of morn,
  And the name of Mary Littlechild is to me ever dear.

  O once I loved a pretty girl. The linnet in its mirth
  Was never half so blest as I with Mary Littlechild--
  The rose of the creation, and the pink of all the earth,
  The flower of all the forest, and the best for being wild.
  O sweet are dews of morning, ere the Autumn blows so chill,--
  And sweet are forest flowers in the hawthorn's mossy shade,
  But nothing is so fair, and nothing ever will
  Bloom like the rosy cheek of my bonny Forest Maid.


  The morning opens fine, bonny Mary O!
  The robin sings his song by the dairy O!
  Where the little Jenny wrens cock their tails among the hens,
  Singing morning's happy songs with Mary O!

  The swallow's on the wing, bonny Mary O!
  Where the rushes fringe the spring, bonny Mary O!
  Where the cowslips do unfold, shaking tassels all of gold,
  Which make the milk so sweet, bonny Mary O!

  There's the yellowhammer's nest, bonny Mary O!
  Where she hides her golden breast, bonny Mary O!
  On her mystic eggs she dwells, with strange writing on their
  Hid in the mossy grass, bonny Mary O!

  There the spotted cow gets food, bonny Mary O!
  And chews her peaceful cud, bonny Mary O!
  In the molehills and the bushes, and the clear brook fringed with
  To fill the evening pail, bonny Mary O!

  Where the gnat swarms fall and rise under evenings' mellow skies,
  And on flags sleep dragon flies, bonny Mary O!
  And I will meet thee there, bonny Mary O!
  When a-milking you repair, bonny Mary O!
  And I'll kiss thee on the grass, my buxom, bonny lass,
  And be thine own for aye, bonny Mary O!


  Go rose, my Chloe's bosom grace:
  How happy should I prove,
  Could I supply that envied place
  With never-fading love.

  Accept, dear maid, now Summer glows,
  This pure, unsullied gem,
  Love's emblem in a full-blown rose,
  Just broken from the stem.

  Accept it as a favourite flower
  For thy soft breast to wear;
  'Twill blossom there its transient hour,
  A favourite of the fair.

  Upon thy cheek its blossom glows,
  As from a mirror clear,
  Making thyself a living rose,
  In blossom all the year.

  It is a sweet and favourite flower
  To grace a maiden's brow,
  Emblem of love without its power--
  A sweeter rose art thou.

  The rose, like hues of insect wing,
  May perish in an hour;
  'T is but at best a fading thing,
  But thou'rt a living flower.

  The roses steeped in morning dews
  Would every eye enthrall,
  But woman, she alone subdues;
  Her beauty conquers all.


  The linnet sat upon its nest,
  By gales of morning softly prest,
  His green wing and his greener breast
  Were damp with dews of morning:
  The dog-rose near the oaktree grew,
  Blush'd swelling 'neath a veil of dew,
  A pink's nest to its prickles grew,
  Right early in the morning.

  The sunshine glittered gold, the while
  A country maiden clomb the stile;
  Her straw hat couldn't hide the smile
  That blushed like early morning.
  The lark, with feathers all wet through,
  Looked up above the glassy dew,
  And to the neighbouring corn-field flew,
  Fanning the gales of morning.

  In every bush was heard a song,
  On each grass blade, the whole way long,
  A silver shining drop there hung,
  The milky dew of morning.
  Where stepping-stones stride o'er the brook
  The rosy maid I overtook.
  How ruddy was her healthy look,
  So early in the morning!

  I took her by the well-turned arm,
  And led her over field and farm,
  And kissed her tender cheek so warm,
  A rose in early morning.
  The spiders' lacework shone like glass,
  Tied up to flowers and cat-tail grass;
  The dew-drops bounced before the lass,
  Sprinkling the early morning.

  Her dark curls fanned among the gales,
  The skylark whistled o'er the vales,
  I told her love's delightful tales
  Among the dews of morning.
  She crop't a flower, shook oft' the dew,
  And on her breast the wild rose grew;
  She blushed as fair, as lovely, too--
  The living rose of morning.

TO MISS C.....

  Thy glance is the brightest,
  Thy voice is the sweetest,
  Thy step is the lightest,
  Thy shape the completest:
  Thy waist I could span, dear,
  Thy neck's like a swan's, dear,
  And roses the sweetest
  On thy cheeks do appear.

  The music of Spring
  Is the voice of my charmer.
  When the nightingales sing
  She's as sweet; who would harm her?
  Where the snowdrop or lily lies
  They show her face, but her eyes
  Are the dark clouds, yet warmer,
  From which the quick lightning flies
  O'er the face of my charmer.

  Her faith is the snowdrop,
  So pure on its stem;
  And love in her bosom
  She wears as a gem;
  She is young as Spring flowers,
  And sweet as May showers,
  Swelling the clover buds, and bending the stem,
  She's the sweetest of blossoms, she love's favourite gem.


  I pluck Summer blossoms,
  And think of rich bosoms--
  The bosoms I've leaned on, and worshipped, and won.
  The rich valley lilies,
  The wood daffodillies,
  Have been found in our rambles when Summer begun.

  Where I plucked thee the bluebell,
  'T was where the night dew fell,
  And rested till morn in the cups of the flowers;
  I shook the sweet posies,
  Bluebells and brere roses,
  As we sat in cool shade in Summer's warm hours.

  Bedlam-cowslips and cuckoos,
  With freck'd lip and hooked nose,
  Growing safe near the hazel of thicket and woods,
  And water blobs, ladies' smocks,
  Blooming where haycocks
  May be found, in the meadows, low places, and floods.

  And cowslips a fair band
  For May ball or garland,
  That bloom in the meadows as seen by the eye;
  And pink ragged robin,
  Where the fish they are bobbing
  Their heads above water to catch at the fly.

  Wild flowers and wild roses!
  'T is love makes the posies
  To paint Summer ballads of meadow and glen.
  Floods can't drown it nor turn it,
  Even flames cannot burn it;
  Let it bloom till we walk the green meadows again.


  The bonny March morning is beaming
  In mingled crimson and grey,
  White clouds are streaking and creaming
  The sky till the noon of the day;
  The fir deal looks darker and greener,
  And grass hills below look the same;
  The air all about is serener,
  The birds less familiar and tame.

  Here's two or three flowers for my fair one,
  Wood primroses and celandine too;
  I oft look about for a rare one
  To put in a posy for you.
  The birds look so clean and so neat,
  Though there's scarcely a leaf on the grove;
  The sun shines about me so sweet,
  I cannot help thinking of love.

  So where the blue violets are peeping,
  By the warm sunny sides of the woods,
  And the primrose, 'neath early morn weeping,
  Amid a large cluster of buds,
  (The morning it was such a rare one,
  So dewy, so sunny, and fair,)
  I sought the wild flowers for my fair one,
  To wreath in her glossy black hair.


  Left in the world alone,
  Where nothing seems my own,
  And everything is weariness to me,
  'T is a life without an end,
  'T is a world without a friend,
  And everything is sorrowful I see.

  There's the crow upon the stack,
  And other birds all black,
  While bleak November's frowning wearily;
  And the black cloud's dropping rain,
  Till the floods hide half the plain,
  And everything is dreariness to me.

  The sun shines wan and pale,
  Chill blows the northern gale,
  And odd leaves shake and quiver on the tree,
  While I am left alone,
  Chilled as a mossy stone,
  And all the world is frowning over me.


  Mary, I love to sing
  About the flowers of Spring,
  For they resemble thee.
  In the earliest of the year
  Thy beauties will appear,
  And youthful modesty.

  Here's the daisy's silver rim,
  With gold eye never dim,
  Spring's earliest flower so fair.
  Here the pilewort's golden rays
  Set the cow green in a blaze,
  Like the sunshine in thy hair.

  Here's forget-me-not so blue;
  Is there any flower so true?
  Can it speak my happy lot?
  When we courted in disguise
  This flower I used to prize,
  For it said "Forget-me-not."

  Speedwell! And when we meet
  In the meadow paths so sweet,
  Where the flowers I gave to thee
  All grew beneath the sun,
  May thy gentle heart be won,
  And I be blest with thee.


  This is the month the nightingale, clod brown,
  Is heard among the woodland shady boughs:
  This is the time when in the vale, grass-grown,
  The maiden hears at eve her lover's vows,
  What time the blue mist round the patient cows
  Dim rises from the grass and half conceals
  Their dappled hides. I hear the nightingale,
  That from the little blackthorn spinney steals
  To the old hazel hedge that skirts the vale,
  And still unseen sings sweet. The ploughman feels
  The thrilling music as he goes along,
  And imitates and listens; while the fields
  Lose all their paths in dusk to lead him wrong,
  Still sings the nightingale her soft melodious song.


  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 o'er 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;
  Bird's 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.


  The skylark mounts up with the morn,
  The valleys are green with the Spring,
  The linnets sit in the whitethorn,
  To build mossy dwellings and sing;
  I see the thornbush getting green,
  I see the woods dance in the Spring,
  But Mary can never be seen,
  Though the all-cheering Spring doth begin.

  I see the grey bark of the oak
  Look bright through the underwood now;
  To the plough plodding horses they yoke,
  But Mary is not with her cow.
  The birds almost whistle her name:
  Say, where can my Mary be gone?
  The Spring brightly shines, and 'tis shame
  That she should be absent alone.

  The cowslips are out on the grass,
  Increasing like crowds at a fair;
  The river runs smoothly as glass,
  And the barges float heavily there;
  The milkmaid she sings to her cow,
  But Mary is not to be seen;
  Can Nature such absence allow
  At milking on pasture and green?

  When Sabbath-day comes to the green,
  The maidens are there in their best,
  But Mary is not to be seen,
  Though I walk till the sun's in the west.
  I fancy still each wood and plain,
  Where I and my Mary have strayed,
  When I was a young country swain,
  And she was the happiest maid.

  But woods they are all lonely now,
  And the wild flowers blow all unseen;
  The birds sing alone on the bough,
  Where Mary and I once have been.
  But for months she now keeps away.
  And I am a sad lonely hind;
  Trees tell me so day after day,
  As slowly they wave in the wind.

  Birds tell me, while swaying the bough,
  That I am all threadbare and old;
  The very sun looks on me now
  As one dead, forgotten, and cold.
  Once I'd a place where I could rest.
  And love, for then I was free;
  That place was my Mary's dear breast
  And hope was still left unto me.

  The Spring comes brighter day by day,
  And brighter flowers appear,
  And though she long has kept away
  Her name is ever dear.
  Then leave me still the meadow flowers,
  Where daffies blaze and shine;
  Give but the Spring's young hawthorn bower,
  For then sweet Mary's mine.


  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 o' 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 sight;
  In the cowslip pips I lie,
  In the rain 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.


  Come, gentle Spring, and show thy varied greens
  In woods, and fields, and meadows, by clear brooks;
  Come, gentle Spring, and bring thy sweetest scenes,
  Where peace, with solitude, the loveliest looks;
  Where the blue unclouded sky
  Spreads the sweetest canopy,
  And Study wiser grows without her books.

  Come hither, gentle May, and with thee bring
  Flowers of all colours, and the wild briar rose;
  Come in wind-floating drapery, and bring
  Fragrance and bloom, that Nature's love bestows--
  Meadow pinks and columbines,
  Kecksies white and eglantines,
  And music of the bee that seeks the rose.

  Come, gentle Spring, and bring thy choicest looks,
  Thy bosom graced with flowers, thy face with smiles;
  Come, gentle Spring, and trace thy wandering brooks,
  Through meadow gates, o'er footpath crooked stiles;
  Come in thy proud and best array,
  April dews and flowers of May,
  And singing birds that come where heaven smiles.


  In the meadow's silk grasses we see the black snail,
  Creeping out at the close of the eve, sipping dew,
  While even's one star glitters over the vale,
  Like a lamp hung outside of that temple of blue.
  I walk with my true love adown the green vale,
  The light feathered grasses keep tapping her shoe;
  In the whitethorn the nightingale sings her sweet tale,
  And the blades of the grasses are sprinkled with dew.

  If she stumbles I catch her and cling to her neck,
  As the meadow-sweet kisses the blush of the rose:
  Her whisper none hears, and the kisses I take
  The mild voice of even will never disclose.
  Her hair hung in ringlets adown her sweet cheek,
  That blushed like the rose in the hedge hung with dew;
  Her whisper was fragrance, her face was so meek--
  The dove was the type on't that from the bush flew.


  Swift goes the sooty swallow o'er the heath,
  Swifter than skims the cloud-rack of the skies;
  As swiftly flies its shadow underneath,
  And on his wing the twittering sunbeam lies,
  As bright as water glitters in the eyes
  Of those it passes; 'tis a pretty thing,
  The ornament of meadows and clear skies:
  With dingy breast and narrow pointed wing,
  Its daily twittering is a song to Spring.


  "Will Jockey come to-day, mither?
  Will Jockey come to-day?
  He's taen sic likings to my brither
  He's sure to come the day."
  "Haud yer tongue, lass, mind your rockie;
  But th'other day ye wore a pockie.
  What can ye mean to think o' Jockey?
  Ye've bin content the season long,
  Ye'd best keep to your harmless song."

  "Ye'll soon see falling tears, mither,
  If love's a sin in youth;
  He leuks to me, and talks wi' brither,
  But I know the secret truth.
  He's courted me the year, mither;
  Judge not the matter queer, mither;
  Ye're a' the while as dear, mither,
  As ye've been the Summer long.
  I cannot sing my song.

  I'll hear nae farder preaching, mither;
  I'se bin a child ower lang;
  He led me frae the teaching, mither,
  Ann wherefore did he wrang?
  I ken he often tauks wi' brither;
  I neither look at ane or 'tither;
  You ken as well as I, mither,
  There's nae love in my song,
  Though I've sang the Summer long."

  "Nae, dinna be sae saucy, lassie,
  I may be kenned ye ill.
  If love has taen the hold, lassie,
  There's nae cure i' the pill."
  "Nae, I dinna want a pill, mither;
  He leuks at me and tauks to ither;
  And twice we've bin at kirk thegither.
  I'm 's well now as a' Summer long,
  But somehew cauna sing a song.

  He comes and talks to brither, mither,
  But leuks his thoughts at me;
  He always says gude neet to brither,
  And looks gude neet to me."
  "Lassie, ye seldom vexed yer mither;
  Ye're ower too fair a flower to wither;
  So be ye are to come thegither,
  I'll be nae damp to yer new claes;
  Cheer up and sing o'er 'Loggan braes.'"

  Jockey comes o' Sabbath days,
  His face is not a face o'er brassy;
  Her mither sits to praise the claes;
  Holds him her box; to win the lassie
  He taks a pinch, and greets wi' granny,
  And helps his chair up nearer Jenny,
  And vows he loves her muir than any.
  She thinks her mither seldom wrong,
  And "Loggan braes" is her daily song.


  Sweet is the violet, th' scented pea,
  Haunted by red-legged, sable bee,
  But sweeter far than all to me
  Is she I love so dearly;
  Than perfumed pea and sable bee,
  The face I love so dearly.

  Sweeter than hedgerow violets blue,
  Than apple blossoms' streaky hue,
  Or black-eyed bean-flower blebbed with dew
  Is she I love so dearly;
  Than apple flowers or violets blue
  Is she I love so dearly.

  Than woodbine upon branches thin,
  The clover flower, all sweets within,
  Which pensive bees do gather in,
  Three times as sweet, or nearly,
  Is the cheek, the eye, the lip, the chin
  Of her I love so dearly.


  A beanfield full in blossom smells as sweet
  As Araby, or groves of orange flowers;
  Black-eyed and white, and feathered to one's feet,
  How sweet they smell in morning's dewy hours!
  When seething night is left upon the flowers,
  And when morn's sun shines brightly o'er the field,
  The bean bloom glitters in the gems of showers,
  And sweet the fragrance which the union yields
  To battered footpaths crossing o'er the fields.


  I saw her crop a rose
  Right early in the day,
  And I went to kiss the place
  Where she broke the rose away;
  And I saw the patten rings
  Where she o'er the stile had gone,
  And I love all other things
  Her bright eyes look upon.
  If she looks upon the hedge or up the leafing tree,
  That whitethorn or the brown oak are made dearer things to me.

  I have a pleasant hill
  Which I sit upon for hours,
  Where she crop't some sprigs of thyme
  And other little flowers;
  And she muttered as she did it
  As does beauty in a dream,
  And I loved her when she hid it
  On her breast, so like to cream,
  Near the brown mole on her neck that to me a diamond shone;
  Then my eye was like to fire, and my heart was like to stone.

  There is a small green place
  Where cowslips early curled,
  Which on Sabbath day I traced,
  The dearest in the world.
  A little oak spreads o'er it,
  And throws a shadow round,
  A green sward close before it,
  The greenest ever found:
  There is not a woodland nigh nor is there a green grove,
  Yet stood the fair maid nigh me and told me all her love.


  Young Jenny wakens at the dawn,
  Fresh as carnations newly blown,
  And o'er the pasture every morn
  Goes milking o' the kye.
  She sings her songs of happy glee,
  While round her swirls the humble bee;
  The butterfly, from tree to tree,
  Goes gaily flirting by.

  Young Jenny was a bonny thing
  As ever wakened in the Spring,
  And blythe she to herself could sing
  At milking o' the kye.
  She loved to hear the old crows croak
  Upon the ash tree and the oak,
  And noisy pies that almost spoke
  At milking o' the kye.

  She crop't the wild thyme every night,
  Scenting so sweet the dewy light,
  And hid it in her breast so white
  At milking o' the kye.
  I met and clasped her in my arms,
  The finest flower on twenty farms;
  Her snow-white breast my fancy warms
  At milking o' the kye.


  Scenes of love and days of pleasure,
  I must leave them all, lassie.
  Scenes of love and hours of leisure,
  All are gone for aye, lassie.
  No more thy velvet-bordered dress
  My fond and longing een shall bless,
  Thou lily in the wilderness;
  And who shall love thee then, lassie?
  Long I've watched thy look so tender,
  Often clasped thy waist so slender:
  Heaven, in thine own love defend her,
  God protect my own lassie.

  By all the faith I've shown afore thee,
  I'll swear by more than that, lassie:
  By heaven and earth I'll still adore thee,
  Though we should part for aye, lassie!
  By thy infant years so loving,
  By thy woman's love so moving,
  That white breast thy goodness proving,
  I'm thine for aye, through all, lassie!
  By the sun that shines for ever,
  By love's light and its own Giver,
  Who loveth truth and leaveth never,
  I'm thine for aye, through all, lassie!


  The Autumn's come again,
  And the clouds descend in rain,
  And the leaves are fast falling in the wood;
  The Summer's voice is still,
  Save the clacking of the mill
  And the lowly-muttered thunder of the flood.

  There's nothing in the mead
  But the river's muddy speed,
  And the willow leaves all littered by its side.
  Sweet voices are all still
  In the vale and on the hill,
  And the Summer's blooms are withered in their pride.

  Fled is the cuckoo's note
  To countries far remote,
  And the nightingale is vanished from the woods;
  If you search the lordship round
  There is not a blossom found,
  And where the hay-cock scented is the flood.

  My true love's fled away
  Since we walked 'mid cocks of hay,
  On the Sabbath in the Summer of the year;
  And she's nowhere to be seen
  On the meadow or the green,
  But she's coming when the happy Spring is near.

  When the birds begin to sing,
  And the flowers begin to spring,
  And the cowslips in the meadows reappear,
  When the woodland oaks are seen
  In their monarchy of green,
  Then Mary and love's pleasures will be here.


  I love the fitful gust that shakes
  The casement all the day,
  And from the glossy elm tree takes
  The faded leaves away,
  Twirling them by the window pane
  With thousand others down the lane.

  I love to see the shaking twig
  Dance till the shut of eve,
  The sparrow on the cottage rig,
  Whose chirp would make believe
  That Spring was just now flirting by,
  In Summer's lap with flowers to lie.

  I love to see the cottage smoke
  Curl upwards through the trees,
  The pigeons nestled round the cote
  On November days like these;
  The cock upon the dunghill crowing,
  The mill sails on the heath a-going.

  The feather from the raven's breast
  Falls on the stubble lea,
  The acorns near the old crow's nest
  Drop pattering down the tree;
  The grunting pigs, that wait for all,
  Scramble and hurry where they fall.


  The Spring of life is o'er with me,
  And love and all gone by;
  Like broken bough upon yon tree,
  I'm left to fade and die.
  Stern ruin seized my home and me,
  And desolate's my cot:
  Ruins of halls, the blasted tree,
  Are emblems of my lot.

  I lived and loved, I woo'd and won,
  Her love was all to me,
  But blight fell o'er that youthful one,
  And like a blasted tree
  I withered, till I all forgot
  But Mary's smile on me;
  She never lived where love was not,
  And I from bonds was free.

  The Spring it clothed the fields with pride,
  When first we met together;
  And then unknown to all beside
  We loved in sunny weather;
  We met where oaks grew overhead,
  And whitethorns hung with may;
  Wild thyme beneath her feet was spread,
  And cows in quiet lay.

  I thought her face was sweeter far
  Than aught I'd seen before--
  As simple as the cowslips are
  Upon the rushy moor:
  She seemed the muse of that sweet spot,
  The lady of the plain,
  And all was dull where she was not,
  Till we met there again.


  'T is evening: the black snail has got on his track,
  And gone to its nest is the wren,
  And the packman snail, too, with his home on his back,
  Clings to the bowed bents like a wen.

  The shepherd has made a rude mark with his foot
  Where his shadow reached when he first came,
  And it just touched the tree where his secret love cut
  Two letters that stand for love's name.

  The evening comes in with the wishes of love,
  And the shepherd he looks on the flowers,
  And thinks who would praise the soft song of the dove,
  And meet joy in these dew-falling hours.

  For Nature is love, and finds haunts for true love,
  Where nothing can hear or intrude;
  It hides from the eagle and joins with the dove,
  In beautiful green solitude.


  Here's a valentine nosegay for Mary,
  Some of Spring's earliest flowers;
  The ivy is green by the dairy,
  And so are these laurels of ours.
  Though the snow fell so deep and the winter was dreary,
  The laurels are green and the sparrows are cheery.

  The snowdrops in bunches grow under the rose,
  And aconites under the lilac, like fairies;
  The best in the bunches for Mary I chose,
  Their looks are as sweet and as simple as Mary's.
  The one will make Spring in my verses so bare,
  The other set off as a braid thy dark hair.

  Pale primroses, too, at the old parlour end,
  Have bloomed all the winter 'midst snows cold and dreary,
  Where the lavender-cotton kept off the cold wind,
  Now to shine in my valentine nosegay for Mary;
  And appear in my verses all Summer, and be
  A memento of fondness and friendship for thee.

  Here's the crocus half opened, that spreads into gold,
  Like branches of sunbeams left there by a fairy:
  I place them as such in these verses so cold,
  But they'll bloom twice as bright in the presence of Mary,
  These garden flowers crop't, I will go to the field,
  And see what the valley and pasture land yield.

  Here peeps the pale primrose from the skirts of the wild wood,
  And violet blue 'neath the thorn on the green;
  The wild flowers we plucked in the days of our childhood,
  On the very same spot, as no changes have been--
  In the very same place where the sun kissed the leaves,
  And the woodbine its branches of thorns interweaves.

  And here in the pasture, all swarming with rushes,
  Is a cowslip as blooming and forward as Spring;
  And the pilewort like sunshine grows under the bushes,
  While the chaffinch there sitting is trying to sing;
  And the daisies are coming, called "stars of the earth,"
  To bring to the schoolboy his Springtime of mirth.

  Here, then, is the nosegay: how simple it shines!
  It speaks without words to the ear and the eye;
  The flowers of the Spring are the best valentines;
  They are young, fair, and simple, and pleasingly shy.
  That you may remain so and your love never vary,
  I send you these flowers as a valentine, Mary.


  O spirit of the wind and sky,
  Where doth thy harp neglected lie?
  Is there no heart thy bard to be,
  To wake that soul of melody?
  Is liberty herself a slave?
  No! God forbid it! On, ye brave!

  I've loved thee as the common air,
  And paid thee worship everywhere:
  In every soil beneath the sun
  Thy simple song my heart has won.
  And art thou silent? Still a slave?
  And thy sons living? On, ye brave!

  Gather on mountain and on plain!
  Make gossamer the iron chain!
  Make prison walls as paper screen,
  That tyrant maskers may be seen!
  Let earth as well as heaven be free!
  So, on, ye brave, for liberty!

  I've loved thy being from a boy:
  The Highland hills were once my joy:
  Then morning mists did round them lie,
  Like sunshine in the happiest sky.
  The hills and valley seemed my own,
  When Scottish land was freedom's throne

  And Scottish land is freedom's still:
  Her beacon fires, on every hill,
  Have told, in characters of flame,
  Her ancient birthright to her fame.
  A thousand hills will speak again,
  In fire, that language ever plain

  To sychophants and fawning knaves,
  That Scotland ne'er was made for slaves!
  Each fruitful vale, each mountain throne,
  Is ruled by Nature's laws alone;
  And nought but falsehood's poisoned breath
  Will urge the claymore from its sheath.

  O spirit of the wind and sky,
  Where doth thy harp neglected lie?
  Is there no harp thy bard to be,
  To wake that soul of melody?
  Is liberty herself a slave?
  No! God forbid it! On, ye brave!


  The Autumn day now fades away,
  The fields are wet and dreary;
  The rude storm takes the flowers of May,
  And Nature seemeth weary;
  The partridge coveys, shunning fate,
  Hide in the bleaching stubble,
  And many a bird, without its mate,
  Mourns o'er its lonely trouble.

  On hawthorns shine the crimson haw,
  Where Spring brought may-day blossoms:
  Decay is Nature's cheerless law--
  Life's Winter in our bosoms.
  The fields are brown and naked all,
  The hedges still are green,
  But storms shall come at Autumn's fall,
  And not a leaf be seen.

  Yet happy love, that warms the heart
  Through darkest storms severe,
  Keeps many a tender flower to start
  When Spring shall re-appear.
  Affection's hope shall roses meet,
  Like those of Summer bloom,
  And joys and flowers shall be as sweet
  In seasons yet to come.


  Sweet Summer, breathe your softest gales
  To charm my lover's ear:
  Ye zephyrs, tell your choicest tales
  Where'er she shall appear;
  And gently wave the meadow grass
  Where soft she sets her feet,
  For my love is a country lass,
  And bonny as she's sweet.

  The hedges only seem to mourn,
  The willow boughs to sigh,
  Though sunshine o'er the meads sojourn,
  To cheer me where I lie:
  The blackbird in the hedgerow thorn
  Sings loud his Summer lay;
  He seems to sing, both eve and morn,
  "She wanders here to-day."

  The skylark in the summer cloud
  One cheering anthem sings,
  And Mary often wanders out
  To watch his trembling wings.

       *       *       *       *       *

  I'll wander down the river way,
  And wild flower posies make,
  For Nature whispers all the day
  She can't her promise break.
  The meads already wear a smile,
  The river runs more bright,
  For down the path and o'er the stile
  The maiden comes in sight.

  The scene begins to look divine;
  We'll by the river walk.
  Her arm already seems in mine,
  And fancy hears her talk.
  A vision, this, of early love:
  The meadow, river, rill,
  Scenes where I walked with Mary Dove,
  Are in my memory still.


  The prim daisy's golden eye
  On the fallow land doth lie,
  Though the Spring is just begun:
  Pewits watch it all the day,
  And the skylark's nest of hay
  Is there by its dried leaves in the sun.

  There the pilewort, all in gold,
  'Neath the ridge of finest mould,
  Blooms to cheer the ploughman's eye:
  There the mouse his hole hath made,
  And 'neath the golden shade
  Hides secure when the hawk is prowling by.

  Here's the speedwell's sapphire blue:
  Was there anything more true
  To the vernal season still?
  Here it decks the bank alone,
  Where the milkmaid throws a stone
  At noon, to cross the rapid, flooded rill.

  Here the cowslip, chill with cold,
  On the rushy bed behold,
  It looks for sunshine all the day.
  Here the honey bee will come,
  For he has no sweets at home;
  Then quake his weary wing and fly away.

  And here are nameless flowers,
  Culled in cold and rawky hours
  For my Mary's happy home.
  They grew in murky blea,
  Rush fields and naked lea,
  But suns will shine and pleasing Spring will come.


  I seek her in the shady grove,
  And by the silent stream;
  I seek her where my fancies rove,
  In many a happy dream;
  I seek her where I find her not,
  In Spring and Summer weather:
  My thoughts paint many a happy spot,
  But we ne'er meet together.

  The trees and bushes speak my choice,
  And in the Summer shower
  I often hear her pleasant voice,
  In many a silent hour:
  I see her in the Summer brook,
  In blossoms sweet and fair;
  In every pleasant place I look
  My fancy paints her there.

  The wind blows through the forest trees,
  And cheers the pleasant day;
  There her sweet voice is sure to be
  To lull my cares away.
  The very hedges find a voice,
  So does the gurgling rill;
  But still the object of my choice
  Is lost and absent still.


  And has the Spring's all glorious eye
  No lesson to the mind?
  The birds that cleave the golden sky--
  Things to the earth resigned--
  Wild flowers that dance to every wind--
  Do they no memory leave behind?

  Aye, flowers! The very name of flowers,
  That bloom in wood and glen,
  Brings Spring to me in Winter's hours,
  And childhood's dreams again.
  The primrose on the woodland lea
  Was more than gold and lands to me.

  The violets by the woodland side
  Are thick as they could thrive;
  I've talked to them with childish pride
  As things that were alive:
  I find them now in my distress--
  They seem as sweet, yet valueless.

  The cowslips on the meadow lea,
  How have I run for them!
  I looked with wild and childish glee
  Upon each golden gem:
  And when they bowed their heads so shy
  I laughed, and thought they danced for joy.

  And when a man, in early years,
  How sweet they used to come,
  And give me tales of smiles and tears,
  And thoughts more dear than home:
  Secrets which words would then reprove--
  They told the names of early love.

  The primrose turned a babbling flower
  Within its sweet recess:
  I blushed to see its secret bower,
  And turned her name to bless.
  The violets said the eyes were blue:
  I loved, and did they tell me true?

  The cowslips, blooming everywhere,
  My heart's own thoughts could steal:
  I nip't them that they should not hear:
  They smiled, and would reveal;
  And o'er each meadow, right or wrong,
  They sing the name I've worshipped long.

  The brook that mirrored clear the sky--
  Full well I know the spot;
  The mouse-ear looked with bright blue eye,
  And said "Forget-me-not."
  And from the brook I turned away,
  But heard it many an after day.

  The king-cup on its slender stalk,
  Within the pasture dell,
  Would picture there a pleasant walk
  With one I loved so well.
  It said "How sweet at eventide
  'T would be, with true love at thy side."

  And on the pasture's woody knoll
  I saw the wild bluebell,
  On Sundays where I used to stroll
  With her I loved so well:
  She culled the flowers the year before;
  These bowed, and told the story o'er.

  And every flower that had a name
  Would tell me who was fair;
  But those without, as strangers, came
  And blossomed silent there:
  I stood to hear, but all alone:
  They bloomed and kept their thoughts unknown.

  But seasons now have nought to say,
  The flowers no news to bring:
  Alone I live from day to day--
  Flowers deck the bier of Spring;
  And birds upon the bush or tree
  All sing a different tale to me.


  Although I'm in prison
  Thy song is uprisen,
  Thou'rt singing away to the feathery cloud,
  In the blueness of morn,
  Over fields of green corn,
  With a song sweet and trilling, and rural and loud.

  When the day is serenest,
  When the corn is the greenest,
  Thy bosom mounts up and floats in the light,
  And sings in the sun,
  Like a vision begun
  Of pleasure, of love, and of lonely delight.

  The daisies they whiten
  Plains the sunbeams now brighten,
  And warm thy snug nest where thy russet eggs lie,
  From whence thou'rt now springing,
  And the air is now ringing,
  To show that the minstrel of Spring is on high.

  The cornflower is blooming,
  The cowslip is coming,
  And many new buds on the silken grass lie:
  On the earth's shelt'ring breast
  Thou hast left thy brown nest,
  And art towering above it, a speck in the sky.

  Thou'rt the herald of sunshine,
  And the soft dewy moonshine
  Gilds sweetly the sleep of thy brown speckled breast:
  Thou'rt the bard of the Spring,
  On thy brown russet wing,
  And of each grassy close thou'rt the poet and guest.

  There's the violet confiding,
  In the mossy wood riding,
  And primrose beneath the old thorn in the glen,
  And the daisies that bed
  In the sheltered homestead--
  Old friends with old faces, I see them again.

  And thou, feathered poet,
  I see thee, and know it--
  Thou'rt one of the minstrels that cheered me last Spring:
  With Nature thou'rt blest,
  And green grass round thy nest
  Will keep thee still happy to mount up and sing.


  Poets love Nature, and themselves are love.
  Though scorn of fools, and mock of idle pride.
  The vile in nature worthless deeds approve,
  They court the vile and spurn all good beside.
  Poets love Nature; like the calm of Heaven,
  Like Heaven's own love, her gifts spread far and wide:
  In all her works there are no signs of leaven
  *  *  *  *

  Her flowers  *  *  *  *
  They are her very Scriptures upon earth,
  And teach us simple mirth where'er we go.
  Even in prison they can solace me,
  For where they bloom God is, and I am free.


  O for that sweet, untroubled rest
  That poets oft have sung!--
  The babe upon its mother's breast,
  The bird upon its young,
  The heart asleep without a pain--
  When shall I know that sleep again?

  When shall I be as I have been
  Upon my mother's breast--
  Sweet Nature's garb of verdant green
  To woo to perfect rest--
  Love in the meadow, field, and glen,
  And in my native wilds again?

  The sheep within the fallow field,
  The herd upon the green,
  The larks that in the thistle shield,
  And pipe from morn to e'en--
  O for the pasture, fields, and fen!
  When shall I see such rest again?

  I love the weeds along the fen,
  More sweet than garden flowers,
  For freedom haunts the humble glen
  That blest my happiest hours.
  Here prison injures health and me:
  I love sweet freedom and the free.

  The crows upon the swelling hills,
  The cows upon the lea,
  Sheep feeding by the pasture rills,
  Are ever dear to me,
  Because sweet freedom is their mate,
  While I am lone and desolate.

  I loved the winds when I was young,
  When life was dear to me;
  I loved the song which Nature sung,
  Endearing liberty;
  I loved the wood, the vale, the stream,
  For there my boyhood used to dream.

  There even toil itself was play;
  'T was pleasure e'en to weep;
  'T was joy to think of dreams by day,
  The beautiful of sleep.
  When shall I see the wood and plain,
  And dream those happy dreams again?


  The Spring is come forth, but no Spring is for me
  Like the Spring of my boyhood on woodland and lea,
  When flowers brought me heaven and knew me again,
  In the joy of their blooming o'er mountain and plain.
  My thoughts are confined and imprisoned: O when
  Will freedom find me my own valleys again?

  The wind breathes so sweet, and the day is so calm;
  In the woods and the thicket the flowers look so warm;
  And the grass is so green, so delicious and sweet;
  O when shall my manhood my youth's valleys meet--
  The scenes where my children are laughing at play--
  The scenes that from memory are fading away?

  The primrose looks happy in every field;
  In strange woods the violets their odours will yield,
  And flowers in the sunshine, all brightly arrayed,
  Will bloom just as fresh and as sweet in the shade,
  But the wild flowers that bring me most joy and content
  Are the blossoms that glow where my childhood was spent.

  The trees are all naked, the bushes are bare,
  And the fields are as brown as if Winter was there;
  But the violets are there by the dykes and the dell,
  Where I played "hen and chickens" and heard the church bell,
  Which called me to prayer-book and sermons in vain:
  O when shall I see my own valleys again?

  The churches look bright as the sun at noon-day;
  There the meadows look green ere the winter's away;
  There the pooty still lies for the schoolboy to find,
  And a thought often brings these sweet places to mind;
  Where trees waved and wind moaned; no music so well:
  There nought sounded harsh but the school-calling bell.

  There are spots where I played, there are spots where I loved,
  There are scenes where the tales of my choice where approved,
  As green as at first, and their memory will be
  The dearest of life's recollections to me.
  The objects seen there, in the care of my heart,
  Are as fair as at first, and will never depart.

  Though no names are mentioned to sanction my themes,
  Their hearts beat with mine, and make real my dreams;
  Their memories with mine their diurnal course run,
  True as night to the stars and as day to the sun;
  And as they are now so their memories will be,
  While sense, truth, and reason remain here with me.


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

  Love lives in sleep:
  'T is happiness of healthy dreams:
  Eve's dews may weep,
  But love delightful seems.

  'T is seen in flowers,
  And in the morning's pearly dew;
  In earth's green hours,
  And in the heaven's eternal blue.

  'T is heard in Spring,
  When light and sunbeams, warm and kind,
  On angel's wing
  Bring love and music to the mind.

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

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


  Here sparrows build upon the trees,
  And stockdove hides her nest;
  The leaves are winnowed by the breeze
  Into a calmer rest;
  The black-cap's song was very sweet,
  That used the rose to kiss;
  It made the Paradise complete:
  My early home was this.

  The red-breast from the sweetbriar bush
  Drop't down to pick the worm;
  On the horse-chestnut sang the thrush,
  O'er the house where I was born;
  The moonlight, like a shower of pearls,
  Fell o'er this "bower of bliss,"
  And on the bench sat boys and girls:
  My early home was this.

  The old house stooped just like a cave,
  Thatched o'er with mosses green;
  Winter around the walls would rave,
  But all was calm within;
  The trees are here all green agen,
  Here bees the flowers still kiss,
  But flowers and trees seemed sweeter then:
  My early home was this.


  I look upon the hedgerow flower,
  I gaze upon the hedgerow tree,
  I walk alone the silent hour,
  And think of Mary Appleby.
  I see her in the brimming streams,
  I see her in the gloaming hour,
  I hear her in my Summer dreams
  Of singing bird and blooming flower.

  For Mary is the dearest bird,
  And Mary is the sweetest flower,
  That in Spring bush was ever heard--
  That ever bloomed on bank or bower.
  O bonny Mary Appleby!
  The sun did never sweeter shine
  Than when in youth I courted thee,
  And, dreaming, fancied you'd be mine.

  The lark above the meadow sings,
  Wood pigeons coo in ivied trees,
  The butterflies, on painted wings,
  Dance daily with the meadow bees.
  All Nature is in happy mood,
  The sueing breeze is blowing free.
  And o'er the fields, and by the wood,
  I think of Mary Appleby.

  O bonny Mary Appleby;
  My once dear Mary Appleby!
  A crown of gold thy own should be,
  My handsome Mary Appleby!
  Thy face is like the Summer rose,
  Its maiden bloom is all divine,
  And more than all the world bestows
  I'd give had Mary e'er been mine.


  Among the green bushes the songs of the thrushes
  Are answering each other in music and glee,
  While the magpies and rooks, in woods, hedges, near brooks,
  Mount their Spring dwellings on every high tree.
  There meet me at eve, love, we'll on grassy banks lean love,
  And crop a white branch from the scented may tree,
  Where the silver brook wimples and the rosy cheek dimples,
  Sweet will the time of that courting hour be.

  We'll notice wild flowers, love, that grow by thorn bowers, love,
  Though sinful to crop them now beaded with dew;
  The violet is thine, love, the primrose is mine, love,
  To Spring and each other so blooming and true.
  With dewdrops all beaded, the feather grass seeded,
  The cloud mountains turn to dark woods in the sky;
  The daisy bud closes, while sleep the hedge roses;
  There's nothing seems wakeful but you love and I.

  Larks sleep in the rushes, linnets perch on the bushes,
  While mag's on her nest with her tail peeping out;
  The moon it reveals her, yet she thinks night conceals her,
  Though birdnesting boys are not roving about.
  The night winds won't wrong her, nor aught that belong her,
  For night is the nurse of all Nature in sleep;
  The moon, love, is keeping a watch o'er the sleeping,
  And dews for real pleasure do nothing but weep.

  Among the green bushes we'll sit with the thrushes,
  And blackbirds and linnets, an hour or two long,
  That are up at the dawning, by times in the morning,
  To cheer thee when milking with music and song.
  Then come at the eve, love, and where the banks lean, love,
  By the brook that flows on in its dribbles of song;
  While the moon looks so pale, love, and the trees look so hale,
  I will tell thee a tale, love, an hour or two long.


  The lark's in the sky, love,
  The flowers on the lea,
  The whitethorn's in bloom, love,
  To please thee and me;
  'Neath its shade we can rest, love,
  And sit on the hill,
  And as last we met, love,
  Enjoy the Spring still.

  The Spring is for lovers,
  The Spring is for joy:
  O'er the moor, where the plovers
  Whirr, startled, and cry,
  We'll seek the white hawthorn, love,
  And sit on the hill;
  In the sweet sunny morn, love,
  We'll be lovers still;

  Where the partridge is craking
  From morning to e'en,
  In the wheat lands awaking,
  The sprouts young and green,
  Where the brook dribbles past, love,
  Down the willowy glen,
  And as we met last, love,
  Be lovers again.

  The lark's in the grass, love,
  A-building her nest;
  And the brook's running fast, love,
  'Neath the carrion-crow's nest:
  There the wild woodbines twine, love;
  And, till the day's gone,
  Sun's set, and stars shine, love,
  I'll call thee my own.


  The Old Year's gone away
  To nothingness and night:
  We cannot find him all the day,
  Nor hear him in the night:
  He left no footstep, mark, or place,
  In either shade or sun:
  The last year he'd a neighbour's face,
  In this he's known by none.

  All nothing everywhere:
  Mists we on mornings see
  Have more of substance when they're here
  And more of form than he.
  He was a friend by every fire,
  In every cot and hall--
  A guest to every heart's desire,
  And now he's nought at all.

  Old papers thrown away,
  Old garments cast aside,
  The talk of yesterday,
  Are things identified;
  But time once torn away
  No voices can recall:
  The eve of New Year's Day
  Left the Old Year lost to all.



  Upon a day, a merry day,
  When summer in her best,
  Like Sunday belles, prepares for play,
  And joins each merry guest,
  A maid, as wild as is a bird
  That never knew a cage,
  Went out her parents' kine to herd,
  And Jocky, as her page,

  Must needs go join her merry toils;
  A silly shepherd he,
  And little thought the aching broils
  That in his heart would be;
  For he as yet knew nought of love,
  And nought of love knew she;
  Yet without learning love can move
  The wildest to agree.

  The wind, enamoured of the maid,
  Around her drapery swims,
  And moulds in luscious masquerade
  Her lovely shape and limbs.
  Smith's "Venus stealing Cupid's bow"
  In marble hides as fine;
  But hers were life and soul, whose glow
  Makes meaner things divine.

  In sooth she was a lovely toy--
  A worship-moving thing
  As ever brought the season joy,
  Or beautified the Spring;
  So sweet a thing no heart might hurt,
  Gay as a butterfly;
  Tho' Cupid chased 'twas half in sport--
  He meant not to destroy.

  When speaking, words with breathing grace
  Her sweet lips seeming wooed,
  Pausing to leave so sweet a place
  Ere they could part for good--
  Those lips that pouted from her face,
  As the wild rose bursts the bud
  Which June, so eager to embrace,
  Tempts from beneath its hood.

  Her eyes, like suns, did seem to light
  The beauties of her face,
  Suffusing all her forehead white
  And cheeks of rosy grace,
  Her bosom swelled to pillows large,
  Till her so taper waist
  Scarce able seemed to bear the charge
  Of each lawn-bursting breast.

  A very flower! how she did shine.
  Her beauty all displaying!
  In truth this modern Proserpine
  Might set the angels maying,
  As, like a fairy mid the flowers,
  She flew to this, now that;
  And some she braided in her hair--
  Some wreathed within her hat.

  Then oft she skipt, in bowers to hide,
  By Cupid led, I ween,
  Putting her bosom's lawn aside,
  To place some thyme at ween.
  The shepherd saw her skin so white--
  Two twin suns newly risen:
  Tho' love had chained him there till night,
  Who would have shunned the prison?

  Then off again she skipt, and flew
  With foot so light and little
  That Cinderella's fancy shoe
  Had fit her to a tittle.
  The shepherd's heart, like playing coal,
  Beat as 't would leave the socket:
  He sighed, but thought it, silly fool,
  The watch within his pocket.

  But bold in love grow silly sheep,
  And so right bold grew he;
  He ran; she fled; and at bo-peep
  She met him round a tree.
  A thorn, enamoured like the swain.
  Caught at her lily arm.
  And then good faith, to ease her pain,
  Love had a double charm.

  She sighed; he wished it well, I wis;
  The place was sadly swollen;
  And then he took a willing kiss,
  And made believe 't was stolen;
  Then made another make-believe,
  Till thefts grew past concealing,
  For when love once begins to thieve
  There grows no end to stealing.

  They played and toyed till down the skies
  The sun had taken flight,
  And still a sun was in her eyes
  To keep away the night;
  And there he talked of love so well,
  Or else he talked so ill,
  That soon the priest was sought to tell
  The story better still.



  I met thee like the morning, though more fair,
  And hopes 'gan travel for a glorious day;
  And though night met them ere they were aware,
  Leading the joyous pilgrims all astray,
  Yet know I not, though they did miss their way,
  That joyed so much to meet thee, if they are
  To blame or bless the fate that bade such be.
  Thou seem'dst an angel when I met thee first,
  Nor has aught made thee otherwise to me:
  Possession has not cloyed my love, nor curst
  Fancy's wild visions with reality.
  Thou art an angel still; and Hope, awoke
  From the fond spell that early raptures nurst,
  Still feels a joy to think that spell ne'er broke.


  The flower that's gathered beauty soon forsakes;
  The bliss grows feeble as we gain the prize;
  Love dreams of joy, and in possession wakes,
  Scarce time enough to hail it ere it dies:
  Life intermingles, with its cares and sighs,
  And rapture's dreams are ended. Heavenly flower!
  It is not so with thee! Still fancy's power
  Throws rainbow halos round thee, and thine eyes,
  That once did steal their sapphire blue from even,
  Are beaming on; thy cheeks' bewitching dye,
  Where partial roses all their blooms had given,
  Still in fond memory with the rose can vie;
  And thy sweet bosom, which to view was heaven,
  No lily yet a fairer hue supplies.


[The reader has been made acquainted with the circumstances under
which this poem was written. It was included by Mr. J. H. Dixon in
his "Ballads and Songs of the Peasantry of England" (edited by Robert
Bell), with the following prefatory note:--

"The poem was, probably, as Clare supposes, written about the
commencement of the 18th century, and the unknown author appears to
have been deeply imbued with the spirit of the popular devotional
writers of the preceding century, as Herbert, Quarles, &c., but seems
to have modelled his smoother and more elegant versification after
that of the poetic school of his own times."

Montgomery's criticism on publishing it in the "Sheffield Iris" was
as follows:--

"Long as the poem appears to the eye, it will abundantly repay the
trouble of perusal, being full of condensed and admirable thought, as
well as diversified with exuberant imagery, and embellished with
peculiar felicity of language. The moral points in the closing
couplets of the stanzas are often powerfully enforced."]

"Vanity of vanities, all is vanity."--Solomon.

  What are life's joys and gains?
  What pleasures crowd its ways,
  That man should take such pains
  To seek them all his days?
  Sift this untoward strife
  On which the mind is bent:
  See if this chaff of life
  Is worth the trouble spent.

  Is pomp thy heart's desire?
  Is power thy climbing aim?
  Is love thy folly's fire?
  Is wealth thy restless game?
  Pomp, power, love, wealth, and all
  Time's touchstone shall destroy,
  And, like base coin, prove all
  Vain substitutes for joy.

  Dost think that pride exalts
  Thyself in other's eyes,
  And hides thy folly's faults,
  Which reason will despise?
  Dost strut, and turn, and stride,
  Like a walking weathercock?
  The shadow by thy side
  Will be thy ape, and mock.

  Dost think that power's disguise
  Can make thee mighty seem?
  It may in folly's eyes,
  But not in worth's esteem,
  When all that thou canst ask,
  And all that she can give,
  Is but a paltry mask
  Which tyrants wear and live.

  Go, let thy fancies range
  And ramble where they may;
  View power in every change,
  And what is the display?
  --The county magistrate,
  The lowest shade in power,
  To rulers of the state,
  The meteors of an hour:--

  View all, and mark the end
  Of every proud extreme,
  Where flattery turns a friend,
  And counterfeits esteem;
  Where worth is aped in show,
  That doth her name purloin,
  Like toys of golden glow
  Oft sold for copper coin.

  Ambition's haughty nod
  With fancies may deceive,
  Nay, tell thee thou'rt a god,
  And wilt thou such believe?
  Go, bid the seas be dry;
  Go, hold earth like a ball,
  Or throw her fancies by,
  For God can do it all.

  Dost thou possess the dower
  Of laws to spare or kill?
  Call it not heavenly power
  When but a tyrant's will,
  Think what thy God would do,
  And know thyself a fool,
  Nor, tyrant-like, pursue
  Where He alone can rule.

  Dost think, when wealth is won,
  Thy heart has its desire?
  Hold ice up to the sun,
  And wax before the fire;
  Nor triumph o'er the reign
  Which they so soon resign:
  Of this world weigh the gain,
  Insurance safe is thine.

  Dost think life's peace secure
  In houses and in land?
  Go, read the fairy lure,
  And twist a cord in sand;
  Lodge stones upon the sky,
  Hold water in a sieve,
  Nor give such tales the lie,
  And still thine own believe.

  Whoso with riches deals,
  And thinks peace bought and sold,
  Will find them slipping eels,
  That slide the firmest hold:
  Though sweet as sleep with health
  Thy lulling luck may be,
  Pride may o'erstride thy wealth,
  And check prosperity.

  Dost think that beauty's power
  Life sweetest pleasure gives?
  Go, pluck the summer flower,
  And see how long it lives:
  Behold, the rays glide on
  Along the summer plain
  Ere thou canst say they're gone:
  Know such is beauty's reign.

  Look on the brightest eye,
  Nor teach it to be proud;
  View next the clearest sky,
  And thou shalt find a cloud;
  Nor call each face ye meet
  An angel's, 'cause it's fair,
  But look beneath your feet,
  And think of what ye are.

  Who thinks that love doth live
  In beauty's tempting show,
  Shall find his hopes ungive,
  And melt in reason's thaw.
  Who thinks that pleasure lies
  In every fairy bower,
  Shall oft, to his surprise,
  Find poison in the flower.

  Dost lawless pleasures grasp?
  Judge not they'll bring thee joy:
  Their flowers but hide the asp,
  Whose poison will destroy.
  Who trusts a harlot's smile,
  And by her wiles is led,
  Plays, with a sword the while
  Hung dropping o'er his head.

  Dost doubt my warning song?
  Then doubt the sun gives light,
  Doubt truth to teach thee wrong,
  Think wrong alone is right;
  And live as lives the knave,
  Intrigue's deceiving guest;
  Be tyrant, or be slave,
  As suits thy ends the best.

  Or pause amid thy toils
  For visions won and lost,
  And count the fancied spoils,
  If e'er they quit the cost:
  And if they still possess
  Thy mind, as worthy things,
  Pick straws with Bedlam Bess,
  And call them diamond rings.

  Thy folly's past advice,
  Thy heart's already won,
  Thy fall's above all price,
  So go, and be undone;
  For all who thus prefer
  The seeming great for small
  Shall make wine vinegar,
  And sweetest honey gall.

  Would'st heed the truths I sing,
  To profit wherewithal,
  Clip folly's wanton wing,
  And keep her within call.
  I've little else to give,
  But thou canst easy try;
  The lesson how to live
  Is but to learn to die.


[From HONE'S "Year Book"]

  The insect world, now sunbeams higher climb,
  Oft dream of Spring, and wake before their time:
  Bees stroke their little legs across their wings,
  And venture short flights where the snow-drop hings
  Its silver bell, and winter aconite
  Its buttercup-like flowers that shut at night,
  With green leaf furling round its cup of gold,
  Like tender maiden muffled from the cold:
  They sip and find their honey-dreams are vain,
  Then feebly hasten to their hives again.
  The butterflies, by eager hopes undone,
  Glad as a child come out to greet the sun,
  Beneath the shadows of a sunny shower
  Are lost, nor see to-morrow's April flower.


  Youth has no fear of ill, by no cloudy days annoyed,
  But the old man's all hath fled, and his hopes have met their doom:
  The bud hath burst to flower, and the flower been long destroyed,
  The root also is withered; I no more can look for bloom.
  So I have said my say, and I have had my day,
  And sorrow, like a young storm, creeps dark upon my brow;
  Hopes, like to summer clouds, have all blown far away,
  And the world's sunny side is turned over with me now,
  And I am left a lame bird upon a withered bough.

  I look upon the past: 't is as black as winter days,
  But the worst is not yet over; there are blacker, days to come.
  O, I would I had but known of the wide world's many ways,
  But youth is ever blind, so I e'en must meet my doom.
  Joy once gave brightest forecasts of prospects that are past,
  But now, like a looking glass that's turned to the wall,
  Life is nothing but a blank, and the sunny shining past
  Is overcast in glooms that my every hope enthrall,
  While troubles daily thicken in the wind ere they fall.

  Life smiled upon me once, as the sun upon the rose;
  My heart, so free and open, guessed in every face a friend:
  Though the sweetest flower must fade, and the sweetest season
  Yet I never gave it thought that my happiness would end,
  Till the warmest-seeming friends grew the coldest at the close,
  As the sun from lonely night hides its haughty shining face,
  Yet I could not think them gone, for they turned not open foes,
  While memory fondly mused, former favours to retrace,
  So I turned, but only found that my shadow kept its place.

  And this is nought but common life, which everybody finds
  As well as I, or more's the luck of those that better speed.
  I'll mete my lot to bear with the lot of kindred minds,
  And grudge not those who say they for sorrow have no need.
  Why should I, when I know that it will not aid a nay?
  For Summer is the season; even then the little fly
  Finds friends enow, indeed, both for leisure and for play;
  But on the winter window it must crawl alone to die:
  Such is life, and such am I--a wounded, stricken fly.


  Bowing adorers of the gale,
  Ye cowslips delicately pale,
  Upraise your loaded stems;
  Unfold your cups in splendour; speak!
  Who decked you with that ruddy streak
  And gilt your golden gems?

  Violets, sweet tenants of the shade,
  In purple's richest pride arrayed,
  Your errand here fulfil;
  Go, bid the artist's simple stain
  Your lustre imitate--in vain--
  And match your Maker's skill.

  Daisies, ye flowers of lowly birth,
  Embroiderers of the carpet earth,
  That stud the velvet sod,
  Open to Spring's refreshing air,
  In sweetest smiling bloom declare
  Your Maker and your God.


[This poem, like that entitled "The Vanities of Life," is an
imitation. In his Diary, Clare says--

"Wednesday, July 27, 1825.

Received the 28th No. (June the 28th) of the 'Every-Day Book,' in
which is inserted a poem of mine which I sent under the assumed name
of James Gilderoy, from Sunfleet, as being the production of Andrew
Marvell, and printed in the 'Miscellanies' of the Spalding
Antiquaries (the members of the Spalding Club). I shall venture again
under another name after a while."

Hone accepted the contribution without detecting the disguise, but
Clare's next venture of the same description, "A Farewell and
Defiance to Love," which he says in his Diary, he "fathered on Sir
John Harrington," was unsuccessful.]

  Why should man's high aspiring mind
  Burn in him with so proud a breath,
  When all his haughty views can find
  In this world yields to Death?
  The fair, the brave, the vain, the wise,
  The rich, the poor, and great, and small,
  Are each but worm's anatomies
  To strew his quiet hall.

  Power may make many earthly gods,
  Where gold and bribery's guilt prevails,
  But Death's unwelcome, honest odds
  Kick o'er the unequal scales.
  The flatter'd great may clamours raise
  Of power, and their own weakness hide,
  But Death shall find unlooked-for ways
  To end the farce of pride.

  An arrow hurtel'd e'er so high,
  With e'en a giant's sinewy strength,
  In Time's untraced eternity
  Goes but a pigmy length;
  Nay, whirring from the tortured string,
  With all its pomp of hurried flight,
  'T is by the skylark's little wing
  Outmeasured in its height.

  Just so man's boasted strength and power
  Shall fade before Death's lightest stroke,
  Laid lower than the meanest flower,
  Whose pride o'er-top't the oak;
  And he who, like a blighting blast,
  Dispeopled worlds with war's alarms
  Shall be himself destroyed at last
  By poor despised worms.

  Tyrants in vain their powers secure,
  And awe slaves' murmurs with a frown,
  For unawed Death at last is sure
  To sap the Babels down.
  A stone thrown upward to the skye
  Will quickly meet the ground agen;
  So men-gods of earth's vanity
  Shall drop at last to men;

  And Power and Pomp their all resign,
  Blood-purchased thrones and banquet halls.
  Fate waits to sack Ambition's shrine
  As bare as prison walls,
  Where the poor suffering wretch bows down
  To laws a lawless power hath passed;
  And pride, and power, and king, and clown
  Shall be Death's slaves at last.

  Time, the prime minister of Death!
  There's nought can bribe his honest will.
  He stops the richest tyrant's breath
  And lays his mischief still.
  Each wicked scheme for power all stops,
  With grandeurs false and mock display,
  As eve's shades from high mountain tops
  Fade with the rest away.

  Death levels all things in his march;
  Nought can resist his mighty strength;
  The palace proud, triumphal arch,
  Shall mete its shadow's length.
  The rich, the poor, one common bed
  Shall find in the unhonoured grave,
  Where weeds shall grow alike o'er head
  Of tyrant and of slave.


  Young Chloe looks sweet as the rose,
  And her love might be reckoned no less,
  But her bosom so freely bestows
  That all may a portion possess.
  Her smiles would be cheering to see,
  But so freely they're lavished abroad
  That each silly swain, like to me,
  Can boast what the wanton bestowed.

  Her looks and her kisses so free
  Are for all, like the rain and the sky;
  As the blossom love is to the bee,
  Each swain is as welcome as I.
  And though I my folly can see,
  Yet still must I love and adore,
  Though I know the love whispered to me
  Has been told to so many before.

  'T is sad that a bosom so fair,
  And soft lips so seemingly sweet,
  Should study false ways, to ensnare,
  And breathe in their kisses deceit.
  But beauty's no guide to the best:
  The rose, that out-blushes the morn,
  While it tempts the glad eye to its breast,
  Will pierce the fond hand with a thorn.

  Yet still must I love, silly swain!
  And put up with all her deceit,
  And try to be jealous, in vain,
  For I cannot help thinking her sweet.
  I see other swains in her bower,
  And I sigh, and excuse what I see,
  While I say to myself, "Is the flower
  Any worse when it's kissed by the bee?"


  'T is pleasant to bear recollections in mind
  Of joys that time hurries away--
  To look back on smiles that have passed like the wind,
  And compare them with frowns of to-day.
  'T was the constant delight of Old Robin, forsooth,
  On the past with clear vision to dwell--
  To recount the fond loves and the raptures of youth,
  And tales of lost pleasures to tell.

  "'T is now many years," like a child, he would say,
  "Since I joined in the sports of the green--
  Since I tied up the flowers for the garland of May,
  And danced with the holiday queen.
  My memory looks backward in sorrowful pride,
  And I think, till my eyes dim with tears,
  Of the past, where my happiness withered and died,
  And the present dull, desolate years.

  I love to be counting, while sitting alone,
  With many a heart-aching sigh,
  How many a season has rapidly flown,
  And springs, with their summers, gone by,
  Since Susan the pride of the village was deemed,
  To whom youth's affections I gave;
  Whom I led to the church, and beloved and esteemed,
  And followed in grief to the grave.

  Life's changes for many hours musings supply;
  Both the past and the present appear;
  I mark how the years that remain hurry by,
  And feel that my last must be near.
  The youths that with me to man's summer did bloom
  Have dwindled away to old men,
  And maidens, like flowers of the Spring, have made room
  For many new blossoms since then.

  I have lived to see all but life's sorrows pass by,
  Leaving changes, and pains, and decay,
  Where nought is the same but the wide-spreading sky,
  And the sun that awakens the day.
  The green, where I tended my sheep when a boy,
  Has yielded its pride to the plough;
  And the shades where my infancy revelled in joy
  The axe has left desolate now.

  Yet a bush lingers still, that will urge me to stop--
  (What heart can such fancies withstand?)
  Where Susan once saw a bird's nest on the top,
  And I reached her the eggs with my hand:
  And so long since the day I remember so well,
  It has stretched to a sizable tree,
  And the birds yearly come in its branches to dwell,
  As far from a giant as me.

  On a favourite spot, by the side of a brook,
  When Susan was just in her pride,
  A ripe bunch of nuts from her apron she took,
  To plant as she sat by my side.
  They have grown up with years, and on many a bough
  Cluster nuts like their parents agen,
  Where shepherds no doubt have oft sought them ere now,
  To please other Susans since then.

  The joys that I knew when my youth was in prime,
  Like a dream that's half ended, are o'er;
  And the faces I knew in that changeable time
  Are met with the living no more.
  I have lived to see friends that I loved pass away
  With the pleasures their company gave:
  I have lived to see love, with my Susan, decay,
  And the grass growing green on her grave."


  Sweet, uncultivated blossom,
  Reared in Spring's refreshing dews,
  Dear to every gazer's bosom,
  Fair to every eye that views;--
  Opening bud, whose youth can charm us,
  Thine be many a happy hour:
  Spreading rose, whose beauties warm us--
  Flourish long, my lovely flower.

  Though pride look disdainful on thee,
  Scorning scenes so mean as thine,
  Although fortune frown upon thee,
  Lovely blossom, ne'er repine:
  Health unbought is ever with thee,
  Which their wealth can never gain;
  Innocence doth garments give thee,
  Such as fashion apes in vain.

  When fit time and reason grant thee
  Leave to quit the parent tree,
  May some happy hand transplant thee
  To a station suiting thee.
  On some lover's faithful bosom
  May'st thou then thy sweets resign;
  And may each unfolding blossom
  Open charms as sweet as thine.

  Till that time may joys unceasing
  Thy bard's every wish fulfil.
  When that's come may joys increasing
  Make thee blest and happier still.
  Flourish fair, thou flower of Jessies,
  Pride of each admiring swain--
  Envy of despairing lasses--
  Queen of Walkherd's lovely plain.


[From "The Champion"]

  Emblazoned Vapour! Half-eternal Shade!
  That gathers strength from ruin and decay;--
  Emperor of empires! (for the world hath made
  No substance that dare take thy shade away;)
  Thy banners nought but victories display:
  In undisturbed success thou'rt grown sublime:
  Kings are thy subjects, and their sceptres lay
  Round thy proud footstool: tyranny and crime
  Thy serving vassals are. Then hail, victorious Time!

  The elements that wreck the marble dome
  Proud with the polish of the artisan--
  Bolts that crash shivering through the humble home,
  Traced with the insignificance of man--
  Are architects of thine, and proudly plan
  Rich monuments to show thy growing prime:
  Earthquakes that rend the rocks with dreadful span,
  Lightnings that write in characters sublime,
  Inscribe their labours all unto the praise of Time.

  Thy palaces are kingdoms lost to power;
  The ruins of ten thousand thrones thy throne;
  Thy crown and sceptre the dismantled tower,
  A place of kings, yet left to be unknown,
  Now with triumphing ivy overgrown--
  Ivy oft plucked on Victory's brow to shine--
  That fades in crowns of kings, preferring stone;
  It only prospers where they most decline,
  To flourish o'er their fate, and live alone in thine.

  Thy dwellings are in ruins made sublime.
  Impartial Monitor, no dream of fear,
  No dread of treason for a royal crime,
  Deters thee from thy purpose: everywhere
  Thy power is shown: thou art arch-emperor here:
  Thou soil'st the very crowns with stains and rust;
  On royal robes thy havoc doth appear;
  The little moth, to thy proud summons just,
  Dares scarlet pomp to scorn, and eats it into dust.

  Old shadows of magnificence, where now--
  Where now and what your grandeur? Come and see
  Busts broken and thrown down, with wreathless brow,
  Walls stained with colours, not of paint, but thee.
  Moss, lichens, ferns, and lonely elder tree;
  That upon ruins gladly climb to bloom,
  And add a beauty where't is vain to be,
  Like to the soft moonlight in a prison's gloom,
  Or lovely maid in youth death-smitten for the tomb.

  Pride may build palaces and splendid halls;
  Power may display its victories and be brave;
  The eye finds weakest spots in strongest walls,
  And meets no strength that can out-wear the grave.
  Nature, thy handmaid and imperial slave,
  The pomp of splendour's finery never heeds:
  Kings reign and die: pride may no respite crave;
  Nature in barrenness ne'er mourns thy deeds:
  Graves, poor and rich alike, she overruns with weeds.

  In thy proud eye, imperial Arbiter,
  An insect small to prize appeareth man;
  His pomp and honours have o'er thee no spell,
  To win thy purpose from the little span
  Allotted unto life in Nature's plan;
  Trifles to him thy favour can engage;
  High he looks up, and soon his race is run;
  While the small daisy upon Nature's page,
  On which he sets his foot, gains endless heritage.

  Look at the farces played in every age
  By puny empires, vaunting vain display,
  And blush to read the historian's fulsome page,
  Where kings are worshipped like to gods in clay.
  Their pride the earth disdained and swept away,
  By thee, a shadow, worsted of their all--
  Legions of soldiers, battle's dread array--
  Kings' speeches--golden bribes--nought saved their fall;
  All 'neath thy feet are laid, thy robe their funeral pall.

  How feeble and how vain, compared to thine,
  The glittering pageantry of earthly kings,
  Though in their little light they would outshine
  Thy splendid sun: yet soon thy vengeance flings
  Its gloom around their crowns, poor puny things.
  What then remains of all that great hath been?
  A tattered state, that as a mockery clings
  To greatness, and concludes the idle scene--
  In life how mighty thought, and found in death how mean.

  Thus Athens lingers on, a nest of slaves,
  And Babylon's an almost doubted name:
  Thou with thy finger writ'st upon their graves,
  On one obscurity, the other shame.
  The richest greatness or the proudest fame
  Thy sport concludeth as a farce at last:
  They were and would be, but are not the same:
  Tyrants, that made all subject where they passed,
  Become a common jest for laughter at the last.

  Here where I stand thy voice breathes from the ground
  A buried tale of sixteen hundred years,
  And many a Roman fragment, littered round,
  In each new-rooted mole-hill reappears.
  Ah! what is fame, that honour so reveres?
  And what is Victory's laurel-crowned event
  When thy unmasked intolerance interferes?
  A Caesar's deeds are left to banishment,
  Indebted e'en to moles to show us where he went.

  A mighty poet them, and every line
  Thy grand conception traces is sublime:
  No language doth thy god-like works confine;
  Thy voice is earth's grand polyglot, O Time!
  Known of all tongues, and read in every clime,
  Changes of language make no change in thee:
  Thy works have worsted centuries of their prime,
  Yet new editions every day we see--
  Ruin thy moral theme, its end eternity.

  A satirist, too, thy pen is deadly keen;
  Thou turnest things that once did wonder claim
  To jests ridiculous and memories mean;--
  The Egyptian pyramids, without a name,
  Stand monuments to chaos, not to fame--
  Stone jests of kings which thou in sport did'st save,
  As towering satires of pride's living shame--
  Beacons to prove thy overbearing wave
  Will make all fame at last become its owner's grave.

  Mighty survivors! Thou shalt see the hour
  When all the grandeur that the earth contains--
  Its pomp, its splendour, and its hollow power--
  Shall waste like water from its weakened veins,
  And not a shadow or a myth remain--
  When names and fames of which the earth is full,
  And books, with all their knowledge urged in vain--
  When dead and living shall be void and null,
  And Nature's pillow be at last a human skull.

  E'en temples raised to worship and to prayer,
  Sacred from ruin in all eyes but thine,
  Are laid as level, and are left as bare,
  As spots with no pretensions to resign;
  Nor lives one relic that was deemed divine.
  By thee, great sacrilegious Shade, all, all
  Are swept away, and common weeds enshrine
  That place of tombs and memories prodigal--
  Itself a tomb at last, the record of its fall.

  All then shall mingle fellowship with one,
  And earth be strewn with wrecks of human things,
  When tombs are broken up and memory's gone
  Of proud aspiring mortals, crowned as kings,
  Mere insects, sporting upon waxen wings
  That melt at thy all-mastering energy;
  And, when there's nought to govern, thy fame springs
  To new existence, conquered, yet to be
  An uncrowned partner still of dread eternity.

  'T is done, o'erpowering Vision! And no more
  My simple numbers chronicle thy fame;
  'T is gone: the spirit of my voice is o'er,
  Adventuring praises to thy mighty name.
  To thee an atom am I, and in shame
  I shrink from these aspirings to my doom;
  For all the world contains to praise or blame
  Is but a garden hastening out of bloom
  To fill up Nature's wreck-mere rubbish for the tomb.

  Imperial Moralist! Thy every page,
  Like grand prophetic visions, doth instal
  Truth for all creeds. The savage, saint, and sage
  In unison may answer to thy call.
  Thy voice as universal, speaks to all;
  It tells us what all were and are to be;
  That evil deeds will evil hearts enthral,
  And God the just maintain the grand decree,
  That whoso righteous lives shall win eternity.


"From his honoured Friend, William Davenant."

[This poem appeared in the "Sheffield Iris" of May the 16th, 1826,
with this introductory note:--

"The following stanzas are supposed to have been addressed to Milton
by his friend and contemporary, Sir William Davenant. We cannot vouch
for their authenticity, but for their excellency we can. They have
been communicated to us by the late editor of the 'Iris,' who
received them from Mr. John Clare, the ingenious poet of

  Poet of mighty power, I fain
  Would court the muse that honoured thee,
  And, like Elisha's spirit, gain
  A part of thy intensity;
  And share the mantle which she flung
  Around thee, when thy lyre was strung.

  Though faction's scorn at first did shun,
  With coldness, thy inspired song,
  Though clouds of malice pass'd thy sun,
  They could not hide it long;
  Its brightness soon exhaled away
  Dark night, and gained eternal day.

  The critics' wrath did darkly frown
  Upon thy muse's mighty lay;
  But blasts that break the blossom down
  Do only stir the bay;
  And thine shall flourish, green and long,
  In the eternity of song.

  Thy genius saw, in quiet mood,
  Gilt fashion's follies pass thee by,
  And, like the monarch of the wood,
  Tower'd o'er it to the sky;
  Where thou could'st sing of other spheres,
  And feel the fame of future years.

  Though bitter sneers and stinging scorns
  Did throng the muse's dangerous way,
  Thy powers were past such little thorns,
  They gave thee no dismay;
  The scoffer's insult pass'd thee by.
  Thou smild'st and mad'st him no reply.

  Envy will gnaw its heart away
  To see thy genius gather root;
  And as its flowers their sweets display
  Scorn's malice shall be mute;
  Hornets that summer warmed to fly,
  Shall at the death of summer die.

  Though friendly praise hath but its hour,
  And little praise with thee hath been;
  The bay may lose its summer flower,
  But still its leaves are green;
  And thine, whose buds are on the shoot,
  Shall only fade to change to fruit.

  Fame lives not in the breath of words,
  In public praises' hue and cry;
  The music of these summer birds
  Is silent in a winter sky,
  When thine shall live and flourish on,
  O'er wrecks where crowds of fames are gone.

  The ivy shuns the city wall,
  When busy-clamorous crowds intrude,
  And climbs the desolated hall
  In silent solitude;
  The time-worn arch, the fallen dome,
  Are roots for its eternal home.

  The bard his glory ne'er receives
  Where summer's common flowers are seen,
  But winter finds it when she leaves
  The laurel only green;
  And time, from that eternal tree,
  Shall weave a wreath to honour thee.

  Nought but thy ashes shall expire;
  Thy genius, at thy obsequies,
  Shall kindle up its living fire
  And light the muse's skies;
  Ay, it shall rise, and shine, and be
  A sun in song's posterity.


  Sorrow came with downcast eyes,
  And stole the lyre of love away.
                          VAN DYK.

[From ACKERMANN'S "Juvenile Forget-me-not"]

  Some two or three weeks before Valentine's day,
  Sir Winter grew kind, and, minded to play,
  Shook hands with Miss Flora, and woo'd her to spare
  A few pretty snowdrops to stick in his hair,
  Intending for truth, as he said, to resign
  His throne to Miss Spring and her priest Valentine;
  Which trifle he asked for before he set forth,
  To remind him of all when he got in the North;
  And this is the reason that snowdrops appear
  'Mid the cold of the Winter, so soon in the year.

  Flora complied, and, the instant she heard,
  Flew away with the news to each bachelor bird,
  Who in raptures half moved on Love's errand to start,
  Their songs muttered over to get them by heart:
  Nay, the Mavis at once sung aloud in his glee,
  And looked for a spot where love's dwelling should be;
  And ever since then, both in garden and grove,
  The Mavis tunes first a short ditty to love,
  While all the young gentlemen birds that were near
  Fell to trimming their jackets anew for the year:
  One and all they determined to seek for a mate,
  And thought it a folly for seasons to wait,
  So even agreed, before Valentine's day,
  To join hearts in love; but the ladies said, Nay!
  Yet each one consented at once to resign
  Her heart unto Hymen on St. Valentine;
  While Winter, who only pretended to go,
  Lapt himself out of sight in some hillocks of snow,
  That behind all the rest 'neath the wood hedges lay
  So close that the sun could not drive them away:
  Yet the gentlemen birds on their love errands flew,
  Thinking all Flora told them was nothing but true,
  Till out Winter came, and his frowns in a trice
  Turned the lady birds' hearts all as hardened as ice.

  In vain might the gentles in love sue and plead--
  They heard, but not once did they notice or heed:
  From Winter they crept, who, in tyranny proud,
  Yoked his horses of storms to his coach of a cloud;
  For on Valentine's morn he was raving so high,
  Lady Spring for the life of her durst not come nigh;
  While Flora's gay feet were so numbed with the snow
  That she could not put on her best slippers to go.

  Then the Spring she fell ill, and, her health to regain,
  On a sunbeam rode back to her South once again;
  And, as both were the bridesmaids, their teasing delay
  Made the lady birds put off their weddings till May.
  Some sighed their excuses, and feared to catch cold;
  And the Redcap, in mantle all bordered with gold,
  Sore feared that the weather would spoil her fine clothes,
  And nought but complaints through the forest arose.

  So St. Valentine came on his journey alone
  In the coach of the Morn, for he'd none of his own,
  And put on his cassock and band, and went in
  To the temple of Hymen, the rites to begin,
  Where the Mavis Thrush waited along with his bride,
  Nor in the whole place was a lady beside.
  The gentlemen they came alone to the saint,
  And instead of being married, each made a complaint
  Of Sir Winter, whose folly had caused the delay,
  And forced Love to put off the wedding till May;
  So the priest shook his head, and unrobed to be gone,
  As he had no day for his leisure but one.

  And when the May came with Miss Flora and Spring,
  They had nought but old cares and new sorrows to sing;
  For some of the lady birds ceased to be kind
  To their old loves, and changed for new-comers their mind;
  And some had resolved to keep single that year,
  Until St. Valentine with the next should appear.

  The birds sung their sorrows the whole Summer long,
  And the Robin first mixed up his ills with his song:
  He sung of his griefs--how in love he'd been crossed,
  And gave up his heart as eternally lost;
  'T was burnt to a coal, as sly Cupid let fall
  A spark that scorched through both the feathers and all.
  To cure it Time tried, but ne'er found out the way,
  So the mark on his bosom he wears to this day:
  And when birds are all silent, and not a leaf seen
  On the trees, but the ivy and holly so green,
  In frost and in snow little Robin will sing,
  To put off the sorrow that ruffles his wing.
  And that is the cause in our gardens we hear
  The Robin's sweet note at the close of the year.

  The Wagtail, too, mourned in his doublet of grey,
  As if powdered with rime on a dull winter's day;
  He twittered of love--how he courted a fair,
  Who altered her mind, and so made him despair.
  In a stone-pit he chose her a place for a nest,
  But she, like a wanton, but made it a jest.
  Though he dabbled in brooks to convince her how kind
  He would feed her with worms which he laboured to find,
  Till he e'en got the ague, still nought could prevail,
  So ever since then he's been wagging his tail.

  In the whitethorn the Linnet bides lonely to sing
  How his lady-love shunned his embraces in Spring,
  Though he found out a bush that the sun had half drest
  With leaves quite sufficient to shelter their nest;
  And yet she forsook him, no more to be seen,
  So that is the reason he dresses in green.

  Then aloud in his grief sings the gay speckled Thrush,
  That changes his music on every bush--
  "My love she has left me to sorrow and mourn,
  Yet I hope in my heart she'll repent and return;"
  So he tries at all notes her approval to meet,
  And that is the reason he singeth so sweet.

  And as sweet sang the Bullfinch, although he confest
  That the anguish he felt was more deep than the rest,
  And they all marvelled much how he'd spirits to sing,
  When to show them his anguish he held up his wing;
  From his throat to his tail not a feather was found
  But what had been stained red with blood from the wound.

  And sad chirped the Sparrow of joys fled and gone,
  Of his love being lost he so doted upon;
  So he vowed constant silence for that very thing,
  And this is the reason why Sparrows don't sing.

  Then next came the Rook and the sorrowful Crow,
  To tell birds the cause why in mourning they go,
  Ever since their old loves their embraces forsook;
  And all seemed to pity the Crow and the Rook.

  The Jay he affected to hide his despair,
  And rather than mourn he had spirits to wear
  A coat of all colours, but in it some blue
  Denoted his passion; though crossed, 't was true;
  So now in lone woods he will hide him all day,
  And aloud he scolds all that intrude in his way.

  The Magpie declared it should never be said
  That he mourned for a lover, though fifty had fled;
  Yet his heart all the while was so burnt and distrest,
  That it turned all the feathers coal-black on his breast.
  The birds they all marvelled, but still he denied,
  And wore a black cap his deep blushes to hide;
  So that is the reason himself and his kin
  Wear hoods with the lappets quite under the chin.

  Then last came the Owl, grieving loud as he flew,
  Saying how his false lover had bade him adieu;
  And though he knew not where to find her or follow,
  Yet round their old haunts he would still whoop and halloo,
  For no sleep could he get in his sorrowful plight.
  So that is the reason Owls halloo at night.

  And here ends the song of each woe-stricken bird.
  Now was a more pitiful story e'er heard?
  The rest were all coupled, and happy, and they
  Sung the old merry songs which they sing at this day:
  And good little boys, when this tale they read o'er,
  Will ne'er have the heart to hurt birds any more,
  And add to the griefs they already have sung
  By robbing their nests of their eggs and their young;
  But feel for their sufferings, and pity their pain,
  Nor give them new cause of their lot to complain.


[After Sir John Harrington]

[From the "European Magazine" March, 1826]

  Love and thy vain employs, away
  From this too oft deluded breast!
  No longer will I court thy stay,
  To be my bosom's teasing guest.
  Thou treacherous medicine--reckon'd pure;
  Thou quackery of the harass'd heart,
  That kills what it pretends to cure,
  Life's mountebank thou art.

  With nostrums vain of boasted powers,
  That, ta'en, a worse disorder leave;
  An asp hid in a group of flowers,
  That bites and stings when few perceive;
  Thou mock-peace to the troubled mind,
  Leading it more in sorrow's way,
  Freedom that leaves us more confined,
  I bid thee hence away.

  Dost taunt, and deem thy power beyond
  The resolution reason gave?
  Tut! Falsity hath snapt each bond,
  That kept me once thy quiet slave,
  And made thy snare a spider's thread,
  Which e'en my breath can break in twain;
  Nor will I be, like Sampson, led
  To trust thy wiles again.

  Tempt me no more with rosy cheeks,
  Nor daze my reason with bright eyes;
  I'm wearied with thy wayward freaks,
  And sicken at such vanities:
  Be roses fine as e'er they will,
  They, with the meanest, fade and die,
  And eyes, tho' thick with darts to kill.
  Share all mortalities.

  Heed the young bard, who madly sips
  His nectar-draughts from folly's flowers,
  Bright eyes, fair cheeks, and ruby lips,
  Till music melts to honey showers;
  Lure him to thrum thy empty lays,
  While flattery listens to the chimes,
  Till words themselves grow sick with praise
  And stop for want of rhymes.

  Let such be still thy paramours,
  And chaunt love's old and idle tune,
  Robbing the spring of all its flowers,
  And heaven of all her stars and moon,
  To gild with dazzling similes
  Blind folly's vain and empty lay:
  I'm sober'd from such phantasies,
  So get thee hence away.

  Nor bid me sigh for mine own cost,
  Nor count its loss, for mine annoy,
  Nor say my stubbornness hath lost
  A paradise of dainty joy:
  I'll not believe thee, till I know
  That reason turns thy pampered ape,
  And acts thy harlequin, to show
  That care's in every shape.

  Heart-achings, sighs, and grief-wrung tears,
  Shame-blushes at betrayed distress,
  Dissembled smiles, and jealous fears,
  Are aught but real happiness:
  Then will I mourn what now I brave,
  And suffer Celia's quirks to be
  (Like a poor fate-bewilder'd slave,)
  The rulers of my destiny.

  I'll weep and sigh when e'er she wills
  To frown--and when she deigns to smile
  It will be cure for all my ills,
  And, foolish still, I'll laugh the while;
  But till that comes, I'll bless the rules
  Experience taught, and deem it wise
  To hold thee as the game of fools,
  And all thy tricks despise.


  The gipsy's life is a merry life,
  And ranting boys we be;
  We pay to none or rent or tax,
  And live untith'd and free.
  None care for us, for none care we,
  And where we list we roam,
  And merry boys we gipsies be,
  Though the wild woods are our home.

  And come what will brings no dismay;
  Our minds are ne'er perplext;
  For if to-day is a swaly day,
  We meet with luck the next.
  And thus we sing and kiss our mates,
  While our chorus still shall be,--
  Bad luck to tyrant magistrates,
  And the gipsies' camp still free.

  To mend old pans and bottom chairs
  Around the towns we tramp,
  Then a day or two our purse repairs,
  And plenty fills our camp;
  And our song we sing, and our fiddles sound
  Their catgut harmony,
  While echo fills the woods around
  With gipsy liberty.

  The green grass is our softest bed,
  The sun our clock we call,
  The nightly sky hangs over head,
  Our curtains, house, and all.
  Tho' houseless while the wild winds blow,
  Our joys are uncontroll'd;
  We barefoot dance through Winter's snow,
  When others die with cold.

  Our maidens they are fond and free,
  And lasting are their charms;
  Brown as the berry on the tree,
  No sun their beauty harms:
  Their beauties are no garden blooms,
  That fade before they flower;
  Unshelter'd where the tempest comes,
  They smile in sun and shower.

  And they are wild as the woodland hare,
  That feeds on the evening lea;
  And what care we for ladies fair,
  Since ours are fond and free?
  False hearts hide in a lily skin,
  But ours are coarse and fond;
  No parson's fetters link us in,--
  Our love's a stronger bond.

  Tho' wild woods are our house and home,
  'T is a home of liberty;
  Free as the Summer clouds we roam,
  And merry boys we be.
  We dance and sing the year along,
  And loud our fiddles play;
  And no day goes without its song,
  While every month is May.

  The hare that haunts the fallow ground,
  And round the common feeds;
  The fox that tracks the woodland bounds,
  And in the thicket breeds;
  These are the neighbours where we dwell,
  And all the guests we see,
  That share and love the quiet well
  Of gipsy liberty.

  The elements are grown our friends,
  And leave our huts alone;
  The thunder-bolt, that shakes and rends
  The cotter's house of stone,
  Flies harmless by the blanket roof,
  Where the winds may burst and blow,
  For our camps, tho' thin, are tempest proof,
  We reck not rain and snow.

  May the lot we've met our lives befall,
  And nothing worse attend;
  So here's success to gipsies all,
  And every gipsy's friend.
  And while the ass that bears our camp
  Can find a common free,
  Around old England's heaths we'll tramp
  In gipsy liberty.


  O it was a lorn and a dismal night,
  And the storm beat loud and high;
  Not a friendly light to guide me right
  Was there shining in the sky,
  When a lonely hut my wanderings met,
  Lost in a foreign land,
  And I found the dearest friend as yet
  In my lovely Peggy Band.

  "O, father, here's a soldier lad,
  And weary he seems to be."
  "Then welcome in," the old man said,
  And she gave her seat to me.
  The fire she trimmed, and my clothes she dried
  With her own sweet lily hand,
  And o'er the soldier's lot she sighed,
  While I blest my Peggy Band.

  When I told the tale of my wandering years,
  And the nights unknown to sleep,
  She made excuse to hide her tears,
  And she stole away to weep.
  A pilgrim's blessing I seemed to share,
  As saints of the Holy Land,
  And I thought her a guardian angel there,
  Though he called her his Peggy Band.

  The night it passed, and the hour to part
  With the morning winged away,
  And I felt an anguish at my heart
  That vainly bid to stay.
  I thanked the old man for all he did,
  And I took his daughter's hand,
  But my heart was full, and I could not bid
  Farewell to my Peggy Band.

  A blessing on that friendly cot,
  Where the soldier found repose,
  And a blessing be her constant lot
  Who soothed the stranger's woes.
  I turned a last look at the door,
  As she held it in her hand,
  And my heart ached sore, as I crossed the moor,
  For to leave my Peggy Band.


  Sweet brook! I've met thee many a summer's day,
  And ventured fearless in thy shallow flood,
  And rambled oft thy sweet unwearied way,
  'Neath willows cool that on thy margin stood,
  With crowds of partners in my artless play--
  Grasshopper, beetle, bee, and butterfly--
  That frisked about as though in merry mood
  To see their old companion sporting by.
  Sweet brook! life's glories then were mine and thine;
  Shade clothed thy spring that now doth naked lie;
  On thy white glistening sand the sweet woodbine
  Darkened and dipt its flowers. I mark, and sigh,
  And muse o'er troubles since we met the last,
  Like two fond friends whose happiness is past.



My creed may be different from other creeds, but the difference is
nothing when the end is the same. If I did not expect and hope for
eternal happiness I should be ever miserable; and as every religion
is a rule leading to good by its professor, the religions of all
nations and creeds, where that end is the aim, ought rather to be
respected than scoffed at. A final judgment of men by their deeds and
actions in life is inevitable, and the only difference between an
earthly assize and the eternal one is, that the final one needs no
counsellors to paint the bad or good better or worse than they are.
The Judge knows the hearts of all men, and the sentence may be
expected to be just as well as final, whether it be for the worst or
the best. This ought to teach us to pause and think, and try to lead
our lives as well as we can.


  "Rumour and the popular voice
   Some look to more than truth, and so confirm Opinions."
                                              CARY'S Dante.

Popularity is a busy talker: she catches hold of topics and offers
them to fame without giving herself time to reflect whether they are
true or false, and fashion is her favourite disciple who sanctions
and believes them as eagerly, and with the same faith, as a young
lady in the last century read a new novel and a tavern-haunter in
this reads the news. It is natural, with such foundations, to ask
whether popularity is fame, for it often happens that very slender
names come to be popular from many causes with which merit or genius
has no sort of connection or kindred. It may be some oddity in the
manner, or incident in the life, of the author that is whispered over
before his book comes out. This often macadamizes the way to
popularity, for gossip is a mighty spell in the literary world, and a
concealment of the author's name often creates an anxiety in the
public mind, for it leaves room for guesses and conjectures, and as
some are very fond of appearing wise in such matters by saying they
know from good authority that such a one is the author, it becomes
the talk of the card party and tea-table, and he gains a superficial
notoriety. Such was the case with the "Pursuits of Literature," a
leaden-footed satire that had as much claim to merit as the statue of
Pasquin in the Market-place of Rome, on which vulgar squibs were
pasted. Everybody knew the author, and nobody knew him. The first
names of the day were foisted into the concern, and when the secret
was found out that it belonged to one of the lowest, the book sank to
rise no more. Sometimes a pompous, pretending title hits the mark at
once and wins a name. Who among the lower orders of youth is ignorant
of the "Young Man's Best Companion" by Mr. Fisher, Accomptant, or the
"Book of Wisdom" by Mr. Penning, Philomath? They are almost as common
as bibles and prayer-books in a cottage library.

A guess is not hazarded in believing that popularity is not the omen
of true fame. Sometimes the trifling and ridiculous grow into the
most extensive popularity, such as the share of it which a man gained
by wearing a high brimmed hat, and another that cut off the tails of
his coat and thereby branded his name on the remnant; and though the
spencers are out of fashion they have outlived many a poetical
popularity. These are instances of the ridiculous. The trifling are
full as extensive. Where is the poet who shares half the popularity
of Warren, Turner, or Day and Martin, whose ebony fames are spread
through every dirty little village in England? These instances of the
trifling and ridiculous made as much noise and stir in their day as
the best, and noise and bustle are the essence and soul of

The nearest akin to popularity is common fame. I mean names that are
familiar among the common people. It is not a very envious species,
for they seldom know how to value or appreciate what they are
acquainted with. The name of Chatterton is familiar to their ears as
an unfortunate poet, because they saw his history printed on pocket
handkerchiefs; and the name of Shakespeare as a great play writer,
because they have often seen him nominated as such on the bills of
strolling players, who make shift with barns for theatres. But this
sort of revelry makes a corresponding idea in their minds, for the
paltry ballad mongers, whose productions supply hawkers with their
wares, are poets with them, and they imagine one as great as the
other, common minds making no distinction in these common fames. On
the other hand there is something in it to wish for, because there
are things as old as England that have outlived centuries of
popularity, nay, left half its history in darkness, and they still
live on, as common in every memory as the seasons, and as familiar to
children even as the rain and Spring flowers. I allude to the old
superstitious fragments of legends and stories in rhyme that are said
to be Norman, or Saxon, or Danish. There are many desire this common
fame, and it is mostly met in a manner least expected. While some
affectations are striving for a lifetime to hit all tastes and always
miss the mark by a wide throw, an unconscious poet of little name
writes a trifle as he feels, without thinking of others, and he
becomes a common name.

Unaffected simplicity is the everyday picture of Nature. Thus, little
children's favourites of "Cock Robin," "Little Red Riding Hood," and
"Babes in the Wood," have impressions at the core that grow up with
manhood and are always dear. Poets anxious after common fame, as some
of the "naturals" seem to be, imitate these things by affecting
simplicity, and become unnatural. These things found fame where the
greatest names are still oblivious. A literary man might enquire
after the names of Spenser and Milton in vain in half the villages in
England, even among what are called its gentry, but I believe it
would be difficult to find a corner in any county where the others
are not known, nor an old woman in any hamlet with whom they are not

In my days, some of the pieces of the modern poets have gained this
common popularity, which must be distinguished from fame as it may
only live for a season.

Wordsworth's beautiful, simple ballad of "We are seven" I have seen
hawked about for a penny, and Tannahill's song of "Jessy" has met
with more popularity among the common people than all other songs,
English and Scottish, put together. Lord Byron's hasty fame may be
deemed a contradiction to the above opinion that popularity is not
true fame, though at its greatest extent it is but an exception, and
scarcely that, for his great and hurried popularity, that almost
trampled on its own heels in its haste, must drop into a less
bustling degree, and become cool and quiet, like the preaching of
Irving. Shakespeare was hardly noticed in his lifetime by popularity,
but he is known now, and Byron is hardly the tenth part of a
Shakespeare. Every storm must have its calm, and Byron took fame by
storm. By a desperate daring he over-swept petty control like a
rebellious flood, or a tempest worked up into madness by the quarrel
of the elements, and he seemed to value that daring as the attainment
of true fame. He looked upon Horace's "Art of Poetry" no doubt with
esteem as a reader, but he cared no more for it in the profession of
a poet than the weather does for an almanack. He looked upon critics
as the countryman does on a magistrate. He beheld them as a race of
petty tyrants that stood in the way of genius. They were in his eyes
more of stumbling-blocks than guides, and he treated them
accordingly. He let them know there was another road to Parnassus
without taking theirs, and being obliged to do them homage. Not
stooping to the impediments of their authorities, like the paths of a
besieged city encumbered with sentinels, he made a road for himself,
and, like Napoleon crossing the Alps, he let the world see that even
in the eye of a mortal their greatest obstacles were looked on "as
the dust in a balance." He gained the envied eminence of living
popularity by making a breach where it was thought impregnable. Where
others had laid siege for a lifetime, and lost their hopes and their
labour at last, he gained the heights of popularity by a single
stride, and looked down as a free-booter on the world below, scorning
the applause his labours had gained him, and scarcely returning a
compliment for the laurels which fashion so eagerly bound round his
brows, while he saw the alarm of his leaden-footed enemies, and
withered them to nothings with his sneer. He was an Oliver Cromwell
with the critics. He broke up their long-standing Parliament and
placed his own will in the Speaker's chair, and his will they humbly
accepted. They submitted to one that scorned to be shackled, and
champed the bit in his stead. They praised and respected him, nay,
they worshipped him. He was all in all in their mouths and in their
writings, but I suspect their hearts had as much love for him as the
peasantry had for witches in the last century, who spoke well of them
to their faces because they dared not do other-wise for fear of
meeting an injury. Whether Byron hath won true fame or not I cannot
say; my mind is too little to grasp that judgment. To say that he was
the first of his age in his way is saying nothing, but we have
sufficient illustration for the argument in saying that popularity is
not the forerunner of fame's eternity. Among all the bustle of
popularity there must be only a portion of it accepted as fame. Time
will sift it of its drossy puffs and praises. He has been with others
extolled as equal to Shakespeare, and I dare say the popular voice of
"readers" thought him superior. But three centuries will wither every
extravagance, and sober the picture of its glaring colours. He is no
doubt one of the eternals, but he is one of those of the 19th
century, and if all its elements be classed together in the next they
would make but a poor substitute for a Shakespeare. Eternity will not
rake the bottom of the sea of oblivion for puffs and praises, and
all their attendant rubbish, the feelings that the fashion of the day
created, and the flatteries uttered. Eternity will estimate things at
their proper value, and no other. She will not even seek for the
newspaper praise of Walter Scott. She will not look for Byron's
immortality in the company of Warren's blacking, Prince's kalydor,
and Atkinson's bear's grease. She looks for it in his own merit, and
her impartial judgment will be his best reward.

Wordsworth has had little share of popularity, though he bids fair to
be as great in one species of poetry as Byron was in another, but to
acknowledge such an opinion in the world's ear would only pucker the
lips of fashion into a sneer against it. Yet his lack of living
praise is no proof of his lack of genius. The trumpeting clamour of
public praise is not to be relied on as the creditor of the future.
The quiet progress of a name gaining ground by gentle degrees in the
world's esteem is the best living shadow of fame to follow. The
simplest trifle and the meanest thing in nature is the same now as it
shall continue to be till the world's end.

  Men trample grass and prize the flowers in May,
  But grass is green when flowers do fade away.


None need be surprised to see these two false prophets in partnership
or conjunction for an essay, as they may be called brothers, for the
one attests what it pleases and the other takes it for granted.
Criticism is grown a sort of book milliner, who cuts a book to any
pattern of abuse or praise, and Fashion readily wears the opinion.
How many productions whose milk-and-water merits, or unintelligible
stupidity, have been considered as novelties, have by that means
gained the admiration of Criticism and the praise of Fashion, until a
more absurd novelty pushed them from their preferments and caused
them to be as suddenly forgotten! The vulgar, tasteless jargon of
"Dr. Syntax," with all the above-mentioned  excellencies to excite
public notice from the butterflies of fashion, soon found what it
sought, though some of the plates or illustrations possess the
disadvantageous merit of being good. Yet the letter-press doubly made
up for all, for it was prose trebly prosified into wire-drawn
doggrel, and consequently met with a publicity and sale
unprecedented. Edition multiplied on edition, till it was found
needless to number the title page, and it was only necessary to say
"A New Edition;" while the poems of Wordsworth scarcely found
admirers enough to ensure a second edition. What will the admirers of
poetry in the next age think of the taste of this, which has been
called "the Golden Age of criticism, poetry, taste, and genius"?

*     *     *     *     *

Fashion is like a new book "elegantly bound and lettered." It
cannot endure dust and cobwebs; but true criticism is like a
newly-planted laurel: it thrives with age and gathers strength from
antiquity, till it becomes a spreading tree and shelters the objects
of its praise under its shadow. Just Criticism is a stern but laudable
prophet, and Time and Truth are the only disciples who can discern
and appreciate his predictions.


Flowers must be sown and tended with care, like children, to grow up
to maturity, but weeds grow of themselves and multiply without any
attention, choking up those flowers that require it; and lies are
propagated as easily as weeds, and choke up the blossoms of truth in
the same manner. But the evils and misrepresentations of false
criticism, though great and many, are not lasting.

*     *     *     *     *

Upon its principles fashion and flattery have made many Shakespeares,
and these false prophets have flourished and will flourish for a
season, for truth, when she cannot be heard by the opposition of
falsehood, remains silent and leaves time to decide the difference,
who cometh quietly and impartially to her assistance, hurling without
ceremony, century after century, usurper after usurper from the
throne of the mighty, and erasing their names from his altar as
suddenly and as perfectly as the sunbeam passes over and washes away
the stains of a shadow on the wall. Fame hath weighed the false
criticisms and pretensions of centuries already, and found nothing as
yet but dust in the balance. Shadows of Shakespeare are cast away as
profane idols, and reality hath fallen short of even a trinity. She
acknowledges as sacred but one, and I fear that when she shall
calculate the claims of ten centuries she will find the number of the
mighty a unit. But why should fear be expressed for a repetition
which we neither hope for nor need? We have but one sun in our
firmament, and upwards of six thousand years have neither added to
nor diminished its splendour, neither have vain desires been
expressed for the existence of another. Needless wishes create
painful expectations. When a man is warm and comfortable on a cold
day he cannot wish for an excess that would burn him. Therefore we
need neither hope for more Shakespeares nor regret that there is but
one. When the Muses created him a poet they created him the sun of
the firmament of genius, and time has proved, and will prove, that
they glory in their creation, deeming it sufficient, without striving
to find or create another, for nature knows the impossibility. There
have been, both before and after, constellations of great and
wonderful beauty, and many in this age will be found in the number
who shine in their own light with becoming splendour, but whenever
flattery or vanity places them near the great luminary their little
lights lose their splendour and they vanish in his brightness as the
stars are lost at noon.

*     *     *     *     *     *

The falling stars leave a stream of splendour behind them for a
moment; then utter darkness follows, and not a spark is left to show
where they fell.

*     *     *     *     *     *

It is said that Byron is not to have a monument in Westminster Abbey.
To him it is no injury. Time is his monument, on whose scroll the
name of Byron shall be legible when the walls and tombs of
Westminster Abbey shall have mingled with the refuse of ruins, and
the sun, as in scorn, be left free again to smile upon the earth so
long darkened with the pompous shadows of bigotry and intolerance.


Respecting these compositions Clare says:--

"I commenced sometime ago with an intention of making a collection
of Old Ballads, but when I had sought after them in places where I
expected to find them, namely, the hayfield and the shepherd's hut
on the pasture, I found that nearly all those old and beautiful
recollections had vanished as so many old fashions, and those who
knew fragments seemed ashamed to acknowledge it, as old people who
sung old songs only sung to be laughed at; and those who were proud
of their knowledge in such things knew nothing but the senseless
balderdash that is bawled over and sung at country feasts, statutes
and fairs, where the most senseless jargon passes for the greatest
excellence, and rudest indecency for the finest wit. So the matter
was thrown by, and forgotten, until last winter, when I used to
spend the long evenings with my father and mother, and heard them by
accident hum over scraps of the following old melodies, which I have
collected and put into their present form."

Two of the collection are omitted from this volume: the well-known
ballad of "Lord Randall," and a second the subject of which appeared
to render its inclusion inexpedient.


  The week before Easter, the days long and clear,
  So bright shone the sun and so cool blew the air,
  I went in the meadow some flowers to find there,
  But the meadow would yield me no posies.

  The weather, like love, did deceitful appear,
  And I wandered alone when my sorrow was near,
  For the thorn that wounds deeply doth bide the whole year,
  When the bush it is naked of roses.

  I courted a girl that was handsome and gay,
  I thought her as constant and true as the day,
  Till she married for riches and said my love "Nay,"
  And so my poor heart got requited.

  I was bid to the bridal; I could not say "No:"
  The bridemen and maidens they made a fine show;
  I smiled like the rest but my heart it was low,
  To think how its hopes they were blighted.

  The bride started gaily, the weather was fine,
  Her parents looked after, and thought her divine;
  She smiled in their faces, but looked not in mine,
  Indeed I'd no heart to regard her.

  Though love like the poplar doth lift its head high,
  The top it may fade and the root it may die,
  And they may have heart-aches that now live in joy,
  But Heaven I'll leave to reward her.

  When I saw my false love in the merry church stand,
  With her ring on her finger and her love in her hand,
  Smiling out in the joy of her houses and land,
  My sighs I strove vainly to smother.

  When my false love for dinner did dainties partake,
  I sat me down also, but nothing could eat;
  I thought her sweet company better than meat,
  Although she was tied to another.

  When my false love had gone to her bride bed at night,
  My eyes filled with water which made double my sight;
  I thought she was there when she'd bade us "Good night"
  And her chair was put by till the morrow.

  I drank to her joy with a tear on my face,
  And the wine glass as usual I pushed on the space,
  Nor knew she was gone till I looked at the place,
  Such a fool was I made of by sorrow.

  Now make me a bed in yon river so deep,
  Let its waves be my mourners; nought living will weep,
  And there let me lie and take a long sleep,
  So adieu to my false love for ever.


  O silly love! O cunning love!
  An old maid to trepan:
  I cannot go about my work
  For loving of a man.
  I cannot bake, I cannot brew,
  And, do the best I can,
  I burn the bread and chill the mash,
  Through loving of a man.

  Shrove Tuesday last I tried, and tried,
  To turn the cakes in pan,
  And dropt the batter on the floor,
  Through thinking of a man.
  My mistress screamed, my master swore,
  Boys cursed me in a troop;
  The cat was all the friends I had,
  Who helped to clean it up.

  Last Christmas eve, from off the spit
  I took the goose to table,
  Or should have done, but teasing Love
  Did make me quite unable;
  And down slipt dish, and goose, and all
  With din and clitter-clatter;
  All but the dog fell foul on me;
  He licked the broken platter.

  Although I'm ten years past a score,
  Too old to play the fool,
  My mistress says I must give o'er
  My service for a school.
  Good faith! What must I do, and do,
  To keep my service still;
  I'll give the winds my thoughts to love,
  Indeed and so I will.

  And if the wind my love should lose,
  Right foolish were the play,
  For I should mourn what I had lost,
  And love another day.
  With crosses and with losses
  Right double were the ill,
  So I'll e'en bear with love and all,
  Alack, and so I will.


  On Martinmas eve the dogs did bark,
  And I opened the window to see,
  When every maiden went by with her spark,
  But ne'er a one came to me.
  And O dear what will become of me?
  And O dear what shall I do,
  When nobody whispers to marry me--
  Nobody cometh to woo?

  None's born for such troubles as I be:
  If the sun wakens first in the morn,
  "Lazy hussy" my parents both call me,
  And I must abide by their scorn,
  For nobody cometh to marry me,
  Nobody cometh to woo,
  So here in distress must I tarry me--
  What can a poor maiden do?

  If I sigh through the window when Jerry
  The ploughman goes by, I grow bold;
  And if I'm disposed to be merry,
  My parents do nothing but scold;
  And Jerry the clown, and no other,
  E'er cometh to marry or woo;
  They think me the moral of mother,
  And judge me a terrible shrew.

  For mother she hateth all fellows,
  And spinning's my father's desire,
  While the old cat growls bass with the bellows
  If e'er I hitch up to the fire.
  I make the whole house out of humour,
  I wish nothing else but to please,
  Would fortune but bring a good comer
  To marry, and make me at ease!

  When I've nothing my leisure to hinder,
  I scarce get as far as the eaves;
  Her head's instant out of the window,
  Calling out like a press after thieves.
  The young men all fall to remarking,
  And laugh till they're weary to see 't,
  While the dogs at the noise begin barking,
  And I slink in with shame from the street.

  My mother's aye jealous of loving,
  My father's aye jealous of play,
  So what with them both there's no moving,
  I'm in durance for life and a day.
  O who shall I get for to marry me?
  Who will have pity to woo?
  'T is death any longer to tarry me,
  And what shall a poor maiden do?


[Clare's note:--"Scraps from my father and mother, completed."]

  Here's a sad good bye for thee, my love,
  To friends and foes a smile:
  I leave but one regret behind,
  That's left with thee the while,
  But hopes that fortune is our friend
  Already pays the toil.

  Force bids me go, your friends to please.
  Would they were not so high!
  But be my lot on land or seas,
  It matters not where by,
  For I shall keep a thought for thee,
  In my heart's core to lie.

  Winter shall lose its frost and snow,
  The spring its blossomed thorn,
  The summer all its bloom forego,
  The autumn hound and horn
  Ere I will lose that thought of thee,
  Or ever prove forsworn.

  The dove shall change a hawk in kind,
  The cuckoo change its tune,
  The nightingale at Christmas sing,
  The fieldfare come in June--
  Ere I do change my love for thee
  These things shall change as soon.

  So keep your heart at ease, my love,
  Nor waste a joy for me:
  I'll ne'er prove false to thee, my love,
  Till fish drown in the sea,
  And birds forget to fly, my love,
  And then I'll think of thee.

  The red cock's wing may turn to grey,
  The crow's to silver white,
  The night itself may be for day,
  And sunshine wake at night:
  Till then--and then I'll prove more true
  Than Nature, life, and light.

  Though you may break your fondest vow,
  And take your heart from me,
  And though my heart should break to hear
  What I may never see,
  Yet never can'st thou break the link
  That binds my love to thee.

  So fare-thee-well, my own true love;
  No vow from thee I crave,
  But thee I never will forego,
  Till no spark of life I have,
  Nor will I ever thee forget
  Till we both lie in the grave.


[Notwithstanding the company in which it is found, this poem may
safely be attributed to Clare.]

  My love is tall and handsome;
  All hearts she might command;
  She's matchless for her beauty,
  The queen of all the land.
  She has my heart in keeping,
  For which there's no repeal,
  For the fairest of all woman kind
  Is my love, Mary Neele.

  I felt my soul enchanted
  To view this turtle dove,
  That lately seems descended
  From heavenly bowers of love;
  And might I have the fortune
  My wishes could reveal,
  I'd turn my back on splendour
  And fly to Mary Neele.

  She is the flower of nations,
  The diamond of my eye;
  All others are but gloworms
  That in her splendour die.
  As shining stars all vanish
  When suns their light reveal,
  So beauties shrink to shadows
  At the feet of Mary Neele.

  I ask no better fortune
  Than to embrace her charms;
  Like Plato I would laugh at wealth
  While she was in my arms;
  And if I cannot gain her
  From grief there's no appeal;
  My joy, my pain, my life, my all
  Are fixed with Mary Neele.

  The stone of vain philosophers,
  That wonder-working toy,
  The golden fleece of Jason,
  That Helen stole from Troy,
  The beauty and the riches
  That all these fames unseal,
  Are nothing all, and less than that,
  Compared to Mary Neele.

  O if I cannot gain her
  Right wretched must I be,
  And caves and lonely mountains
  Must be the life for me,
  To pine in gloom and sorrow,
  And hide the deaths I feel,
  For light nor life I may not share
  When lost to Mary Neele.


  O far is fled the winter wind,
  And far is fled the frost and snow,
  But the cold scorn on my love's brow
  Hath never yet prepared to go.

  More lasting than ten winters' wind,
  More cutting than ten weeks of frost,
  Is the chill frowning of thy mind,
  Where my poor heart was pledged and lost.

  I see thee taunting down the street,
  And by the frowning that I see
  I might have known it long ere now,
  Thy love was never meant for me.

  And had I known ere I began
  That love had been so hard to win,
  I would have filled my heart with pride,
  Nor left one hope to let love in.

  I would have wrapped it in my breast,
  And pinned it with a silver pin,
  Safe as a bird within its nest,
  And 'scaped the trouble I am in.

  I wish I was a happy bird,
  And thou a true and timid dove:
  O I would fly the land of grief,
  And rest me in the land of love.

  O I would rest where I love best;
  Where I love best I may not be:
  A hawk doth on that rose-tree sit,
  And drives young love to fear and flee.

  O would I were the goldfinch gay!
  My richer suit had tempted strong.
  O would I were the nightingale!
  Thou then had'st listened to my song.

  Though deep my scorn I cannot hate,
  Thy beauty's sweet though sour thy pride;
  To praise thee is to love thee still,
  And it doth cheer my heart beside.

  For I could swim the deepest lake,
  And I could climb the highest tree,
  The greatest danger face and brave,
  And all for one kind kiss of thee.

  O love is here, and love is there:
  O love is like no other thing:
  Its frowns can make a king a slave,
  Its smiles can make a slave a king.


  Dream not of love, to think it like
  What waking love may prove to be,
  For I dreamed so and broke my heart,
  When my false lover slighted me.

  Love, like to flowers, is sweet when green;
  The rose in bud aye best appears;
  And she that loves a handsome man
  Should have more wit than she has years.

  I put my finger in a bush,
  Thinking the sweeter rose to find;
  I pricked my finger to the bone,
  And left the sweetest rose behind.

  I threw a stone into the sea,
  And deep it sunk into the sand,
  And so did my poor heart in me
  When my false lover left the land.

  I watched the sun an hour too soon
  Set into clouds behind the town;
  So my false lover left, and said
  "Good night" before the day was down.

  I cropt a lily from the stalk,
  And in my hand it died away;
  So did my joy, so will my heart,
  In false love's cruel grasp decay.


  Of all the swains that meet at eve
  Upon the green to play,
  The shepherd is the lad for me,
  And I'll ne'er say him nay.
  Though father glowers beneath his hat,
  And mother talks of bed,
  I'll take my cloak up, late or soon,
  To meet my shepherd lad.

  Aunt Kitty loved a soldier lad,
  Who left her love for war;
  A sailor loved my sister Sue,
  Whose jacket smelt of tar;
  But my love's sweet as land new ploughed;
  He is my heart's delight,
  And he ne'er leaves his love so far
  But he can come at night.

  So father he may glower and frown,
  And mother scold about it;
  The shepherd has my heart to keep,
  And can I live without it?
  I'm sure he will not part with it,
  In spite of what they say,
  And if he would as sure I am
  It would not come away.

  So friends may frown, while I can smile
  To know I'm loved by one
  Who has my heart, and him to seek
  What better can be done?
  And be it Spring or Summer both,
  Or be it Winter cold,
  If pots should freeze upon the fire
  I'd meet him at the fold.

  I'm fain to make my wedding gown,
  Which he has bought for me,
  But it will wake my mother's thoughts,
  And evil they will be,
  Although he has but stole my heart,
  Which gives me nought of pain,
  For bye and bye he'll buy the ring,
  And bring my heart again.


[Students of ballad literature will be reminded by the following poem
of the "May Colleen" and "The Outlandish Knight" of other
collections. The resemblance between the three ballads is general up
to a certain point, but a striking contrast occurs in the denouement,
for whereas in other versions the maiden contrives by a simple
stratagem to fling her false lover into the sea, where she leaves him
to his fate, in the following she falls a victim to his treachery.
His fitting end is, however, indicated in the remarkable stanza with
which the ballad closes.]

  A false knight wooed a maiden poor,
  And his high halls left he
  To stoop in at her cottage door,
  When night left none to see.

  And, well-a-day, it is a tale
  For pity too severe--
  A tale would melt the sternest eye,
  And wake the deafest ear.

  He stole her heart, he stole her love,
  'T was all the wealth she had;
  Her truth and fame likewise stole he,

  *   *   *   *

  And they rode on, and they rode on;
  Far on this pair did ride,
  Till the maiden's heart with fear and love
  Beat quick against her side.

  And on they rode till rocks grew high.
  "Sir Knight, what have we here?"
  "Unsaddle, maid, for here we stop:"
  And death's tongue smote her ear.

  Some ruffian rude she took him now,
  And wished she'd barred the door,
  Nor was it one that she could read
  Of having heard before.

  "Thou art not my true love," she said,
  "But some rude robber loon;
  He'd take me from the saddle bow,
  Nor leave me to get down."

  "I ne'er was your true love," said he,
  "For I'm more bold than true;
  Though I'm the knight that came at dark
  To kiss and toy with you."

  "I know you're not my love," said she,
  "That came at night and wooed;
  Although ye try and mock his speech
  His way was ne'er so rude.

  He ne'er said word but called me dear,
  And dear he is to me:
  Ye spake as ye ne'er knew the word,
  Rude ruffian as ye be.

  Ye never was my knight, I trow,
  Ye pay me no regard,
  But he would take my arm in his
  If we but went a yard."

  "No matter whose true love I am;
  I'm more than true to you,
  For I'll ne'er wed a shepherd wench,--
  Although I came to woo."

  And on to the rock's top they walked,
  Till they stood o'er the salt sea's brim.
  "And there," said he, "'s your bridal bed,
  Where you may sink or swim."

  A moonbeam shone upon his face,
  The maid sunk at his feet,
  For 't was her own false love she saw,
  That once so fond did greet.

  "And did ye promise love for this?
  Is the grave my priest to be?
  And did ye bring this silken dress
  To wed me with the sea?"

  "O never mind your dress," quoth he,
  'T is well to dress for sea:
  Mermaids will love to see you fine;
  Your bridesmaids they will be."

  "O let me cast this gown away,
  It's brought no good to me,
  And if my mother greets my clay
  Too wretched will she be.

  For she, for my sad sake, would keep
  This guilty bridal dress,
  To break and tell her bursting heart
  She had a daughter less."

  So off she threw her bridal gown,
  Likewise her gold clasped shoon:
  His looks frowned hard as any stone,
  Hers pale turned as the moon.

  "O false, false knight you've wrapped me warm
  Ere I was cold before,
  And now you strip me unto death,
  Although I'm out of door.

  O dash away those thistles rude,
  That crowd about the shore;
  They'll wound my tender feet, that ne'er
  Went barefoot thus before.

  O dash those stinging nettles down,
  And cut away the brier,
  For deep they wound those lily arms
  Which you did once admire."

  And he nor briers nor thistles cut,
  Although she grieved full sore,
  And he nor shed one single tear,
  Nor kiss took evermore.

  She shrieked--and sank, and is at rest,
  All in the deep, deep sea;
  And home in base and scornful pride,
  With haunted heart, rode he.

  Now o'er that rock there hangs a tree,
  And chains do creak thereon;
  And in those chains his memory hangs,
  Though all beside is gone.


  "Unriddle this riddle, my own Jenny love,
  Unriddle this riddle for me,
  And if ye unriddle the riddle aright,
  A kiss your prize shall be,
  And if ye riddle the riddle all wrong,
  Ye're treble the debt to me:

  I'll give thee an apple without any core;
  I'll give thee a cherry where stones never be;
  I'll give thee a palace, without any door,
  And thou shalt unlock it without any key;
  I'll give thee a fortune that kings cannot give,
  Nor any one take from thee."

  "How can there be apples without any core?
  How can there be cherries where stones never be?
  How can there be houses without any door?
  Or doors I may open without any key?
  How can'st thou give fortunes that kings cannot give,
  When thou art no richer than me?"

  "My head is the apple without any core;
  In cherries in blossom no stones ever be;
  My mind is love's palace without any door,
  Which thou can'st unlock, love, without any key.
  My heart is the wealth, love, that kings cannot give,
  Nor any one take it from thee.

  So there are love's riddles, my own Jenny love,
  Ye cannot unriddle to me,
  And for the one kiss you've so easily lost
  I'll make ye give seven to me.
  To kiss thee is sweet, but 't is sweeter by far
  To be kissed, my dear Jenny, by thee.

  Come pay me the forfeit, my own Jenny love;
  Thy kisses and cheeks are akin,
  And for thy three sweet ones I'll give thee a score
  On thy cheeks, and thy lips, and thy chin."
  She laughed while he gave her, as much as to say,
  "'T were better to lose than to win."


  'T was on the banks of Ivory, 'neath the hawthorn-scented shade,
  Early one summer's morning, I met a lovely maid;
  Her hair hung o'er her shoulders broad, her eyes like suns did
  And on the banks of Ivory, O I wished the maid was mine.

  Her face it wore the beauty of heaven's own broken mould;
  The world's first charm seemed living still; her curls like hanks
  of gold
  Hung waving, and her eyes glittered timid as the dew,
  When by the banks of Ivory I swore I loved her true.

  "Kind sir," she said, "forsake me, while it is no pain to go,
  For often after kissing and such wooing there comes woe;
  And woman's heart is feeble; O I wish it were a stone;
  So by the banks of Ivory I'd rather walk alone.

  For learned seems your gallant speech, and noble is your trim,
  And thus to court an humble maid is just to please your whim;
  So go and seek some lady fair, as high in pedigree,
  Nor stoop so low by Ivory to flatter one like me."

  "In sooth, fair maid, you mock at me, for truth ne'er harboured
  I will not wrong your purity; to love is all my will:
  My hall looks over yonder groves; its lady you shall be,
  For on the banks of Ivory I'm glad I met with thee."

  He put his hands unto his lips, and whistled loud and shrill,
  And thirty six well-armed men came at their master's will,
  Said he "I've flattered maids full long, but now the time is past,
  And the bonny hills of Ivory a lady own at last.

  My steed's back ne'er was graced for a lady's seat before;
  Fear not his speed; I'll guard thee, love, till we ride o'er the
  To seek the priest, and wed, and love until the day we die."
  So she that was but poor before is Lady Ivory.


The Editor has pleasure in acknowledging the kindness of Miss James
of Theddingworth, and Miss Powell, of Thame. The former lady
obligingly sent him the manuscript of a lecture on "Dryden and Clare"
by her brother, the late Rev. T. James, of Theddingworth, and the
latter several letters written by Clare to Mr. Octavius Gilchrist.

Among those who at this time or subsequently made Clare presents of
books were Lord Radstock, Bishop Marsh, Mrs. Emmerson, Sir Walter
Scott, Robert Bloomfield, Mr. Gilchrist, Lord Milton, Messrs. Taylor
& Ilessey, Messrs. Smith, Elder, & Co, Charles Lamb, Henry Eehnes,
Lady Sophia Pierrepoint, the Rev. H. P. Cary, E. V. Rippingille,
Allan Cunningham, Geo. Barley, Sir Charles A. Elton, William Gifford,
Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Hall, James Montgomery, E. Drury, Alaric A. Watts,
William Hone &c.

Clare's little library, consisting of 500 volumes, was purchased from
his widow after his death, and placed in the Northampton Museum.

Mr. S. C. Hall kindly informs me that Mrs. Emmerson "was a handsome,
graceful, and accomplished lady." Her letters show that she was
Clare's senior by eleven or twelve years.--ED.

Coleridge's definition of watchmen.

Mr. How's connection with the firm of Whittaker & Co. terminated
before the appearance of the "Rural Muse," but he brought out the
volume, through them, on his own account, and twenty years afterwards
transferred the copyright to Mr. Taylor, who, in 1854, contemplated
the re-issue of Clare's poems.

The oft-repeated statements are incorrect, that the Northampton
County Lunatic Asylum is a "pauper asylum," that Clare was "a pauper
lunatic," and that Earl Fitzwilliam expressed the wish that he should
have "a pauper funeral." The Fitzwilliams have been kind and generous
friends of Clare and his family for nearly fifty years, and it is not
to be credited that any member of that house ever said anything of
the kind. It may be added that Earl Spencer continued his annuity of
L10 to Mrs. Clare until her death on Feb. 5th, 1871. In this
connection it should also be noted that the Rev. Charles Mossop, of
Etton, and Mr. and Mrs. Bellars, of Helpstone, took a lively interest
in the welfare of Mrs. Clare and her family, and in May, 1864, Mr.
Bellars purchased the poet's cottage at Helpstone and has set it
apart for charitable uses. Lastly, Mr. Joseph Whitaker, of London, in
whom is vested the copyright in Clare's poems, paid Mrs. Clare a
handsome annuity for the last six or seven years of her life.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Life and Remains of John Clare, The "Northamptonshire Peasant Poet"" ***

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