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Selected Poems by John Clare

An A level English Workbook by Julia Geddes, Kitty Graham and Helen Ince

~ Wessex Publications ~

About the authors of this workbook Julia Geddes, Kitty Graham and Helen Ince are very experienced teachers and examiners of A Level English Literature. They work together in the English Department of a successful Sixth Form College in Leeds.

Other workbooks in this series include: A level


The Miller's Tale The Franklin's Tale The Wife of Bath's Tale and Prologue The Merchant's Tale The Pardoners Prologue and Tale The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales Much Ado About Nothing Hamlet Measure for Measure King Lear The Merchant of Venice The Winters Tale The Poems of John Donne The Poetry of Edward Thomas Poems of Seamus Heaney Mean Time The Whitsun Weddings High Windows Dead Sea Poems Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience Choice of Christina Rossettis Verse Three Victorian Poets Selected Poems by John Keats Wordsworth - Prelude Women Romantic Poets High Windows The Worlds Wife Great Expectations Jane Eyre Mansfield Park The Handmaids Tale Gullivers Travels Dubliners Return of the Native Hard Times A Passage to India Tess of the dUrbervilles Captain Corellis Mandolin Enduring Love Snow Falling on Cedars The Great Gatsby Spies Cold Mountain Wise Children Edward II A Dolls House The Rivals The Glass Menagerie Murmuring Judges The Country Wife Dr Faustus The Duchess of Malfi A Street Car Named Desire Volpone A Woman of No Importance All My Sons Death of a Salesman The School for Scandal English Language Topics English Critical Appreciation Communications - Semiotics and the Media English Language Change

GCSE
I'm the King of the Castle The Lord of the Flies War Poetry Macbeth An Inspector Calls To Kill a Mockingbird Of Mice and Men Romeo and Juliet Twelfth Night

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The contents of this publication remain the copyright property of the publishers. They may be copied only within the purchasing institution. Any copying beyond these limits is illegal. Wessex Publications

Teacher Guide

Selected Poems
by John Clare

About the workbook


The material in this package is fully photocopiable for use within the purchasing institution. In addition, you will, of course, need a copy of John Clare, Everyman's Poetry.

Using the materials


We recommend that students read the poems first, at least once, on their own or as a group, in order to get a sound grasp of the text. The workbook examines various aspects of a variety of poems in the collection and presents the students with ideas, questions, and activities to help them develop their own understanding and interpretation. The workbook also contains a brief section on how to study poetry and a collection of revision questions, which will help students prepare for the examination. It will be necessary to photocopy the workbook for each student. You could give each student a guide to keep, but we suggest that you spiral bind or staple them and retain them for future use. The answer boxes may be used but you will probably prefer students to answer in their notebooks for reasons of cost. However, the size of each box will enable students to gauge how much to write and will make it easier to discuss answers with individuals and groups. The workbook is written and presented in a similar way to Open University/Open College materials and is intended to be interactive and student-centred. The package is far more than a revision aid or potted guide. Its purpose is both to support the students and to enable them to work at their own pace. The Study Workbook is written for the student. It can be used in a variety of ways including:

alongside class work and group work led by the lecturer/teacher/tutor individual supported-self study (flexible learning) work in class individual work carried out at home paired or small group work.

Using the CD version of the workbook


The CD provides you with three versions of the workbook: the complete workbook with questions, answer boxes and author's responses the workbook with tasks and answer boxes only the author's responses only. Each of the above may be loaded onto your school/college Intranet or printed off separately. This will give you complete flexibility to use the materials as you see fit.

The lecturers/teachers role


The pack is not intended as a substitute for the teacher/lecturer. In our view it is essential that she/he supports the student throughout by providing: an introduction to the poems explanation when needed guidance and support, individually and within small groups regular checks of the students work.

Note Tasks are written using Times New Roman font, and the author's suggested comments/answers/responses to them are given in a different font (Arial) to enable students to pick them out more easily.

Selected Poems by John Clare

An A level English Student Guide by Julia Geddes, Kitty Graham and Helen Ince

~ Wessex Publications ~

CONTENTS
Page Using the Workbook ......................................................................................1 How to Study Poetry ......................................................................................2 John Clare 1793 - 1864 ..................................................................................3 The Poems A Country Village Year .................................................................................6 December from The Shepherds Calendar: Christmas ...............................6 Sonnet: The barn door is open ...................................................................11 The Wheat Ripening......................................................................................13 The Beans in Blossom ...................................................................................16 Sonnet: The landscape laughs in Spring .....................................................19 Sonnet: I dreaded walking where there was no path...................................21 Sonnet: The passing traveller......................................................................23 Sport in the Meadows ....................................................................................25 Emmonsales Heath ........................................................................................27 Summer Tints ................................................................................................31 The Summer Shower .....................................................................................33 Summer Moods..............................................................................................36 Sonnet: The maiden ran away.....................................................................39 Song: She tied up her few things ................................................................42 The Foddering Boy........................................................................................46 The Gipsy Camp............................................................................................48 Winter Fields .................................................................................................50 The Cottager ..................................................................................................53 The Crow Sat on the Willow .........................................................................55 from The Parish...........................................................................................58 St Martins Eve..............................................................................................62 Birds and Beasts .............................................................................................65 The Wren .......................................................................................................65 Sonnet: The Crow..........................................................................................66 Sonnet: I love to hear the evening crows go by ..........................................68 The Skylark ...................................................................................................69 Sonnet: Among the orchard weeds .............................................................71 The Landrail ..................................................................................................72 Sonnet: The Nightingale................................................................................73 The Nightingales Nest..................................................................................74 The Yellowhammers Nest............................................................................76 The Pettichaps Nest......................................................................................78 Sonnets: The Hedgehog.................................................................................79 Sonnet: One day when all the woods were bare .........................................81 Sonnet: I found a ball of grass among the hay............................................82 The Ants ........................................................................................................83 Little Trotty Wagtail......................................................................................84

CONTENTS (continued)
Page Love ..................................................................................................................86 Song: The morning mist is changing blue ..................................................86 First Loves Recollections .............................................................................88 Ballad: I dreamt not what it was to woo .....................................................90 Song: Say what is love................................................................................91 Song: Love lies beyond...............................................................................92 Ballad: The Spring returns, the pewit screams ...........................................94 An Invite to Eternity ......................................................................................96 Love and Memory .........................................................................................98 Loss and the Politics of Nature ......................................................................101 Remembrances...............................................................................................101 The Flitting ....................................................................................................103 Decay, a Ballad..............................................................................................107 Song: Last Day ..............................................................................................110 The Fallen Elm ..............................................................................................111 The Lament of Swordy Well ........................................................................113 The Moors .....................................................................................................115 John Clare, Poet .............................................................................................118 I Am ............................................................................................................118 A Vision.........................................................................................................119 To John Clare ................................................................................................120 Song: A seaboy on the giddy mast..............................................................121 The Peasant Poet............................................................................................122 Sighing for Retirement ..................................................................................123 Songs Eternity ..............................................................................................125 Glinton Spire .................................................................................................127 The Eternity of Nature...................................................................................128 Shadows of Taste...........................................................................................130 To be Placed at the Back of his Portrait ........................................................133 Memory .........................................................................................................135 Essay Questions ..............................................................................................137

Selected Poems by John Clare

Using the Workbook

USING THE WORKBOOK


Before you begin your study of John Clares poems, it is important that you have read each one carefully and that you are familiar with what each poem is saying. The workbook examines a variety of poems and includes all of those set for study by AQA (specification A). This workbook will, however, offer you enough variety to be able to answer questions set by any examination board as all areas of Clares style, attitudes and themes have been explored. You will be asked to complete tasks as you progress through the prescribed selection of poetry. All the tasks are designed to help you to look carefully at the poems and to come to an understanding of the main themes and ideas that are being raised in each one. In addition to writing in the workbook, it is advisable to keep your own fuller notes in a notebook or ring binder. These will be an important revision aid if you are going to answer questions on these poems in an examination. At the end of the workbook you will find a number of specimen questions of the kind that you might find in a GCE Literature examination. If you are going to answer questions on these poems in an examination, it would be very useful to you to practise writing answers to several of these. Good luck and happy studying.

The text: Selected Poems John Clare (Everymans Poetry)

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Selected Poems by John Clare

How to Study Poetry

HOW TO STUDY POETRY


In this book we shall be looking at a selection of poems written by Clare. This selection covers differing styles of his writing and all its important themes. The aim of this workbook is to lead you through the poems, guide your thinking and enable you to respond in an informed and confident way to the variety of material prescribed for GCE A level study. However, before we embark on this process, it is important to consider how we study poetry. As in the study of prose, two key words are important, HOW and WHY: how is a poet using language and why has he chosen to use a particular image or symbol. It is always useful to remind yourself of the technical terms used to describe figurative language. The main thing to remember is that, if you are going to use these terms, you must understand how and why the poet has chosen to employ them. It is not useful just to make reference to a technical term and then to move on with no discussion about the writers craft.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

John Clare 1793-1864

JOHN CLARE 1793 - 1864


John Clare is usually considered to be one of the Romantic poets and this is an identification which he probably would have welcomed. He was an admirer of Byron and a particular fan of Wordsworth, whose work he found so natural and beautiful even after, he confessed, expecting to dislike it. Though Clare never really got to know the major Romantics, he moved on the edges of their circle. On his rare visits to London, he met Coleridge on one trip and, in fact, shared Keatss publisher, John Taylor. Clares poems reflect some of the values and explore many of the themes associated with the Romantic poets though his own preoccupations and beliefs are occasionally at odds with theirs. The Romantic poets were passionate about the natural world, seeing in it reflections of the eternal. (They did tend to differ from each other about what they imagined the eternal to be.) Clares preoccupation with nature was considerable but it had a different source from other Romantics: he was of the country in a way that none of the others were. Born in the village of Helpstone (now Helpston) in Northamptonshire in 1793 and raised there, he was the son of an illegitimate thresher and the grandson of a shepherd (though his paternal grandfather had been a schoolteacher) and lived in this area (in the same house until he was thirty-eight) throughout his life. He had little formal education after the age of twelve but was an avid and eclectic reader, borrowing books and saving money to pay for his own growing collection. Though he claimed that, above all, he would have liked to write the popular tale, Cock Robin, he was a discerning critic. Until his poetry attracted the attention of patrons who were able to subsidise him, he held down a variety of short-lived menial jobs ranging from ploughboy, under gardener, lime burner, potboy to general bar person and even, briefly, private soldier. He had also educated himself to a high enough standard to give private lessons to the children of his neighbours. However, in his final long confinement in Northampton General Lunatic Asylum, which lasted from 1841 to his death in 1864, his occupation was given as gardening. Clare began writing poetry secretly as a boy. He would read out examples to his parents which he pretended were others works which he had copied to help him practise his handwriting. Local booksellers, clergy and gentry took him under their wings and, eventually, he began to be published as the Northamptonshire Peasant by John Taylor, who happened to be the cousin of a Stamford grocer. Clare embarked on the life of a minor celebrity, at least locally, and the tag of Peasant Poet outlived him. He seems always to have been slightly ambivalent about it. He wrote that he had become the strangers poppet show and that his wife and mother complained of the stream of visitors to the house. However, he courted his celebrity to some extent, was very watchful of other local poets whose fame might eclipse his own and

John Clare aged 26

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Selected Poems by John Clare

John Clare 1793-1864

always presented his work to the publisher with idiosyncratic spelling, a minimum of punctuation and numerous dialect expressions and grammar. He also claimed that he wrote in great haste and never revised his work. He declared himself, with some pride, untutored and insisted that I will not use low origin as an excuse for what I have written, remarking dryly that the Fens are not a literary part of England. Clares obsession with nature had another spur: in 1809, Parliament agreed on legislation which enclosed a great deal of Englands common land. Ordinary people, such as Clare, were now forbidden to roam over vast areas where they had previously been allowed to go. This was a particular blow to Clare. He had been rather private as a boy he described himself as timid and superstitious - and he loved to skip school or church (preferring, as he said, the religion of the fields) to embark on long walks in the country where he would think or write. Though he became more sociable and his autobiographical writings reveal the sort of scrapes, usually involving women or drink, typical of a young man of his background this fervent enthusiasm for solitary rambles was a habit which he maintained until he was incarcerated (and even after early in 1841, he escaped from an asylum in Epping Forest and walked the eighty miles home). Unlike some of the Romantics, whose origins were less humble and whose rural leanings are sometimes sentimental, Clares countryside is known and known in detail. It is the recognisable country of his own experiences, as Wordsworths was the Lakes. So his poems are full of the Fens with their characteristic sweeps of flat land, large skies, woods, specific animals, plants and their habitats and habits and, crucially too, the relationships and personalities of the people who lived there. These were the subjects not only of Clares poetry but of all his writings and he is a complete authority on them, examining them with minute precision. He wrote a natural history of his area and his autobiographical sketches are a fascinating record of all the people he knew, very sharply and amusingly recollected. He believed in them, trusted their instincts, respected their loyalties and traditions. And he believed in the power of nature to inspire, to protect, to nurture and to delight. Some critics have stressed that Clare identifies poetry and nature not just allowing that poetry can record nature but also that they are the same creative, imaginative impulse. The outlook of the child was privileged in Clare as it was in others of the Romantics. His poems frequently feature noising children whose enthusiasm for life is portrayed as exemplary and though his village youths will often rob a nest, they will also put in a hard days work and take pleasure in it. He wrote in his autobiographical sketches that he had found nothing but poetry about childhood, nothing of poetry about manhood - a classic Romantic sentiment.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

John Clare 1793-1864

Like many of the Romantics, Clare had a fairly conventional set of religious beliefs; unlike many of them, he did not bring nameless neoGrecian deities into his work although his personification of nature and the seasons sometimes suggest that he saw them as real entities and he could be vague in his autobiography, he wrote, I feel a beautiful providence ever about me. He tended to stick to a simple belief in God, was a fan of John Wesley and had a particular aversion for religious cant or hypocrisy. Act justly, speak truth, love mercy was the basis of his creed; in matters of religion, he said, With the old dish that was served to my forefathers I am content. I never did like the runnings and racings after novelty in any thing. (His poetry notably reveres the ancient and the traditional, whether this be people, customs, old buildings, even long-standing stretches of wood.) He was superstitious but a little ashamed of being so. Clares was an unexpectedly complex personality. To an extent he led something of a fantasy life, visualising himself as a Dick Whittington, the poor boy who rose to fame, not quite sure where he fitted in. He had a strong sense of his vocation as a poet and of the mission of poetry itself. His autobiographical writings reveal him as refreshingly honest, sensible, self-deprecating, intelligent and funny, capable of some very sophisticated writing which was characterised by long, finely turned sentences. He was, by his own admission, scruffy and awkward, often diffident in the presence of strangers, absent-minded and disposed to be easily led and sometimes, he felt, duped. My whole life has been a first of April, he wrote gloomily in his journal. He confessed that he had a heated spirit which inclined him to bursts of temper. Weak health, physical and later mental, overshadowed his life from birth. His love life could be complicated: though he seems to have worked hard at his marriage to Martha (Patty) Turner (he said that he esteemed her by choice) and was clearly devoted to their children, he might not have married her but for her pregnancy and he never forgot his first love, Mary Joyce. It is thought that Marys family considered him a poor match for her and he met Patty soon after the break-up of his relationship with Mary. However, in his asylum years, he frequently referred to Mary as his wife and several of his love poems mention her by name. She died unmarried shortly after his mental health began to break down irretrievably. The poems themselves differ quite markedly in quality from each other. Clare has often been compared with Thomas Hardy, and like him, he has composed some verses which seem little more than childish ditties; whereas some of his poems not only deal with profound subject matter but feature majestic lines, precise diction, evocative imagery and elevated and sustained argument. Most have the ring of truth about them if only in the accurately observed detail of his surroundings. Clares preference was for the verse that mild and bland / Breathes of green fields and open sky; and this, in general, he achieves in his own work.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: December

THE POEMS: A COUNTRY VILLAGE YEAR December from The Shepherds Calendar: Christmas
The Shepherds Calendar was Clares third collection of poems. It was started in August 1823 and published four years later. This was a very eventful period of Clares life. On his third visit to London, from May to August 1924, he met Coleridge and De Quincey and witnessed Byrons funeral procession passing through the streets. This was a spectacle which moved him deeply especially as he saw how the common people were touched they felt by a natural impulse that the mighty was fallen and they mournd in saddend silence and compared it with the hypocritical responses which appeared in the newspapers (Byrons personal life and some of his political views had made him a target for the Reverend the moral and fastidious). When he came home, he resolved to keep a journal and wrote it diligently for about a year, recording a prodigious amount of reading and letterwriting, details of his often problematical relations with his publishers, visits to and from friends and neighbours, family anniversaries, News paper Odditys, the occasional slightly pessimistic observation, for instance on the fickleness of friendship, and, particularly noticeably, the obsessive minutiae of his natural surroundings. In addition to poems, he busied himself with writing a Natural History of Helpstone. The generally rather poor health which had plagued him all his life (he was the sicklier of twins but his more robust sister died soon after birth) was becoming more of a problem although the mental illness which led to his being incarcerated in asylums for the last twentyseven years of his life was some way off. December: Christmas is a curious extract for twenty-first century readers revealing, as it does, a world familiar only from old-fashioned Christmas cards. Though Clares religious beliefs incorporated an acceptance of the gospel narrative, there is no mention of the traditional story here. Instead, Christmas is personified as a visitor for whom every hearth / Makes room to give welcome, who is Een greeted fulsomely by want itself who will dry its tears in mirth / And crown him wi a holly bough. TASK 1 If Clare is not exploring the religious aspect of Christmas how does he characterise the season and what seem to be his purposes here? Write your thoughts in the box below:

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: December

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: December

Here are some of our ideas to add to your own: He stresses the importance of the season to the village as a community. Feuds and indifference are forgotten as Neighbours resume their annual cheer as though this was the one time when the villagers remembered to emphasise their interdependence and pleasure in each other. Every morning passer by is included. Friends pass the time together in a harmless way, implying that village life was often not very harmonious. Clare develops his characterisation of the village community by depicting individual villagers through their own preoccupations. Milkmaids pick a favoured swain to accompany them on Christmas journeys, children are anxious to sample grannys cake and pleased as neath the warmth of May to skate on the water froze to glass and endear themselves by shyly tween their parents knees trying out their scraps of carols. The shepherd is authorised by the season to kiss the giggling maid under the mistletoe. Singers more merry than tuneful can throng to sing at early morn. The Morris dancers, Bedecked in masks and ribbons gay strut like real actors. The wassail singer gives her annual turn. The apprentice boy, his face reddened by the cold and with ice in his hair demands his Christmas box. Even the cats may catch the falling crumbs. Christmas is described as a well earned holiday but one which needs to be worked for too. The huswife sets her spinning by but someone still has to make sure that Each house is swept the day before and The snow is besomed from the door. Clare gives us a detailed list of all the Christmas decorations and tells us exactly where they are to go, warning of the thorny pricks which the holly bears, describing all the processes by which the cotter trims ivy To decorate his chimney nook. As is characteristic of most of Clares poetry, the natural features are described in vivid and intricate detail. Perhaps most interesting for the modern reader is the portrayal of a winter where snow is a long-term fixture. Icles are everywhere. The snow is so deep that it necessitates tramping and routinely settles thickly in doorways and encrusts window panes. Especially vivid is the extended metaphor towards the end of the poem where fancys infant ecstasy, the love oer visions that characterises the young people, has them Climb up the window seat wi glee to see the snow, imagining that it is falling feathers and that people pulling geese above are keeping Christmas in the skies. Clare knows that ivy has a veining bough and mistletoe pear-like-berries. The weather is nasty the storm dies and swells / By fits though it is seasonably overtaken by the hummings of the church bells. Clare sets up an opposition between personified Old Winter and mirth whose joy is as animated as Summer bees. The warmth of the blazing hearths means that winter soon wipes his icles by and smiles. Fires are so hot that winter is eventually actually

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: December

repulsed as the warmth of May means that he rubs his shins and draws away. Tastes and smells enhance the vivid aural visual and tactile details. Ale is described as creaming flowering, the yule cake is dotted thick wi plums, the long hung joint is sage-stuffed. As he paints a vibrant picture for the readers, Clare does not lose a chance to underline two of his perennial themes. Whatever customs have lasted, however simple they may be, deserve respect they have sanction found. Only the haughty mind considers itself above such things. Other poems in this collection attack the fate of individuals, whose pride has been their downfall, quite savagely; here Clare touches on a favourite topic more obliquely. Traditions such as those of Christmas empower individuals, Clare argues the shepherd is no more afraid, rustic choirs can imitate the angels song, the clowns can turn kings for the Morris play, people can give in to harmless superstitions and flights of fancy. Imagination is allowed to run free as snow becomes dancing leaves and April grass. Clares belief in the power, the necessity of poetry is nowhere more strongly urged. Soon poetry will be the only refuge these old rituals will have in a more cynical world which is already, as the pale mistletoe implies, a shadow of what hath been. Old customs fade as people slavishly follow fashion.

TASK 2

This poem does not just celebrate tradition but explores the power and value of memory in our lives. How does Clare use his personal reminiscences to drive home his message?

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: December

Here are a few of our thoughts: Using personification, he examines his own relationship with the season, hailing Christmas as thou day of happy sound and mirth. He focuses again on the childs perspective with details of childrens toys and sweets, not forgetting to tell us what the sweets tasted like or how the toys were played with or even smashed. Authenticity is added with the glimpse of parent-child dynamic as gifts are begged with promises that tomorrows lesson will be learned well. There is poignancy in the reflection that adults are not supposed to long for such simple joys (manhood bids such raptures die) yet memory, personified as a perhaps beguiling female, coaxes him to talk such pleasure oer again. The poem ends wistfully. Friends part, pleased with each other, a little drunk, while the cotter remembers the religious element to the day but his zeal is quiet. Meanwhile stolen kisses and maybe more are exchanged, under cover of screens, by the villages young people. More wine is brought out - but only with which to drink Goodbye.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Sonnet: The barn door is open

Sonnet: The barn door is open


This simple sonnet does little more than list typical country images and its jaunty tetrameter robs it of the gravity usually associated with the sonnet form. However, though it is not one of Clares more profound works, it would be a mistake to disregard this poem. The details with which he characterises his villagers and scenes are so meticulously chosen that the scenes almost have the force of vignettes and the lines are carefully crafted. What elements of style and form lift the poem above the trite?

Tithe barn

TASK 3

Here are some of our ideas to add to your own: The form of this poem is reminiscent of nursery rhymes which attempt the same thing that is, to characterise a community. Clare uses the nursery rhyme device of repetition (nearly all the lines begin in exactly the same way) to link the village characters securely together and thus emphasise this sense of community.
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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Sonnet: The barn door is open

The correlation of the people, animals and implements is also highlighted by the poets use of caesura in every line. The industriousness of the village is underlined by the repetition of ready to, qualifying the barn door and the wagon. This suggests a group of people which is always effective and on the go, so much so that even the buildings and the vehicles themselves are on the alert, eager to be filled. The poem concludes with a couplet which sums up the variety of animal life and ends on the word together which seems to incorporate not just the cows but the whole village society. The visual details which Clare selects provide very vivid pictures for the readers. Particularly striking are the precise differences between the hens habitat (the dust) and the hogs (the dirt) and the way that Clare stresses the mowers busy attitude by telling us that he is stripped in his shirt. As he does so well, Clare is also keen to differentiate between his subjects, suggesting a range of personalities and relationships. The maiden has little to say and hurries away has the woodman who has called her embarrassed her? The hardworking mower is contrasted with the ploughman who seems unwilling to leave his ale (perhaps the source of his merry mood). The adults are juxtaposed with the schoolboy that only one is mentioned here could imply that the lad is skipping school. Even the animals are shown to have different preoccupations, some happy to be eating or running about, some less happy with their lot as the hogs a-noising who try to get out and the ass at his tether.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Wheat Ripening

The Wheat Ripening


This is an altogether more sophisticated poem, not just because of the precision and originality of Clares descriptions but because of the way in which he accurately captures a series of moods. The poem is written in iambic pentameter, which is the metre traditionally used in British poetry when the subject matter is profoundly meaningful. Thus, using this rhythm automatically signals to the ear that the poem has pretensions to gravity. TASK 4 Does the poem live up to these expectations? How does Clare convey these moods to the readers in a convincing way?

Here are some ideas to add to your own: The poem begins with an evocative account of the colours in the landscape. The colours are very specific: rusty brown, barley
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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Wheat Ripening

which bleaches and mellow grey give an impression of a rich but muted palette. Other striking visual images occur further on in the poem where the light of waking day is described, again very precisely, as mealy which skilfully captures the pale and mottled appearance of the dawn and where the youthful appeal of the milkmaid is enhanced by the glittering dewdrops which moise her gown And sparkling bounces from her nimble feet. The reflective character of the poem is emphasised by a rather diffuse rhyme scheme which forces the reader to concentrate. Even the last two lines seem a little inconclusive sonnets generally end in rhymed couplets. A number of sophisticated poetic devices are employed with confidence, indicating a writer at ease with his craft. Clare uses elision (for instance What time) without losing clarity, alliteration (for example barley bleaches, sweet smooth, glittering gown) to emphasise his most vivid images and to draw attention to his most attractive idea, that of the girl transforming the mundane workday with her singing. He also uses a combination of alliteration and assonance in Making life light with song. Enjambment joins with repetition in Tis sweet and it is sweet / To mark the grazing herds to express the poets growing pleasure in the enthusiasm the various villagers show for their jobs; and Clare continues to use enjambment (list the clown / Urge, unceasing calls / Join) till the end of the poem to consolidate this sense that everyone is united in enjoying life, health and honest toil. As in the previous poem, all the villagers are distinguished by their occupations but here Clare gives us more than visual pictures and the characters personalities and approaches are more developed: the carefree, nimble, life-enhancing milkmaid; the village youth who gees up his cows with cheering calls; the merry shepherd whose enjoyment of life is portrayed in his whistling and the birdboy whose unceasing devotion to his job (and the likelihood that his voice is breaking) has made him hoarse-tongued. As in many of his poems Clare makes judicious use of the vocabulary and the grammar of his vernacular (for instance balk, moise or the lack of agreement between dewdrops and bounces) to earth his images firmly in a particular locality. Clare invites us to share his own fervour by encouraging us to mark and list with him.

TASK 5

How does this poem echo Clares usual sentiments about rural life?

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Wheat Ripening

Here are a few of our thoughts: Clare emphasises the oneness of the villagers, their beasts and their surroundings. Glittering dewdrops serve to make the milkmaid even more sparkling, the clown and his ploughing team work in unison and the birdboy can aspire to Join the larks ditty to the rising sun. A sense of huge enjoyment pervades the poem, from the sweet walks outlined in the first few lines to the vocal efforts of milkmaid, clown, shepherd and birdboy. All is right with the world as the villagers enjoy their work, the animals co-operate or graze contentedly and the natural features themselves take pains to paint the scene as beautifully as possible as the wheat field tinges and the barley bleaches while the sun presides over all.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Beans in Blossom

The Beans in Blossom


This is another paean to nature, again beginning with a walk in the country but this time concentrating more on the natural elements rather than the various people who enjoy them. TASK 6 How does Clare bring out the sheer pleasure of the day in this poem?

Here are some of our ideas to add to your own: He explores nature via the senses, inviting the readers to feel The southwest wind, how pleasant in the face / It breathes, listen to the wild music of the blackbird which breaks out in the silence (when the rest are still) and the busy songs of the bees, smell the luscious scent of blossomed beans and the fragrance of the clover blossoms as well as feasting our visual senses with vibrant colours: golden, yellow, red, tawny white. He describes the walk in a tempting way using words which emphasise how leisurely and beneficial it is: sauntering roam, giving opportunities for musing. Enjambment, especially in the first half of the poem, conveys the sense of the poets wandering

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Beans in Blossom

from spot to spot. For Clare, part of the enjoyment seems to be in coming across places to which he is a stranger and here, even when surprised by herd cows that often block his path, he is able to take pleasure in their play.

TASK 7

What sort of character does Clare give nature here? Is he specific or simply fulsome?

Here are a few of our thoughts:

There is a typically Romantic, almost Keatsian, lushness about this poem. Not only do his descriptions appeal to the range of the senses in an extravagant way but there is a feeling of abandon about much of what is happening. The blackbirds music is wild and he sings when others are still. The beans spill over the path in rich disorder. The herd cows negligently toss the mole hills in their play. Intriguingly, these images contrast with the more ordered picture of the new-ploughed fields and the industry of the bees, stressed by the words busy toils Load and the implication in spoils that they have battled the plants to gain their nectar though, even here, there is a suggestion that the bees have stolen what they should not have and, in luxuriantly, perhaps decadently taken too much.
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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Beans in Blossom

The walk takes the poet through an old wood: here is his distinctive respect for what has stood for a long time. Predictably, the birds who abide there are happy ones. Once more, Clare personifies nature, implying that she is fundamentally generous. Not only does the southwest wind breathe pleasantly on the walker but the summer itself is keen to share its warm delight.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Sonnet: The landscape laughs in Spring

Sonnet: The landscape laughs in Spring


Once again Clare presents us with very vivid pictures of natural scenes but he does not seem quite so sure of his focus here: the conclusion that it is possible to drink a Winter memory of May / When all the seasons joys have ceased to be is a little lame. The fact that this poem is not titled suggests that Clare was perhaps not sure of what it was about (though this is only true of some of his untitled poems). His usual iambic pentameter is accompanied by a less tight rhyme scheme which emphasises the poems reflective character and fails to conclude the poem on a summative couplet. However, the poem has some pleasing lines and the images of the Fenland landscape in the first seven lines are particularly evocative. TASK 8 How does Clare convey his territory so effectively?

Here are some of our ideas to add to your own: There is a strong sense of the wide spaces of the Fens as Clare personifies his landscape, telling us how it stretches on / Its

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Sonnet: The landscape laughs in Spring

growing distance, filling the pewit-haunted (suggesting a lonely, ghostly place dominated by the curlews poignant cry) flats with a huge variety of colours now that the floods are gone. The landscape itself laughs and its colours are described as refreshing and merry as though they were not only delighting the eye of the onlooker but they too were rejoicing at the arrival of warmer weather: the green carpet of the meadow is edged wi yellow flowers and the action of the brook gives it veins sparkling which are as vivid as the bright mayflies catching the sun on their wings. Not only are the colours attractive and the new growth of the grass comforting (like a carpet) but the sheer uncountable numbers of the cowslips are evoked by the word swarming and by the noising excitement of the children as they gather the flowers in the midst of their play. The transience of the season is built into the countryside features: the word haunt implies that the pewits will come and go, the floods recedes but temporarily, the mayflies dance wi the hours because they will only live so long and all too soon flowers have passed away and the sunny hours with them.

TASK 9

What other typical themes does Clare explore here?

Through his constant use of personification, Clare again presents nature as nurturing and affirmative even in her provision of a Winter memory of May. Though this poem is more about the countryside than its inhabitants, Clare takes the opportunity to show the villagers working together, the generations alongside each other, and the country tasks as light work (commingling play) with a tasty and invigorating pay off.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Sonnet: I dreaded walking where there was no path

Sonnet: I dreaded walking where there was no path


This is a more autobiographical poem perhaps giving us a sense of Clares habits when young and, to an extent, all his life. He was prone to truanting from church and going off on his own; on at least one occasion, he was taken for a poacher and this might account for the sense of slight paranoia which this poem exudes: he can realistically write about dread. Of course, the acts of enclosure meant that land which had formerly been common was now judged to belong to specific individuals and this legislation affected people dramatically in terms of their livelihoods as well as their leisure activities so this poem would have resonated with many. TASK 10 How does Clare build up this sense of unease throughout the poem?

Here are some ideas to add to your own: Clare uses repetition, the echoing And at the beginning of many of the lines serving to make a list of his fearful responses and the doubled always impressing on the reader that all walks were now accompanied by a sense of foreboding. Rhyming couplets add to the tension as the reader almost obsessively waits for the next rhyme. Discourse markers such as Yet and And when structure the narrative and heighten the suspense for the reader.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Sonnet: I dreaded walking where there was no path

Words such as dreaded (and its rhymed link with the surreptitious tread), cautious, wary, feared emphasise his worries. Even ventured suggests that the poet realises that he is embarking on a risky enterprise. Gained the road implies relief. Clare names his fears specifically: he always feared the owner coming by and confesses that he is lured by the beauty of the place. So the admission I fancied every stranger frowned at me seems less unreasonable than it might we can even credit his differentiating of the looks of each passer-by where the kinder of them are more accepting (perhaps understandably, he is more inclined to think strangers judgmental).

TASK 11

How does Clare express his ideas on enclosure?

He is vaguer here than later in this collection. There is some bitterness in the road where all are free but in the tenth line he almost seems to accept the accusation of trespass. The concluding lines seem by turns wistful (Ive often thought / How beautiful if such a place were mine) and truculent (having nought I never feel alone), implying that poverty does not stop him from using anothers as my own. The strength of Clares feeling can perhaps be gauged from the evidence that the structure of this sonnet is slightly more overt than in the previous examples of this form. The argument is divided into clear sections of four, then six, then four lines and the couplets confine each point to one or two lines.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Sonnet: The passing traveller

Sonnet: The passing traveller


Clare was fond of what he termed odditys and here he explores his sense of the strangeness of the depth of an old quarry. The tops of the trees growing in the quarry reach the level of the ground above it and Clare is terribly intrigued by this. It makes for a rather thin premise and he perhaps stretches it somewhat, though the poem has some merit. TASK 12 How does he communicate his fascination to the reader?

Here are some of our ideas to add to your own: Repetition is employed effectively a number of times in the poem. Passing, used twice, emphasises the random quality of the sight how easily it could be missed, for instance or how out of character it is with the rest of the landscape. It is a traveller or a

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Sonnet: The passing traveller

stranger or, towards the end of the poem, a curious boy who reacts with wonder as though the long-time residents take the spectacle for granted while visitors are oft struck by it. Deep is also used three times, the last intensified by very, implying not just a place which is physically a long way down but which has deep secrets too. The repetitive And at the beginning of lines convey a sense of breathlessness as in a childs story. The adjective ancient and the tense of has been add to this sense that the place conceals age-old mysteries. Clare conceives of a church which might stand within, this being the biggest building most of his readers could imagine. The central six lines of the poem explore the actions and responses of the passing stranger in some detail. The man envisages how the impossible (he een could walk upon their tops) seems almost within his grasp and Clare makes good use of juxtaposition, for instance, to stress how what is above himself standing there should be below where the busy crow, going about its life as if nothing were out of the ordinary, and its eggs are - and vice versa. The wild horse gives his head a toss because he is put out that the squirrel dances (a word which highlights the animals pleasure) across the treetops below him. The poem ends on a humorous note. The boy, revealing a typical youthful disregard for natural life, killing the black-nosed bee and enthusiastically seeking out magpies nests, is amazed to find that after all his efforts scaling the highest tree, he has reached scarce above the ground. The rhyming couplets are used to underline the reliability of Clares account but the poem concludes with a more extended rhyme scheme, which serves to accentuate the boys incredulity.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Sport in the Meadows

Sport in the Meadows


This is a poem set unmistakably in the month of May. Clare characterises the season not simply by the flora and fauna which he notes with his customary attention to detail but by the effect it has on the village children. TASK 13 Make notes on the ways in which he brings this season, its countryside and the antics of the children to life.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Sport in the Meadows

Here are some of our ideas to add to your own: Clare conjures up a specific sense of place by his use of vernacular terms for the flowers, animals and even people and retains the regional inflections (for instance maken, folken, helpen) and other dialect expressions such as abouten and representations of the local accent, such as eer, childern want. Other echoes of speech (for instance Good gracious me) give the piece a friendly yet dramatic feel. He extols the bountifulness of nature by commenting on the size and abundance of his subjects. Cowslip peeps (little flowers, as the last word suggests) have gotten eer so big; the water-blobs and all their golden kin / Crowd; a variety of flowers are shining Like morts of folken flocking at a fair. Clare emphasises the gorgeousness and the multitude of these flowers by detailing the bright colour, listing all the profusion of species and personifying the plants as they crowd, nod, flock. Tension is introduced into this little narrative with the intrusion of the rude marauders. The children, equipped for the gathering, immediately declare war on the sheep and cows who snatch the blossoms in such eager haste / That basket-bearing children do think theyll get them all / And hoot and drive them off their plunder. Clare chooses not to divide the poem into stanzas and this quickens its pace. The slightly haphazard rhyme scheme also enhances our sense of the rough and tumble of the children. Clare describes the children with realism but also with tenderness. He does not spare us the fact that the scramble after flowers (brilliantly evoked with well-judged enjambment) results in fights (The next one pops her down), tears and a lot of wasted blooms. The unruly children trample molehills and meadow grasses, steal from birds nests, scare nervous larks and, as all children do, suffer minor wounds and rip and dirty their clothes. The account is laced with humour, however: he characterises the childrens desperation with As though there want a cowslip peep to spare; he describes the chase after the untied bonnet with such precision and economy that its perilous tremble on the deep lakes very brink is effectively conveyed; and he tells us that Bidding the last days troubles all goodbye they are ready for more the next day to the consternation of the red-pied cow who hastens from the sport she fears and the old ewe who calls her lamb and decides against crop[ping] a cowslip in their company.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Emmonsales Heath

Emmonsales Heath
This poem is based on a large heath near Clares home a place which is now, aptly, a nature reserve and the scene of many of his ramblings, including one, documented by him where, as a boy, he wandered off for the day and returned at nightfall to discover that half the village had turned out to look for him. The following extract from his autobiographical writings not only extols the heath but reveals some of the reasons he found such solace and inspiration there (the spelling and punctuation are Clares). I lovd this solitary disposition from a boy and felt a curiosity to wander about the spots where I had never been before I remember one incident of this feeling when I was very young it cost my parents some anxiety it was in summer and I had started off in the morning to get rotten sticks from the woods but I had a feeling to wander about the woods and I indulged it I had often seen the large heath called Emmonsales stretching its yellow furze from my eye into unknown solitudes . . . . I had imagind that the worlds end was at the orison and that a days journey was able to find it . . . so I eagerly wanderd on and rambled among the furze the whole day till I got out of my knowledge when the very wild flowers and birds seemd to forget me and I imagind they were the inhabitants of new countrys the very sun seemd to be a new one and shining in a different quarter of the sky still I felt no fear my wonder seeking happiness had no room for it I was finding new wonders every minute and was walking in a new world often wondering to my self that I had not found the end of the old one Though Clare uses the poem to proclaim his common theme of the bountifulness of nature, he also links natures abundance with the existence and the benevolence of a creator God, a point on which he is not often so explicit. In addition he begins to explore his idiosyncratic view of the relationship between nature and poetry, a premise developed in more detail later in the collection. TASK 14 How does Clare express his love for the place and give us a sense of its character?

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Emmonsales Heath

Here are some of our ideas to add to your own: He personifies the heath throughout, from his suggestion that the heath is clothed (In thy wild garb) and lingering laz[il]y in wait for him to his gratefulness that In thy security / blooms that love what man neglects / Find peaceful homes in thee. He stresses his enthusiasm for the wildness of the place, explaining this as part of natures own strategy. It is natures easy will that covers the hills with furze; Nature its family protects from the incursion of savage men that would hunt the poor hare. As ever, natures purpose is to bring ease and Joy to nurse[d] me in her happy moods, for instance through The brook which will
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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Emmonsales Heath

weariness soothe. Any attempt to tame the heath, with a scythe or ploughshares, wrong it. The place and its features are blythe unsullied Untouched mingling free forever green neglected lawless. The young people of the village are able to appreciate the heaths virtues, the swain sojourning there, perhaps in the hopes of meeting maidens gathering flowers. Looking beyond this particular heath, Clare shows frank disbelief that anyone can pass such lovely spots / Without a wish to stray and shares his love of the solitude in which he can profitably leave lifes cares / To muse an hour away. He goes on to assert that a man who fails to leave a lingering wish behind / To make their peace his home is a man without proper feeling (No love his mind employs) and one who is never likely to respect the world of the imagination (Poesy with him neer shares its flowers), the world where the unspoiled mind of the child can see life clearly and the time When fancy tries its wings. He concludes by giving us little snapshots of especially lovely spots on the heath where the seasons are personified to make natural wonders even more pleasing here, for instance, Spring defies Winter and lovingly drops flowers for the surprise[d] child to come upon. Almost shyly, he articulates his gratitude to a mighty power that Must in his splendour be so kind. He continues to characterise such a God by suggesting that it is his joyous rapture that fill[s] / The low as well as high and he is as considerate of the pismires as of the poet himself. Nature, it seems to Clare, represents the way God gives humanity hope, glimpsed in gleams of harmony and the sun which is seen of every eye as (appropriately) a halo / In natures wide and common sky.

TASK 15

What other typical concerns does Clare air in this lovely poem?

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Emmonsales Heath

He constructs an argument against the encroachment of industrialisation, demonising it as Stern industry with stubborn pride / And wants unsatisfied. He uses the framework of the description to record details of various named birds and animals and their habitats. He expresses his usual enthusiasm for ancient customs and places, envisaging Creations steps where he is treading and glorying in the idea that Things seem the same in such retreats / As when the world began. The brook is Still / Crooked and rude as when at first / Its waters learned to stray.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Summer Tints

Summer Tints
The countryside is so beautiful that even those who work in it are forced to admire and reflect on its loveliness. Though this early poem is pleasing, its scope is small, maintaining as it does the theme suggested by the title that of the colourfulness of nature. As is characteristic of Clare in his poetry, this is portrayed through a variety of sensual experiences which reveal nature as both nurturing and inspiring. TASK 16 In this poem, how does Clare help his readers to share his own estimation of the countryside?

.Here are some of our ideas: His description emphasises the countrysides health and wholesomeness, using terms such as mellowing, ripening (perhaps over-ripening as with the lightly scorched beans). Colour, texture and pattern are key to this picture of abundance: tawny yellow, green and curiously oxymoronic bleachy brown, for example, and the checkered plain and streaking banks. As he usually does, Clare personifies the seasons and their agents, here

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Summer Tints

visualising Summer itself producing the different shades of ripening with a mellowing pencil which sweeps over the landscape and the wind softly lingering over the face of nature so that it has time for mixing the brown and green over the landscape, reminding us of the kindly creator God of Emmonsales Heath. He uses personification again to give us striking visual images of the countryside. The bearded corn is like armies on parade, a picture which also suggests its submission to its cultivators and maybe to nature herself. Later nodding lands of wheat seem to express a big affirmative to life. A fairly diffuse rhyme scheme gives this sonnet a reflective feel overall.

TASK 17

Clare also stresses personal engagement with the countryside as the best way to appreciate it. How can humans respond appropriately?

Here are a few of our thoughts: The landscape is best valued by wander[ing] bosom-deep in grain or allowing oneself to revel as in the case of the shepherds who from their bowers have crept / And stood delighted musing oer the scene. A reaction to the bounty of nature is also shown by the reactions of the maid and clown. As Clare describes how they are Forming the little haystacks up and down, telling us that their work Contrasts a sweetness to the rural scene, he is surely not only thinking of the neat stooks of hay which are being built (or indeed the contrast between the boys and girls themselves) but suggesting a sexual response to the glories of nature.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Summer Shower

The Summer Shower


This is a lengthy, detailed poem which contrasts interestingly with the poem The maiden ran away which gives us a much more alarming picture of a rain shower. Clare attempts a number of objectives here. As an obsessive chronicler of local natural history, he is keen to record the characteristics and habits of the wildlife around him. He enjoyed reading and writing stories and uses this poem to compose a little narrative which introduces us to a number of village characters. As ever, he also wants to stress the beauty and the inspiration of nature. TASK 18 How well does he succeed in all these aims?

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Summer Shower

Here are some of our ideas to add to your own: The poem is introduced with personal experience. Clare is never afraid to tell us that he loves nature; as usual here he is happy to spend a quiet hour enjoying her, watching the intricate detail of the woodland (for example how the woodbine weaves). This first verse employs enjambment very effectively to stress his main purpose: To list the summer shower. The next stanzas appeal to a variety of the senses as we are urged to feel the luscious coolness and the raindrops on the uplifted hand as well as hear the quickening shower pattering the woods. Listing the reactions of the birds to the rain, Clare is able to detail a range of their habits, for instance, the trim[ming] and prun[ing]of the dusty wings, the various nests and holes where they live (and even what lines them), their joyful singing, nimbling (a delightful coinage) and to stress his theme of the unity of nature as he emphasises how ivy conceals the blackbird and her downy brood and the oven house of the chiffchaff is made safe from the pilfering boy. Country names such as Pettichap both lend the poem authenticity and endear the creatures to us. Clare moves into the narrative proper with his description of the intensifying shower which he achieves not simply by telling us that The busy falling rain increases now and later from the southwest sky the showers thicker come but by showing us such effects as the sopping leaves, loaded bough, Humming along the vale and dimpling of the brook. Nature is nothing but benevolent as she Strings [the plants] green suit with pearls, a lovely image.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Summer Shower

The main story is of the weeding troop and Clare tells this with characteristic humour, detailing the villagers frantic dashes and huddling, their laughter at their plight and the fate of beauty who misses her footing and reveals a pretty leg but inly feeleth proud / That none a fault can spy with her shapeliness. Of course, there is always a meddling clown to pass vulgar gibes and make the girl bashful and half afraid lest he interfere with her while she climb[s] the stile; and there is always a dame who assails the knave And makes him well behave. A second narrative, also tinged with humour, introduces us to the Birdnesting boys who are anxious and impatient to be about their plundering. They note how the straining eye of the bull seemeth their steps to wait and eventually have to crawl and clamber home as best they can, arriving back fearing to be scolded for being so wet and draggled. Other villagers and their beasts are introduced and characterised, from the ploughboy who lolls home to his contentedly chewing horse and the gypsies who are heedless of such inconveniences as a drop of rain and Jump oer the pasture hills. The lark acts as a discourse marker signalling the relaxing of the shower as she with sudden impulse starts and sings and Quivers her russet wings. The scene is left bathed in joy-inspiring calmness. Nature has invigorated and strengthened once more. The atmosphere is likened to the peace of Sundays leisure hour when the spirits heartsick of toil can wander, muse and Lie listening distant bells as the labourer, having prudently stored away his implements, now rests, Filling his mind with store of happy things. The curious metre, with two iambic pentameters followed by two trimesters in each stanza (a combination which is enhanced by the ABAB rhyme) serves to move the reader from the reflective to the specific in each verse.

Haycocks by Norman Garstin (1847 1906)

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Summer Moods

Summer Moods
This is a fairly simple but evocative poem in which Clare describes his own enthusiasm for nature and the idiosyncrasies of various birds and animals in the context of a solitary walk at eventide. As he often does, Clare makes this poem more striking by presenting it as personal experience. TASK 19 How does this help us to appreciate what is going on in the world around him?

Here are some of our ideas: The personal is emphasised by the repetition of I love to followed by a frank declaration of his favourite pursuits. He is clear that being alone is an advantage and his alliteration demonstrates to us that a freshly cut meadow (newly mown where he can muse) is a particular treat. Clare uses enjambment to track the emergence of a snail as he watches it. The snails colour (Jet black) enhances the sense of surprise when it suddenly creeps out and the transferred epithet

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Summer Moods

timid horn, which implies that the feelers themselves are scared as they sprout, gives us a clear picture of the animals actions.

An interesting rhyme scheme, where concluding words often meet their rhymes several lines further into the poem, adds to its mysterious mood.

TASK 20

How else does Clare characterise nature here?

Here are a few of our thoughts: As ever, Clares verse appeals to a range of senses in addition to the visual. The thorn and the evening atmosphere are dewy, the withering grass sends out perfumes, the air is sultry, the drone of the disappointed bees is sad and weary, the twilight corn is juicy. There is a suggestion of decadence in this lush, dripping, slightly decaying environment. The quail and the landrail have their specific calls, rendered into faux-English by the country people. The sonnet form is used to good effect here to indicate the variety of experiences to be enjoyed at this time of day. Clares walker is first in the narrow lanes and then spends as long mus[ing] oer meadows. The concluding sestet shows us the rarest of the country creatures as they dare to announce their presence now that they see light fade into glooms around.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Summer Moods

TASK 21

How does Clare usefully evoke the twilight to explore some of his insights into nature?

This is a transitional time when nature changes as Clare reminds us not just through his snapshots of the quail and landrail who are grateful for the darkness but through the humorous description of the bees who search round / In vain for flowers that bloomed but newly there.

Landrail or corncrake

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Sonnet: The maiden ran away

Sonnet: The maiden ran away


This is a vividly drawn picture of a rainstorm. Again it is in sonnet form but Clare does not really utilise the traditional structure of the sonnet (typically an octave followed by a sestet where one section of the poem expresses some general points and the other refines them down to some specific example or insight) but uses his fourteen lines simply to list what happens and to build a growing sense of panic and wonder. TASK 22 How does Clare present us with the development of the storm and convey the impression of its magnitude?

Here are some of our ideas to add to your own: He centres his description on people, giving us snapshots of the maiden collecting in washing who is inadequately prepared for the sudden squall, her apron over her head no match for the shower which beat and almost dowsed her to the skin, the boy forced to wade, the half-drowned ploughman up to his knees in water and the women who scream as they open the door to it. Occasional dialect expressions earth the scene in its specific context. As the storm gathers in strength, even the birds high in the trees are almost drowned. The ruts ran brooks then the streets are
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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Sonnet: The maiden ran away

transformed into rivers and flooding rivers at that (till they floated oer) and all the Labour, a lovely collective term for the working people of the village, fled home to (dubious) safety. Clare builds up suspense in the poem by starting the second line of each couplet with And, leaving us with the sense that disaster is piling upon disaster. He stresses the intransigence of the storm with ruts ran brooks as they would neer be dry and later still it fell as it would never stop, highlighting the apprehensiveness felt at dealing with this force of nature. At the end the rhyme scheme changes from the couplets of the preceding lines maybe to illustrate how the storm is becoming more erratic.

TASK 23

How does this poem show Clare dealing with nature in a slightly different way?

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Sonnet: The maiden ran away

Here are a few of our thoughts: The poem presents nature as a force of which to be scared rather than as a generous benefactor - note especially the personification of the storm which catched the maiden. Even the title makes the weather an enemy to be feared. Though threatening, there is a hint of the fantastic, even magical, in the description. Would the ruts ever dry out or the rain ever stop? The pit which he wonders at in The passing traveller is the subject of even more extravagant claims: it Was brimming oer and floated oer the top.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Song: She tied up her few things

Song: She tied up her few things


Few people in Clares day travelled very far from home. Clare himself spent most of life in Helpstone but was deemed quite adventurous in that he had been to London four times and out of his immediate area to look for work even though he lived under the same roof as his parents for a great deal of his life and moved out only to another house in Helpstone (see The Flitting) and, subsequently, the asylum. However, there was quite a strong tradition of itinerant workers, male and female, some ethnically gypsies, some just working people. This late poem about Jinney evokes the impression made on the village community by a humble yet special woman. The title song and the ballad-like metre alerts us that this is going to be a different sort of poem from the usual run of Clares work, perhaps in deference to Jinney herself and her singing talents, perhaps because Clares own health, both mental and physical, was so fragile by now. TASK 24 How does Clare bring Jinney so vividly to life?

He stresses her poverty and virtue: she has few things (but one of the possessions she always carries round with her is a Bible), her bonnet is worn through at the crown, her laced shoes are functional not pretty. But she is clean (than snow her caps whiter) and ready for work (Her apron tied tighter).

TASK 25

In this poem, how does Clare convey the sense that the villagers should have been sadder to see her go and that the natural instincts of the animals are truer?

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Song: She tied up her few things

Here are a few of our thoughts: People pause in their work: the Thrasher-man stops whopping though he does not come out but calls oer the door cloth luck and no harm, a blessing which seems rather grudging. Meanwhile the responses of the animals are more affirmative. A village dog straining All the length o his chain does all of which a dog is capable in that he licked her hand kindly and huffed her

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Song: She tied up her few things

goodbye. The hens prated and the cock strutted proudly in her honour and even the horse gives way to her. Clare may be guilty of a little anthropomorphism here or he may simply be painting for us a picture of the old mossy farm through her eyes (and showing us what met her ears too Bees hummed the red Robins whistle) as she took just one look at it. The following stanza gives us an almost elegiac portrait of the village at this time of year. It is Michaelmas, a time of transition (Clares readers, whether urban or rural, would of course have regulated their lives by the Churchs festivals: Michaelmas is 29 September) when the summers work is nearly done. Clare details the crops that have been harvested, even which ones are being processed in a vivid snapshot of the cote-pigeon-flocks which greedily round beans shelling cluster. The summer implements have been sharpened, signalling the end of the harvest season and thus of Jinneys usefulness. Has she been forgotten once she is not needed? Clares repetition of She lapped up her earnings suggests that she is glad to be paid and off to her own town. The first two lines of the last stanza are even more poignant. The flowers a-springing in the following year Will miss Jinneys singing. Maybe Clare is revealing that she will die over winter. The opening of her Bible implies that she is turning to serious matters and the folding down of the page seems to mark an ending that is graver than the close of the summer. Her bosoms forewarnings may be telling her that this will be her last harvest or perhaps she senses that something is wrong in the village. Either way, even the flowers, let alone the villagers themselves, will miss her. Clare emphasises the loss by characterising her by her singing, a metaphor for creativity, imagination, joy and wholesomeness.

TASK 26

How does Clare utilise the form of the poem to suit his meaning?

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Song: She tied up her few things

The folksong metre, which is occasionally complemented by dialect words and grammar and artificial syntax (for example, Wished oer the door-cloth her luck and no harm which puts stress on the important words), sets this poem firmly in a rural context and gives it the timeless quality of traditional songs. The rhyme scheme enhances this songlike character: it is very melodious and effective, the short lines using feminine (two syllable) rhymes and the longer lines just one syllable rhymes.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Foddering Boy

The Foddering Boy


This slight early poem is little more than an extended description of a farm boy feeding the cows in bad weather. As a picture, it has all the fine detail we would expect of Clare and his frequent use of enjambment drives the reader through the poem. But the poems climax when the boy makes it to the hay stack and delivers the feed to the hungry animals is scarcely worth the wait. However, The Foddering Boy is interesting as an illustration of the ways in which Clare portrays individuals and atmosphere. TASK 27 List the characteristic ways in which he achieves this in this poem.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Foddering Boy

Here are our thoughts: The severe conditions are carefully delineated. Clare gives us crumping snows, the blast that keenly blows, lodging snows in his detailed description of the storm. The impact of the weather is made more visual as he tells us of many a track which the cows make About the snows. As usual Clare conveys the force of the elements via the effects they have on individuals. The boys legs are straw-band-belted against the cold; he beats his fingers warm; he holds a folded arm up against the harsh wind which is so fierce that he can barely face it and oft turns for breath. Other details involve his clothing: he is described as Buttoning his doublet closer slouching his brown beaver oer his nose. The boys task is represented as a mission, even a quest, where he has to face his adversary and gain his goal (seeks the stack employs alliteration to emphasise this objective). The wind is so high that he has to brawl to call the cows over. The expecting cattle that (in Clares idiosyncratic grammar) lows are as vivid an element of this bleak environment as the boy. The reader is invited to enter the impatient desperation with which they pace the snows, making many a track as they strain to hear him come and staring to pick him out through the bad weather. Nature is again bountiful, almost profligate even in this climate huge fork-fulls of sweet hay are available as the carelessness with which the boy litters it about indicates. Enjambment, confined within a precise sonnet form and a demanding rhyme scheme, seems to emphasise the determination of the boy to beat the storm and fulfil his responsibilities to the animals.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Gipsy Camp

The Gipsy Camp


Clare was very fond of the company of the gypsies who used to camp around Helpston and spent a lot of time with them, especially as a young man. He was attracted to their unregimented but secret lifestyle, and intrigued by their customs and values; in return he was sufficiently accepted by them to be invited to their weddings. Gypsies were frequently blamed for local thefts and other misdemeanours and were constantly being arrested for poaching but Clare always claimed that his friends were more honest than their detractors. This poem dwells on the less glamorous aspects of gypsy existence, particularly the hardships faced by the travellers during the winter. Though the portrait is stark to the point of unpleasantness and Clares tone seems blunt rather than sympathetic, the last line suggests that he feels the gypsies are misunderstood and hard done by if not entirely blame-free. A late poem, this work resonates with the gloom of Clares own life in his last years. TASK 28 How does Clare succeed in conveying the rigours of gypsy survival to the reader and how effectively does he gain our compassion for the clan?

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Gipsy Camp

Here are some of our ideas:

The winter conditions are described in a variety of ways: o o o literally (The snow falls deep half hid in snow which breaks away the wind) by means of metaphor (as when the forest itself is personified as alone since so few people frequent it due to the bad weather) through the actions of those who endure it (the boy hurries back to his fire, the Gipsy knocks his hands and tucks them up).

Terming it squalid, Clare depicts the camp quite unsentimentally. The place is semi-outdoors and like a hovel; the dinner is of stinking mutton but sufficiently valued by the group that none a bit can spare for the dog. Clare spends four of the fourteen lines on detailed description of the dog, suggesting that the animal itself could be read as a metaphor for the sort of person who lived: hungry, with unsophisticated manners (squats and rubs), uncomfortable (half-roasted since he feels the heat too strong though the alternative is to freeze), watchful, liable to be disappointed in his expectations of others goodwill and destined to be aloof from conventional society. Here, picture can signify a literal representation of the group and their living conditions or be meant ironically. Perhaps Clare intends to imply sympathy with Tis thus they live. He may even be suggesting that this portrayal of the gypsies plight should act as a reproof to society as a whole. Certainly he goes on to state, without much support elsewhere in the poem, that they are quiet and unprotected, implying that they are inoffensive and need someone to champion them. He rather confuses the issue by juxtaposing these two modifiers with pilfering, insinuating that the gypsies secrecy may be self-imposed since their silence cloaks their dishonest deeds and that they do not really deserve protection, from the law at least. Is this a rather strained attempt at humour or is he simply showing that he recognises that his friends are not above reproach? Either way, the epithet in the last line leaves us with a puzzle which may not have been the poets intention. The form of the poem a fourteen-line sonnet of blank verse culminating in a rhyming couplet, reminiscent of a Shakespeare speech is classic and stately as might befit a more flattering account. Hence the last line is given a more weighty significance: it is a pity that Clare does not lead up to it more coherently.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Winter Fields

Winter Fields
This is another snapshot of village winter life, though a more ambitious one than The Foddering Boy provides. Here, while Clare concentrates most of the poem on the shepherd, he makes good use of the contrasts between the workers lot and an idealised winter existence and evokes the relationship between man and beast more subtly. TASK 29 What about this poem captures the imagination so successfully?

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Winter Fields

Here are some of our ideas to add to your own: The poem is personal and starts by conjuring up a cosy indoor scene which seems all the more blissful (if not actually smug) when it is set against the foul weather outside. Clare unashamedly refers to his own favourite recreation (a pleasant book) as an alternative to the circumstances which the shepherd is obliged to tolerate. (Plenty of shepherds in Clares day could scarcely read and, even if they could, would not necessarily select reading as their preferred winter occupation!) He characterises winter through personification, a technique which he employs many times in his poems and which helps the reader to appreciate the bad weather perhaps as the country people themselves did as not just an inconvenience but an enemy, even a threat to life and livelihood. It is clear that winter is in control (and that his sway must be avoided by cheating. As he does elsewhere (for instance in Christmas), Clare opposes the figure of winter with the figure of mirth who is here presented as a jovial, comfortable, rather loud gentleman with a hearty laugh, rich in generosity of spirit, who feels sufficiently at home to rub his legs on corner seat. As he often does, Clare portrays the weather not just by describing it clearly (for instance the fields [which] are mire and sludge, the pudgy paths, whose disagreeableness is highlighted more by the alliteration and internal rhyme, the sloughs that nearly meet) but by showing how it affects people and animals. There is a slight sense of mockery at those who do not get going fast enough; then he explains in some detail the elaborate precautions of the shepherd, a man more used to striding who now has to prog off with his ready hook, to find the driest way. Sympathy is created when we learn the reason for these safeguards: wetshod feet result in the hacking cough / That keeps him waken till the peep of day. The portrait of the dog is presented more humorously: the animal is vividly delineated both physically (croodling and thin, hirk[ling], jumping warily from dry patch to dry patch) and as a personality, grudging but bound to his master (loath [who] stops and quakes till whistled to pursue). The little narrative seems to have a happy ending though the rhyme scheme is irregular, the poem concludes on a confident rhymed couplet, implying that master and dog did hirkle through to warmth and safety. .

Clare was not obliged to use his native dialect his own reading indicates that he had a wide vocabulary drawn from standard English at his disposal and that he was familiar with accepted grammar. He seems to have been rather ambivalent about any editing of his work which his publishers ventured, sometimes asking or expecting it to be done, sometimes annoyed with their nice amendings or corrections of his pointings. He was conscious that much of his celebrity derived from that fact that he was a peasant poet and maybe this was something of a spur to introduce some of his local expressions to a
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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Winter Fields

wider public. However, there is no sense in his work that he forces Northamptonshire dialect down the readers throat. This poem contains more dialect words than most. Which words in particular seem to reinforce the sense of place and personality so striking in this poem?

TASK 30

Especially evocative seem to be: pudgy, croodling, progs off, hirkles. Not only do these terms pin the poem to a specific place and to the ordinary working people and working animals who live there but there are no satisfactory equivalents for them in standard English.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Cottager

The Cottager
This is an affectionate portrait of a simple-worded plain old man whose virtues and flaws Clare records intricately: the man is actually more complex than he seems at first. Clare describes the villager without patronising and only occasionally sentimentalising him. TASK 31 What sort of details does Clare give us of this man and how successful are they in conveying not only the mans character but also Clares fondness for him?

The first element to stress is the cottagers conservativeness which, Clare implies, is linked with his honesty and

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Cottager

honourableness: the man is True and, sure as the church clock hand the hour pursues, he will go about his daily tasks and pursuits in the same way every day. The man believes in moderation: he will visit market all the year about / And keeps one hour and never stays it out. Clare develops this sense of the man as completely trustworthy by telling us that, though he enjoys his pipe and beer, he runs no scores on tavern screens to clear. He is a typical narrow-minded villager, for whom, Clare does not scruple to inform us, ignorance is sometimes a point of pride and inconsistency is overlooked as the man is right scrupulous in one pretext / And wholesale errors swallows in the next. Suspicious of anywhere that is not his own territory, he will talk of Lunun as a foreign land. Clare helps us to envisage the scorn the man feels for the metropolis with a dash of the Northamptonshire accent. Here is a person who neer went fifty miles in all his life from his own door, who twenty years behind the march of mind will consider new knowledge as blasphemy and new inventions such as steam energy as witchcraft. His books are conventional, wellworn and well looked-after and he reads and reads [them] again: the Bible (with, obviously, pages devoted to family records at the front), Prayer Book and other religious works; he reads Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry rather than more entertaining or poetic works which might deal(s) in fancy as abhorrent to him as singing (even in the pub). His respect is for the old Vicar who should be right but, despite his doubts about the new man, he never keeps away from church and enjoys a simple, strong faith whose inspiration means that he bows his head when Jesus meets his ears. Clare assures us that his good intents take errors in their plan and, blinkered though the cottager is, his heart is good: he retains one spare room to welcome every guest in his humble cottage and for his childerns sakes keeps the pooty shells they gathered years ago in wreaths above the cupboards. He rejoices in his patriotic pictures and is compassionate towards nature perhaps overmuch since Clare describes him as sentimental, liable to look(s) on trifles and bemoan(s) their pain and frequently inveighs against blood sports of all kinds: he thinks the angler mad and loudly storms / With emphasis of speech oer murdered worms / And hunters cruel though Clare does not seem too sympathetic with this Pitys petition for the fox and hare. Nature enters his home as part of the decorations. Interestingly, nature is kind to him: He hears the mountain storm and feels it not and the tall poplar he planted himself shades his chimney. Old-fashioned, upright yet passionate, the mans desert, Clare suggests, is to be content, happy as a child at play as Time is scarcely noticed. He is too happy to be poor. The main weakness in this poem is that it often comes across as not much more than a list of the mans attributes, a sense which is underlined by the rather pedestrian sequence of rhyming couplet after rhyming couplet: even the iambic pentameter gives the poem a slightly plodding feel.

Cottagers by George Moorland (1763 - 1804)

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Crow Sat on the Willow

The Crow Sat on the Willow


Here Clare attempts to incorporate many aspects of the ballad genre into a poem which also aims to articulate the moral superiority of simple people and of the natural world but he is less than convincing. TASK 32 What does the poet seem to be trying to do in this late poem and what makes his efforts unsuccessful?

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Crow Sat on the Willow

Here are some of our ideas to add to your own: The people in this poem are characteristic of pastoral poetry which Clare will have read. The stereotypical lovers of the pastoral genre (which still had its practitioners when Clare was writing) tended to be of humble origins usually shepherds and shepherdesses and, since they lived in a fantasy classical setting, they were normally given Greek names such as Phoebe. However, the protagonists of British ballads bore traditional British names. The crow is a staple of British ballads where s/he frequently comments on the main story of the poem and often heralds a sinister outcome. It is not very clear what Clares crow is doing in the poem. He hoarsely croaked his song but what is his song? He has a glossy coat but what are the implications of this, other than that Clare likes writing about fine birds? He sits on a willow tree and willows are noted in ballad for implying sorrow but Clare does not develop this. The crow seems himself to have some experience of love (not a typical ballad feature). s the mere presence of the bird in the poem intended to hint at some tragedy? It does not help that Clares grammar is more than usually nonstandard in this poem so it is difficult to tell whether the ploughman is taking about a love that is current (My love she is a milking maid) or one that is over (I loved her many a week). Though some of the best of them present their narrative lines obliquely, ballads generally have a strong plot. This tends to be emphasised through dialogue, sometimes a symmetrical conversation between protagonists; occasionally the poem consists of dialogue as in the splendid Edward. Repetition is a key feature used to underline characters significant feelings or actions or to show how these have changed. It is unclear what the point of the ploughmans reiterated declarations is. Perhaps Clare means us to deduce the following scenario: o o the ploughman starts off by being sure of the milkmaids love (I love my love because I know / The milkmaid she loves me) he continues by extolling her virtues (She keeps her pails so bright) as well as her feminine qualities and strong connection to her country roots (And blythe she trips the dewy grass / Her face was rosy health) and her pleasure in her drab but honest working clothes and acceptance that nature was her wealth in mentioning that she is as young and handsome / As any in the town, does he leave to be implied that she has been unfaithful to him with a town dweller? That his ploughmans ransom will not be enough to attract her back and that his rustic lay is too unsophisticated to appeal to her?

However, the ploughman seems to sing lustily and throw himself more and more enthusiastically into his work as the

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Crow Sat on the Willow

poem goes on and the fields confidently echo his sentiments. Maybe Clare simply wanted to air a few balladic devices and experiment with traditional balladic syntax (such as the paralleled And glossy was And loud the ploughman And hoarsely croaked), catchphrases (At morning and at night) and vocabulary (such as bonny lass).

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: from The Parish

from The Parish


This excerpt is from a much longer poem which was written early on in Clares poetic career but not published until after Clares death: his mentors advised against it. Its mood is much sharper, angrier and, in some ways, more mature than most of his work. However, though the poem makes some perceptive points and is stylishly composed, it is not vintage Clare rather, it owes its tone to the poet whom he quotes at the beginning of the work: Pope. TASK 33 Does Clare master this kind of verse effectively or does the poem end up almost as a pastiche of the earlier poet?

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: from The Parish

Here are some of our ideas: Like Pope and his contemporaries (usually referred to as the Georgians), Clare begins his discussion in this extract with a great deal of personification of qualities, noble and ignoble. Sentences are huge, ranging sometimes over many lines and the argument is consequently very dense. His targets hypocrisy, flattery, self interest, deceit and his main quarry, Cursed affectation are ones which he genuinely abhorred but are also the popular butts of Georgian satire, though his imagery is often less subtle than that of the best Georgians, drawing contrasts between what is real and what is pretended in a rather exaggerated way (for example, blasts blow blessings every time they blow). He is more successful when he uses imagery that at least echoes his own field of reference Thy sheepish features and thy crouching gait / Like sneaking cur for instance. Similarly, his rogue thats carted to the gallows tree, for Clare is far more honest in his trade than the flatterer Whose smooth tongue uttered what his heart denied though such a character might have been a little too rough for the Georgians. Again with less subtlety than the Georgians, Clare asserts that nowadays truth grows a vile offence / And courage tells it at his own expense, later rather overstating the consequences for himself. He presents himself as fearless and unperturbed by the slander stung deceit may raise. His bark is launched too far on Lifes rude sea to be troubled by the waves made by those who may wish the wreck though they dread the war. Afflicted by ignorance scorn envy hate, they will Die of their own distempers. However, we may detect some bitterness in Clares contention that A public names the shuttlecock of fame and that Friendship like theirs is but the names disgrace since the poets dealings with acquaintances and business associates were not always harmonious. Uncharacteristically, Clare continues to justify himself and offer us generalities about the mechanisms of satire. Satire should not wax civil oer its toil, he avers, vowing to Tell truth nor shrink for benefits to none. Despite the dangers of folly, Clare uses satires Muse like a bloodhound to winkle out each smoothfaced tyrant.

Undoubtedly Clare is not at his best in this kind of verse; or, at least, he makes more of an impact when he is on home ground. (Unfortunately he is setting himself up to be judged against the finest and most urbane and elegant of satirists.) The rest of this extract, though more savage than Clares usual writing, is more convincing. Here he moves onto known territory as he explores the ways in which affectation is ruining rural communities where, in days of yore, master, son and serving man and clown / Without distinction daily sat them down and the poor considered themselves as equals, not as slaves. These all have vanished like a dream of good, writes Clare heatedly.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: from The Parish

TASK 34

How does Clare convey his fears so powerfully?

Here are some of our ideas: He uses very effectively the image of the old oak table round which both kitchen and hall could dine and which was banished

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: from The Parish

to a lumber room as disgusting to my ladys sight, eventually to be Transformed to stable doors or troughs for swine. Again employing the images of household objects to make his point, he tells us how pewter rows are all exchanged for plate. He goes on to explain all the other changes that have been made in the upstart farmers household The liveried footman, for example which make his mnage scarcely different from that of his Lordship. However, his sharpest satire is reserved for the people themselves the farmers daughter, unreserved though shy who has dwindled from the lovely maid who would involve herself cheerfully and unaffectedly in the farm chores to a highly bred creature who cannot dare to venture in the street, who despise[s] her background, who has been taught to view old customs with disdainful eyes and whose pursuits are all trivial or pretentious. Her mincing fine airs have been misconceived at school, Clare avers, until Trying to be something she becomes nought at last. Clare then gives us more specific detail about one of his Ladies of the Farm. Miss Peevish Scornful, prettyish, Brought up a lady, though her fathers gain / Depended still on cattle and on grain is drawn unsparingly. Clare gives us a detailed picture of a simpering girl who affects all the ambitions of a Jane Austen heroine and welcoming the empty attentions of Squire Dandy, frowned at the honest praise of a man who was one of her equals. As the girls visions of an elopement with her favoured beau fade, she Caught the green sickness and gave up sick visits, balls and plays, trying to be plain once more. But she has played show-woman much too long and her equals will not take her seriously. Her end is humorously fitting: grown husband-mad, away she ran with the servant man. He next turns to Young farmer Bigg of this same flimsy class who similarly Struts like the squire and dresses dignified even to the extent of being Braced up in stays. A fool and a flirt, his posturing is perhaps more dangerous than that of sickly Miss, as he is portrayed as preying on girls who are just below him in status: Teasing weak maidens with his pert deceit so that maids are ruined oft and mothers made. The girls will live dishonoured and die unwed while the young man will bribe his way out of trouble and, bolstered by friends who lie for him, remains A proud, conceited, meddling fellow still. The excerpt ends with a short summary where Clare uncharacteristically deplores the fact that Nature moulds by turns the monkey or the man often giving wisdom to the person who has an empty purse and oerflowing pockets and to the empty head: merit vainly tries / While heedless folly blunders on the prize, he concludes with a gloom which most of his country poems eschew.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: St Martins Eve

St Martins Eve
This narrative poem ends this section on a more comforting note, stressing the things in which Clare really believes and securely set in his own territory. TASK 35 How does the poet restore our faith in the village community?

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: St Martins Eve

Here are some of our ideas to add to your own: Clare conveys the dismal mood of the village as the year grows wearisome with age evocatively, detailing the change from the meadow romp of the villagers under a sky full of a joyous crowd of birds; a time dominated by the rude winds and threatening rain, woods [are] desolate of song, roaring trees and Winters imprisonment for the village children who are intriguingly described as Pining for freedom like a lovesick nun. Only the lone and melancholy crane is left to characterise the season. However, the villagers are more resilient than to let the weather determine their moods for long. The fireside evening owns increasing charms, visitors arrive, tales are told and naturally the eldern wine that warms / In purple bubbles has something to do with the blessed feeling that the company shares. He singles out one particular St Martins eve (11 November) when, despite the outdoor symphonies of the weather, the residents of one cottage and their guest contrived to cares so well deceive / That the old cottage rung with merriment, giving them the impression That (it) seemed as Summers sport had never absent been. As ever, Clare appeals to our senses with food and drink lipsmackingly described as creaming, seasoned and the warmth of the cottage evoked with images of the fire and the glad cat curled in the midst of the company. A variety of jokes and sports is related to us and while they may seem very simple pleasures to a twenty-first century audience, they clearly entertain the villagers Clare spends nearly a stanza detailing their laughter (even that of the dame (whose) best blue china has been broken that day). Most seem based on the age-old premise that embarrassing ones friends will always cause mirth (for example, one game involves placing a red hot knife into a blindfolded mans hand) and many groups of friends have a poor Hodge who is the bait of this sort of joke and whose wisdom, however much he promises himself Ill beat em, now or never, is no match for the others. Nearly all the community is involved as an old dame is taken in by the urchin and smiles too against her will, old men are as wild as boys and Old women / Dance with the girls. The merriment is so frantic that Clare likens it to strife. Clare is not over-sentimental however and acknowledges that not all are equipped or even allowed to share the fun. Once-beguiled Kate who is condemned to live without a mate because she made one slip in love and played the fool here on corner stool sits all silent. Despite her dreams, her charms, her beliefs in the promises of gypsies, she is left to Nurs(e) rude melancholy while

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: St Martins Eve

the others dance and, whatever their worries, make a truce, as Clare implies, with joy. Fatigue and all its countless ills are forgotten as the villagers take turns to sing and play their rudimentary musical instruments. This clamorous noise is scarcely music but the sense of togetherness of the villagers results in their converting all they touch[ed] to gold though Clare suggests wryly, ignorance is bliss. Eventually, when they get tired, someone reads a tale and the company sit through Stories though often read yet never stale. Interestingly, Things least to be believed are most preferred by the simple souls and Clare relates some of the most popular, especially the exploits of Tib, all too true to be a fib. It were a sin to doubt oer tales so true, the poet responds with fond sarcasm. Midnight disperses the company and the villagers tittering go homewards, loud with stout ale berry-brown, at one with each other and the world.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Wren

THE POEMS: BIRDS AND BEASTS The Wren


TASK 36 Read the poem through carefully. Consider how Clare celebrates the everyday birds of the fields and comment on how this links to the Romantic vision.

In this sonnet Clare celebrates the beauty of the song of the wood robin and the wren. Unlike the renowned songs of the cuckoo or the nightingale, Clare suggests, the songs of these more common and everyday birds have a beauty of their own and one that is not often acknowledged. He questions the generally accepted idea that it is only the nightingale or the cuckoo that can act as muses and raise Ones heart to ecstasy and mirth. In keeping with the Romantic vision, Clare suggests that these birds act as catalysts to a nostalgic image of the past. The poet is seen tenting (tending) his sheep as the song of the birds conjures up happy stories of the past again.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Sonnet: The Crow

Sonnet: The Crow


TASK 37
Now read The Crow. Make notes on the way that Clare, once again, celebrates the unconventional beauty of the bird.

In this poem, Clare champions the common crow that is seen every day over the fields and woods. There is a sense of freedom that is conveyed to those who engage with the bird as it flies Over the woods and fields, oer level fen. In contrast to the woodmen who engage in hard travail as they their daily labours ply, the crow is seen to sosh askew or rise above the hid woodmans stroke and so sail beyond the limiting world of man untroubled by the violence of the wind or mans struggle to survive. Clare uses the image of the chimney sweeps and describes the bird as the sooty crow to create a picture of both the colour and the rather ragged appearance of this creature. Once again Clare insists on celebrating not the conventional beauty of a bird and its song but the crows croaking joy that sets it apart from humans and in many ways from more beautiful birds. The poem concludes with a celebration of freedom and the contrast between the graceful movement of the bird like a ship in full sail and the earth bound vista of fields, and woods and waters that are spread below.

TASK 38

We often see Clare using what might be considered rather unconventional language. An example of this is found in The Crow. What effect do you think this creates?

continue over

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Sonnet: The Crow

It seems that Clare chooses to use phrases like sosh askew to create a sense of the rural landscape and, in keeping with the Romantic ideal, he is using the language of the common man that Wordsworth was so keen to exploit. The effect in The Crow is to present a link between the working man in the fields and the glory of nature. There is a sense in which this language allows the reader to empathise with the simple rural life and, in a sense, it serves to demystify the poetic sensibility and develop a connection between man and nature all of which were the aims of the Romantic poets.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Sonnet: I love to hear the evening crows go by

Sonnet: I love to hear the evening crows go by


TASK 39 Consider the ways in which Clare once again celebrates the fortitude of the birds that do not migrate but remain on English shores.

There is a sense of the busy nature of the various birds mentioned in this poem. Interestingly, what we are presented with is a series of images of the behaviour of various birds who affect the poet as they go about their daily lives. Once more Clare uses dialect words to create a sense of place, offering the reader an engagement with rural life in Helpston, the village of his birth and the spot where he wrote many of his poems. The tone is celebratory as Clare presents the reader with a snapshot of the fortitude and endurance of the wild birds that are forced to bear the harshness of the winter months in England: being short of flight, they find refuge in the hovel where the cows are fed or beneath the eaves. As with many of his poems, this sonnet is written in rhyming couplets offering a simplicity and songlike quality to the verse.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Skylark

The Skylark
TASK 40 Consider the ways in which Clare creates a sense of innocence in this poem through the thoughts of the young boys who attempt to connect with the skylark. Also look carefully at the structure of the poem and consider the effect of the repetition of particular images.

The poem opens with a vivid description of the spring awakening seen through the description of the corn that is sprouting its spiry points of tender green. The vulnerability of the corn is linked to the picture of the hare that squats to terrors wide awake thus Clare creates a sense of the innocence and vulnerability of the natural world that is always at the mercy of either the elements or predators. This idea is continued in the following image of the boys who blithely rustle the hedgerows and vie with each other as to who shall be the first to pluck the prize of the early blossoms. The boys themselves are seen as free and innocent as they wander far from home but they become predators as they disturb the nesting skylark and force her to hover over her nest until the boys have passed. Again Clare reinforces the idea of vulnerability as the skylark is seen to be at the mercy of both

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Skylark

the elements and human whims as she nests upon the ground where any thing / May come at to destroy. The boys, however, are themselves lost in a world of relative innocence as Clare suggests that they idealise the freedom of the bird and believe it to be free from danger as the heavens are free / From pain and toil. Hence, the whole poem takes on a circular form that refers the reader back to images seen earlier in the poem. Clare uses the same word twice in this poem as we see the boys pass the larks nest; we follow the bird as it flies up and down, back to the nest which the boys have now passed; and, as the bird settles, our attention is led back to the boys, with whom it stays for what remains of the poem. The effect is to create a sense of the open fields and the linking of humans and nature through a sense of innocence and vulnerability.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

he Poems: Sonnet: Among the orchard weeds

Sonnet: Among the orchard weeds


In this poem, Clare celebrates the clever and cunning way in which the hen manages to ensure her eggs are not taken. TASK 41 Consider the ways Clare presents this scenario like a small vignette, a snapshot of natures ability to recreate itself.

The poem offers a sense of safety and security for the hen that is from every search / Snugly and sure. The use of the word snugly creates a sense of being cosy, warm and comfortable, well away from the prying eyes of the servant girl whose remit is to collect the eggs for her employer. Clare uses the words cackles and cackling, suggesting a mocking tone to the hens call as she sits among the orchard weeds. The poem concludes with the triumph of the hen and a celebration of new life as the young brood come chirping to the door. Here the cackle has been replaced by chirping, a more mellow sound and, one might suggest, a more innocent one; not yet tainted by the vicissitudes of life.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

he Poems: The Landrail

The Landrail
Clare once again celebrates the secretive and clever nature of a bird that manages to defeat peoples attempts to find it or its young. TASK 42 In your notes, consider the way Clare creates a sense of freedom, of a world in which the song of the bird whispers through the meadows as it defies any attempt to be found.

Here are some of our ideas to add to your own: The song of the landrail becomes an insistent murmur throughout the poem. It is heard Through meadows night and morn and, to the human ear, seems almost unreal as it cannot be traced to a particular place. It is like a fancy everywhere. The sense of mystery is reinforced by the description of the search for the source of the craiking. Here again we see Clares use of dialect to create not only the sound pattern of the bird but also a sense of place and his engagement with the local area. What we are offered here is a real sense of Clares deep knowledge of the countryside and his ability to recreate the mysteries of the life of different birds through his poetry. Hence, Clare is able to celebrate the freedom of the bird as it remains detached from the world of people who, for the most part, are unable to identify the noisy guest and so it remains a pleasant wonder tale / For all the summer long.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

he Poems: Sonnet: The Nightingale

Sonnet: The Nightingale


In this poem, Clare celebrates the song of the greatly venerated bird, the nightingale. As with many of his poems Clare chooses a particular aspect of the landscape to focus upon and in this case it is the beauty of the song of the nightingale. TASK 43 Consider the sentiments expressed in this poem. (You might like to link this poem with the other bird poems you have read so far.)

Here, once again, Clare offers the reader a meticulous description of a particular aspect of the countryside, in this case, from the little blackthorn spinny / To the old hazel hedge that skirts the vale. The music of the bird is described as thrilling, offering a sense of its magic and the effect it has on human ears. The ploughman does not just hear but he feels the music that he attempts to imitate. Unlike the birds, his path is not clearly mapped out and his way is easily lost. The Nightingale however remains undaunted as she continues to sing her sweet melodious song.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Nightingales Nest

The Nightingales Nest


In this poem, Clare develops his celebration of the nightingale as he places himself in the poem as observer and possible plunderer of her nest. TASK 44 Having read the poem through carefully, consider the way Clare presents his relationship with nature and the sense of urgency with which he impresses upon the reader his need to offer a description of a particular aspect of the birds habitat and his respect for it.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Nightingales Nest

Here are some ideas to add to your own: The poem begins with an invitation to softly rove / And list the nightingale. The reader is invited to join the poet on this journey to hear and see the nightingale in her habitat. Clare addresses the reader personally as if s/he might disturb the moment he is hoping to enjoy, that is, the vision of the bird. His determination to find her nest and see her feed her young is described through images of creeping and hunting, revealing the methods he employs to fulfil his desire. However, Clare asserts that all these hours were vainly spent as the bird remained as hidden as a thought unborn. In the next few lines Clare celebrates the simplicity of the birds appearance in contrast with its status in the human world. The detail Clare offers of how the bird seems to be entranced by its efforts to release her heart / Of its out-sobbing songs serves to reinforce his connection with the nightingale and his close link to some of natures mysteries. Clare fuses the sound of the nightingale with the attempts of the thrush to imitate the melody of this timid bird that once Lost in a wilderness of listening leaves is able to pour its luscious strain. There is richness in the language here that serves to emulate the beauty and glory of the song of the bird. The imagery he associates with the thrush is characterised by the deathlike qualities of winter whereas the nightingale is seen as a bird of the summer, one whose joys are evergreen and who is associated with a boundless freedom where her world is wide. Just as in the earlier poems, we are given an image of a world without boundaries, a world before the green fields of Clares youth were enclosed by the 1809 Act. This is a world that Clare associates with the state of man before the fall, an Eden: a world of freedom and innocence. All of this is, of course, in keeping with the general attitudes and values of the Romantic movement and, in this poem as in many others, we see Clare developing his own sense of the Romantic sublime through small vignettes of particular aspects of the landscape, in this case the nightingale. The poem repeats itself in terms of the poets desire to invite the reader to witness the nightingale at first hand and here we see another aspect of Clares particular style of writing, as he describes the landscape not only through the use of dialect but also through compound adjectives as in And hunt this fern-strown thorn-clump round and round. The timidity of the bird is reinforced as mans intrusion is seen to inhibit the delightful melody of the bird as our presence doth retard / Her joys and doubt turns every rapture chill. The poem concludes with a very vivid description of the birds eggs as they lie hidden in the thorn bush and, once again, Clare addresses the reader directly as he instructs them to avert their gaze and to leave the bird to her prelapsarian existence, still unknown to wrong / As the old woodlands legacy of song. Thus the poem concludes with a sense of a world of innocence untainted by change.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Yellowhammers Nest

The Yellowhammers Nest


In The Yellowhammers Nest, Clare again acts as a recorder of the habits and struggles of the natural world. TASK 45 Read through this poem and explore the ways in which Clare demonstrates his engagement with the beauty and vulnerability of this bird.

Here are our ideas: Again we see Clare inviting the reader to act as an observer of nature as he captures a moment in time when the small bird has been disturbed by a cow-boy. We are offered a vivid description of the nest lined as it is with the horses sable hair. Through his attention to detail, Clare allows the reader to experience at first hand the sight of the nest. He moves on to describe the eggs, fusing the image of the writer with that of the natural world, developing the link through the description of them as natures poesy. The bird itself is seen as one of natures poets and Clare uses the image of Parnass hill, or

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Yellowhammers Nest

as we may know it Mount Parnassus, the mystical mountain in Central Greece, Delphi. In Greek mythology, it was associated with poetic imagination, being the home of the Muses.

The poem however, takes on a darker tone as Clare touches on another key feature of the Romantic imagination that of the fusing of pain and pleasure. Although it is seen by the observer as A happy home of sunshine, flowers and streams / Yet in the sweetest places cometh ill. Here Clare demonstrates his sense of the vulnerability of the little birds nest and the looming possibility that snakes may take the unhatched eggs leaving behind a houseless home a ruined nest. In a similar vein to Keats who, in Ode to Melancholy, asserts Ay in the very temple of delight veild melancholy hath her sovereign shrine, Clare demonstrates the tragic pattern of the natural world.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

he Poems: The Pettichaps Nest

The Pettichaps Nest


In this poem, Clare celebrates the pleasure he feels when a chance sighting allows him to see not only the nest of the shy pettichap (garden warbler) but also the bird itself. TASK 46 Having read through this poem, make notes on the way Clare engages the reader in his sense of surprise and wonder as he happens upon the nest and the bird

In this poem Clare adopts a conversational style as he begins with the words Well, in my many walks I rarely found/ A place less likely for a bird to form/ Its nest The reader is invited to share his surprise and pleasure as he offers details of the nest and the clever way it is hidden from the sight of predators. The rich sibilant sounds, silken stole / And soft as seats of down for painless ease are used to conjure up the image of warmth and security in the nest. Clare celebrates the amazing tenacity of the nest that teeters on the edge of destruction, being at the mercy of all who pass and yet he says it remains like a miracle in safetys lap. The gentle rhythmic flow of the poem is suddenly broken by the insertion of the word Stop and the reader is drawn into the surprise and delight of the poets revelation that he has glimpsed, possibly for the first time, the shy pettichap and been able to see her habitat. The poem ends on a note of revelation as Clare asserts, never did I dream until today / A spot like this would be her chosen home.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Sonnets: The Hedgehog

Sonnets: The Hedgehog


The cruelty of people and their desire to destroy harmless creatures becomes the focus of this poem. TASK 47 In your notes, consider how Clare presents the hedgehogs struggle to survive in a world characterised by thoughtless and often uncaring human beings.

Here are some of our ideas to add to your own: In these two sonnets, Clare explores the behaviour and fortitude of the hedge pig as it struggles to survive in an inhospitable world

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Sonnets: The Hedgehog

where its only defence against the gypsies noisy dogs is to roll up like a ball, a shapeless hog. The fact that the gypsies see the meat of the hog as a kind of delicacy makes its existence more precarious. Throughout the first sonnet, Clare details the unobtrusive life of the hog that scavenges On the hedge-bottom hunting for food. In the second sonnet, Clare denigrates those who pursue the hedgehog presenting them as careless folk who justify their pursuit of the animal by weaving scurrilous tales about its behaviour. Clare, however, attempts to redress the image created by describing the tiny mouth of the vulnerable creature that could not, he purports, milk the cows or Nibble their fleshy teats. Nevertheless, these small creatures remain the prey of the gypsy folk and Clare concludes with an image of the savage nature of the hunt and the fact that no one cares and so the hedgehog continues to suffer as the strife goes on. What is interesting about this poem, and particular to this collection of animal poems, is Clares insistence on the beauty and suffering of these wild creatures both at the hands of humans and also as a result of natures law of the survival of the fittest. What he gives us here is a snapshot of these small animals that all struggle to maintain life and yet offer a beauty to the landscape that often goes unnoticed in our busy world.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Sonnet: One day when all the woods were

Sonnet: One day when all the woods were bare


Having read this poem, comment on how Clare engages the reader in the immediacy of his reaction to experiencing a small wonder of nature.

TASK 48

Once again, Clare offers the reader a moment when he is suddenly given the opportunity to see a squirrels nest. He describes it with precise detail using the language of the ordinary man (Twas ovalshaped) and he relives the effect of this experience as he presents the emotions he felt, strange wonder filled my breast. The experience acts as a catalyst to his developing sense of engagement with the surrounding landscape. Clare concludes the poem using dialect, I sluthered down, reinforcing the sense of place and his connection to it whilst at the same time illustrating the effect this moment has had on his imagination as wondering he journeys on.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Sonnet: I found a ball of grass among the

Sonnet: I found a ball of grass among the hay


Here we have yet another snapshot of a sudden and unexpected experience. This time, Clare uses the sonnet form to capture the moment of haphazardly prodding a ball of grass only to find a mouse suckling her young tucked in among the hay. TASK 49 How does Clare make this incident memorable?

Harvest mouse nest

Here are some ideas to add to your own: What is interesting about this poem is its conclusion as Clare moves swiftly from the description of the mouse to capturing a particular aspect of the landscape at that moment in time. The rhyming couplets throughout the poem create a jaunty rhythm but, as the poem concludes, these are used to redirect the readers vision from the mouse to the movement of the water and finally to the warmth of the sun.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Ants

The Ants
This poem allows Clare to demonstrate how his imagination is fired by a simple encounter with even the lowliest of creatures. TASK 50 Read through the poem carefully and consider how Clare reflects on the world of the ants and how a chance encounter can create a sense of wonder and amazement.

The sense of wonder and amazement is seen in this poem through the flight of fancy Clare describes as he watches the ants busying themselves. He asserts that Pausing amazed, we know not what we see, suggesting perhaps that mans belief in himself and his superior knowledge can be so easily undermined by what might be considered to be creatures at the very bottom of the life chain. As he watches them silently, there is a sense in which he implicitly offers a contrast to human social activity. He does not make an overt statement but his description of the way A swarm flocks round to help their fellow men seems perhaps at odds with the behaviour of mankind. Clare moves on to suggest that Surely they speak a language whisperingly / Too fine for us to hear, intimating that their world is perhaps more ordered and refined than the somewhat savage world of humans. He concludes his flight of fancy with the idea that the ants are possibly Deformed remnants of the fairy days. Thus we see how these tiny creatures act as a catalyst to Clares own imagination and enable him to explore the possibility of different worlds outside of his own earthly experience.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Little Trotty Wagtail

Little Trotty Wagtail


This simple and almost childlike poem celebrates the tenacity of the little bird who despite the adversity of the weather continues to enjoy the life he leads. TASK 51 How does Clare effectively characterise the bird for us?

Here are some ideas to add to your own: There is a real sense of the birds love of life as he is described waddling in the water pudge and waggle went his tail and the song of the bird is captured in the word chirruped, creating a sense of pleasure at his antics. As with many other poems in this section of the collection, Clare focuses the readers vision on a particular moment in time or action of a bird or small creature. In this poem, in particular, we are offered a sense of Clares love of the freedom of the bird that defies lifes vicissitudes and simply revels in the glory of life. The poem concludes with an image of the bird retiring to a safe haven

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Little Trotty Wagtail

in the warm pigsty as the poet addresses him personally bidding him Goodbye safe in the knowledge that this little wagtail has nothing to fear from the encroaching night time world. As this section concludes, we are left with a sense of Clares wonder at the fortitude of the small animals he sees around him and his joy that they can survive in a changing world where people seem to be becoming distanced from a sense of place and belonging. In these small vignettes, Clare offers the reader a world of innocence that teeters on the edge of being destroyed by the ever-changing world of mankind.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Song: The Morning mist is changing blue

LOVE Song: The Morning mist is changing blue


Clare focuses on a chance meeting with a pretty maid and celebrates the effect this has upon him. TASK 52 After reading through this poem, make careful notes on the way Clare explores the complex emotions of desire against the backdrop of the natural landscape.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Song: The Morning mist is changing blue

Compare these ideas with your own: Clare captures the beauty of the new day through a detailed description of the landscape of which he feels so much a part. The morning mist is compared to smoke, creating a sense of its ephemeral quality. There is almost a cinematic effect as the activities of the day are brought into focus, firstly with the view of the arched bridge and then the cows and finally the maids working in the fields. Against this backdrop, Clare invites the reader to notice, as he does, the beauty of one maid in particular whose distinguishing feature is her inky hair and who is inextricably linked to the natural landscape being As bonny as the morning. The description of the maid is developed in the second stanza and Clare builds up the tension, and the impact the maid has upon him, through the use of a snappy staccato rhythm. He writes, She looked my heart was fairly won and, with those words, the reader is given a sense of the immediacy of his reaction. The sensation of joy, as in many of Clares poems, is almost immediately counterbalanced by pain. However, this response is not seen as negative but one to be embraced as he asserts, But pain I know can soon be well; / And for my life I cannot tell / Which feeling was the dearest. Thus Clare touches on the complexity of the speakers emotional response to the burgeoning of new love and desire. In the final stanza the speaker celebrates the glory of the day and describes how the world around him appears bright and clear. Thus nature herself seems to respond to the speakers mood as he asserts, All nature in her sweetest dress / Was still but sweetly dawning, just as his emotional engagement with the young maid is new and full of promise. Thus Clare links the dawning of a new day with all its unfulfilled promise to the possibilities that may lie ahead for the speaker and the bonny maid.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: First Loves Recollections

First Loves Recollections


This poem is characterised by a yearning for what has gone before. Throughout the poem the speaker nostalgically reflects on an earlier period in his life when Mary, possibly Mary Joyce, with whom Clare fell in love, a woman who was to become his muse and as he described metaphorically his second wife, responded to his love and life seemed full of possibilities. TASK 53 Read the poem through carefully. Consider the ways Clare reflects on the delights of first love in contrast to his present position of being rejected and alienated from the Mary of the poem.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: First Loves Recollections

Here are some of our thoughts: The poem opens with an emotive insistence that the power of First love will with the heart remain / When all its hopes are by. The frailty, yet endurance, of such a feeling is captured in the comparison with rose blossoms that still retain / Their fragrance till they die. Clare uses the image of the seasons to develop the sense of change and an unspoken move towards winter, As summer leaves the stems behind / On which Springs blossoms hung. In the second stanza, the tone changes as Clare writes of words vexing the ear of their recipient and that time and change have come to alter The love of former days. The difference between former times and present day is clearly illustrated by the language Clare chooses to describe these two conflicting states in stanza three, by dividing the past from the present into two equal parts. The stanza opens with rich and sensuous language, offering images of honied tokens and intimate descriptions of How rapturous to thy lips I clung. In contrast, the last four lines demonstrate the division that now exists between them as he suggests Mary would recoil from him like an untamed bird / And blush with wilder fear. The intensity of their love is caught in the balanced line at the beginning of stanza four when he insists, How loath to part, how fond to meet / Had we two used to be. Once again this is contrasted with the present circumstances as time has divided the couple. Nevertheless, there is a lingering sense of Marys presence that haunts the speaker as he describes in stanza five how, although memory has faded, the clear image of the girl remains still: there thy beauty lingers yet but it now wears a stranger face. The sense of loss and the pain of that loss is created in stanza seven as the speaker insists that Impressions linger on and the reader is offered a picture of a man who is unable to fully detach himself from his loss even though all the gilded finery / That passed for truth is gone. In the penultimate stanza, Clare alludes to Mary as his muse, one who gave him confidence in his writing as she offered a blushing look of ready praise. In contrast he now imagines her scorn at his verse which, although accepted by the public at large, may Seem discord to thine ear. The poem concludes with a characteristic move from the personal to the wider landscape and nature in general as the speaker philosophically reflects on the unfulfilled possibilities of this early love. In the final lines of the poem, Clare asserts that A fate like this hath oft befell / Een loftier hopes that ours as nature itself is often seen to fail to bring to fruition the promise it engenders, Spring bids full many buds to swell / That ner grow to flowers. Thus the nostalgia and sense of loss that dominate the poem are ultimately replaced by a tone of acceptance as Clare links the emotional world of man with that of nature.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Ballad: I dreamt not what is was to woo

Ballad: I dreamt not what is was to woo


In this poem Clare adopts the persona of a woman who describes the complexity of the pain and pleasure experienced when uncertainty characterises a relationship. TASK 54 Read this poem through carefully and consider how Clare presents the girls pleasure and excitement but also her pain.

The opening stanza offers a sense of the glory of falling in love against all the odds as the young girl insists that she had felt her heart secure yet the young mans simple smile and seemingly honest words captured it. As she reveals, this comes as a surprise to her: How sweet it (is) to love. The journey to town is described in simple terms as the speaker seems to become more emotionally involved with the young man who holds her hand and helps her over each stile. However, the final stanza changes the tone of the poem as the girl describes a distance between the two when they reach the town, a place where others can see them. The lover sighs but kissed me not, and makes no definite promises to develop the relationship with the girl. So the poem concludes, like many others in this group, with a sense of loss and pain as the young mans cheek is deemed to have bruised my heart and left a pain / That robs it of its rest. Thus we see Clare focusing on the unsettling nature of love and the pain that it can cause.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

he Poems: Song: Say what is love

Song: Say what is love


Here is another short poem that deals with Clares loss of Mary Joyce. In short rhyming couplets, he traces the pain of loss and attempts to unravel the nature of love. TASK 55 Make notes on the images Clare offers as he attempts to explore the complexity of this abstract human emotion.

The opening couplet seems to illustrate the topsy - turvy nature of love that offers the promise of life yet just as easily courts death. Clare sums this up in the concise line To live and die and live again. In the next couplet he offers the paradox of being imprisoned by love and yet still being free. This is reinforced in the following couplet where he sees freedom as being in the realms of appearance. Clare seems to suggest that once smitten by love one can never be free of hopeless hopes that offer no fulfilment. He goes on to question whether real love exists on earth and, in these lines, there seems despondency as love appears ephemeral and cannot be contained. Clare insists that it fades and nowhere will remain / And nowhere is oertook again. The transient nature of love is emphasised as Clare uses the image of the rose leaf that blooms but just as quickly fades and, having been beautiful, will soon die. The final couplet of this poem refocuses the reader onto the relationship Clare had with Mary and his insistence that, although love itself may be transient, there is a lasting quality to it that despite the passage of time makes him believe that whateer it be / It centres Mary still with thee.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Song: Love lives beyond

Song: Love lives beyond


In contrast to some of the sentiments about love we have seen in the collection so far, this poem appears to celebrate the enduring nature of love that the speaker asserts lives beyond death. TASK 56 In your notes, consider the way Clare weaves his love of the natural landscape into his feelings about human love and look carefully at the conclusion in contrast to the opening of the poem.

Here are some of our ideas to add to your own: Clare begins this poem using enjambment, forcing the reader to stop and consider before he qualifies his thoughts with The tomb the earth. Thus a sense of the endurance of love is created; an emotion that the speaker suggests can defy even death. The tone then becomes more wistful as the speaker says I love the fond, / The faithful and the true.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Song: Love lives beyond

Stanza two develops the idea of loves all encompassing nature as we are told Love lives in sleep and is The happiness of healthy dreams. Clare now moves on to link his ideas about love to nature and the landscape that surrounds him. The language becomes celebratory as Clare suggests that love can be found in the beauty of nature, in flowers, the evens pearly dew, On earth and in the eternal blue of the sky. The burgeoning new life of spring is fused, in stanzas four and five, with lovers and the delights of young love. It is here that Clare seems to move towards a celebration of young love that, like the spring, offers so much possibility and promise. The poem concludes with an echo of the first stanza but now the young have become the focus of the speakers attentions as, although the speaker still asserts that Love lives beyond / The tomb, the earth, the flowers and dew, there is a suggestion, at the end of this poem, that perhaps it is embraced more fully by the young who believe themselves to be faithful and true.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Ballad: The Spring returns, the pewit screams

Ballad: The Spring returns, the pewit screams


This poem, like several others we have encountered, deals with the loss of love and in particular Clares loss of Mary Joyce. TASK 57 Read the poem through carefully and consider how Clare presents the contrast between pain and pleasure and the effects of lost love.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Ballad: The Spring returns, the pewit screams

Here are some of our ideas to add to your own: The pewit (a common name for the green plover or lapwing) is a social bird that inhabits open, usually arable, countryside. The bird can often be seen wheeling against the sky above its nest on the ground and making a plaintive call (peeeeeee.wit). Once again, Clare focuses the reader onto a particular aspect of the natural landscape. This time it is the song of the pewit whose call does not change; but Clare suggests that, to human ears, the sound is dependent upon ones emotional state. Clare insists it sounds harsh and ill now and yet, when his love was blossoming with last years spring, Twas music last May morning. The intimacy and delight of his time with Mary is captured through the references to the surrounding landscape. Mary is seen to praise the screaming plover, whilst her lover plucks a daisy and offers it to her as a May-garland for her bosom. The images then are all associated with the freshness of spring and all the possibilities that offers. In the third stanza, the repetition of I demonstrates the poets sense of personal delight in these intimate moments as he describes how he claimed a kiss and thought myself a king that day, having for his throne beautys bosom. It is in the fourth stanza that there is a sudden change of tone as the image of the flower loses its benign quality and becomes a thorn to wound me. The souring of love is described in terms of physical pain and wounding and the glory of spring is replaced by images of death as the flower has now withered and love has become despised. In the fifth stanza, Clare returns to the contrast that opened the poem; that is, the difference between his perceptions of nature when his love blossomed and his feelings now that Mary is lost to him. It seems that now there is Nowhere on earth where joy can be and Mary is stolen treasure. The poem concludes with a sense of the pain engendered by the emotional distance between the lovers. Clare asserts that physically her home is only an hour from his own but he insists, If seas between us both should roar / We were not further parted. In the final stanza, the tone changes once again as Clare seems to move away from a feeling of self pity to one of blame in which he moves from the individual Mary to women as a whole. He once again embraces the natural landscape, that of the sky and clouds, but uses the image to make a damning comment on the vacillation of women as he asserts that The wind and clouds, now here now there, / Hold not such strange dominion / As womans cold perverted will / And soon-estranged opinion. Thus the poem is concluded on a bitter note as Clare resorts to blaming the inconsistencies of women for his present lassitude.

The pewit

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: An Invite to Eternity

An Invite to Eternity
This is an interesting poem as Clare, uncharacteristically, moves away from the natural landscape and sets his poem in a world beyond death. TASK 58 Having read the poem through, make notes on how effectively Clare creates a world beyond the grave.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: An Invite to Eternity

Here are some of our thoughts: The poem opens with a reiterated question to a young maid perhaps posed to measure the strength of her commitment to the speaker. Rather than painting a picture of new life and new beginnings in this world, Clare conjures up an image of a world that exists on the other side of the grave. This world is characterised by valleys deep in shade, a place Where the path hath lost its way and Where the sun forgets the day. The dark and forbidding nature of the description seems quite at odds with an invitation to a young maiden and very different in style from the other love poems in this selection. Clare develops the dismal image of this forbidding world in the second stanza as he creates a picture of a world where all the usual pleasures of earthly life fade like visioned dreams. This is a world characterised by a loss of identity and one Where parents live and are forgot / And sisters live and know us not. The pessimistic nature of Clares description seems to act as a challenge to the young girl who, it could be suggested, is being tested on the strength of her love. In the penultimate stanza, Clare presents a world of opposites where the blossoming joy that love and togetherness should bring has be replaced by a death of life, a life that offers no home, or name. Clare echoes Shakespeares Hamlet when he describes the nature of existence in the afterlife, At once to be, and not to be and to live in a world where everything passes like shadows. The poem concludes with an insistence from the speaker that the maid commit herself to a desire to live with him in eternity. It is only on these terms that the speaker seems willing to commit himself fully to the young girl. In the final lines, he invites the maid to trace thy footsteps on with me; / Were wed to one eternity. Thus he is suggesting that the maid has accepted his vision and that he feels secure in her commitment and the possibility that his love shall not be defeated by death.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Love and Memory

Love and Memory


This section of love poems concludes with a theme touched on in An Invite to Eternity, that of death. This time, however, the speaker remains alive and it is the woman who has died. As we know, Mary Joyce died young at the age of 41 and it is possible to read this poem as Clares testament of his loss and of the pain he experiences having only memories left to create images of Mary. TASK 59 Read the poem through carefully and consider the ways in which Clare presents the loss of a loved one.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Love and Memory

Here are some of our ideas: The poem opens with a stark statement about the death of the loved one: Thou art gone the dark journey / That leaves no returning. Although there is a tone of acceptance, Tis fruitless to mourn thee, nevertheless this is counterbalanced by the images created by his memory that leave him desolate now. The second stanza conjures up images of the loved one in her youth and Clare reflects on the feelings of the young who feel invulnerable and see themselves as immortal. The imagery used to describe this feeling is almost metaphysical as Clare refers to Heavens halo weaving a secure ring around them both, one so strong it could defy Earths hopes that ultimately all will die. The second half of the stanza celebrates the beauty of the young woman and the special place she held in the speakers heart as he insists, To my heart thou art nearest. The imagery that opens the third stanza is more in keeping with Clares usual descriptions of the natural world that surrounds him but, interestingly, he moves beyond this to the world of the imagination that is purified by its link to the lover now in heaven. Thus there is another metaphysical leap from the earthly to the heavenly as the speaker insists More pure is the birth / Of thoughts that wake of thee / Than thought upon earth. The next stanza offers a sense of the acceptance of the transience of life as Clare moves from the image of the bud green in Spring to a rose blown in June. The speaker seems to suggest that the young woman was too fair for this world and the tone of acceptance continues as there is almost a note of approval that, by dying young, she has defied the ravages of age, And ere age did thee wrong / Thou wert summoned away. This is a common Romantic idea, that of dying young and not facing the horror of growing old. Several writers of the age share this idea and we see it particularly in the poetry of John Keats. You might like to look at Ode to a Nightingale by Keats where he says, Now more than ever seems it rich to die, / To cease upon the midnight with no pain, / While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad / In such an ecstasy! The tone changes in the next two stanzas as acceptance is replaced by the pain of loss and the grief felt by the speaker who cannot reconcile himself to being alone. The world for him has changed since the absence of the lover has destroyed The most that I loved / And the all I enjoyed. The image of the fountain is no longer used to illustrate purity and the life force as for the speaker, his world had darkened, and the fountain of his life is now dry. Life now offers no pleasure and the more the speaker involves himself in life, the more poignant becomes his loss. In the following three stanzas, Clare returns to images of the natural landscape and links the sense of loss to the cyclical nature of the seasons. Once again it is the natural world that seems to

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Love and Memory

offer some solace and a tone of acceptance returns to the poem as he asserts The year has its Winter / As well as its May and so it must be recognised that the sweetest must leave us / And the fairest decay. He moves on to celebrate the glory of life through the image of the sun that acts as a catalyst to bring about new life and regeneration. However, this eighth stanza concludes with an overwhelming sense of the darkness of the speakers world as he acknowledges the beauty of the sun and the seasons yet insists that As sweet as they be / Shall (n)ever more greet me / With tidings of thee. The following stanza celebrates the song of the birds particularly the cuckoo and the nightingale; one heard in spring and the other in summer. Yet, unlike in the bird poems, this time there is an insistence on the idea of impending death. Clare seems to suggest that the happier one is the more likely it is that one will Sink the deepest in sorrow. This mood is quite uncharacteristic of that in the other love poems and seems to demonstrate the intensity of the pain of loss. In the penultimate stanza, the mood changes again to a sense of acceptance that everything must die. Once again there is the use of metaphysical imagery as Clare compares the death of the loved one to the fall of stars from the sky. Earth now seems to be characterised by pain and suffering and he contemplates how he would not wish thee from joy / To earths troubles again. The poem concludes with a reiteration of the terrible sense of loss and suffering the speaker continues to experience as for him My being is gone. We are offered a picture of a man who feels he has lost not only his love but himself and that his loves death has robbed him of any purpose or sense of joy. As with many other romantic writers, Clare insists that the intensity of grief cannot be articulated: Words know not my grief. However, the reader is left with a sense of the deep pain and emptiness the speaker feels, as his life remains bereft of his love.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Remembrances

LOSS AND THE POLITICS OF NATURE


Remembrances
Here Clare reflects on the loss of childhood and, in particular, presents his feelings of sadness towards the ways in which familiar childhood haunts have changed beyond recognition. TASK 60 Having read the poem, look at it again and make notes on the way Clare presents the reminiscent and reflective tone.

Here are some of our points to add to your own: A reference to summer is the initial way in which Clare establishes the idea of time and, by commenting on pleasures that are gone, he immediately creates a sense of sadness at the loss of times gone by. The repetition of far away also creates a sense of reflection as happier, summer times seem now to be a distant memory. This notion is enforced further by the use of words such as gone and decay as well as by the simile created in the final two lines of the first stanza. Throughout the poem, Clare uses the past tense and the repetition of phrases that emphasise the idea of the past such as When I used to . These all help to create a tone of reflection and reminiscence for the reader.
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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Remembrances

Clare uses poetic techniques such as figurative language and alliteration to create the reflective tone. Images such as the the hills of silken grass and boyhoods pleasing haunts like a blossom in the blast suggest a nostalgic view of past times; their evocative sensory descriptions emphasising the feeling of loss. Soft sound patterning also creates the feeling of nostalgia, perhaps most evidently in the sixth stanza where the reader is bombarded with alliterative phrases.

TASK 61

Now look at the way in which Clare presents his views on the changing landscape of his own childhood.

Here are a few of our thoughts: Most notable is Clares use of proper nouns such as Langley Bush, Lea Close Oak and Cowper Green. These all give clear, fixed and real reference points for the reader and emphasise the reality of the changes being described. The nouns also add a greater sense of Clares personal loss as it is as if he naming friends. The way in which Clare juxtaposes the images of childhood freedom and pleasures with the desolation of the landscape as he sees it now helps to create the sense of his sadness at the changes and emphasise a feeling of anger. Words such as raptures, eternal, pleasures, delicious and joys are used to highlight the pleasant past but are always used alongside expressions such as decay, all alone, naked and sudden bare, expressing the harsh changes to the landscape Clare has witnessed. It could be argued that this juxtaposition is used to echo the conflict of old and new; the lively, vivacious vocabulary reflects the carefree attitudes of Clare as a boy whereas the stagnant, dull descriptions of the present are the voice of a jaded adult.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Flitting

The Flitting
Echoing the tone of Remembrances, this poem also deals with Clares sense of sadness at the changing landscape and his feelings of isolation. It was written when, at the age of nearly 38, Clare moved out of the home in which he had been born to another house three miles away. It may also recall homesickness as a result of having spent time in London, away from his childhood environment. TASK 62 Considering the tone and topic of the poem as a whole, make notes on the impact the title and rhyme scheme may have.

Here are some of our ideas to add to your own: The title creates a feeling of restlessness and can suggest brevity. This could be seen to reflect the brevity of Clares separation from his own particular beloved countryside (his memories of such places helping him cope while away from his old home) but could also be seen, on a larger scale, to echo the way in which changes to the landscape will not be permanent. The notion that the countrysides beauty is perpetual is seen throughout the poem so perhaps the title comments on the brevity of wealth in comparison to natures infinite charms. The poem follows a simple ABAB rhyming pattern, creating a regular, rhythmical beat. This pattern could echo Clares simple

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Flitting

engagement with the landscape appreciation of its beauty.

and

his

straightforward

TASK 63

Focusing more clearly on the first five stanzas, how does Clare establish a feeling of sadness and loss?

Here are a few of our thoughts: The repetition of I highlights the individual and suggests the isolation Clare feels. The personification of summer in the opening stanza is an interesting way of creating the feeling of loss as it suggests someone familiar is now a stranger. The description of the nightingale that seems at loss (stanza four) also echoes a similar idea. Repetition of Royce Wood also emphasises a longing for home and familiar places. Clare uses the proper noun often in conjunction with phrases that express an inability to engage with the new landscapes that surround him. Most interesting perhaps is the image of him lean(ing) upon the window sill there is a suggestion that he can see the new landscape but the glass of the window prevents him experiencing it completely.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Flitting

Vocabulary choices such as native and the repetition of home highlight the longing for familiar places. The word native, in particular, seems to suggest that the poet feels out of place in his current environment.

TASK 64

In the middle section of the poem (particularly in stanzas seventeen to nineteen) Clare expresses his views on the perpetual beauty of nature. Make notes on the ways in which this view is expressed.

Here are some suggestions: Words such as ancient and heritage initially create the feeling of natures continual beauty. Clare also refers to images that last for ever and never seem to die, emphasising his belief in the strength of the countryside. References to the Garden of Eden can be seen throughout this brief section which depicts Clares belief that the countryside is Edenic and is often seen by Clare as a gift from God. Therefore, his frustrations at its destruction, in the latter stages of the poem, are vehemently expressed.

TASK 65

The final section of the poem can be seen as a lyrical presentation of the influence the countryside has on Clares poetic eye. Comment on the way his relationship with the land is presented.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: The Flitting

Here are the points we noted: Clare openly rejects the idea of a lavish, wealthy lifestyle in the opening line of the final section (Give me no high-flown fangled things). Instead, he focuses most of his attentions on highlighting the powerful influence of the simple things in life. Rather than dwell on pomp and splendour, he finds comfort in the mild and bland. (It is interesting to note that the use of the word verse in stanza twenty one suggests that Clares complaint is not just with those who live lavishly but also with the poets who present this sumptuous wealth in their poetry. He seems to indicate that the more simplistic the presentation of nature in literature, the more heartfelt and realistic it is.) Repetition of simple in stanza twenty four and the use of words such as trifle highlight the importance of simplicity for Clare. Each of these simple depictions of nature has a profound influence on the poet as he finds love and joy within them.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Decay, a Ballad

Decay, a Ballad
Calling upon the traditional ballad form, Clare uses refrain and repetition as well as a memorable metre to emphasise his concerns at the decaying art of writing poetry. Once again we see Clare use images of nature to present his thoughts and feelings. Here it is particularly interesting to note how poetry and nature seem to be synonymous. TASK 66 Having read the poem, look again at the first three stanzas and make notes on the way Clare presents images of nature to reflect the dying art.

Here are some ideas: The personification of both nature and poetry is used in the first stanza to suggest that the two feminine forms that used to be so familiar to Clare are now becoming unrecognisable. Clare appears to be suggesting that images of the countryside (images so influential in his earlier poetry) are aging and decaying. In the opening stanza the fields grow old and beauty is required to cling[s] on in a fight against the changing landscape. The second stanza also depicts images of the changes to countryside scenes as Clare juxtaposes the new regimented landscape that is dominated by manmade paths, gravel and shaven grass with the images of the organic views of the past (brambles overspread and molehills) that has a much greater influence on him.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Decay, a Ballad

The final line of the third stanza is perhaps the clearest indication that, without nature, in its purest, simplest form, Clare cannot be inspired to write as here, instead of hardly know(ing) the art of writing, he cannot find his inspiration.

TASK 67

Now look at stanzas four and five. Comment on the vocabulary and structure used here. How are Clares thoughts and feelings reflected through them?

Here are a few of our thoughts: Although stanza four starts with optimistic images of the sun, the sense of a dejected and despondent mood is reflected in use of dark vocabulary in the remainder of the verse. The uplifting vision of mornings is overpowered by the connotations of words such as grey, mist, homeless and stranger. The fifth stanza sees a change in tone and pace as Clare uses short, staccato sentences to reflect his frustrations and disappointment.

TASK 68

Comment on the ways in which Clare presents his relationship with poetry in the final two stanzas.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The Poems: Decay, a Ballad

Here are some suggestions: Using references to the seasons and the passing of the day illustrates the sense of natures cycle: a possible indication that the loss of his inspiration is all a part of lifes pattern. The repetition of I have had suggests that Clare feels his time as a poet has justifiably come to an end as he has experienced all he could expect. The final line of the poem includes a reference to faith which could suggest that Clare feels his relationship with poetry is synonymous with religious belief; his inability to relate to God and nature has perhaps caused this loss of faith.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: Song: Last Day

Song: Last Day


This poem deals with death, as the title suggests. It has a very despondent and, at times, apocalyptic tone and Clare seems to be exploring the emotions involved with facing the end of the world. TASK 69 Having read the poem, look at it again and make notes on the techniques Clare uses to present the despondent tone.

The vocabulary used in the opening stanza is the perhaps the most poignant way in which Clare creates an air of anger and a sense of destruction. For example, dreadful, blast and vacuum all contribute to the sense of doom. Oblivion, destruction and shadows also help instil the feeling of disaster. The plosive alliteration in the phrase day, a dreadful day also helps to emphasise the anger and aggression of the poem. Images that echo an apocalyptic tone are used to stress the sense of decay. The idea that towns and cities, temples, graves / All vanish like a breeze, for example, creates the sense of complete devastation, emphasised by the use of listing and made more powerful by the simplicity and gentleness of the breeze. Pathetic fallacy is used as Clare introduces the image of deadly thunder towards the end of the poem, creating a disturbing sense of the darkness of the poem. The continual reference to dark and darkness adds to the despondency of the poem as the repetition of such images (shades, shadows, black and days light be done may also be considered here) is quite overwhelming for the reader.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: The Fallen Elm

The Fallen Elm


Clares political agenda is on display here as he reflects on the impact of radical new changes to work and agricultural law. Although there is clearly a sense of anger and frustration at these changes, Clares love of nature is evident through the use of the fallen elm as an extended metaphor. TASK 70 Looking particularly at the first half of the poem (lines 1 28), make notes on the way in which Clare presents the image of the tree.

Clare personifies the tree making it sound almost like a familiar friend. He focuses particularly on the sounds of the tree, using descriptions such as murmured, sweetest anthem and whispering calms to stress the gentle demeanour. There is also a focus on the ways in which the tree protects from the elements and its sturdy nature is echoed through vocabulary such as steadfast. Other images such as thy leaves was green and the vision of children making their playhouse in the shade of the tree represent the familiarity of and love for this vision of natural beauty.

In the final half of the poem, Clare makes his political comments regarding the enclosure laws and changes to the agricultural working environment that formed the basis of the Agricultural and, subsequently, the Industrial Revolution. The Enclosure Acts took away a villages common land (to which individual villagers had no legal title) and divided it up into fields which were sold to large landowners. As a result, villagers were forced to leave the land and migrate to the cities. Clare is particularly concerned with the villagers feelings of powerlessness in the face of economic greed and the ways in which changes to farm life encroached upon the beauty of the landscape.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: The Fallen Elm

TASK 71

Make some notes on the ways in which Clare presents these political opinions throughout the poem.

Here are a few of our thoughts: In the second part of the poem, Clare intensifies his tone and speaks aggressively of those who have introduced the enclosure laws. Vocabulary choices such as enslaving, ruin, injure and overwhelm are indicative of Clares frustration and anger at the decision to take over the common land. Images such as The common heath, became the spoilers prey also suggest his sadness at the change in the landscape; the word prey is particularly evocative as it creates a feeling of the land being ravaged by the greed of those buying up the land. Juxtaposing images such as the common heath and natures dwellings with the workhouse prisons that were built on such sites of beauty is another way in which Clare expresses his anger and disappointment at the destruction of the countryside. Clare also refers to the way in which those who sought to change the agricultural laws used propaganda to justify their actions, claiming that the change in law would bring about freedom for farm workers by giving them the opportunity to buy their own land. The reality, of course, was that only those with wealth could benefit from the selling of the common land and, consequently, the law brought about great poverty. It is easy to see Clares resentment of such propaganda within the poem as he speaks of those in support of the law as knaves and highlights how they Bawl freedom loud and then oppress the free.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: The Lament of Swordy Well

The Lament of Swordy Well


A lament often reflects feelings of grief and mourning. In this poem, the lament refers directly to a specific place of beauty to which Clare was attached. The title therefore suggests a feeling of the loss of landscape and is an expression of the grief felt when the place that had been so important to him was turned into a quarry. TASK 72 Having read the whole poem, consider first of all the impact of the narrative voice used.

Clare uses first person narrative, taking on the persona of the place in the title. This unusual narrative technique helps the reader to engage with the plight of the countryside as Swordy Well speaks directly to us of the sadness of being damaged by the new political ideals. Giving the place a voice is also emotive as it allows Clare to champion the landscape and, in some ways, creates a sense of liberty for the very thing that is being constrained. This is particularly significant in the third stanza where Swordy Well speaks of its lack of agenda.

TASK 73

What techniques are used by Clare to reflect his opinions and feelings?

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: The Lament of Swordy Well

Here are a few of our thoughts: Personification is used within the poem. Pity is seen as feminine in the opening stanza and this is juxtaposed with the masculine personification of profit in the second stanza. This could suggest that Clare associates greed with men and sympathy with women, perhaps because the politicians behind the agricultural changes would have been male. Other elements are personified within the early part of the poem: dependence and want, for example, are described human qualities as well as the place itself of course, which wail(s) and is taunt(ed). These elements add to the notion that the destruction of such beauty is as severe as physical pain. Sound patterns such as sibilance and alliteration are used in many places throughout the poem. The repetition of s in sooner swear and w in worst to want, who lurch in the opening stanza, for example, create a sense of the personas anger as these harsh sounds seem almost to be spat out. Tripling is used in many places as Clare seems to bombard the reader with images of destruction and decay. They rend and delve and tear is perhaps the most notable example. Vocabulary choices in the second half of the poem are used to emphasise the decay of the site as a result of enclosure. Often Clare blends images of natural beauty with words and phrases that suggest the weakening of the environment: bees are feeble and almost-weary and tussocks bow and sigh. Repetition of negative phrases such as shant and shouldnt reinforce the despondent tone. The most significant repetition though is of scarce as this highlights the way in which the enclosure laws diminished the once sumptuous countryside.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: The Moors

The Moors
Once again, in this poem about a place with which he was very familiar, Clare illustrates his frustrations and sadness at the changing landscape resulting from the Agricultural Revolution. The moor in question is thought to be an area of overwhelming natural beauty in Helpston. In this passionately beautiful poem, Clare describes the division and destruction of the landscape through the enclosures law. TASK 74 Having read the poem, look more closely at the first section (lines 1 34). What techniques are used by Clare to create the sense of the moors beauty?

Here are some of our ideas to add to your own: Clare bombards us with images of freedom and abundance in the first section of the poem. Phrases such as eternal, unchecked and wild all help create the sense of liberty felt prior to the enclosures law. Reference to boyish hours suggests the freedom felt in the time before the enclosures law was one synonymous with childhood adventure. It also, however, is a timely reminder that this freedom is a thing of the past. In this section, Clare focuses on animals, using their changed existence to illustrate the limitations of enclosure. Before the law they were free to range and went and came with a sense of natural, inherent ease. The references to rising sun and simple passing of the day emphasise this idea. These images, typical of Clare, are direct, literal and simplistic and it is perhaps this plain admiration that gives the poem its strength.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: The Moors

TASK 75

In the shorter section from lines 35 50, how does Clare develop the sense of sadness and frustration at the way the landscape is being changed?

Here are a few of our thoughts: The fricative alliteration of fled and flats echoes Clares anger and frustration at the destruction of the land. Vocabulary choices such as mangled and bereft also help to stress the violent destruction. Clare uses the repetition of little for the first time here and continues to use it in the remainder of the poem. This could first be a reference to the way in which land is limited and rather than being spacious is little. It also relates to the narrow-mindedness of those who insist on the enclosure.

TASK 76

The final section of the poem becomes much more aggressive and focused on the political agenda. What views of the changing laws does Clare present and what techniques does he employ to suggest such changes

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: The Moors

Here are some suggestions. Though Clare uses some sumptuous and soft images (similes and sibilance seem predominant), the final section is dominated by the persecution of those behind the enclosures law. Nouns such as philistine and tyrant are used to show Clares anger towards these men and their decisions. The paradoxical phrases scared freedom and lawless law suggest the contrasting way in which the law was promoted as they both refer to the method of justification; those in charge of the enclosures insisted it would bring financial freedom to agricultural workers when in fact it destroyed many farmers and prevented a division of wealth. In the final stages of the poem, Clare alludes to the power of naming when he refers to birds and trees and flowers without a name. Within literature, the notion of naming is often associated with control and ownership; the fact that these visions of natural beauty All sighed at the introduction of the enclosures law indicates they are now owned by somebody rather than being part of the common land and the sadness of such a controlling act is present in their lament.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: I Am

JOHN CLARE, POET I am


Questioning his own existence, Clare here seems to explore feelings of isolation and a sense of emptiness. TASK 77 Having read the poem, look at it again and make notes on the way Clare presents a despondent tone.

The poem begins with Clares lament that nobody cares or knows of him, creating a feeling of isolation and pity. He describes himself as being the self-consumer of (his) woes, a phrase that indicates he is aware of the fact that he internalises his anguish and the word consumer evokes feelings of being taken over, dominated and destroyed by such pities. Vocabulary such as nothingness and phrases like neither sense of life or joys encourages the reader to empathise with Clares feeling of despondency. The metaphor the vast shipwreck of my lifes esteems is perhaps the most poignant way in which the sadness of the poem and Clares frustrations at his life are exposed. Though clearly hyperbolic, the image is highly effective: creating a visual image of the desolate man, searching for meaning but finding only the sense of being adrift. The long(ing) described in the final stanza creates a sense that Clare is full of desperation to find meaning in his life. The fact that he longs for a place is significant as it represents his need to feel at home and rested. However, the sense that he wants this place to be where emotions are not felt (where woman never smiled or wept) is rather disturbing. Coupled with the plea to be with his creator, the poem ends with a sense of Clares desire to die.
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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: A Vision

A Vision
Although both the title and final stanzas of this poem suggest freedom and liberty, it ultimately deals with frustrations and feelings of abandonment. Many of his emotions here seem to be associated with Clares religious beliefs. TASK 78 Having read the poem, look at it again and make notes on the way Clare presents his relationship with religion.

Here are some ideas to add to your own: Beginning with a reference to his loss of belief (I lost the love, of heaven above) suggests this poem will reflect Clares feelings of isolation: in previous poems, his faith has been presented as something that is a vital support to him. However, the simple melodic tone of the internal rhyme maintains an upbeat feel that is consolidated in later verses. It seems to be more of an exploration of faith rather than a testament to its difficulties. Contrasts between heaven, hell and earth are presented throughout the poem and Clare seems to suggest he has a different relationship with each. If we consider this idea in conjunction with the title of the poem and the final liberating images of him keeping his spirit with the free, it could be argued that Clare is presenting the notion that it is only through an understanding of every element of the nature of religion that we can fully appreciate the world. Vocabulary that echoes a sense of abundance and liberty is used throughout the poem, again adding to the sense of freedom gained through being at one with all elements of the world. Phrases such as the suns eternal ray and On every shore, oer every sea, for example, create a feeling of release.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: To John Clare

To John Clare
Using an unconventional sonnet structure, Clare presents us with a series of simple images of natural sights and a sense of childhood innocence creating a feeling that he has returned to his native home. TASK 79 Comment on the natural images presented by Clare in this poem.

. There is a sense that these pictures of the countryside are fragmented and disjointed visions from both Clares childish and adult perspectives. The descriptions of olive feathers and wattles and red comb illustrate an understanding of the surrounding countryside yet phrases such as seems to like some best show a simplistic engagement with the image. This contrast could suggest an exploration of all elements of Clares experience of the countryside and seems to echo the fact that he and the landscape are at one.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: A seaboy on the giddy mast

Song: A seaboy on the giddy mast


Here Clare compares his life to the open sea but, rather than presenting feelings of freedom, the poem talks of restlessness and dejection. TASK 80 Considering the poem as a whole, make notes on the ways in which Clare creates a feeling of restlessness and disappointment.

Here are some ideas to compare with your own: The use of the word giddy in the opening line is perhaps the first indication of restlessness. This is consolidated throughout the poem by repetition of words such as inconstant and the final rhetorical question When shall I find my life a calm, ? The image of the sea can be considered a metaphor for Clares restlessness as it is often associated with a sense of freedom and can be seen as a symbol of abundance. However, the fact that the image is presented through the use of dark vocabulary such as grave, black and troubled could indicate a sense of fear and anxiety surrounding such lack of restraint. The poem uses a simple, rhythmical ABAB pattern throughout, with the exception of the final stanza where the words storm and calm are emphasised by their jarring lack of rhyme. The words seem to echo the phrase calm before the storm and their connection is paradoxical. This muddle of emotions also adds to the poems restless feel.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: The Peasant Poet

The Peasant Poet


Referring to himself in the third person, Clare explores the changes he has made during his development from boy to man. He once again uses religious images to express his thoughts, this time regarding his openness and engagement with nature. TASK 81 Read the poem carefully and make notes on the techniques used by Clare to present his thoughts and opinions.

Here are some of our ideas to add to your own: The plosive alliteration in the title of the poem and the sibilance in the opening lines create a melodic and rhythmical tone. The poem is written in the third person; Clare refers to himself as he throughout and so gives a reflective and thoughtful perspective. There is a sense that Clare wants to take a step back from his writings and view their purpose and impact with a more objective eye. There is an optimistic tone adopted throughout the poem which echoes the sense that Clare thrives on the role of Peasant Poet. This is most clearly reflected in the final part of the poem when Clare notes that he is A Peasant in his daily cares - / The Poet in his joy. The use of the indefinite article a in the first part of this section could indicate a sense of unity with other peasants, reiterating his position as poet for the people. In contrast, the definite article the on the final line suggests his pride in being a spokesman for his fellow men.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: Sighing for Retirement

Sighing for Retirement


Although the title may suggest this poem is a lament reflecting the poets desire to retire, Clare actually presents us with happy reminiscences of his writing career. Again, he uses images of nature to reflect these feelings. TASK 82 Consider the ways in which Clare presents his ideas and emotions.

Here are some of our ideas to compare with your own: The poem begins with Clares plea for the peace and quiet of the countryside in a stanza that suggests he is perplexed by the bustle of the town. There seems to be a sense of frustration and the idea that the poet cannot focus when surrounded by others. The cry of

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: Sighing for Retirement

O that starts the poem and the exclamative in the opening two lines reflect this desperation. The next two stanzas include the repetitive phrase The book I love is everywhere. This book may be the Bible as Clare also makes reference to God within this section; or he could be suggesting that Nature herself is the book which is known to all. He seems to be suggesting that it is God and the Bible or Nature that are his inspiration and he should be able to feel this inspiration anywhere (The book I love is everywhere, / And every place the same). This could indicate that Clare feels he should be encouraged to write even though he is not surrounded by his beloved countryside but is instead living in (the not so salubrious) Epping and in the confinement of the asylum there where he was incarcerated for a time. Stanza four outlines Clares simple approach to writing poetry and his direct description of what influences him (I found the poems in the fields) has strength in its simplicity. Though Epping is described reasonably favourably in stanza five, the lack of descriptive imagery, so typical of Clares poetry, marks the fact that he struggles to be inspired and instead he wait(s) for better days. The latter parts of the poem become more descriptive with references to brakes and fern, rabbits and pleasant Autumn. There is also a greater sense of emotion as Clare talks of taste and love, descriptions suggestive of his need to experience nature to be inspired. The final stanza has the tone of a prayer as Clare addresses God directly and asks for help in continuing his role as poet, despite his lack of inspiration when away from the countryside.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: Songs Eternity

Song's Eternity
This poem is a celebration of the power of song and poetry. There is a real sense of innocence and simplistic beauty in the way that Clare presents his admiration of writing through visions of nature and it is perhaps this simplicity that gives the poem its strength. TASK 83 Make notes on the ways in which Clare creates an optimistic tone.

The structure of the poem is the first, most noticeably optimistic feature. Its pattern is similar to that of a song: a simple rhyming pattern with a refrain. The sound patterns of alliteration and repetition also add to the poems melodic quality. This is not only uplifting but it suggests that the poem itself is paying homage to the song form. The use of words such as here and now throughout the poem creates a sense of immediacy which could echo the excitement of this celebratory poem. These vocabulary choices also suggest that there should be a perpetual celebration of the song form. Other vocabulary choices add to the light-hearted and optimistic tone. Words such as thrive, awakened and alive create a vivid image of the lively nature of song.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: Songs Eternity

Images of nature also add to the optimism. The freedom of the Bird and bee is used to reflect the freedom of song and the fertile grass displays the abundant nature of this form. The sound of the birds Tootle tootle tootle tee echoes throughout the poem and emphasises the celebratory tone. The idea of placing poetry and song alongside an image of natural beauty is, of course, something we have seen Clare use before. In the final stanza, Clare refers to song as Natures universal tongue. The personification here suggests that the poet feels, through this and many of his other works, that he is giving a voice to the countryside. The songs will, like nature itself, be around For ever.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: Glinton Spire

Glinton Spire
Using an unconventional sonnet format, Clare celebrates the beauty of a church spire that pierces the landscape in an elegant manner. He blends the image of the spire with visions of nature suggesting, perhaps, that this sign of religion and God is at one with the countryside. TASK 84 Comment on poetic techniques used in this poem.

A rather fragmented rhyming pattern is used here rather than the regular and quite formulaic traditional ballad form and, though iambic pentameter is used, there seems to be a more organic, natural feel to the way in which Clare structures his thoughts. This could perhaps indicate that the feelings and emotions presented are more heartfelt and realistic than those of other, more traditional poets. Sibilance and alliteration are used to create a soft, melodic tone that echoes Clares musing on the spire. Again, this could arguably be seen as a more organic method of creating rhythm in the poem and a suggestion that the poem is a close record of Clares actual thoughts and feelings.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: The Eternity of Nature

The Eternity of Nature


This poem presents visions of the cycle of life and compares the mortality of the human race with the perpetual existence of nature. Clare blends images of nature with a sense of the freedom of childhood to create an optimistic, light-hearted tone. TASK 85 Having read the poem, look at it again and make notes on the influence nature has on Clares writing.

Here are some of our ideas: The pensive way in which Clare talks of the leaf and the daisy in the opening section reflects his fascination with nature and the countryside. The sense of natures perpetual beauty is also clear

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: The Eternity of Nature

in this part of the poem as he talks of how the daisy strikes its little root / Into the lap of time and this is seen in contrast to the fleeting nature of poetry as he believes his simple rhyme / Shall be forgotten. Nature, therefore, is an inspiration to the poet, who clearly wishes his writing could survive in the same way as the daisy. A similar sense of natures abundant, perpetual beauty is shown in the middle section of the poem when Clare refers to the notion that the man-made (even poetry) will be out-lived by the natural world. This is most keenly reflected as the phrase kings and empires fade and die is compared with the images of meadows that will remain the same for two thousand years. Also in the middle section are references to biblical images, in particular the Garden of Eden. The suggestion is that the natural beauty of earth is synonymous with the beauty of Eden. This is something we have seen Clare do in other poems such as The Flitting and it is considered to be a reflection of his immense admiration of earths magnificence. Other images in the poem suggest that Clare believes that his poetry can help to bring nature to life and eulogise it. The little brooks, for example, sing when the poet writes of them as it is through these poems that their beauty is celebrated. Clare repeatedly presents us with references to birdsong and the sounds of nature throughout the poem. Often these images are coupled with references to the lyrical qualities of poetry, though often the suggestion is that natures song is far stronger. For example, the little robin / Sings unto time a pastoral and gives / A music that lives on and ever lives. Similarly, the image of Both Spring and Autumn years rich bloom and fade / Longer than songs that poets ever made echoes the notion that nature will outlive the poets work. The influence these sublime images of nature have on Clares writing is most obvious in the lines So in these pastoral spots which childish time / Makes dear to me I wander out and rhyme. The use of the words childish and wander create the feeling of simple appreciation but also a sense that the poet is so much in harmony with these images of beauty that writing seems the obvious way to celebrate them. Ultimately, the poem is constructed as a list of visual images, all of which celebrate the infinite beauty of the countryside. It is often said that Clare was an outside worshipper: his beliefs were firmly rooted in the natural world. This poem, therefore, is like a prayer praising God through the celebration of the countryside. Perhaps a final comment to make in the light of this concept concerns the way in which Clare repeatedly refers to five in the final section of the poem. This could arguably be a manipulation of the idea of the holy trinity, its extension creating a sense of natures abundance.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: Shadows of Taste

Shadows of Taste
This poem explores the influence of taste on the way we see the world. In some ways it is a celebration of the variety of interpretations but it could be seen in some ways as an implicit criticism of those (poets and writers in particular) who cannot engage with nature. TASK 86 The poem can be divided into sections as Clare considers different elements of nature and the human condition. Make notes on the techniques and tone on each of the following areas studied in the poem: birds, flowers, insects, style, man.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: Shadows of Taste

Here are some of our ideas to compare with your own: BIRDS Within the opening section of the poem Clare makes reference to the yellowhammer, a brightly coloured small bird, whose arrival is described as being like a tasteful guest. This image evokes a sense of Clares appreciation of the vision of the bird and creates a feeling of the homely way in which the poet experiences nature. The descriptions of other birds and their various positions in nature create a feeling that Clare is surrounded by these visions of freedom. Using plosive alliteration he describes the Birds bolderwinged on bushes and those who take safety in the cradle(s) of the trees. The use of emotive vocabulary (feel no moods of fear, joy) and images of freedom (house upon the clouds) creates a sense of admiration for the birds liberty.

FLOWERS Clare seems to want to convey a sense that, though delicateseeming, they are actually robust and hardy visions. The idea that they delight to bloom in areas where nothing else can grow and the fact that they flourish in either light or shade are celebrations of their mettle. Vocabulary such as glory, beauty and joy as well as sensory descriptions (taste of joy) are used to enhance the magnificence of the flower as Clare sets about celebrating their beauty and power.

INSECTS There is a sense of the chaotic and vivid world of the insect presented to us here. Vocabulary such as wild disorder, run and busy sun emphasise the idea that the most striking feature of this element of nature is their scuttling, hectic character. He goes on to describe the vision of poetry as, to some, a vision of nature. Poetry can be then a page of May and the breathing word / a landscape heard and felt and seen. The use of the senses here evokes a vivid image of the power of poetry.

STYLE With direct reference to key poetic figures such as John Donne, Clare explores the many varied styles poets adopt. The vocabulary here is focused on the art of writing, with references to rhymes, metres, prose and verse and there is the clever personification of words to create a lively image of the writing process (One line starts smooth and then, for room perplexed, / Elbows along and knocks against the next).

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: Shadows of Taste

Obviously this section of the poem is both self reflective and self conscious as it is a direct comment on the process of writing: a celebration of the poet.

MAN This section acts almost as a summary of what one might call Clares obsession with all aspects of nature. Hyperbolic phrases such as His joys run riot and recordless rapture occur; the notion that Clare feels a great sense of admiration for natures beauty[s] is explored and there is a feeling of the sublime throughout. Having established references to other poets, this next section could be seen as a criticism of those writers who cannot engage with images of nature. The line The heedless mind may laugh, the clown may stare; consolidates the notion that Clare believes those who cannot appreciate or feel inspired by the small and simple aspects of nature are fools. The poet who can A world of beauty admire and praise approaches the eternal, that great being. Through the remainder of the poem, Clare continues to present to the reader images of how the seemingly insignificant aspects of nature can be as inspirational as those grand ones mentioned elsewhere in the poem. The common weed and common blades of grass are presented as things of great significance, symbolising that taste is individual as not everyone would see such simplistic images in such a visionary way. As is typical of Clares writing, the ending of the poem has a more ominous feel as he presents us with the consequences of destroying such visions of natural beauty by destroying their environment. There are images of many ways such natural beauty can be destroyed as tastes change and people long for more ordered and neat country images. Although there are no direct references to the enclosures law (unlike in other poems seen earlier) there is a sense that it is this formal division of the countryside that influences the change in tone in the poem.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: To be Placed at the Back of his Portrait

To be Placed at the Back of his Portrait


During Clares periods of disturbed mental state, he often insisted that he was a reincarnation of Shakespeare. Though the references to the Bard could obviously be influenced by this thought, it would seem the poem focuses much more on Clares own writing experience and, once again, he presents his relationship with nature through poetry. The title suggests that the poem is designed to act as a memorial to the poet. TASK 87 Consider the ways in which Clare uses description and imagery to reflect his feelings and emotions about nature and its influence on his writing.

The opening line suggests the comfort Clare felt in nature as he describes his mossy cot; the phrase creates an image of the poet being caressed by nature. This image continues throughout the poem, echoing Clares feeling that his writings make him part of nature. The references to the Bard being of various images from nature emphasises the idea that the poet is at one with the landscape, a voice for the countryside. There are ideas about the simple power of nature here and how the land can feed and support the people who live on it. The idea that in the countryside a stone makes a table is a good example of this impression of the countrysides abundance. Again, this

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: To be Placed at the Back of his Portrait

sense of the landscape providing for the writer creates a feeling of comfort in the bond between the two. The final two lines of the poem are perhaps the most significant in eulogising Clares work. Here, through his poetry, the poet summarises the fact that the countryside will be forever beautiful. The two things seem to feed off each other therefore: without the landscape to influence him, Clare might not have been such a prolific writer and as thanks, he captures the beauty of the changing views of the countryside forever in his works. The Daisies and other images of nature therefore live in thy pages.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: Memory

Memory
Once more, Clare adopts the sonnet format. As in To John Clare and Glinton Spire, the structure is unconventional but he still seems to be using the form to reflect intense feelings and powerful emotions. Here, his views are focused on the fear of being forgotten. TASK 88 Having read the poem, look at it again and make notes on the way Clare presents his fears of death.

In the opening line, Clare talks of my being, a phrase that can be seen to refer to both body and soul. His fears, therefore, are of his essence being forgotten as well as his body decaying. The reference to every common lot could suggest that Clare fears he will be lost amongst the masses and not celebrated as an individual.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

The poems: Memory

The idea that his remains will reside in a strange and unfrequented spot seems fearful to the poet. In the context of Clares writing, this is understandable as place and home are important to him. Most significant is Clares fear that he will be forgot. The image of his beloved nature sigh(ing) and weep(ing) around him creates a feeling of unease; the reader may feel that this peaceful resting place would be a blessing to the man who loved nature so much. It appears, however, that this bard wants to be remembered by friends as well as those who merely pass by / To read who lieth there. There is a fear, perhaps, that he will be remembered as a poet and not as a person. This notion is consolidated by the final image of a familiar face pay(ing) to friendship some few friendly tears. The unconventional format and muddled rhyming pattern echo the poets unrest but the poem does end with a couplet, suggesting a sense of finality and conclusion.

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Selected Poems by John Clare

Essay Questions

ESSAY QUESTIONS
1. Explore the ways in which Clares writing reflects some of the basic principles of Romanticism. 2. What does John Clare consider to be significant about the specific instants in time he describes throughout this collection of poems? 3. Imagination was seen as the key to Romantic poetry. How do you feel John Clare explores the use of the imagination throughout this collection of poems? 4. The fusion of pain and pleasure is a key concept in Romantic thinking. How do you feel this is explored in John Clares poetry? 5. John Clares writing is characterised by his passion for nature. Consider the ways Clare presents his relationship with nature throughout this collection of poems. 6. Nostalgia for a previous golden age in which men lived in a simple and unsophisticated manner was a characteristic of the Romantic movement. In what ways does Clare present a nostalgic view of country life throughout this collection of poems? 7. Like most Romantic poets, Clare celebrated the innocent outlook of the child. Consider the ways in which Clare presents the world of the child in this collection of poems. 8. Much of Clares writing was a reaction to the Enclosure Act of 1809. Consider how Clare addresses this issue in this collection of poems. 9. Clare called himself the peasant poet. How do you feel this is reflected in the language and focus of his writing? 10. Clare, like many other Romantic poets, was preoccupied with the transience of life. Explore the ways in which this is reflected in this collection of poems. 11. In some areas of this collection of poems, Clare focuses on the unsettling nature of love and the pain that it can cause. Explore the ways in which Clare presents not only the pleasure and excitement but the loss and suffering caused by love. 12. Much of Clares poetry concerns itself with isolation and loneliness. Consider the ways in which these emotions are explored within this collection of poems. 13. Clare saw himself as a man on the outside of society. Within his writing, how does he explore this sense being an outsider? 14. A feeling of melancholy pervades this collection of poems. Explore the ways in which Clare creates this emotion in his poetry. ~ End ~

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