John Clare was an English poet. The son of a farm labourer, he became known for his celebrations of the English countryside and sorrows at its disruption. His poetry underwent major re-evaluation in the late 20th century: he is now often seen as a major 19th-century poet.
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Famous John Clare Poems
The Shepherd’s Calendar
Nature now spreads around in dreary hue
A pall to cover all that summer knew
Yet in the poets solitary way
Some pleasing objects for his praise delay
Somthing that makes him pause and turn again
As every trifle will his eye detain
The free horse rustling through the stubble land
And bawling herd boy with his motly band
Of hogs and sheep and cows who feed their fill
Oer cleard fields rambling where so ere they will
The geese flock gabbling in the splashy fields
And quaking ducks in pondweeds half conseald
Or seeking worms along the homclose sward
Right glad of freedom from the prison yard
While every cart rut dribbles its low tide
And every hollow splashing sports provide
The hedger stopping gaps wi pointed bough
Made by intruding horse and blundering cow
The milk maid tripping on her morning way
And fodderers oft tho early cutting hay
Dropping the littering forkfulls from his back
Side where the thorn fence circles round the stack
The cotter journying wi his noisev swine
Along the wood side where the brambles twine
Shaking from dinted cups the acorns brown
And from the hedges red awes dashing down
And nutters rustling in the yellow woods
Scaring from their snug lairs the pheasant broods
And squirrels secret toils oer winter dreams
Picking the brown nuts from the yellow beams
And hunters from the thickets avenue
In scarlet jackets startling on the view
Skiming a moment oer the russet plain
Then hiding in the colord woods again
The ploping guns sharp momentary shock
Which eccho bustles from her cave to mock
The sticking groups in many a ragged set
Brushing the woods their harmless loads to get
And gipseys camps in some snug shelterd nook
Where old lane hedges like the pasture brook
Run crooking as they will by wood and dell
In such lone spots these wild wood roamers dwell
On commons where no farmers claims appear
Nor tyrant justice rides to interfere
Such the abodes neath hedge or spreading oak
And but discovered by its curling smoak
Puffing and peeping up as wills the breeze
Between the branches of the colord trees
Such are the pictures that october yields
To please the poet as he walks the fields
Oft dames in faded cloak of red or grey
Loiters along the mornings dripping way
Wi wicker basket on their witherd arms
Searching the hedges of home close or farms
Where brashy elder trees to autum fade
Each cotters mossy hut and garden shade
Whose glossy berrys picturesquly weaves
Their swathy bunches mid the yellow leaves
Where the pert sparrow stains his little bill
And tutling robin picks his meals at will
Black ripening to the wan suns misty ray
Here the industrious huswives wend their way
Pulling the brittle branches carefull down
And hawking loads of berrys to the town
Wi unpretending skill yet half divine
To press and make their eldern berry wine
That bottld up becomes a rousing charm
To kindle winters icy bosom warm
That wi its merry partner nut brown beer
Makes up the peasants christmass keeping cheer
While nature like fair woman in decay
Which pale consumption hourly wastes away
Upon her waining features pale and chill
Wears dreams of beauty that seem lovely still
Among the heath furze still delights to dwell
Quaking as if with cold the harvest bell
The mushroom buttons each moist morning brings
Like spots of snow in the green tawney rings
And fuzz balls swelld like bladders in the grass
Which oft the merry laughing milking lass
Will stoop to gather in her sportive airs
And slive in mimickd fondness unawares
To smut the brown cheek of the teazing swain
Wi the black powder which their balls contain
Who feigns offence at first that love may speed
Then charms a kiss to recompence the deed
The flying clouds urged on in swiftest pace
Like living things as if they runned a race
The winds that oer each coming tempest broods
Waking like spirits in their startling moods
Fluttering the sear leaves on the blasting lea
That litters under every fading tree
And pausing oft as falls the pattering rain
Then gathering strength and twirling them again
The startld stockdove hurried wizzing bye
As the still hawk hangs oer him in the sky
Crows from the oak trees qawking as they spring
Dashing the acorns down wi beating wing
Waking the woodlands sleep in noises low
Pattring on crimpt brakes withering brown below
While from their hollow nest the squirrels (pop)
Adown the tree to pick them as they drop
The starnel crowds that dim the muddy light
The crows and jackdaws flapping home at night
And puddock circling round its lazy flight
Round the wild sweeing wood in motion slow
Before it perches on the oaks below
And hugh black beetles revelling alone
In the dull evening with their heavy drone
Buzzing from barn door straw and hovel sides
Where fodderd cattle from the night abides
These pictures linger thro the shortning day
And cheer the lone bards mellancholy way
And now and then a solitary boy
Journeying and muttering oer his dreams of joy
The frog croaks loud, and maidens dare not pass
But fear the noisome toad and shun the grass;
And on the sunny banks they dare not go
Where hissing snakes run to the flood below.
The nuthatch noises loud in wood and wild,
Like women turning skreeking to a child.
The schoolboy hears and brushes through the trees
And runs about till drabbled to the knees.
The old hawk winnows round the old crow’s nest;
The schoolboy hears and wonder fills his breast.
He throws his basket down to climb the tree
And wonders what the red blotched eggs can be:
The green woodpecker bounces from the view
And hollos as he buzzes bye ‘kew kew.’
would not wish the burning blaze
Of fame around a restless world,
The thunder and the storm of praise
In crowded tumults heard and hurled.
I would not be a flower to stand
The stare of every passer-bye;
But in some nook of fairyland,
Seen in the praise of beauty’s eye.
True as the church clock hand the hour pursues
He plods about his toils and reads the news,
And at the blacksmith’s shop his hour will stand
To talk of ‘Lunun’ as a foreign land.
For from his cottage door in peace or strife
He neer went fifty miles in all his life.
His knowledge with old notions still combined
Is twenty years behind the march of mind.
He views new knowledge with suspicious eyes
And thinks it blasphemy to be so wise.
On steam’s almighty tales he wondering looks
As witchcraft gleaned from old blackletter books.
Life gave him comfort but denied him wealth,
He toils in quiet and enjoys his health,
He smokes a pipe at night and drinks his beer
And runs no scores on tavern screens to clear.
He goes to market all the year about
And keeps one hour and never stays it out.
Een at St. Thomas tide old Rover’s bark
Hails Dapple’s trot an hour before it’s dark.
He is a simple-worded plain old man
Whose good intents take errors in their plan.
Oft sentimental and with saddened vein
He looks on trifles and bemoans their pain,
And thinks the angler mad, and loudly storms
With emphasis of speech oer murdered worms.
And hunters cruel–pleading with sad care
Pity’s petition for the fox and hare,
Yet feels self-satisfaction in his woes
For war’s crushed myriads of his slaughtered foes.
He is right scrupulous in one pretext
And wholesale errors swallows in the next.
He deems it sin to sing, yet not to say
A song–a mighty difference in his way.
And many a moving tale in antique rhymes
He has for Christmas and such merry times,
When ‘Chevy Chase,’ his masterpiece of song,
Is said so earnest none can think it long.
Twas the old vicar’s way who should be right,
For the late vicar was his heart’s delight,
And while at church he often shakes his head
To think what sermons the old vicar made,
Downright and orthodox that all the land
Who had their ears to hear might understand,
But now such mighty learning meets his ears
He thinks it Greek or Latin which he hears,
Yet church receives him every sabbath day
And rain or snow he never keeps away.
All words of reverence still his heart reveres,
Low bows his head when Jesus meets his ears,
And still he thinks it blasphemy as well
Such names without a capital to spell.
In an old corner cupboard by the wall
His books are laid, though good, in number small,
His Bible first in place; from worth and age
Whose grandsire’s name adorns the title page,
And blank leaves once, now filled with kindred claims,
Display a world’s epitome of names.
Parents and children and grandchildren all
Memory’s affections in the lists recall.
And prayer-book next, much worn though strongly bound,
Proves him a churchman orthodox and sound.
The ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ and the ‘Death of Abel’
Are seldom missing from his Sunday table,
And prime old Tusser in his homely trim,
The first of bards in all the world with him,
And only poet which his leisure knows;
Verse deals in fancy, so he sticks to prose.
These are the books he reads and reads again
And weekly hunts the almanacks for rain.
Here and no further learning’s channels ran;
Still, neighbours prize him as the learned man.
His cottage is a humble place of rest
With one spare room to welcome every guest,
And that tall poplar pointing to the sky
His own hand planted when an idle boy,
It shades his chimney while the singing wind
Hums songs of shelter to his happy mind.
Within his cot the largest ears of corn
He ever found his picture frames adorn:
Brave Granby’s head, De Grosse’s grand defeat;
He rubs his hands and shows how Rodney beat.
And from the rafters upon strings depend
Beanstalks beset with pods from end to end,
Whose numbers without counting may be seen
Wrote on the almanack behind the screen.
Around the corner up on worsted strung
Pooties in wreaths above the cupboard hung.
Memory at trifling incidents awakes
And there he keeps them for his children’s sakes,
Who when as boys searched every sedgy lane,
Traced every wood and shattered clothes again,
Roaming about on rapture’s easy wing
To hunt those very pooty shells in spring.
And thus he lives too happy to be poor
While strife neer pauses at so mean a door.
Low in the sheltered valley stands his cot,
He hears the mountain storm and feels it not;
Winter and spring, toil ceasing ere tis dark,
Rests with the lamb and rises with the lark,
Content his helpmate to the day’s employ
And care neer comes to steal a single joy.
Time, scarcely noticed, turns his hair to grey,
Yet leaves him happy as a child at play.
Sweet solitude, what joy to be alone–
In wild, wood-shady dell to stay for hours.
Twould soften hearts if they were hard as stone
To see glad butterflies and smiling flowers.
Tis pleasant in these quiet lonely places,
Where not the voice of man our pleasure mars,
To see the little bees with coal black faces
Gathering sweets from little flowers like stars.
The wind seems calling, though not understood.
A voice is speaking; hark, it louder calls.
It echoes in the far-outstretching wood.
First twas a hum, but now it loudly squalls;
And then the pattering rain begins to fall,
And it is hushed–the fern leaves scarcely shake,
The tottergrass it scarcely stirs at all.
And then the rolling thunder gets awake,
And from black clouds the lightning flashes break.
The sunshine’s gone, and now an April evening
Commences with a dim and mackerel sky.
Gold light and woolpacks in the west are leaving,
And leaden streaks their splendid place supply.
Sheep ointment seems to daub the dead-hued sky,
And night shuts up the lightsomeness of day,
All dark and absent as a corpse’s eye.
Flower, tree, and bush, like all the shadows grey,
In leaden hues of desolation fade away.
Tis May; and yet the March flower Dandelion
Is still in bloom among the emerald grass,
Shining like guineas with the sun’s warm eye on–
We almost think they are gold as we pass,
Or fallen stars in a green sea of grass.
They shine in fields, or waste grounds near the town.
They closed like painter’s brush when even was.
At length they turn to nothing else but down,
While the rude winds blow off each shadowy crown.
Mary, leave thy lowly cot
When thy thickest jobs are done;
When thy friends will miss thee not,
Mary, to the pastures run.
Where we met the other night
Neath the bush upon the plain,
Be it dark or be it light,
Ye may guess we’ll meet again.
Should ye go or should ye not,
Never shilly-shally, dear.
Leave your work and leave your cot,
Nothing need ye doubt or fear:
Fools may tell ye lies in spite,
Calling me a roving swain;
Think what passed the other night–
I’ll be bound ye’ll meet again.
The morning road is thronged with merry boys
Who seek the water for their Sunday joys;
They run to seek the shallow pit, and wade
And dance about the water in the shade.
The boldest ventures first and dashes in,
And others go and follow to the chin,
And duck about, and try to lose their fears,
And laugh to hear the thunder in their ears.
They bundle up the rushes for a boat
And try across the deepest place to float:
Beneath the willow trees they ride and stoop–
The awkward load will scarcely bear them up.
Without their aid the others float away,
And play about the water half the day.
Nature’s Hymn To The Deity
All nature owns with one accord
The great and universal Lord:
The sun proclaims him through the day,
The moon when daylight drops away,
The very darkness smiles to wear
The stars that show us God is there,
On moonlight seas soft gleams the sky
And ‘God is with us’ waves reply.
Winds breathe from God’s abode ‘we come,’
Storms louder own God is their home,
And thunder yet with louder call,
Sounds ‘God is mightiest over all’;
Till earth right loath the proof to miss
Echoes triumphantly ‘He is,’
And air and ocean makes reply,
God reigns on earth, in air and sky.
All nature owns with one accord
The great and universal Lord:
Insect and bird and tree and flower–
The witnesses of every hour–
Are pregnant with his prophesy
And ‘God is with us’ all reply.
The first link in the mighty plan
Is still–and all upbraideth man.
Letter In Verse
Like boys that run behind the loaded wain
For the mere joy of riding back again,
When summer from the meadow carts the hay
And school hours leave them half a day to play;
So I with leisure on three sides a sheet
Of foolscap dance with poesy’s measured feet,
Just to ride post upon the wings of time
And kill a care, to friendship turned in rhyme.
The muse’s gallop hurries me in sport
With much to read and little to divert,
And I, amused, with less of wit than will,
Run till I tire.–And so to cheat her still.
Like children running races who shall be
First in to touch the orchard wall or tree,
The last half way behind, by distance vext,
Turns short, determined to be first the next;
So now the muse has run me hard and long–
I’ll leave at once her races and her song;
And, turning round, laugh at the letter’s close
And beat her out by ending it in prose.
Here morning in the ploughman’s songs is met
Ere yet one footstep shows in all the sky,
And twilight in the east, a doubt as yet,
Shows not her sleeve of grey to know her bye.
Woke early, I arose and thought that first
In winter time of all the world was I.
The old owls might have hallooed if they durst,
But joy just then was up and whistled bye
A merry tune which I had known full long,
But could not to my memory wake it back,
Until the ploughman changed it to the song.
O happiness, how simple is thy track.
–Tinged like the willow shoots, the east’s young brow
Glows red and finds thee singing at the plough.
Where the broad sheepwalk bare and brown
[Yields] scant grass pining after showers,
And winds go fanning up and down
The little strawy bents and nodding flowers,
There the huge thistle, spurred with many thorns,
The suncrackt upland’s russet swells adorns.
Not undevoid of beauty there they come,
Armed warriors, waiting neither suns nor showers,
Guarding the little clover plots to bloom
While sheep nor oxen dare not crop their flowers
Unsheathing their own knobs of tawny flowers
When summer cometh in her hottest hours.
The pewit, swopping up and down
And screaming round the passer bye,
Or running oer the herbage brown
With copple crown uplifted high,
Loves in its clumps to make a home
Where danger seldom cares to come.
The yellowhammer, often prest
For spot to build and be unseen,
Will in its shelter trust her nest
When fields and meadows glow with green;
And larks, though paths go closely bye,
Will in its shade securely lie.
The partridge too, that scarce can trust
The open downs to be at rest,
Will in its clumps lie down, and dust
And prune its horseshoe-circled breast,
And oft in shining fields of green
Will lay and raise its brood unseen.
The sheep when hunger presses sore
May nip the clover round its nest;
But soon the thistle wounding sore
Relieves it from each brushing guest,
That leaves a bit of wool behind,
The yellowhammer loves to find.
The horse will set his foot and bite
Close to the ground lark’s guarded nest
And snort to meet the prickly sight;
He fans the feathers of her breast–
Yet thistles prick so deep that he
Turns back and leaves her dwelling free.
Its prickly knobs the dews of morn
Doth bead with dressing rich to see,
When threads doth hang from thorn to thorn
Like the small spinner’s tapestry;
And from the flowers a sultry smell
Comes that agrees with summer well.
The bee will make its bloom a bed,
The humble bee in tawny brown;
And one in jacket fringed with red
Will rest upon its velvet down
When overtaken in the rain,
And wait till sunshine comes again.
And there are times when travel goes
Along the sheep tracks’ beaten ways,
Then pleasure many a praise bestows
Upon its blossoms’ pointed rays,
When other things are parched beside
And hot day leaves it in its pride.
WHEN midnight comes a host of dogs and men
Go out and track the badger to his den,
And put a sack within the hole and lie
Till the old grunting badger passes by.
He comes and hears – they let the strongest loose.
The old fox hears the noise and drops the goose.
The poacher shoots and hurries from the cry,
And the old hare half wounded buzzes by.
They get a forkéd stick to bear him down
And clap the dogs and take him to the town,
And bait him all the day with many dogs,
And laugh and shout and fright the scampering hogs.
He runs along and bites at all he meets:
They shout and hollo down the noisy streets.
He turns about to face the loud uproar
And drives the rebels to their very door.
The frequent stone is hurled wher’er they go;
When badgers fight, then everyone’s a foe.
The dogs are clapped and urged to join the fray;
The badger turns and drives them all away.
Though scarcely half as big, demure and small,
He fights with dogs for hours and beats them all.
The heavy mastiff, savage in the fray,
Lies down and licks his feet and turns away.
The bulldog knows his match and waxes cold
The badger grins and never leaves his hold.
He drives the crowd and follows at their heels
And bites them through – the drunkard swears and reels.
The frighted women take the boys away,
The blackguard laughs and hurries on the fray.
He tries to reach the woods, an awkward race,
But sticks and cudgels quickly stop the chase.
He turns again and drives the noisy crowd
And beats the many dogs in noises loud.
He drives away and beats them every one,
And then they loose them all and set them on.
He falls as dead and kicked by boys and men,
Then starts and grins and drives the crowd again;
Till kicked and torn and beaten out he lies
And leaves his hold and cackles, groans and dies.
Now summer is in flower and natures hum
Is never silent round her sultry bloom
Insects as small as dust are never done
Wi’ glittering dance and reeling in the sun
And green wood fly and blossom haunting bee
Are never weary of their melody
Round field hedge now flowers in full glory twine
Large bindweed bells wild hop and streakd woodbine
That lift athirst their slender throated flowers
Agape for dew falls and for honey showers
These round each bush in sweet disorder run
And spread their wild hues to the sultry sun.’
The Universal Epitaph
No flattering praises daub my stone,
My frailties and my faults to hide;
My faults and failings all are known—
I liv’d in sin—in sin I died.
And oh! condemn me not, I pray,
You who my sad confession view;
But ask your soul, if it can say,
That I’m a viler man than you.
In Summer Showers A Skreeking Noise Is Heard
n summer showers a skreeking noise is heard
Deep in the woods of some uncommon bird
It makes a loud and long and loud continued noise
And often stops the speed of men and boys
They think somebody mocks and goes along
And never thinks the nuthatch makes the song
Who always comes along the summer guest
The birdnest hunters never found the nest
The schoolboy hears the noise from day to day
And stoops among the thorns to find a way
And starts the jay bird from the bushes green
He looks and sees a nest he’s never seen
And takes the spotted eggs with many joys
And thinks he found the bird that made the noise