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Old 11-29-2001, 03:35 PM
David Anthony David Anthony is offline
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Does anybody else like that poor, demented, simple, brilliant man?

I Am

I am: yet what I am none cares or knows
My friends forsake me like a memory lost,
I am the self-consumer of my woes -
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shadows in love's frenzied, stifled throes -
And yet I am, and live - like vapors tossed

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life or joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems;
Even the dearest, that I love the best,
Are strange - nay, rather stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes, where man hath never trod,
A place where woman never smiled or wept -
There to abide with my Creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling, and untroubled where I lie,
The grass below - above the vaulted sky.
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Old 11-29-2001, 05:33 PM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: New York
Posts: 14,113

To answer you question: Yes, of course. I don't really have anything to add except thanks for posting this lovely poem, which I hadn't looked at for quite some time.
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Old 11-30-2001, 12:03 AM
nyctom nyctom is offline
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Location: New York, NY USA
Posts: 3,699

I have never heard of Mr. Clare nor seen his work before, but I like that. It actually reminded me a good deal of Millay's Renascence. Got any more to post?

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Old 11-30-2001, 04:03 AM
A. E. Stallings A. E. Stallings is offline
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Location: Athens, Greece
Posts: 3,206

Thanks for posting Clare, David. His name somehow tells it all--simple, unpretentious, clear. He has some wonderful sonnets of realistic description, full of affectionate attention, close observation and humor regarding the natural world and the everyday, but not sentimental or moralizing. (I think these are in most of the anthologies, but I'll go ahead and post.)

Mouse's Nest

I found a ball of grass among the hay
And progged it as I passed and went away;
And when I looked I fancied something stirred,
And turned again and hoped to catch the bird--
When out an old mouse bolted in the wheats
With all her young ones hanging at her teats;
She looked so odd and so grotesque to me,
I ran and wondered what the thing could be,
And pushed the knapweed bunches where I stood;
Then the mouse hurried from the craking brood.
The young ones squeaked, and as I went away
She found her nest again among the hay.
The water o'er the pebbles scarce could run
And broad old cesspools glittered in the sun.

Hen's Nest

Among the orchard weeds, from every search,
Snugly and sure, the old hen's nest is made,
Who cackles every morning from her perch
To tell the servant girl new eggs are laid;
Who lays her washing by; and far and near
Goes seeking all about from day to day,
And stung with nettles tramples everywhere;
But still the cackling pullet lays away.
The boy on Sundays goes the stack to pull
In hopes to find her there, but naught is seen,
And takes his hat and thinks to find it full,
She's laid so long so many might have been.
But naught is found and all is given o'er
Till the young brood come chirping to the door.
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Old 11-30-2001, 05:22 AM
conny conny is offline
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: UK
Posts: 1,670

I simply love that poem. A bolt of poetic
lightning if ever there was one. So good in
fact it is almost a distraction from his other
stuff which I like very much. Lines 11 and 12
are an absolute killer.
I have a recording somewhere of Alec Guinness
reading it aloud and the wierd relish of those
lines haunts me.

Thanks for taking the time to put it here.

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Old 11-30-2001, 10:29 PM
Golias Golias is offline
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Lewisburg, PA, USA
Posts: 1,428


Thinking of featuring John Clare as a vintage poet in the next SQ I wrote to Bob Mezey for his thoughts and for suggestions of particular poems to use. His reply is, in part, germane:

"I love Clare. I brought (and shipped)only a few volumes of poetry to Washington, but a little book of Clare was one of them. Off the top of my head: The Badger; Gipsies (the one that ends by calling them,I can't quite recall the exact words, a quiet, harmless, pilfering race---the last two words are right; Providence; and the best of all "I am, yet what I am none cares or knows" which I've had by heart for fifty years or more, and may be the greatest poem ever written out of self-pity,an emotion that has killed more poems than just about anything."

There is a John Clare Society website at THIS WEB ADDRESS

Thank you for starting this thread.


[This message has been edited by Golias (edited November 30, 2001).]
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Old 12-01-2001, 03:04 AM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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David, et al, Wendy Cope wrote him a little poem which, in its clarity and affecting simplicity, is worthy of its dedicatee:

John Clare

John Clare, last night I cried
For you--your grass-green coat,
Your oddness, others' spite,
Your fame, enjoyed and lost,
Your gift, and what it cost.

Awake in the early hours,
I heard you with my eyes,
Carolling woods and showers.
As if a songbird's throat
Could utter words, you wrote.

I listened late and long--
Each clear, true, loving note
Placed justly in its song.
Sometimes for sheer delight,
John Clare, I cried last night.
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Old 12-01-2001, 03:33 AM
David Anthony David Anthony is offline
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What a lovely tribute: I think she catches his voice perfectly.
No formal education beyond the age of 11, and born to a poor country family. Talent will out. I love his nature sonnets: pure, simple, acutely observed, without a hint of a volta (or even of punctuation in the original versions).
Wiley, I suggest you include "Emmonsail's Heath in Winter": one of his best, I believe. If I can find it on the net I'll post it here.
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Old 12-01-2001, 06:22 AM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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Location: Fargo ND, USA
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David, thanks for sending me to it, and Wiley, here's

Emmonsail's Heath in Winter

I love to see the old heath's withered brake
Mingle its crimpled leaves with furze and ling,
While the old heron from the lonely lake
Starts slow and flaps his melancholy wing,
And oddling crow in idle motions swing
On the half-rotten ash-tree's topmost twig,
beside whose trunk the gypsy makes his bed.
Up flies the bouncing woodcock from the brig
Where a black quagmire quakes beneath the tread;
The fieldfares chatter in the whistling thorn
And for the haw round fields and closen rove,
And coy bumbarrels, twenty in a drove,
Flit down the hedgerows in the frozen plain
And hang on little twigs and start again.

I'd only seen Clare in anthologies. Being among the minority of contemporary poets who have pulled the plough, I loved him and was appalled at the cost of a Collected. So I found the old Everyman Library Selected, which DOES NOT include this masterpiece! Frustrated, I turned to the Auden Pearson Anthology, all five volumes of which, Nyctom, you should root out in the used bookstores of New York. I suspect only volume II, the Renaissance, is still in print. Published in the year of my birth, 1951, it is the great anthology of English poetry up to early Yeats, the cut-off point Auden chose. My parents had it, and it's the one (well, five) book (s) I would take to a desert island.
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Old 12-05-2001, 02:54 AM
A. E. Stallings A. E. Stallings is offline
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Location: Athens, Greece
Posts: 3,206

The Wendy Cope is marvellous...

I have been thinking of Clare's skylark, like his verse "grounded" in reality, versus Shelley's abstract "blithe spirit" (Bird thou never wert, or however it goes). One has to vote for Clare's, methinks:

The Skylark

The rolls and harrows lie at rest beside
The battered road; and spreading far and wide
Above the russet clods, the corn is seen
Sprouting its spiry points of tender green,
Where squats the hare, to terrors wide awake,
Like some brown clod the harrows failed to break.
Opening their golden caskets to the sun,
The buttercups make schoolboys eager run,
To see who shall be first to pluck the prize--
Up from their hurry, see, the skylark flies,
And o'er her half-formed nest, with happy wings
Winnows the air, till in the cloud she sings,
Then hangs a dust-spot in the sunny skies,
And drops, and drops, till in her nest she lies,
Which they unheeded passed--not dreaming then
That birds which flew so high would drop agen
To nests upon the ground, which anything
May come at to destroy. Had they the wing
Like such a bird, themselves would be too proud,
And build on nothing but a passing cloud!
As free from danger as the heavens are free
From pain and toil, there would they build and be,
And sail about the world to scenes unheard
Of and unseen--Oh, were they but a bird!
So think they, while they listen to its song,
And smile and fancy and so pass along;
While its low nest, moist with the dews of morn,
Lies safely, with the leveret, in the corn.
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