We currently have eight poems by John Clare. You can listen to them all one after the other using the playlist below or if you prefer you can click the links further down to read a specific poem whilst listening to it.
Read and listen to First Love
I ne’er was struck before that hour
With love so sudden and so sweet,
Her face it bloomed like a sweet flower
And stole my heart away complete.
My face turned pale as deadly pale.
My legs refused to walk away,
And when she looked, what could I ail?
My life and all seemed turned to clay.
And then my blood rushed to my face
And took my eyesight quite away,
The trees and bushes round the place
Seemed midnight at noonday.
I could not see a single thing,
Words from my eyes did start —
They spoke as chords do from the string,
And blood burnt round my heart.
Are flowers the winter’s choice?
Is love’s bed always snow?
She seemed to hear my silent voice,
Not love’s appeals to know.
I never saw so sweet a face
As that I stood before.
My heart has left its dwelling-place
And can return no more
Read and listen to Clock-a-Clay
In the cowslip pips I lie,
Hidden from the buzzing fly,
While green grass beneath me lies,
Pearled wi’ dew like fishes’ eyes,
Here I lie, a clock-o’-clay,
Waiting for the time o’ day.
While grassy forest quakes surprise,
And the wild wind sobs and sighs,
My gold home rocks as like to fall,
On its pillar green and tall;
When the pattering rain drives by
Clock-o’-clay keeps warm and dry.
Day by day and night by night,
All the week I hide from sight;
In the cowslip pips I lie,
In the rain and dew still warm and dry;
Day and night and night and day,
Red, black-spotted clock-o’-clay.
My home shakes in wind and showers,
Pale green pillar topped with flowers,
Bending at the wild wind’s breath,
Till I touch the grass beneath;
Here I live, lone clock-o’-clay,
Watching for the time of day.
Read and listen to Sunday Dip
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.
Read and listen to 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 vapours 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 loved 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.
Read and listen to Invitation to Eternity
Wilt thou go with me, sweet maid,
Say, maiden, wilt thou go with me
Through the valley-depths of shade,
Of night and dark obscurity;
Where the path has lost its way,
Where the sun forgets the day,
Where there’s nor life nor light to see,
Sweet maiden, wilt thou go with me!
Where stones will turn to flooding streams,
Where plains will rise like ocean waves,
Where life will fade like visioned dreams
And mountains darken into caves,
Say, maiden, wilt thou go with me
Through this sad non-identity,
Where parents live and are forgot,
And sisters live and know us not?
Say, maiden; wilt thou go with me
In this strange death-in-life to be,
To live in death and be the same,
Without this life or home or name,
At once to be and not to be –
That was and is not -yet to see
Things pass like shadows, and the sky
Above, below, around us lie?
The land of shadows wilt thou trace,
Nor look nor know each other’s face;
The present marred with reason gone,
And past and present all as one?
Say, maiden, can thy life be led
To join the living and the dead?
Then trace thy footsteps on with me;
We are wed to one eternity.
Read and listen to Secret Love
I hid my love when young till I
Couldn’t bear the buzzing of a fly;
I hid my love to my despite
Till I could not bear to look at light:
I dare not gaze upon her face
But left her memory in each place;
Where’er I saw a wild flower lie
I kissed and bade my love good-bye.
I met her in the greenest dells,
Where dewdrops pearl the wood bluebells;
The lost breeze kissed her bright blue eye,
The bee kissed and went singing by,
A sunbeam found a passage there,
A gold chain round her neck so fair;
As secret as the wild bee’s song
She lay there all the summer long.
I hid my love in field and town
Till e’en the breeze would knock me down;
The bees seemed singing ballads o’er,
The fly’s bass turned a lion’s roar;
And even silence found a tongue,
To haunt me all the summer long;
The riddle nature could not prove
Was nothing else but secret love.
Read and listen to The Frightened Ploughman
I went in the fields with the leisure I got,
The stranger might smile but I heeded him not,
The hovel was ready to screen from a shower,
And the book in my pocket was read in an hour.
The bird came for shelter, but soon flew away;
The horse came to look, and seemed happy to stay;
He stood up in quiet, and hung down his head,
And seemed to be hearing the poem I read.
The ploughman would turn from his plough in the day
And wonder what being had come in his way,
To lie on a molehill and read the day long
And laugh out aloud when he’d finished his song.
The pewit turned over and stooped oer my head
Where the raven croaked loud like the ploughman ill-bred,
But the lark high above charmed me all the day long,
So I sat down and joined in the chorus of song.
The foolhardy ploughman I well could endure,
His praise was worth nothing, his censure was poor,
Fame bade me go on and I toiled the day long
Till the fields where he lived should be known in my song.
Read and listen to Birds' Lament
Oh, says the linnet, if I sing,
My love forsook me in the spring,
And nevermore will I be seen
Without my satin gown of green.
Oh, says the pretty-feathered jay,
Now my love is fled away
For the memory of my dear
A feather of each sort I’ll wear.
Oh, says the sparrow, my love is gone,
She so much that I doted on,
And e’er since for that selfsame thing
I’ve made a vow I ne’er will sing.
Oh, says the water-wag-my-tail,
I courted a fair one but could not prevail,
I could not with my love prevail,
So that is the reason I wag my tail.
Oh, says the pretty speckled thrush,
That changes its note from bush to bush,
My love has left me here alone
And I fear she never will return.
Oh, says the rook, and eke the crow,
The reason why in black we go–
Because our love has us forsook,
So pity us, poor crow and rook.
Oh, says the owl, my love is gone,
It was her I doted on;
Since she has gone I know not where to follow,
But after her I’ll whoop and hollo.
John Clare - 1793 - 1864
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. His biographer Jonathan Bate called Clare “the greatest labouring-class poet that England has ever produced. No one has ever written more powerfully of nature, of a rural childhood, and of the alienated and unstable self.
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