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A balmy briskness comes upon the breeze;
'Tis nature, full of spirits, waked and springing:
With feet and voice the gathering hum contends,
[Funeral of the Lovers in Rimini.']
The days were then at close of autumn still,
The last few leaves came fluttering from the trees, Whose trunks now thronged to sight, in dark varieties. The people, who from reverence kept at home, Listened till afternoon to hear them come;
And hour on hour went by, and nought was heard
A voice of chanting rose, and as it spread,
The train, and now were entering the first street.
To keep the window, when the train drew near;
The bier approaching slow and steadily,
To T. L. H., Six Years Old, During a Sickness.
And balmy rest about thee
Smooths off the day's annoy.
Dirge. Blessed is the turf, serenely blessed, Where throbbing hearts may sink to rest, Where life's long journey turns to sleep, Nor ever pilgrim wakes to weep. A little sod, a few sad flowers, A tear for long-departed hours, Is all that feeling hearts request To hush their weary thoughts to rest. There shall no vain ambition come To lure them from their quiet home; Nor sorrow lift, with heart-strings riven, The meek imploring eye to heaven; Nor sad remembrance stoop to shed His wrinkles on the slumberer's head; And never, never love repair To breathe his idle whispers there!
To the Grasshopper and the Cricket. Green little vaulter in the sunny grass,
Catching your heart up at the feel of June, Sole voice that's heard amidst the lazy noon, When even the bees lag at the summoning brass; And you, warm little housekeeper, who class
With those who think the candles come too soon, Loving the fire, and with your tricksome tune Nick the glad silent moments as they pass;
Oh, sweet and tiny cousins, that belong,
At your clear hearts; and both were sent on earth
To sing in thoughtful ears this natural song-
In-doors and out, summer and winter, mirth.
Clear, fresh, and dulcet streams,
To me sole woman, haunted at noontide;
JOHN CLARE, one of the most truly uneducated of The Celebrated Canzone of Petrarch- Chiare, fresche, e English poets, and one of the best of our rural dedolce acque.'
scribers, was born at Helpstone, a village near Peterborough, in 1793. His parents were peasants -his father a helpless cripple and a pauper. John obtained some education by his own extra work as a ploughboy: from the labour of eight weeks he generally acquired as many pence as paid for a month's schooling. At thirteen years of age he met with Thomson's Seasons, and hoarded up a shilling to purchase a copy. At daybreak on a spring morning, he walked to the town of Stamford-six or seven miles off-to make the purchase, and had to wait some time till the shops were opened. This is a fine trait of boyish enthusiasm, and of the struggles of youthful genius. Returning to his native village with the precious purchase, as he walked through the beautiful scenery of Burghley Park, he composed his first piece of poetry, which he called the Morning Walk. This was soon followed by the Evening Walk, and some other pieces. A benevolent exciseman instructed the young poet in writing and arithmetic, and he continued his obscure but ardent devotions to his rural muse. 'Most of his poems,' says the writer of a memoir prefixed to his first volume, were composed under the immediate impression of his feelings in the fields or on the road sides. He could not trust his memory, and therefore he wrote them
A stiller port after the stormy wind:
Nor in more calm abstracted bourne,
Slip from my travailed flesh, and from my bones out-down with a pencil on the spot, his hat serving him
for a desk; and if it happened that he had no opportunity soon after of transcribing these imperfect memorials, he could seldom decipher them or recover his first thoughts. From this cause several of his poems are quite lost, and others exist only in fragments. Of those which he had committed to writing, especially his earlier pieces, many were destroyed from another circumstance, which shows how little he expected to please others with them: from a hole in the wall of his room where he stuffed his manuscripts, a piece of paper was often taken to hold the kettle with, or light the fire.' In 1817, Clare, while working at Bridge Casterton, in Rutlandshire, resolved on risking the publication of a volume. By hard working day and night, he got a pound saved, that he might have a prospectus printed. This was accordingly done, and a Collection of Original Trifles was announced to subscribers, the price not to exceed 3s. 6d. I distributed my papers,' he says; but as I could get at no way of pushing them into higher circles than those with whom I was acquainted, they consequently passed off as quietly as if they had been still in my possession, unprinted and unseen.' Only seven subscribers came forward! One of these prospectuses, however, led to an acquaintance with Mr Edward Drury, the poems were published by Messrs Taylor and bookseller, Stamford, and through this gentleman Hessey, London, who purchased them from Clare for £20. The volume was brought out in January 1820, with an interesting well-written introduction, and bearing the title, Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery, by John Clare, a Northamptonshire peasant. The attention of the public was instantly awakened to the circumstances and the merits of Clare. The magazines and reviews were unanimous in his favour. This interesting little volume,' said the Quarterly Review, bears indubit
Bough, gently interknit
(I sigh to think of it),
Which formed a rustic chair for her sweet side;
O'er which her folded gown
Flowed like an angel's down;
And you, O holy air and hushed,
To my last words, my last and my lamenting.
If 'tis my fate below,
And Heaven will have it so,
That love must close these dying eyes in tears,
In middle of your shade,
While my soul, naked, mounts to its own spheres.
For never could my spirit find
Perhaps, some future hour,
Might come the untamed, and yet the gentle she;
Might turn with eyes athirst,
And kinder joy to look again for me;
Then, O the charity!
Seeing betwixt the stones
The earth that held my bones,
A sigh for very love at last
Might ask of Heaven to pardon me the past;
And Heaven itself could not say nay,
As with her gentle veil she wiped the tears away.
How well I call to mind
When from those bowers the wind
Shook down upon her bosom flower on flower ;
Sprinkled and blushing through an amorous shower.
How often then I said,
Inward, and filled with dread,
Her voice, and her sweet smile,
I said, as far from men,
I had forgotten; and, alas!
Such love for the green bower, I cannot rest elsewhere.
able evidence of being composed altogether from the impulses of the writer's mind, as excited by external objects and internal sensations. Here are no tawdry and feeble paraphrases of former poets, no attempts at describing what the author might have become acquainted with in his limited reading. The woods, the vales, the brooks, "the crimson spots i' the bottom of a cowslip," or the loftier phenomena of the heavens, contemplated through the alternations of hope and despondency, are the principal sources whence the youth, whose adverse circumstances and resignation under them extort our sympathy, drew the faithful and vivid pictures before us. Examples of minds highly gifted by nature, struggling with, and breaking through the bondage of adversity, are not rare in this country: but privation is not destitution; and the instance before us is, perhaps, one of the most striking of patient and persevering talent existing and enduring in the most forlorn, and seemingly hopeless condition, that literature has at any time exhibited.'
In a short time Clare was in possession of a little fortune. The present Earl Fitzwilliam sent £100 to his publishers, which, with the like sum advanced by them, was laid out in the purchase of stock; the Marquis of Exeter allowed him an annuity of fifteen guineas for life; the Earl of Spencer a further annuity of £10, and various contributions were received from other noblemen and gentlemen, so that the poet had a permanent allowance of £30 per annum. He married his Patty of the Vale,' the rosebud in humble life,' the daughter of a neighbouring farmer; and in his native cottage at Helpstone, with his aged and infirm parents and his young wife by his side-all proud of his now warded and successful genius-Clare basked in the sunshine of a poetical felicity. The writer of this recollects, with melancholy pleasure, paying a visit to the poet at this genial season in company with one of his publishers. The humble dwelling wore an air of comfort and contented happiness. Shelves were fitted up, filled with books, most of which had been sent as presents. Clare read and liked them all! He took us to see his favourite scene, the haunt of his inspiration. It was a low fall of swampy ground, used as a pasture, and bounded by a dull rushy brook, overhung with willows. Yet here Clare strayed and mused delighted.
Flow on, thou gently-plashing stream,
Upon thy mossy bank:
I've watched thee wind so clearly,
is now, we believe, in a private asylum-hopeless, but not dead to passing events. This sad termination of so bright a morning it is painful to contemplate. Amidst the native wild flowers of his song we looked not for the deadly nightshade'—and, though the example of Burns, of Chatterton, and Bloomfield, was better fitted to inspire fear than hope, there was in Clare a naturally lively and cheerful temperament, and an apparent absence of strong and dangerous passions, that promised, as in the case of Allan Ramsay, a life of humble yet prosperous contentment and happiness. Poor Clare's muse was the true offspring of English country life. He was a faithful painter of rustic scenes and occupations, and he noted every light and shade of his brooks, meadows, and green lanes. His fancy was buoyant in the midst of labour and hardship; and his imagery, drawn directly from nature, is various and original. Careful finishing could not be expected from the rustic poet, yet there is often a fine delicacy and beauty in his pieces, and his moral reflections and pathos win their way to the heart. It is seldom,' as one of his critics remarked, 'that the public have an opportunity of learning the unmixed and unadulterated impression of the loveliness of nature on a man of vivid perception and strong feeling, equally unacquainted with the art and reserve of the world, and with the riches, rules, and prejudices of literature.' Clare was strictly such a man. His reading before his first publication had been extremely limited, and did not either form his taste or bias the direction of his powers. He wrote out of the fulness of his heart; and his love of nature was so universal, that he included all, weeds as well as re-flowers, in his picturesque catalogues of her charms. In grouping and forming his pictures, he has recourse to new and original expressions-as, for example
In 1821 Clare came forward again as a poet. His second publication was entitled The Village Minstrel and other Poems, in two volumes. The first of these pieces is in the Spenserian stanza, and describes the scenes, sports, and feelings of rural life-the author himself sitting for the portrait of Lubin, the humble rustic who hummed his lowly dreams'
Far in the shade where poverty retires. The descriptions of scenery, as well as the expression of natural emotion and generous sentiment in this poem, exalted the reputation of Clare as a true poet. He afterwards contributed short pieces to the annuals and other periodicals, marked by a more choice and refined diction. The poet's prosperity was, alas! soon over. His discretion was not equal to his fortitude: he speculated in farming, wasted his little hoard, and amidst accumulating difficulties sank into nervous despondency and despair. He
Brisk winds the lightened branches shake
By pattering, plashing drops confessed;
Tasteful illumination of the night,
Bright scattered, twinkling star of spangled earth!
To rest my weary bones, from labour free ;
In these happy microscopic views of nature, Grahame,
The flowers the sultry summer kills
Blooms once, and blooms no more.
Lost was that sweet simplicity;
And o'er her cheeks, where roses bloomed,
So fades the flower before its time, Where cankerworms assail;
So droops the bud upon its stem Beneath the sickly gale.
What is Life?
And what is Life? An hour-glass on the run,
Its length? A minute's pause, a moment's thought. And Happiness? A bubble on the stream,
That in the act of seizing shrinks to nought. And what is Hope? The puffing gale of morn,
That robs each flowret of its gem-and dies; A cobweb, hiding disappointment's thorn,
Which stings more keenly through the thin disguise. And what is Death? Is still the cause unfound? That dark mysterious name of horrid sound? A long and lingering sleep the weary crave. And Peace? Where can its happiness abound?
No where at all, save heaven and the grave. Then what is Life! When stripped of its disguise, A thing to be desired it cannot be ; Since everything that meets our foolish eyes
Gives proof sufficient of its vanity. 'Tis but a trial all must undergo,
To teach unthankful mortal how to prize That happiness vain man's denied to know, Until he's called to claim it in the skies.
'Tis sweet to meet the morning breeze,
To entertain our wished delay-
The wakening charms of early day! Now let me tread the meadow paths,
Where glittering dew the ground illumes, As sprinkled o'er the withering swaths
Their moisture shrinks in sweet perfumes. And hear the beetle sound his horn,
And hear the skylark whistling nigh, Sprung from his bed of tufted corn,
A hailing minstrel in the sky. First sunbeam, calling night away
To see how sweet thy summons seems; Split by the willow's wavy gray,
And sweetly dancing on the streams.
Unnoticed to vulgar eyes;
'Neath their morning burthen lean, While its crop my searches shields,
Sweet I scent the blossomed bean. Making oft remarking stops;
Watching tiny nameless things Climb the grass's spiry tops
Ere they try their gauzy wings. So emerging into light,
From the ignorant and vain Fearful genius takes her flight, Skimming o'er the lowly plain.
The Thrush's Nest-A Sonnet.
Within a thick and spreading hawthorn bush
I watched her secret toils from day to day; How true she warped the moss to form her nest,
And modelled it within with wood and clay. And by and by, like heath-bells gilt with dew,
There lay her shining eggs as bright as flowers, Ink-spotted over, shells of green and blue:
And there I witnessed, in the summer hours, A brood of nature's minstrels chirp and fly, Glad as the sunshine and the laughing sky.*
First-love will with the heart remain When its hopes are all gone by; As frail rose-blossoms still retain
Their fragrance when they die: And joy's first dreams will haunt the mind With the shades 'mid which they sprung, As summer leaves the stems behind On which spring's blossoms hung.
Mary, I dare not call thee dear,
With memory's idle song.
But now that pride hath flown,
How loath to part, how fond to meet,
At sunset, with what eager feet
Scarce nine days passed us ere we met
Thy face was so familiar grown,
A moment's memory when alone,
*Montgomery says quaintly but truly of this sonnet, 'Here we have in miniature the history and geography of a thrush's nest, so simply and naturally set forth, that one might think such strains
No more difficile
Than for a blackbird 'tis to whistle.
But let the heartless critic who despises them try his own hand either at a bird's nest or a sonnet like this; and when he has succeeded in making the one, he may have some Lope of being able to make the other.'
But now my very dreams forget
When last that gentle cheek I prest,
Even loftier hopes than ours; Spring bids full many buds to swell, That ne'er can grow to flowers.
Dawnings of Genius.
In those low paths which poverty surrounds,
Dim burns the soul, and throbs the fluttering heart, Its painful pleasing feelings to impart ; Till by successless sallies wearied quite, The memory fails, and Fancy takes her flight: The wick, confined within its socket, dies, Borne down and smothered in a thousand sighs.
[Scenes and Musings of the Peasant Poet.] [From the Village Minstrel.']
Each opening season, and each opening scene, On his wild view still teemed with fresh delight; F'en winter's storms to him have welcome been, That brought him comfort in its long dark night, As joyful listening, while the fire burnt bright, Some neighbouring labourer's superstitious tale, How 'Jack-a-lantern,' with his wisp alight, To drown a 'nighted traveller once did fail, He knowing well the brook that whimpered down the vale.
And tales of fairyland he loved to hear,
Ah! Lubin gloried in such things as these; How they rewarded industry he knew, And how the restless slut was pinchëd black and blue.
How ancient damnes a fairy's anger feared,
Dropt in the water superstition's care, To make the charm succeed, had cautious placed
And thousands such the village keeps alive;
As long as wild rusticity has birth
To spread their wonders round the cottage-hearth. On Lubin's mind these deeply were impressed; Oft fear forbade to share his neighbour's inirth: And long each tale, by fancy newly dressed, Brought fairies in his dreams, and broke his infant rest. He had his dreads and fears, and scarce could pass } A churchyard's dreary mounds at silent night, But footsteps trampled through the rustling grass, And ghosts 'hind grave-stones stood in sheets of white;
Dread monsters fancy moulded on his sight;
So swift the wild retreat of childhood's fancied fear.
And when fear left him, on his corner-seat Much would he chatter o'er each dreadful tale; Tell how he heard the sound of 'proaching feet, And warriors jingling in their coats of mail; And lumping knocks as one would thump a flail; Of spirits conjured in the charnel floor; And many a mournful shriek and hapless wail, Where maids, self-murdered, their false loves deplore ; And from that time would vow to tramp on nights no
O! who can speak his joys when spring's young
From wood and pasture, opened on his view!
Far, far remote from boys, and their unpleasing play.
Sequestered nature was his heart's delight; Him would she lead through wood and lonely plain, Searching the pooty from the rushy dike; And while the thrush sang her long-silenced strain, He thought it sweet, and mocked it o'er again; And while he plucked the primrose in its pride, He pondered o'er its bloom 'tween joy and pain; And a rude sonnet in its praise he tried, Where nature's simple way the aid of art supplied.
The freshened landscapes round his routes unfurled,
His heart with wild sensations used to beat;
Upon a molehill oft he dropt him down,