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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,
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
Clear, fresh, and dulcet streams,
Which the fair shape, who seems
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
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,
Where first my heart at her sweet glances gushed;
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.
When taking, out of breath,
The doubtful step of death;
For never could my spirit find
A stiller port after the stormy wind:
Nor in more calm abstracted bourne,
Perhaps, some future hour,
To her accustomed bower
Might come the untamed, and yet the gentle she;
And where she saw me first,
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;
And there she sat, meek-eyed,
In midst of all that pride,
Some to her hair paid dower,
How often then I said,
Inward, and filled with dread,
'Doubtless this creature came from Paradise!'
For at her look the while,
Her voice, and her sweet smile,
'How came I here and when?'
I had forgotten; and, alas!
Such love for the green bower, I cannot rest elsewhere.
able evidence of being composed altogether from is now, we believe, in a private asylum-hopeless, the impulses of the writer's mind, as excited by ex- but not dead to passing events. This sad termina ternal objects and internal sensations. Here are notion of so bright a morning it is painful to contemtawdry and feeble paraphrases of former poets, no plate. Amidst the native wild flowers of his song attempts at describing what the author might have we looked not for the deadly nightshade'-and become acquainted with in his limited reading. The though the example of Burns, of Chatterton, and woods, the vales, the brooks, "the crimson spots Bloomfield, was better fitted to inspire fear than i' the bottom of a cowslip," or the loftier phenomena hope, there was in Clare a naturally lively and cheer of the heavens, contemplated through the alterna- ful temperament, and an apparent absence of strong tions of hope and despondency, are the principal and dangerous passions, that promised, as in the case sources whence the youth, whose adverse circum- of Allan Ramsay, a life of humble yet prosperous stances and resignation under them extort our sym- contentment and happiness. Poor Clare's muse was pathy, drew the faithful and vivid pictures before the true offspring of English country life. He was us. Examples of minds highly gifted by nature, a faithful painter of rustic scenes and occupations, struggling with, and breaking through the bondage and he noted every light and shade of his brooks, of adversity, are not rare in this country: but pri- meadows, and green lanes. His fancy was buoyant vation is not destitution; and the instance before in the midst of labour and hardship; and his imagery, us is, perhaps, one of the most striking of patient drawn directly from nature, is various and original and persevering talent existing and enduring in the Careful finishing could not be expected from the most forlorn, and seemingly hopeless condition, that rustic poet, yet there is often a fine delicacy and literature has at any time exhibited.' 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 litera ture.' 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 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.
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;
vivid word-painting :
Tasteful illumination of the night,
Bright scattered, twinkling star of spangled earth
In these happy microscopic views of nature, Grahame, the author of the Sabbath, is the only poet who can be put in competition with Clare. The delicacy of some of his sentimental verses, mixed in careless profusion with others less correct or pleasing, may be seen from the following part of a ballad, The Fate of Amy:
The flowers the sultry summer kills
Their hearts no beauty warms;
And what is Hope? The puffing gale of morn,
To teach unthankful mortal how to prize
'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;
And sweetly dancing on the streams.
'Neath their morning burthen lean,
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 Primrose-A Sonnet.
Welcome, pale primrose! starting up between Dead matted leaves of ash and oak that strew The every lawn, the wood, and spinney through, 'Mid creeping moss and ivy's darker green;
How much thy presence beautifies the ground! How sweet thy modest unaffected pride Glows on the sunny bank and wood's warm side! And where thy fairy flowers in groups are found, The schoolboy roams enchantedly along,
Plucking the fairest with a rude delight: While the meek shepherd stops his simple song,
To gaze a moment on the pleasing sight; O'erjoyed to see the flowers that truly bring The welcome news of sweet returning spring.
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,
I've lost that right so long; Yet once again I vex thine ear With memory's idle song. I felt a pride to name thy name, But now that pride hath flown, And burning blushes speak my shame, That thus I love thee on.
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 hope 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; E'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 pinched black and blue.