Today, as George Monbiot reminded us in Tuesday’s Guardian, is the anniversary of the birth of the poet John Clare. I thought I ought to honour that occasion by posting one of his poems, even though I am not very familiar with them. I did not really like the one recommended by Monbiot (The Nightingale’s Nest) very much as I thought it went on a bit. My friend Norrette had suggested I Hid My Love; but I did not think much of that either. (I’m more of a 20th century person I’m afraid!) Then she sent me this one. It was written in Northampton County Asylum after the onset of his mental illness. Anyway, happy 219th birthday, John!
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 shades in love and death’s oblivion lost;
And yet I am! and live with shadows tost
Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
And e’en the dearest–that I loved the best–
Are strange–nay, rather stranger than the rest.
I long for scenes where man has never trod;
A place where woman never smil’d 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.