life love poems
CLARE, JOHN (1793-1864), commonly known as " the Northamptonshire Peasant Poet," was the son of a farm labourer, and was born at Helpstone, near Peterborough, on 13th July 1793. At the age of seven he was taken from school to tend sheep and geese ; five years after he wrought on a farm, paying with his own meagre savings for the education lie received in the evening. He endeavoured to enter a lawyer's office but failed, studied algebra, and fell in love, became a pot-boy in a public-house, and subsequently was apprenticed to a gardener, from which employment he ran away. Among the neighbours his manners and habits made an unfavourable impression. He enlisted in the militia, tried camp life with gipsies, and wrought as a lime burner in 1817, but the following year he was obliged to accept parish relief. In 1820 appeared his Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery, which were very indulgently received, and the year following his Village Minstrel and other Poems were published. Ile was greatly patronized ; fame, with many curious visitors, broke the tenor of his life, and dangerous habits were formed. From subscriptions he became possessed of £45 annually, a sum far beyond what he had ever earned, but new wants made his income insufficient, and in 1823 he was nearly penniless. His next volume, the Shepherd's Calendar, 1827, met with little .success, which was not increased by his hawking it himself. As he wrought again on the fields his health improved ; but [arm operations being unsuccessful he was " as dull as a fog in November," and became seriously unwell. Although a noble patron presented him with a new cottage and a piece of ground, Clare was full of anguish to leave the "old home of homes." The removal to Northborough was his -...ulminating period, and gradually his mind gave way. His last and best work, the Rural Muse, published in 1835, was noticed by " Christopher North " alone. Bursts of insanity followed, of which lie had for some time shown symptoms; and in July 1837 he was kept in confinement, and was subsequently lodged in Northampton General Lunatic Asylum, where he died May 20, 1864. The neglect of friends and relatives to visit liim, together with the non-success of his later poems, preyed heavily upon his mind. Iu the asylum he penned his most thrilling poem, beginning - " I am ! yet what I am who cares or knows I" In its exceeding sadness of thought there is sublime feeling, - a strain of divine music in the wail of woe, - and the poet longed to _ "Sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept Full of high thoughts, unborn. So let me lie, The grass below, above the vaulted sky."
Clare was one of our most uneducated poets, and sung from the fulness of his heart ; he is one of England's sweetest singers of nature, whose thoughts " gild life's brambles with a flower," and whose songs were gathered from the fields. Many of his sonnets, which display great power of word-painting, are sweet as " sunshine in summer dream." His ballads and love-songs are wild flowers strewn at will, which "art and fashion fling as weeds away," and his Eternity of Nature, and Firet Love's Recollections display deftness of touch, pastoral beauty, and genuine poetic ability. All his love and genius were showered on beautifying the rural scenes and humble incidents of his surroundings. His poems, drawn with a delicate hand, are those of a keen observer, but they greatly want that vigour which is essential to popularity ; in his own words, " the tide of fashion is a stream too strong for pastoral brooks that gently flow and sing."
See the Life of John Clare by Frederick Martin, 1865, and Life and Remains of John Clare, by J. L. Cherry, 1873, the latter of which, though not so complete, contains some of the poet's asylum verses and prose fragments.