John Clare was an English poet, born the son of a farm laborer who came to be known for his celebratory representations of the English countryside and his lamentation of its disruption. His poetry underwent a major re-evaluation in the late 20th century and he is often now considered to be among the most important 19th-century poets. His biographer Jonathan Bate states that Clare was "the greatest laboring-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". English poet
What Is Life?
And what is Life? An hour-glass on the run,
A mist retreating from the morning sun,
A busy, bustling, still-repeated dream.
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 of its charms divests the dewy lawn,
And robs each flow'ret 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?
Nowhere 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 mortals how to prize
That happiness vain man's denied to know,
Until he's called to claim it in the skies.