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Best Famous John Clare Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous John Clare poems. This is a select list of the best famous John Clare poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous John Clare poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of John Clare poems.

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See also: Best Member Poems

by Barry Tebb | |

ON FIRST READING JOHN GOODBY’S ‘IRISH POETRY SINCE 1950’

 Barbarous insult to Yeats’ memory and Claudel’s

Allen, thank God you are dead, you who breathed the air of Apollinaire,

Ghost of Reverdy bear witness to the mendacity of his clamour,

Hart Crane, rise from the estuary of the great river you drowned in,

John Clare, rise from your country churchyard grave,

Gray, from your carv?d tomb and Wilde, cast off your winged shield

In P?re Lachaise,

Rise poets, rise and drive the barbarous horde without the sacred gates

of Art

Where it has crept and quenched the flame, rendering the Nine silent

And bereft and covered in shame.
Pastmaster of Post Modernist jargon, defiler of the tombs of great poets Whose souls hover in Elysium or crouch along the banks of black Lethe Begging a crown to lay on Charon’s palm.
Souls of the great dead rise and deliver us from one who negates Poetry as the realm of the numinous, toyer with words, vain hack of Academe, Spoiler of the silver stream of poetry’s wind-harp voice unseen Traducer, seducer, traitor, hands red with blood, bearer of the ultimate guilt Of trahison des clercs, murderer of the subtle spirit of Mallarm?, Defiler of poetry’s purity as defined by Rilke and Val?ry Praiser of ultimate poetastry-Duhig’s penny ranting-condemner of Jimmy Simmons- One Leeds Jimmy who could fix the world’s Duhigs once and for all, Write them into the ground and still have a hundred lyrics in his quiver.


by John Clare | |

I Am

 Poem by Anne-Marie Derése, translated by Judith Skillman.
I am the red brand on the shoulder of the condemned, the gallows and the rope, the ax and the block, the whip and the cross.
I am the lion's tooth in the flesh of the gazelle.
In my veins I have the blood of the slave trader.
Hangman, I have deserved the hunger of the wolves.
My victims have left me nothing but their deaths.


by John Clare | |

Evening

 The sky puts on the darkening blue coat
held for it by a row of ancient trees;
you watch: and the lands grow distant in your sight,
one journeying to heaven, one that falls;

and leave you, not at home in either one,
not quite so still and dark as the darkened houses,
not calling to eternity with the passion of what becomes
 a star each night, and rises;

and leave you (inexpressibly to unravel)
your life, with its immensity and fear,
so that, now bounded, now immeasurable,
it is alternately stone in you and star.


More great poems below...

by John Clare | |

Summer

 See what delights in sylvan scenes appear!
Descending Gods have found Elysium here.
In woods bright Venus with Adonis stray'd, And chaste Diana haunts the forest shade.
Come lovely nymph, and bless the silent hours, When swains from shearing seek their nightly bow'rs; When weary reapers quit the sultry field, And crown'd with corn, their thanks to Ceres yield.
This harmless grove no lurking viper hides, But in my breast the serpent Love abides.
Here bees from blossoms sip the rosy dew, But your Alexis knows no sweets but you.
Oh deign to visit our forsaken seats, The mossy fountains, and the green retreats! Where-e'er you walk, cool gales shall fan the glade, Trees, where you sit, shall crowd into a shade, Where-e'er you tread, the blushing flow'rs shall rise, And all things flourish where you turn your eyes.
Oh! How I long with you to pass my days, Invoke the muses, and resound your praise; Your praise the birds shall chant in ev'ry grove, And winds shall waft it to the pow'rs above.
But wou'd you sing, and rival Orpheus' strain, The wond'ring forests soon shou'd dance again, The moving mountains hear the pow'rful call, And headlong streams hang list'ning in their fall! But see, the shepherds shun the noon-day heat, The lowing herds to murm'ring brooks retreat, To closer shades the panting flocks remove, Ye Gods! And is there no relief for Love? But soon the sun with milder rays descends To the cool ocean, where his journey ends; On me Love's fiercer flames for every prey, By night he scorches, as he burns by day.


by John Clare | |

The Cuckoo

 Cuckoos lead Bohemian lives, 
They fail as husbands and as wives, 
Therefore they cynically disparage 
Everybody else's marriage.


by John Clare | |

Hens Nest

 Among the orchard weeds, from every search,
Snugly and sure, the old hen's nest is made,
Who cackles every morning from her perch
To tell the servant girl new eggs are laid;
Who lays her washing by, and far and near
Goes seeking all about from day to day,
And stung with nettles tramples everywhere;
But still the cackling pullet lays away.
The boy on Sundays goes the stack to pull In hopes to find her there, but naught is seen, And takes his hat and thinks to find it full, She's laid so long so many might have been.
But naught is found and all is given o'er Till the young brood come chirping to the door.


by John Clare | |

Summer

 Remember the days of our first happiness,
how strong we were, how dazed by passion,
lying all day, then all night in the narrow bed,
sleeping there, eating there too: it was summer,
it seemed everything had ripened
at once.
And so hot we lay completely uncovered.
Sometimes the wind rose; a willow brushed the window.
But we were lost in a way, didn't you feel that? The bed was like a raft; I felt us drifting far from our natures, toward a place where we'd discover nothing.
First the sun, then the moon, in fragments, stone through the willow.
Things anyone could see.
Then the circles closed.
Slowly the nights grew cool; the pendant leaves of the willow yellowed and fell.
And in each of us began a deep isolation, though we never spoke of this, of the absence of regret.
We were artists again, my husband.
We could resume the journey.


by John Clare | |

Summer

 Remember the days of our first happiness,
how strong we were, how dazed by passion,
lying all day, then all night in the narrow bed,
sleeping there, eating there too: it was summer,
it seemed everything had ripened
at once.
And so hot we lay completely uncovered.
Sometimes the wind rose; a willow brushed the window.
But we were lost in a way, didn't you feel that? The bed was like a raft; I felt us drifting far from our natures, toward a place where we'd discover nothing.
First the sun, then the moon, in fragments, stone through the willow.
Things anyone could see.
Then the circles closed.
Slowly the nights grew cool; the pendant leaves of the willow yellowed and fell.
And in each of us began a deep isolation, though we never spoke of this, of the absence of regret.
We were artists again, my husband.
We could resume the journey.


by John Clare | |

Evening

 'Tis evening; the black snail has got on his track,
And gone to its nest is the wren,
And the packman snail, too, with his home on his back,
Clings to the bowed bents like a wen.
The shepherd has made a rude mark with his foot Where his shadow reached when he first came, And it just touched the tree where his secret love cut Two letters that stand for love's name.
The evening comes in with the wishes of love, And the shepherd he looks on the flowers, And thinks who would praise the soft song of the dove, And meet joy in these dew-falling hours.
For Nature is love, and finds haunts for true love, Where nothing can hear or intrude; It hides from the eagle and joins with the dove, In beautiful green solitude.


by John Clare | |

What Is Life?

 Resembles Life what once was held of Light,
Too ample in itself for human sight ?
An absolute Self--an element ungrounded--
All, that we see, all colours of all shade
[Image]By encroach of darkness made ?--
Is very life by consciousness unbounded ?
And all the thoughts, pains, joys of mortal breath,
A war-embrace of wrestling Life and Death ?


by John Clare | |

I Am

 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 shadows in love's frenzied, stifled throes—
And yet I am, and live—like vapors tossed

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
 Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life or joys,
 But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems;
Even the dearest, that I love the best,
Are strange—nay, rather stranger than the rest.
I long for scenes, where man hath never trod, A place where woman never smiled 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.


by John Clare | |

The Winters Spring

 The winter comes; I walk alone,
 I want no bird to sing;
To those who keep their hearts their own
 The winter is the spring.
No flowers to please—no bees to hum— The coming spring's already come.
I never want the Christmas rose To come before its time; The seasons, each as God bestows, Are simple and sublime.
I love to see the snowstorm hing; 'Tis but the winter garb of spring.
I never want the grass to bloom: The snowstorm's best in white.
I love to see the tempest come And love its piercing light.
The dazzled eyes that love to cling O'er snow-white meadows sees the spring.
I love the snow, the crumpling snow That hangs on everything, It covers everything below Like white dove's brooding wing, A landscape to the aching sight, A vast expanse of dazzling light.
It is the foliage of the woods That winters bring—the dress, White Easter of the year in bud, That makes the winter Spring.
The frost and snow his posies bring, Nature's white spurts of the spring.


by John Clare | |

Summer Evening

 The frog half fearful jumps across the path,
And little mouse that leaves its hole at eve
Nimbles with timid dread beneath the swath;
My rustling steps awhile their joys deceive,
Till past, and then the cricket sings more strong,
And grasshoppers in merry moods still wear
The short night weary with their fretting song.
Up from behind the molehill jumps the hare, Cheat of his chosen bed, and from the bank The yellowhammer flutters in short fears From off its nest hid in the grasses rank, And drops again when no more noise it hears.
Thus nature's human link and endless thrall, Proud man, still seems the enemy of all.


by John Clare | |

Badger

 When midnight comes a host of dogs and men
Go out and track the badger to his den,
And put a sack within the hole, and lie
Till the old grunting badger passes by.
He comes an hears - they let the strongest loose.
The old fox gears the noise and drops the goose.
The poacher shoots and hurries from the cry, And the old hare half wounded buzzes by.
They get a forked stick to bear him down And clap the dogs and take him to the town, And bait him all the day with many dogs, And laugh and shout and fright the scampering hogs.
He runs along and bites at all he meets: They shout and hollo down the noisy streets.
He turns about to face the loud uproar And drives the rebels to their very door.
The frequent stone is hurled where'er they go; When badgers fight, then everyone's a foe.
The dogs are clapped and urged to join the fray' The badger turns and drives them all away.
Though scarcely half as big, demure and small, He fights with dogs for hours and beats them all.
The heavy mastiff, savage in the fray, Lies down and licks his feet and turns away.
The bulldog knows his match and waxes cold, The badger grins and never leaves his hold.
He drives the crowd and follows at their heels And bites them through—the drunkard swears and reels The frighted women take the boys away, The blackguard laughs and hurries on the fray.
He tries to reach the woods, and awkward race, But sticks and cudgels quickly stop the chase.
He turns again and drives the noisy crowd And beats the many dogs in noises loud.
He drives away and beats them every one, And then they loose them all and set them on.
He falls as dead and kicked by boys and men, Then starts and grins and drives the crowd again; Till kicked and torn and beaten out he lies And leaves his hold and crackles, groans, and dies.


by John Clare | |

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.


by John Clare | |

Autumn Birds

 The wild duck startles like a sudden thought,
And heron slow as if it might be caught.
The flopping crows on weary wings go by And grey beard jackdaws noising as they fly.
The crowds of starnels whizz and hurry by, And darken like a clod the evening sky.
The larks like thunder rise and suthy round, Then drop and nestle in the stubble ground.
The wild swan hurries hight and noises loud With white neck peering to the evening clowd.
The weary rooks to distant woods are gone.
With lengths of tail the magpie winnows on To neighbouring tree, and leaves the distant crow While small birds nestle in the edge below.


by John Clare | |

Love Lives Beyond The Tomb

 Love lives beyond the tomb,
And earth, which fades like dew!
I love the fond,
The faithful, and the true.
Love lives in sleep: 'Tis happiness of healthy dreams: Eve's dews may weep, But love delightful seems.
'Tis seen in flowers, And in the morning's pearly dew; In earth's green hours, And in the heaven's eternal blue.
'Tis heard in Spring When light and sunbeams, warm and kind, On angel's wing Bring love and music to the mind.
And where's the voice, So young, so beautiful, and sweet As Nature's choice, Where Spring and lovers meet? Love lives beyond the tomb, And earth, which fades like dew! I love the fond, The faithful, and the true.


by John Clare | |

Summer

 Come we to the summer, to the summer we will come,
For the woods are full of bluebells and the hedges full of bloom,
And the crow is on the oak a-building of her nest,
And love is burning diamonds in my true lover's breast;
She sits beneath the whitethorn a-plaiting of her hair,
And I will to my true lover with a fond request repair;
I will look upon her face, I will in her beauty rest,
And lay my aching weariness upon her lovely breast.
The clock-a-clay is creeping on the open bloom of May, The merry bee is trampling the pinky threads all day, And the chaffinch it is brooding on its grey mossy nest In the whitethorn bush where I will lean upon my lover's breast; I'll lean upon her breast and I'll whisper in her ear That I cannot get a wink o'sleep for thinking of my dear; I hunger at my meat and I daily fade away Like the hedge rose that is broken in the heat of the day.


by John Clare | |

Songs Eternity

 What is song's eternity?
Come and see.
Can it noise and bustle be? Come and see.
Praises sung or praises said Can it be? Wait awhile and these are dead— Sigh, sigh; Be they high or lowly bred They die.
What is song's eternity? Come and see.
Melodies of earth and sky, Here they be.
Song once sung to Adam's ears Can it be? Ballads of six thousand years Thrive, thrive; Songs awaken with the spheres Alive.
Mighty songs that miss decay, What are they? Crowds and cities pass away Like a day.
Books are out and books are read; What are they? Years will lay them with the dead— Sigh, sigh; Trifles unto nothing wed, They die.
Dreamers, mark the honey bee; Mark the tree Where the blue cap "tootle tee" Sings a glee Sung to Adam and to Eve— Here they be.
When floods covered every bough, Noah's ark Heard that ballad singing now; Hark, hark, "Tootle tootle tootle tee"— Can it be Pride and fame must shadows be? Come and see— Every season owns her own; Bird and bee Sing creation's music on; Nature's glee Is in every mood and tone Eternity.


by John Clare | |

The Thrushs Nest

 Within a thick and spreading hawthorn bush
That overhung a molehill large and round,
I heard from morn to morn a merry thrush
Sing hymns to sunrise, and I drank the sound
With joy; and often, an intruding guest,
I watched her secret toil from day to day—
How true she warped the moss to form a 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 greeny blue;
And there I witnessed, in the sunny hours,
A brood of nature's minstrels chirp and fly,
Glad as the sunshine and the laughing sky.


by John Clare | |

The Flood

 On Lolham Brigs in wild and lonely mood
I've seen the winter floods their gambols play
Through each old arch that trembled while I stood
Bent o'er its wall to watch the dashing spray
As their old stations would be washed away
Crash came the ice against the jambs and then
A shudder jarred the arches—yet once more
It breasted raving waves and stood agen
To wait the shock as stubborn as before
- White foam brown crested with the russet soil
As washed from new plough lands would dart beneath
Then round and round a thousand eddies boil
On tother side—then pause as if for breath
One minute—and engulphed—like life in death

Whose wrecky stains dart on the floods away
More swift than shadows in a stormy day
Straws trail and turn and steady—all in vain
The engulfing arches shoot them quickly through
The feather dances flutters and again
Darts through the deepest dangers still afloat
Seeming as faireys whisked it from the view
And danced it o'er the waves as pleasures boat
Light hearted as a thought in May -
Trays—uptorn bushes—fence demolished rails
Loaded with weeds in sluggish motions stray
Like water monsters lost each winds and trails
Till near the arches—then as in affright
It plunges—reels—and shudders out of sight

Waves trough—rebound—and fury boil again
Like plunging monsters rising underneath
Who at the top curl up a shaggy main
A moment catching at a surer breath
Then plunging headlong down and down—and on
Each following boil the shadow of the last
And other monsters rise when those are gone
Crest their fringed waves—plunge onward and are past
- The chill air comes around me ocean blea
From bank to bank the waterstrife is spread
Strange birds like snow spots o'er the huzzing sea
Hang where the wild duck hurried past and fled
On roars the flood—all restless to be free
Like trouble wandering to eternity


by John Clare | |

The Maple Tree

 The Maple with its tassell flowers of green
That turns to red, a stag horn shapèd seed
Just spreading out its scallopped leaves is seen,
Of yellowish hue yet beautifully green.
Bark ribb'd like corderoy in seamy screed That farther up the stem is smoother seen, Where the white hemlock with white umbel flowers Up each spread stoven to the branches towers And mossy round the stoven spread dark green And blotched leaved orchis and the blue-bell flowers— Thickly they grow and neath the leaves are seen.
I love to see them gemm'd with morning hours.
I love the lone green places where they be And the sweet clothing of the Maple tree.


by John Clare | |

Where She Told Her Love

 I saw her crop a rose
Right early in the day,
And I went to kiss the place
Where she broke the rose away
And I saw the patten rings
Where she o'er the stile had gone,
And I love all other things
Her bright eyes look upon.
If she looks upon the hedge or up the leafing tree, The whitethorn or the brown oak are made dearer things to me.
I have a pleasant hill Which I sit upon for hours, Where she cropt some sprigs of thyme And other little flowers; And she muttered as she did it As does beauty in a dream, And I loved her when she hid it On her breast, so like to cream, Near the brown mole on her neck that to me a diamond shone; Then my eye was like to fire, and my heart was like to stone.
There is a small green place Where cowslips early curled, Which on Sabbath day I traced, The dearest in the world.
A little oak spreads o'er it, And throws a shadow round, A green sward close before it, The greenest ever found: There is not a woodland nigh nor is there a green grove, Yet stood the fair maid nigh me and told me all her love.


by John Clare | |

Insects

 These tiny loiterers on the barley's beard,
And happy units of a numerous herd
Of playfellows, the laughing Summer brings,
Mocking the sunshine on their glittering wings,
How merrily they creep, and run, and fly!
No kin they bear to labour's drudgery,
Smoothing the velvet of the pale hedge-rose;
And where they fly for dinner no one knows—
The dew-drops feed them not—they love the shine
Of noon, whose suns may bring them golden wine
All day they're playing in their Sunday dress—
When night reposes, for they can do no less;
Then, to the heath-bell's purple hood they fly,
And like to princes in their slumbers lie,
Secure from rain, and dropping dews, and all,
In silken beds and roomy painted hall.
So merrily they spend their summer-day, Now in the corn-fields, now in the new-mown hay.
One almost fancies that such happy things, With coloured hoods and richly burnished wings, Are fairy folk, in splendid masquerade Disguised, as if of mortal folk afraid, Keeping their joyous pranks a mystery still, Lest glaring day should do their secrets ill.


by John Clare | |

Clock-O-Clay

 In the cowslip pips I lie,
Hidden from the buzzing fly,
While green grass beneath me lies,
Pearled with dew like fishes' eyes,
Here I lie, a clock-o'-clay,
Waiting for the time o' day.
While the forest quakes surprise, And the wild wind sobs and sighs, My home rocks as like to fall, On its pillar green and tall; When the pattering rain drives by Clock-o'-clay keeps warm and dry.
Day by day and night by night, All the week I hide from sight; In the cowslip pips I lie, In the rain still warm and dry; Day and night and night and day, Red, black-spotted clock-o'-clay.
My home shakes in wind and showers, Pale green pillar topped with flowers, Bending at the wild wind's breath, Till I touch the grass beneath; Here I live, lone clock-o'-clay, Watching for the time of day.