John Clare: First Love
I ne'er was struck before that hour
With love so sudden and so sweet,
Her face it bloomed like a sweet flower
And stole my heart away complete.
My face turned pale as deadly pale.
My legs refused to walk away,
And when she looked, what could I ail?
My life and all seemed turned to clay.
And then my blood rushed to my face
And took my eyesight quite away,
The trees and bushes round the place
Seemed midnight at noonday.
I could not see a single thing,
Words from my eyes did start --
They spoke as chords do from the string,
And blood burnt round my heart.
Are flowers the winter's choice?
Is love's bed always snow?
She seemed to hear my silent voice,
Not love's appeals to know.
I never saw so sweet a face
As that I stood before.
My heart has left its dwelling-place
And can return no more.
10. John Clare: First Love
John Clare was born in 1793 and brought up in very poor circumstances in rural Northamptonshire in England. He was destined to become an agricultural labourer but was ‘discovered’ and groomed as a writer of very natural, inspired poetry. There
was something of a cult for ‘untutored’ poets at this time, particularly those who were as close to the countryside as Clare was. However, there were tensions between him and the more sophisticated literary world in London.
This poem is about his love for Mary Joyce whom he met in his native village. She was the daughter of a wealthy farmer who was never going to let the relationship develop. He later married another young woman and had a family, but their relationship was never particularly happy. In later years, Clare became mentally ill
and had to be confined in an asylum. One of his delusions was that he was Lord Byron, another that he had, in fact, married Mary Joyce and his marriage to his real wife was bigamous.
Teacher notes to assist a first reading:-
The vocabulary of this poem is very simple, although this in no way...