A paupers song

To complete my little series of Clare's 'political' posts, a poem I discovered in the Peterborough Archive a few months ago.  As far as I know entirely unknown, but WHAT a message, not only for his own time, but for our times too.   How familiar it is.




They give me eight pence by the day
& make it up at night
With six pence worth of parish pay
& can ye call it right

Im going to justice just to see
What she will have to say
& faith I doubt I shall not see
Yer honour there today

No friend I am a faithful mate
To justice but ye mean
What may be named a magistrate
& there Im never seen

Nay they have stopt me when Ive gone
To take that weight away
& backed deceptions wrong        
To take your gains away

Pet MS B6 p166

ON MR --- LOCKING UP THE PUBLIC PUMP


[Boys at the Parish pump in Helpston]

To lock up Water—must undoubted stand
Among the Customs of a Christian land
An Action quite Uncommon and unknown
Or only practic'd in this place alone
A Thing unheard of yet in Prose or Rhyme
And only witness'd at this present time
—But some there is—a stain to Christian Blood
That cannot bear to do a Neighbour good
—No!—to be kind and use another well
With them's a torment ten times worse then hell

Such Fiends as these whose charity wornt give
The begging Wretch a single chance to live
—Who to nor Cats nor Dogs one crumb bestows
Who even grut[c]h the droppings of their Nose
—Its my Opinion of such Marngrel curs
Whom Nature scorns to own and Man abhors
That could they find a f---t of any use
They'd even burst before they'd set it loose!

The Early Poems of John Clare 1804-1822
ed. Eric Robinson, David Powell and Margaret Grainger 
(Oxford, 2 volumes, I-II, 1989)

From "The Fallen Elm"

Thus came enclosure—ruin was its guide
But freedom's clapping hands enjoyed the sight
Though comfort's cottage soon was thrust aside
And workhouse prisons raised upon the site.
E'en nature's dwellings far away from men—
The common heath—became the spoiler's prey.
. . .
No matter—wrong was right and right was wrong
And freedom's bawl was sanction to the song.
. . .
As thou wert served, so would they overwhelm
In freedom's name the little that is mine.
And there are knaves that brawl for better laws
And cant of tyranny in stronger powers
Who glut their vile unsatiated maws
And freedom's birthright from the weak devours

John Clare, Poems of the Middle Period

ed. Eric Robinson, David Powell and P.M.S. Dawson,
Volume III (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998)

And, here is Clare on a related subject (well, related in my mind anyway) :

The wigs & torys may be better classified
perhaps by the terms of outs & ins for
be they wigs or torys in those situations the
outs are always vociverators of “liberty”
“cruelty of taxation” & “good of the people”
while the ins are inflexible tyrants
& determined supporters of all that is
oppressing & annoying to the people &
benefitting to themselves & their connections

Pet MS A42 p94
(Unpublished as far as I know)

“& you ye poor ragd out casts of the land”

[Image: William McTaggart 'The Gipsy Camp']

Continuing my season of Clare works about the poor and marginalised in society.

The perceptive reader will notice differences between the text below and the verses published in 1821.  The reason?  I have taken the text from Clare’s original manuscript –- with Clare’s spellings and lack of punctuation -- not the published version.  However to aid the reader I have used the verse breaks Taylor/Hessey inserted.

& you ye poor ragd out casts of the land
That hug your shifting camps from green to green
He lovd to see your humble dwelling stand
& thought your groups did beautify the scene
Tho blamd for many a petty theft yeve been
Poor wandering souls to fates hard want decreed
Doubtless too oft such acts your ways bemean
& oft in wrong your foes 'gen you proceed
& brand a gipseys camp when others do the deed

Lubin woud love to list their gibberish talk
& view the oddity such ways display
& oft wi boys pursud his sunday walk
Where warpt the camp beneath the willows grey
& its black tennants on the green sward lay
While on two forked sticks wi cordage tyd
Their pot oer pilferd fuel boils away
Wi food of sheep that of red water dyd
Or any nauceous thing their frowning fates provide

Tho oft they gather money by their trade
& on their fortune telling art subsist
Where her long hurded groat oft brings the maid
& secret slives it in the sybils fist
To buy good luck & happiness—to list
What occupys a wenches every thought
Who is to be the man—while as she wist
The gipsies tale wi swains & wealth is fraught
The lass returns well pleasd & thinks all cheaply bought

Full oft in summer lubins markt & seen
How eagerly the village maids pursue
Their sunday rambles where the camps have been
& how they gi' their money to the crew
For idle stories they believe as true
Crossing their hands wi coin or magic stick
How quakt the young to hear what things they knew
While old experiencd dames knew all the trick
Who said that all their skill was borrowd from old nick

& thus the superstitious dread their harm
& neer dare fail relieving their distress
Lest they wi in their cot shoud leave a charm
To let nought prosper & bring on distress
Great depth of cunning gipseys do posses
& when such weakness in a dame they find
Forsooth they prove most terryfying guess
& tho not one to charity inclind
They mutter black revenge & force her to be kind

The Village Minstrel, and Other Poems (2 volumes, 1821)
(lines 1138 to 1182)

Rich and Poor... or Saint and Sinner?

Actually published in a Stamford newspaper in July 1821, but it could have been written this morning judging by the state of our nation and 'government' in 2016.

The rich mans sins are under
The rose of wealth & station
     & escape the sight
     Of the children of light
Who are wise in their generation

But the poor mans sins are glaring
In the face of all ghostly warning
     He is caught in the fact
     Of an overt act
Buying greens on a sunday morning

The rich man has a kitchen
Wherein to cook his dinner
     But the poor who would roast
     To the bakers must post
& thus he becomes a sinner

The rich man has a cellar
& a ready butler by him
     The poor man must steer
     For his pint of beer
Where the saint is sure to spy him

The rich man's open windows
Hide the concerts of the quality:
     The poor can but share
     A crack'd fiddle in the air,
Which offends all sound morality.

The rich man is invisible
In the crowd of his gay society
     But the poor mans delight
     Is a sore in the sight
& a stench in the nose of piety

The Early Poems of John Clare 1804-1822,
ed. Eric Robinson, David Powell and Margaret Grainger
(Oxford, 2 volumes, I-II, 1989)

The Village Minstrel (excerpt)


[The meadow behind Swaddywell Pit]
.
Ye meadow blooms ye pasture flowers farwell
Ye banishd trees ye make me deeply sigh
Inclosure came & all your glories fell
Een the old oak that crownd yon rifld dell
Whose age had made it sacred to the view
Not long was left his childerns fate to tell
Where ignorance & wealth their course pursue
Each tree must tumble down—old ‘lea close oak’ adieu
Lubin beheld it all & deeply paind
Along the railed road woud muse & sigh
The only path that freedoms rights maintaind
The naked scenes drew pity from his eye
Tears dropt to mem'ry of delights gone bye
The haunts of freedom cowherds wattld bower
& shepherds huts & trees that tow[e]red high
& spreading thorns that turnd a summer shower
All captives lost & past to sad oppresions power

(lines 1103-1119)

The 'legal robbery' of the enclosures forceably reminded Clare of what has become known in English history as the Norman Yoke.  So here is a piece he wrote under that title to further explain his views of what he was witnessing in his own time.  It might well seem rather familiar to 2016 eyes.

The Norman Yoke

"Men make a boast of pedigree     as well might the descendants of Richard Turpin boast of theirs     for both honours spring from robbery & spoilation – what was William the Conqueror but a robber by wholesale & what were his followers but high way men     by his authority receiving tithes by their expertness at plunder    for which Turpin (a more noble plunderer if absence from fear or dareing achievements make one) received a halter* because he dared to rob & could show only his courage for the liscence"

Pfz. MISC MS 198 p44

*noose

April






















[Image: The Shepherd’s Calendar (April) – Carry Akroyd]

The infant April joins the spring
And views its watery skye
As youngling linnet trys its wing
And fears at first to flye
With timid step she ventures on
And hardly dares to smile
The blossoms open one by one
And sunny hours beguile
But finer days approacheth yet
With scenes more sweet to charm
And suns arive that rise and set
Bright strangers to a storm
And as the birds with louder song
Each mornings glory cheers
With bolder step she speeds along
And looses all her fears

John Clare – The Shepherd’s Calendar (April - excerpt)

The village band crossed the street and made its way slowly among the hobbling pilgrims, along Church Lane towards Eastwell Spring.


As they drew close they could see that the elms and willows, that last year had made a green and shady grove around the spring, had been dragged to the saw-mill. It is a scarred and barren slope that now leads down to the little pool. The crowds were lining up to fill their leather bottles and jugs. Charlie Turner stood white and shivering, waist deep in water, pulling his ragged half-wit daughter Isabel towards him while she wailed like a lost soul. Mrs Bullimore had set her jug upon a wooden table. Children were jostling around it with farthings in their fists, eager for a cup of sugared water.

Hugh Lupton – The Ballad of John Clare (Chapter 16)


THAT was how it was, but after the enclosures, here is John remembering...

My sundays harmless pleasures were forsook
Nor turnd my rambles to the pasture brook
Were in my youth at ‘Eastwells’ fountain side
Which winters never froze nor summer dryd
Young men & maidens usd to talk & play
In the cool shadows of its willows grey
Drinking loves healths in totts of sugard drink
On the soft swellings of its rushy brink
From the spring head like winter cold & chill
Were boils the white sand that is never still
Now swimming up in silver threads & then
Slow siling down to bubble up agen
There shepherds usd to sit & tell the while
Their tales & jokes to win each maidens smile

(From, “The Memory of Love”, lines 353-366)