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, a 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 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.
– John Clare
About John Clare
John Clare was born to a poor labouring family in Northamptonshire. His education did not extend much beyond basic reading and writing, and he had to start work herding animals at the age of seven. This was not a promising start for a future writer, but in his early teens he discovered The Seasons by James Thomson and began writing poems himself.
His first love, Mary Joyce, was the daughter of a wealthy farmer; their separation caused Clare great pain, and it contributed to the sense of loss which pervades much of his poetry
In 1820 he married Martha Turner and published his first book of poems. He was described as ‘John Clare, a Northampton Peasant’ on the title-page, and the current fashion for ‘rural poetry’ brought him some celebrity in London. He made friends with Charles Lamb and other literary figures, and was granted the sum of £45 a year by wealthy patrons.