John Clare (1793-1864) was born on July 13 at Helpstone, a village in Northamptonshire, close to the Lincolnshire fens. His father, Parker Clare, worked as a farm laborer. In his spare time his father was also a rustic wrestler and ballad singer. Clare attended a dame school in his native village, and then went to Glinton School in the next village. When his father became ill with rheumatism, Clare began work first as a horse-boy, then ploughboy, then as a gardener at Burghley House.
In 1812 he enlisted in the militia, returning home eighteen months later. He met Martha Turner in Casterton, who joined the Clare family just before the birth of the first of their eight children. Clare’s first book of poems appeared in 1820, published by Hessey and Taylor. The volume ran to four editions in the first year, and he became celebrated in London literary society as the “peasant poet”.
In 1837 Clare was admitted into Mathew Allen’s private asylum of High Beech in Epping Forest, where he stayed for four years until he discharged himself, walking the eighty miles home to Northborough in three days, eating grass on the way. He wrote two long, suffering poems, Don Juan and Child Harold, which documented his precious mental state. He was certified insane by two doctors in December 18841 and was admitted to St, Andrews County Lunatic Asylum in Northampton, where he was treated well and continued to write, producing many short, semi-mystical poems. John Clare later passed away in the institution in 1864 at the age of 71. 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
First love is a poem, which shows the experience the poet has falling in love for the first time. It is rejoicing the love he attained for a woman named Mary Joyce however there is sadness and a feeling of dissatisfaction hovering in the background. This feeling exists, as the love was unrequited. The poem has an underlying tone of innocence and flurry of emotions as it is the poets very first attempt at love exhibiting his feelings for Mary.
The opening of the first stanza only shows how sudden and unexpected the feeling was as he was never “struck before that hour”, this is followed my sibilance alliteration so sudden and so sweet further emphasizing on the shock and bewilderment of the overwhelming feeling confirming it is a new experience. He uses his heart as a symbol that she has stolen completely away however unknowingly. The paragraph continues to describe how he physically felt ill as his face turned pale a deadly pale.
Generally when a person falls in love the instinct is that the blood rushed to the face, which occurs as a latter reaction. This could be because he probably already sensed that the love could not be returned as he didn’t say anything to her instead he hoped that his eyes would convey the message “words from my eyes did start”. He never came close to even touching or talking to her however the line “all seemed to turn to clay” conveys the strong affection he attained for her. He also shows how the woman is in control of their relationship as she could mould and re-mould him as per her wish.
In the second stanza he goes on to describe more of his emotions brought forward by this interaction. He makes it quite visual for us of how the love has its affect on him and how he flushes with embarrassment so much that for a moment he feels blind. The physical impact of love relates the experience of love and loss.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 7 January 2017
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