The best poems by John Clare
John Clare (1793-1864) has been called the greatest nature poet in the English language (by, for instance, his biographer Jonathan Bate), and yet his life – particularly his madness and time inside an asylum later in his life – tends to overshadow his poetry. So here we’ve picked ten of John Clare’s best poems which offer an introduction to his idiosyncratic style and wonderful eye for detail, especially concerning the natural world.
‘First Love’. First love is powerful and stays with us, but it can be painful as well as joyous or liberating. This poem, one of John Clare’s most widely anthologised, captures this dual nature of first love and the way in which it is a loss of something – namely, innocence – as well as a gaining of something new and special. Read the rest of this entry
‘Tell me not here, it needs not saying’ is one of the most famous poems from A. E. Housman’s second volume, Last Poems (1922). In this poem, which comes near the end of the collection, Housman reflects on his relationship with nature, before concluding that, although nature does not care or even know about him, he feels a close bond with it.
Tell me not here, it needs not saying,
What tune the enchantress plays
In aftermaths of soft September
Or under blanching mays,
For she and I were long acquainted
And I knew all her ways.
On russet floors, by waters idle,
The pine lets fall its cone;
The cuckoo shouts all day at nothing
In leafy dells alone;
And traveller’s joy beguiles in autumn
Hearts that have lost their own. Read the rest of this entry
A summary of a Hopkins poem
‘Spring’ is not as widely known as some of the other sonnets written by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89), which is a shame: it’s a powerful evocation of the beauty of spring. It is that season, Hopkins reminds us, ‘When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush’. Here is ‘Spring’, followed by a brief analysis of it.
Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. – Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning. Read the rest of this entry