17 April 2010

John Clare, Mary Joyce, and Glinton, Cambridgeshire

The poet John Clare went to a school that was then in St Benedict's, the parish church at Glinton, which is just a few miles away from Helpston. He was taught by Mr Seaton. A poem of his, entitled 'Glinton Church, reads:

'Glinton, thy taper spire predominates
over the landscape and the mind
musing the pleasing picture contemplates
like elegance of beauty much refined
by taste that almost defys and elevates
once admiration making common things
around it glow with beauty not their own.

This all around the earth superior things
those struggling trees though lonely seem not lone
but in th presence wear superior power
and e'en each mossed and melancholy tone,
gleaning cold memories round oblivion's bower
seems types of fair eternity - and hire
a lease from fame by thy enchanting spire.'

Clare met Mary Joyce - the love of his life, but whose life he could share no significant part of as his social position was lower than that of the Joyces - in about 1803. She died unmarried. Famously, Clare fantasized about her in his walk from the psychiatric hospital in High Beech, Epping, Essex, on his way back to Northborough, where he had moved from Helston with his wife Patty and his children.

An interpretation plaque near the church relates that Clare once carved 'JC 1808 MARY' into a door frame of the church.

A small booklet, celebrating the visit of The John Clare Society to Glinton on 11 July 2009 and containing several of Clare's poems, can be purchased from the church. I found it useful because it includes a photo that enabled me to find the location of the grave.

Clare wrote many poems about Mary, of which this is one:

'I've wandered many a weary mile
Love in my heart was burning
To seek a home in Mary smile
But cold is loves returning
The cold ground was a feather bed
Truth never acts contrary
I had no home above my head
My home was love & Mary

I had no home in early youth
When my first love was thwarted
But if her heart still beats with truth
We'll never more be parted
& changing as her love may be
My own shall never vary
Nor night nor day I'm never free
But sigh for abscent Mary

Nor night nor day nor sun nor shade
Week month nor rolling year
Repairs the breach wronged love hath made
There madness—misery here
Lifes lease was lengthened by her smiles
—Are truth & love contrary
No ray of hope my life beguiles
I've lost love home & Mary

Love is the main spring of existance—It
Becomes a soul wherebye I live to love
On all I see that dearest name is writ
Falsehood is here—but truth has life above
Where every star that shines exists in love
Skys vary in their clouds—the seasons vary
From heat to cold—change cannot constant prove
The south is bright—but smiles can act contrary
My guide star gilds the north—& shines with Mary'

My other John Clare post:

John Clare, Helpston


Anonymous said...

Mary's father was probably typical of others of his time, firstly he
was afraid of loosing status, and secondly wanted his daughter to look after him when he was old.

Not so different from many today!
'post Georgian'

Arborfield said...

Tony, you might well be interested in joining our facebook John Clare page... we'd be really happy to have a like-minded man along. We are largely academics, writers, poets, painters, film-makers... search us out. Roger A.