John Clare, poet, (1793-1864) on Happiness

felt pictures and streams 002

Stream of Life, No.2, AW, April 13

John Clare, the son of an illiterate mother, was largely self-taught. He came from a poor family in Northamptonshire, sometimes writing on paper that his family’s tea and sugar came wrapped in when he couldn’t find the farthings to pay for writing paper. He was a prolific poet who wrote of the land that he loved and was, very much, part of. His verses graced the wallpaper by my bed when I was a teenager and they still amaze me. I wish I could have met him. Here is Clare writing on the subject of happiness:

“…to the man of dissernment there is happiness ……there is happiness in examining minutely into the wild flowers as we wander amongst them………there is happiness in lolling over the old shivered trunks and fragments of a ruined tree destroyed some years since by lightening and moping and wasting away into everlasting decay……this is happiness – to lean on the rail of wooden brigs and mark the crinkles of the stream below and the little dancing beetles twharling and glancing their glossy coats to the summer sun – to bend over the old woods mossy rails and list the call of the heavy bumble bee playing with the coy flowers till he has lost his way…..and to wander a pathless way thro the intricacys of woods for a long while and at last burst unlooked for into the light of an extensive prospect at its side and there lye and muse on the landscape to rest ones wanderings – this is real happiness – to stand and muse upon the bank of a meadow pool fringed with reed and bulrushes and silver clear in the middle on which the sun is reflected in spangles and there to listen the soulsoothing music of distant bells this is a luxury of happiness and felt even by the poor shepherd boy”

Clare’s spellings, punctuation and phrasing have been retained

(From: John Clare, The Oxford authors, 1984) Purchased from my local bookshop. Support your independent traders!!

The song I have chosen to go with this piece is Guantanamera (see translation and information links at foot of page). The words about the mountain stream (“The brook of the mountains gives me more pleasure than the sea”, and I have also heard this expressed as, “the mountain stream has meant more to me than the sea” which I prefer) particularly seemed a good companion to John Clare’s musings on happiness.