Writing the Rural: John Clare, Summer Moods

brown grass in tilt shift lens
Photo by Nandhu Kumar on Pexels.com


Summer is here, and with it an explosion of green. My garden is even more out of control than usual. I tell myself I’m busy, which I am of course. My brand new strimmer remains in its box, unused. Partly this is because I hate chopping nature back. I am the world’s worst gardener because I feel sorry to kill back plants that are thriving, after all, what right have I to take their life because of the aesthetics of the garden? However, the garden is becoming more jungle that garden now, so something will have to be done soon.

I’ve just come back from a walk with the dog. Our first proper walk for a few days on account of the constant drizzly rain and dark, dreary skies. I used to be a professional dog walker. When I walked dogs for a living I would have been out in all weathers, and I still like a bit of proper weather while walking, it reminds me that I am alive, but I couldn’t bring myself to go too far the last couple of days. I think the weather coupled with the way the world is constantly in despair is enough to tip one into melancholy. But I have had some interest in a new book I’m writing, and that’s given me the kick up the bum I need to really get my teeth into what is turning out to be a fascinating research project, and a kick to get on, get out, get to enjoying the world and what it has to offer, because of, rather than despite of the world’s pain. I am very much enjoying the challenge of working on a large research project. I hope I’m doing the subject matter justice.  Today started out mizzling and grey then brightened, and brightened and brightened until it is now red hot sun and I’m back in my shorts and sunglasses. Welcome to the English summer: winter in the morning, summer in the afternoon. As soon as I saw that it was brightening up I grabbed my new walking boots and flung my hoody on, leashed the old-man-dog and off we went. Not a long walk, our usual three mile circuit, but it felt good to get out into the air. It is glorious out there, especially after the rain when everything smells so good. The rain brings an intensity to the colours, the greens are so much more green the flowers almost ultra-violet in their vividness. A walk out among the contours of the landscape, the hills and fields and new and old is soothing and exciting at the same time. I saw no one while I was out, there was just me and the boy climbing up the steep slopes of the farm tracks, tramping through mud and grass and the chalky paths. The whole landscape was singing alive. It brought to mind this poem by John Clare. John Clare (1793-1864) was a farm labourer who wrote poems. He never quite felt he fit in with the farming community because of his poetry writing, but also felt he didn’t quite fit into the poetry and literary world because of his farming background. And thus it was ever so, I can very much relate to this, being rural working class. Anyhoo, here’s the poem:



I love at eventide to walk alone
Down narrow lanes o’erhung with dewy thorn
Where from the long grass underneath, the snail,
Jet black, creeps out and sprouts his timid horn.
I love to muse o’er meadows newly mown
Where withering grass perfumes the sultry air;
Where bees search round, with sad and weary drone
In vain for flowers that bloomed but newly there;
While in the juicy corn the hidden quail
Cries “wet my foot!” and hid as thoughts unborn;
The fairy-like and seldom-seen landrail
Utters “craik, craik” like voices underground,
Right glad to meet the evening’s dewy veil
And see the light fade into gloom around.

what do I like about it? I love that first line, the way it works like a door, opening into a scene of joy in the natural world. The rhymes are gentle, the imagery is direct, with just a hint of something more – the Craik utters a sound like ‘voice underground’ isn’t that just wonderful? And I like the naming of the specific animals, the knowledge of the sounds they make, how this feels entirely normal to the narrator. The reader feels as if they walk alongside someone who knows what they are talking about, who knows the place they live and isn’t trying to be clever, just observant. Lovely writing.

I’m launching the July online course tomorrow, so keep an eye open, it’s going to be a good one!



2 thoughts on “Writing the Rural: John Clare, Summer Moods

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