Off The Beaten Path

My photo
Georgia, United States
Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some people move our souls to dance. They awaken us to new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom. Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon. They stay in our lives for awhile, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never ever the same.

Sunday, December 2

For The Love of The Art

Literature, poetry, recitals were a common occurence in my family. Grandmother and her brother Burton wrote and had readings of their poetry at the local literary society. She began at about the age of four. Grandma was born in 1882 and she passed away just a few months short of her 100th birthday. Right up until the last year of her life she would recite poetry from her memories as a child. (Although she could not tell you what she had eaten for lunch on the previous day.) I know that my love of poetry comes from my early introduction to the life and times of such great poets as;

William Cullen Bryant, John Clare, Samuel Coleridge, Emily Dickinson, John Donne and many, many others. One of my favorites is called, Christmass by John Clare.

John Clare was born to a poor labouring family in Northamptonshire. His education did not extend much beyond basic reading and writing, and he had to start work herding animals at the age of seven. This was not a promising start for a future writer, but in his early teens he discovered The Seasons by James Thomson and began writing poems himself.

The vogue for rustic poets did not last long however, and his popularity faded during the 1830s. The situation was made worse by his publishers, who insisted on 'correcting' Clare's individual style and use of dialect, to make his verse fit contemporary notions of poetic convention. Clare's attempts to write like other poets of his day, as well as his financial worries, put tremendous strain on his mind, and in 1837 he was admitted to a mental asylum in High Beach, Epping.

Christmass by John Clare

Christmass is come and every hearth
Makes room to give him welcome now
Een want will dry its tears in mirth
And crown him wi a holly bough
Tho tramping neath a winters sky
Oer snow track paths and ryhmey stiles
The huswife sets her spining bye
And bids him welcome wi her smiles

Each house is swept the day before
And windows stuck wi evergreens
The snow is beesomd from the door
And comfort crowns the cottage scenes
Gilt holly wi its thorny pricks
And yew and box wi berrys small
These deck the unusd candlesticks
And pictures hanging by the wall

Neighbours resume their anual cheer
Wishing wi smiles and spirits high
Clad christmass and a happy year
To every morning passer bye
Milk maids their christmass journeys go
Accompanyd wi favourd swain
And childern pace the crumping snow
To taste their grannys cake again

Hung wi the ivys veining bough
The ash trees round the cottage farm
Are often stript of branches now
The cotters christmass hearth to warm
He swings and twists his hazel band
And lops them off wi sharpend hook
And oft brings ivy in his hand
To decorate the chimney nook

Old winter whipes his ides bye
And warms his fingers till he smiles
Where cottage hearths are blazing high
And labour resteth from his toils
Wi merry mirth beguiling care
Old customs keeping wi the day
Friends meet their christmass cheer to share
And pass it in a harmless way

Old customs O I love the sound
However simple they may be
What ere wi time has sanction found
Is welcome and is dear to me
Pride grows above simplicity
And spurns it from her haughty mind
And soon the poets song will be
The only refuge they can find

The shepherd now no more afraid
Since custom doth the chance bestow
Starts up to kiss the giggling maid
Beneath the branch of mizzletoe
That neath each cottage beam is seen
Wi pearl-like-berrys shining gay
The shadow still of what hath been
Which fashion yearly fades away

And singers too a merry throng
At early morn wi simple skill
Yet imitate the angels song
And chant their christmass ditty still
And mid the storm that dies and swells
By fits-in humings softly steals
The music of the village bells
Ringing round their merry peals

And when its past a merry crew
Bedeckt in masks and ribbons gay
The 'Morrice danse' their sports renew
And act their winter evening play
The clown-turnd-kings for penny praise
Storm wi the actors strut and swell
And harlequin a laugh to raise
Wears his hump back and tinkling bell

And oft for pence and spicy ale
Wi winter nosgays pind before
The wassail singer tells her tale
And drawls her christmass carrols oer
The prentice boy wi ruddy face
And ryhme bepowderd dancing locks
From door to door wi happy pace
Runs round to claim his 'christmass box'

The block behind the fire is put
To sanction customs old desires
And many a faggots bands are cut
For the old farmers christmass fires
Where loud tongd gladness joins the throng
And winter meets the warmth of may
Feeling by times the heat too strong
And rubs his shins and draws away

While snows the window panes bedim
The fire curls up a sunny charm
Where creaming oer the pitchers rim
The flowering ale is set to warm
Mirth full of joy as summer bees
Sits there its pleasures to impart
While childern tween their parents knees
Sing scraps of carrols oer by heart

And some to view the winter weathers
Climb up the window seat wi glee
Likening the snow to falling feathers
In fancys infant extacy
Laughing wi superstitious love
Oer visions wild that youth supplyes
Of people pulling geese above
And keeping christmass in the skyes

As tho the homstead trees were drest
In lieu of snow wi dancing leaves
As. tho the sundryd martins nest
Instead of ides hung the eaves
The childern hail the happy day
As if the snow was april grass
And pleasd as neath the warmth of may
Sport oer the water froze to glass

Thou day of happy sound and mirth
That long wi childish memory stays
How blest around the cottage hearth
I met thee in my boyish days
Harping wi raptures dreaming joys
On presents that thy coming found
The welcome sight of little toys
The christmass gifts of comers round

'The wooden horse wi arching head
Drawn upon wheels around the room
The gilded coach of ginger bread
And many colord sugar plumb
Gilt coverd books for pictures sought
Or storys childhood loves to tell
Wi many a urgent promise bought
To get tomorrows lesson well

And many a thing a minutes sport
Left broken on the sanded floor
When we woud leave our play and court
Our parents promises for more
Tho manhood bids such raptures dye
And throws such toys away as vain
Yet memory loves to turn her eye
And talk such pleasures oer again

Around the glowing hearth at night
The harmless laugh and winter tale
Goes round-while parting friends delight
To toast each other oer their ale
The cotter oft wi quiet zeal
Will musing oer his bible lean
While in the dark the lovers steal
To kiss and toy behind the screen

The yule cake dotted thick wi plumbs
Is on each supper table found
And cats look up for falling crumbs
Which greedy childern litter round
And huswifes sage stuffd seasond chine
Long hung in chimney nook to drye
And boiling eldern berry wine
To drink the christmass eves 'good bye'


Akelamalu said...

That's a lovely post and a lovely poem Nea, thanks for sharing. xxx

Libby said...

nea-this is beautiful, and perfect for this time of year!! the picture you have on here reminds me of my grandma's house, and all the Christmases we spent there!!

Nea said...

Hi Akela and Libby, I know that it is long, but I love it, and think it well worth the Grandmother had it memoried from start to finish and could recite it at will. she was amazing......just one of many long poems that she knew by heart.

Elween said...

hi Nea! :)

is John Clare an Englishman? bcoz his writing is quite British style and is quite hard to understand..maybe it's because of this use of dialect...sorry to say i am quite clueless. that's what's bad about contemporary poem readers like me. :(

anyway i am officially back into the blogosphere, exam's over and it's a great relief! :)

Nea said...

Hi Elween, I will be over soon, I haven't blogged much lately.

Yes the poem is hard to read, the style was English to be sure, but he was very uneducated, and wrote according to the way they sounded, not proper english, spelling or grammer, but that is part of his charm. What I should do, is do a voice over and read the poem and put up the recital. I might do that if the ambition strikes me. haha

Knowleypowley said...


Thanks for posting this. I'd never heard of him before and it's style does wisk one back to a time forgotten, but so in keeping with the spirit of festive celebrations.

Hope you are well and life is good. A Happy Christmas to you and your family.

Lots of love


Nea said...

Hello Pete, I love this poem, it brings to mind everything that I love about Christmas and his style of writing I find charming, if a little hard to read. But then I know the poem, so reading it isn't an issue.

I am pretty well, I have great days and then bad days, but I don't dwell on it, especially not at Christmas. This is the one time of year when I go all out. I have every inch of my house decorated, it takes days to get it all done. haha. There are twinkling lights and candle everywhere, and it is hard to sleep in this house because i leave them on all night. haha

Merry Christmas to you and have a wonderful Holiday. I have kids coming from California so maybe that is another reason I am feeling especially festive. :):)

Cindy said...

My Grandmother memorized poetry too- she said it was required of them while they were in school. Last year, in the Castile Christian Academy, Libby had to memorize several old poems by various authors. I think it's good.
I love the picture you have with this post!

Nea said...

Hi Cindy, yes I think that school back in Grandma's day made them memorize long poems also, but it didn't seem to be an effort for Grandma. Can you imagine if my Nick was required to memorize. I was a bit surprised that he wasn't required to memorize much of the things that I had to as a child. They just don't do much of that anymore.
I loved this picture also....I want to live there. haha

Elween said...

yes indeed! i realized when you read it out, you will understand better. that's what i tried just now. he has his style, and no one's gonna say he's wrong. that's the magic of poetry! :)

Dr.John said...

Well he certainly wrote long poems. If your grandmother remembered the entire poem she had quite a memory.