A simple tale of a love of summer seemed fitting following the promise of a heat-wave last week, even if the sun was ‘beaming forth’ more in some places than others. The imagery in Clare’s Sonnet creates a sense of the pleasant atmosphere of a bright summer’s day, when nature seems to become more vibrant: the ‘wild flowers come again’, and ‘water lilies whiten on the floods’. The impression created in this poem is one of sheer enjoyment of the summer, especially of this colourful, peaceful, and playful day described by Clare.
John Clare (1793-1864) was born in the Northamptonshire village of Helpston and attended school there until he was around eleven years old, following which he was largely self-taught. Clare’s first book of poetry: Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery (1820), was very well-received, and his work was extremely popular with the public. In the 1830s, however, his popularity faded; a problem his publishers tried to correct by standardising his verses into what they considered to be more contemporary poetic conventions. Clare wrote this Sonnet in 1841, the year before he was confined in the Northampton County Asylum where he spent the rest of his days.
I love to see the summer beaming forth
And white wool sack clouds sailing to the north
I love to see the wild flowers come again
And mare blobs stain with gold the meadow drain
And water lillies whiten on the floods
Where reed clumps rustle like a wind shook wood
Where from her hiding place the Moor Hen pushes
And seeks her flag nest floating in bull rushes
I like the willow leaning half way o’er
The clear deep lake to stand upon its shore
I love the hay grass when the flower head swings
To summer winds and insects happy wings
That sport about the meadow the bright day
And see bright beetles in the clear lake play
John Clare, 1841.
If you want to read more John Clare, here’s a link back to one of our previous featured poems: ‘I Am!’