The Reader’s Director of Communities and Communications, Sophie Clarke, reflects on this week’s Featured Poem, Trespass by John Clare.
The Communities and Communications team at Reader HQ read this poem in our team shared reading group recently; I’d picked it because I felt there was something mysterious but weirdly magnetic about this poem that needed exploration.
Why is this person trespassing? They ‘dreaded’ this journey and they ‘often thought’ about it later – what sort of trespass is it? Walking somewhere they shouldn’t, or taking a personal risk; going somewhere where no one has ever been before, doing something on their own terms and knowing others may perceive it negatively?
We moved between different interpretations, but agreed that the weight of the repeated ‘ands’ at the start of 6 lines, coupled with the gravity of ‘always’, ‘always’, was giving this poem a cumulative feeling of worry or concern, and yet, ‘beautiful’ leaps out in the centre of the poem, jarring against that feeling. Is there a real pay-off when you go off course, off track – the world seems more magical maybe? That fires you up to go on? Tom talked about how it reminded him of coming to a destination from a different angle, how that really changed how he related to the environment and gave the experience an added layer of ownership or immediacy.
‘Own’ is in an interesting word in this poem isn’t it – there’s ownership in there, but also this sense of being on your own – both senses of the word are at play and prevent this poem feeling tied up or neat. The last two lines definitely felt trickiest to us – surely it’s a good thing to never feel alone – but having naught? Does being an owner of something make you alone with it? We couldn’t decide! Give it a go and see what you think.
I dreaded walking where there was no path
And pressed with cautious tread the meadow swath
And always turned to look with wary eye
And always feared the owner coming by;
Yet everything about where I had gone
Appeared so beautiful I ventured on
And when I gained the road where all are free
I fancied every stranger frowned at me
And every kinder look appeared to say
“You’ve been on trespass in your walk today.”
I’ve often thought, the day appeared so fine,
How beautiful if such a place were mine;
But, having naught, I never feel alone
And cannot use another’s as my own.
by John Clare
Would you like the opportunity to read this or other poems in a Shared Reading group?
If you like the idea of listening along to a story or poem, why not come along to a Shared Reading group? We run groups across the UK, you can find one near you here.
If you can’t find a group in your local community, why not help us bring Shared Reading to your area by becoming a volunteer?