Featured Poem: First Love by John Clare

We’re in the mood for love here at The Reader, thanks to the publication of our new anthology A Little, Aloud with Love – the latest book in the A Little, Aloud series celebrating that special emotion and perhaps the most fêted subject in the history of English literature. Featuring a wealth of great writers from Shakespeare to Shelley, getting right up-to-date with authors including Haruki Murakami, Wendy Cope and Margaret Atwood, A Little, Aloud with Love celebrates love in all its forms and not only the romantic kind – though of course, there are plenty of poems and stories inside the book to woo or otherwise delight the object of your affection.

To celebrate the arrival of A Little, Aloud with Love – and that little-known lovers’ holiday called Valentine’s Day that is approaching at the end of the week – this week’s Featured Poem is a choice taken from the book itself by John Clare. Speaking about the first flushes of love and the effects it can bring, both physical and emotional, it’s bound to strike a chord with anyone who has experienced the euphoria and confusion of falling in love.

If this ode whets your appetite for more, A Little, Aloud with Love is now available to buy from our website and in stores.

First Love

I ne’er was struck before that hour
With love so sudden and so sweet,
Her face it bloomed like a sweet flower
And stole my heart away complete.
My face turned pale as deadly pale,
My legs refused to walk away,
And when she looked, what could I ail?

My life and all seemed turned to clay.

And then my blood rushed to my face
And took my eyesight quite away,
The trees and bushes round the place
Seemed midnight at noonday.
I could not see a single thing,
Words from my eyes did start—
They spoke as chords do from the string,
And blood burnt round my heart.

Are flowers the winter’s choice?
Is love’s bed always snow?
She seemed to hear my silent voice,
Not love’s appeals to know.
I never saw so sweet a face
As that I stood before.
My heart has left its dwelling-place
And can return no more.

John Clare


 

For those of you in Liverpool, we’re launching A Little, Aloud with Love this week at a special event at Waterstones Liverpool One on Thursday 11th February from 6.30pm. Featuring live readings from the book and music designed to pluck at your heart strings, the evening will be hosted BBC Radio Merseyside’s Roger Phillips and also features Gogglebox stars and Liverpool lovebirds June and Leon.

Tickets for the A Little, Aloud with Love launch cost £3 and can be bought on the door or booked in advance by calling Waterstones Liverpool One on 0151 709 9820.

Featured Poem: The Winter’s Spring by John Clare

It may not officially be Winter until next week, but no doubt the woolly hats and scarves have long come out of storage for the chill that is lingering in the air. Though people are often quick to point the minus points of the season (along with the lower scale of temperature), there is much to celebrate about the coldest time of year too. To those who may be in doubt of any positives, why not take a read of this poem by John Clare – almost a love poem with the declaration “To those who keep their hearts their own/The winter is the spring“.

The Winter’s Spring

The winter comes; I walk alone,
I want no bird to sing;
To those who keep their hearts their own
The winter is the spring.
No flowers to please–no bees to hum–
The coming spring’s already come.
I never want the Christmas rose
To come before its time;
The seasons, each as God bestows,
Are simple and sublime.
I love to see the snowstorm hing;
‘Tis but the winter garb of spring.
I never want the grass to bloom:
The snowstorm’s best in white.
I love to see the tempest come
And love its piercing light.
The dazzled eyes that love to cling
O’er snow-white meadows sees the spring.
I love the snow, the crumpling snow
That hangs on everything,
It covers everything below
Like white dove’s brooding wing,
A landscape to the aching sight,
A vast expanse of dazzling light.
It is the foliage of the woods
That winters bring–the dress,
White Easter of the year in bud,
That makes the winter Spring.
The frost and snow his posies bring,
Nature’s white spurts of the spring.

John Clare

Featured Poem: Pleasant Sounds by John Clare

The season of Summer is officially here, and we’re hoping we’ll get to spend more time out of doors enjoying the sunshine in the next couple of months, especially at our HQ in the gorgeous Calderstones Park. On a summer’s day there are lots of sights and sounds to be heard – particularly birds chirping, dogs barking and the happy shouts of children, but what are the other typical sounds of summer: an ice cream van chiming in the distance, water splashing (hopefully not from the rain)? Perhaps even the sound of silence as you seek a peaceful getaway.

This week we’re keeping our ears out for these pleasant sounds, and we think this poem from John Clare might just help.

Pleasant Sounds

The rustling of leaves under the feet in woods and under hedges;
The crumpling of cat-ice and snow down wood-rides, narrow lanes, and every street causeway;
Rustling through a wood or rather rushing, while the wind halloos in the oak-toop like thunder;
The rustle of birds’ wings startled from their nests or flying unseen into the bushes;
The whizzing of larger birds overhead in a wood, such as crows, puddocks, buzzards;
The trample of robins and woodlarks on the brown leaves, and the patter of squirrels on the green moss;
The fall of an acorn on the ground, the pattering of nuts on the hazel branches as they fall from ripeness;
The flirt of the groundlark’s wing from the stubbles- how sweet such pictures on dewy mornings, when the dew flashes from its brown feathers.

John Clare