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JOHN CLARE (1793-1864)

John Clare remains one of the most loved of our “walking poets”.

Most of the poems in Well I Declare It Is The Pettichap have been taken from Thornton and Tibble’s revised version of The Midsummer Cushion (Carcanet 1990). John Clare gathered together this collection of his own best poems in 1832 when he was at his first tipping point, although a third of them were not published until 1979 (first version).

Well I Declare It Is The Pettichap has four sections of poems in the following order: Walks, Birds, Here & Now and Looking Back. There is a handy glossary at the end of the book.

“John Clare was a Northamptonshire peasant. He used regional words, idiosyncratic spelling, and didn’t bother much with punctuation. Retaining his poems as much as possible in the raw keeps their unstudied naturalness and invites us into the place and moment of his familiar world.” (Excerpt from four page introduction to Well I Declare It Is The Pettichap).

John Clare had a way of inviting us, the readers, to come with him on a local Helpstone walk, as in “The Nightingale’s Nest”, where we seem to be right with him as he searches for the nest of the singer.




 
Excerpt from   T H E   N I G H T I N G A L E ' S   N E S T

– Hark there she is as usual lets be hush
For in this black thorn clump if rightly guest
Her curious house is hidden – part aside
These hazel branches in a gentle way
& stoop right cautious neath the rustling boughs
For we will have another search today
& hunt this fern strown thorn clump round & round
& where this seeded woodgrass idly bows
We’ll wade right through it is a likely nook
In such like spots & often on the ground
They’ll build where rude boys never think to look
Aye as I live her secret nest is here