The Winter’s Come, by John Clare

Meanwhile, back in the Midlands, some seasonal verse from John Clare:



The Winter’s Come

Sweet chestnuts brown like soleing-leather turn,

The larch trees, like the colour of the sun

That paled sky in the Autumn seem’d to burn.

What a strange scene before us now does run

Red, brown, and yellow, russet, black and dun,

Whitethorn, wild cherry, and the poplar bare,

The sycamore all withered in the sun,

No leaves are now upon the birch-tree there,

All now is stript to the cold wintry air.


See, not one tree but what has lost its leaves,

And yet the landscape wears a pleasing hue,

The winter chill on his cold bed receives

Foliage which once hung o’er the waters blue,

Naked, and bare, the leafless trees repose,

Blue-headed titmouse now seeks maggots rare,

Sluggish and dull the leaf-strewn river flows,

That is not green, which was so through the year,

Dark chill November draweth to a close.


‘Tis winter and I love to read in-doors,

When the moon hangs her crescent up on high

While on the window-shutters the wind roars

And storms like furies pass remorseless by,

How pleasant on a feather-bed to lie,

Or sitting by the fire in fancy soar,

With Milton or with Dante to regions high,

Or read fresh volumes we’ve not seen before,

Or o’er old Burton’s ‘Melancholy’ pore.


Clare wrote this when he was in the Northampton Asylum (in about 1850)  Presumably some of it was written from memory, though the regime in the Asylum was enlightened enough for him to be allowed a liberal supply of books, and to spend much of his time in town.

(I’m not sure that, if I were thinking of buying a book as a Christmas present for a friend who was a bit down in the dumps, I would necessarily go for Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy.  Perhaps our friend the the Meerkat might be a safer bet.)    

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