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Mr. Redding gives several examples of these poems. They are distinguished from those of his earlier days by several differences, especially by the change from the rich level meadows of Northamptonshire to the hill and dale of Epping Forest. Here is one which is said to be reminiscent of his Patty :
Maid of Walkherd meet again
Yet never far from love and thee. The next specimen has much of his fine observation of natural objects, and his old love of birds breaks through everything:
The forest meets the blessings of the spring,
The world, the clustering spheres he made,
Dale, champaign, grove, and hill ;
And Wisdom hides her skill.
And smitten to the heart,
Replied, O Lord, Thou art !
The nightingale's pure song I could not try.
There is some intention, I believe, of publishing a volume of these poems. It will be interesting on many accounts, and, for the sake of the poet and of his family, I heartily wish it every success. We cannot, I repeat, do too much for John Clare;
he has a claim to it as a man of genius suffering under the severest visitation of Providence. But let us beware of indulging ourselves by encouraging the class of pseudo-peasant poets who spring up on every side, and are amongst the most pitiable objects in creation. One knows them by sight upon the pathway, from their appearance of vagrant misery-an appearance arising from the sense of injustice and of oppression under which they suffer, the powerless feeling that they have claims which the whole world refuses to acknowledge, a perpetual and growing sense of injury. It is a worse insanity than John Clare's, and one for which there is no asylum. Victims to their own day-dreams are they! They have heard of Burns and of Chatterton ; they have a certain knack of rhyming, although even that is by no means necessary to such a delusion; they find an audience whom their intense faith in their own power conspires to delude; and their quiet, their content, their every prospect is ruined for ever. It is this honest and unconquerable persuasion of their own genius that makes it impossible to reason with or convince them. Their faith in their own powers—their racking sense of the injustice of all about them, makes one's heart ache. It is impossible for the sternest or the sturdiest teller of painful truths to disenchant them; and the consequence is as obvious as it is miserable. For that shadow every substance is foregone. They believe poetry to be their work, and they will do no other. Then comes utter poverty. They haunt the alehouse, they drink, they sicken, they starve. I have known many such.
Happily there is one cure, not for individual cases, but for the entire class—a slow but a sure remedy. Let the sunlight in, and the night-phantoms vanish. Education, wide and general, not mere learning to read, but making discreet and wise use of the power, and the nuisance will be abated at once and for ever.
Let our peasants become as intelligent as our artisans, and we shall have no more prodigies, no martyrs.
AUTHORS ASSOCIATED WITH PLACES.
A COUNTRY WEDDING MY FIRST VISIT TO LONDON.
Most undoubtedly I was a spoilt child. When I recollect certain passages of my thrice-happy early life, I cannot hav the slightest doubt about the matter, although it contradicts all foregone conclusions, all nursery and schoolroom morality, to say so. But facts are stubborn things. Spoilt I was. Everybody spoilt me, most of all the person whose power in that way was greatest—the dear papa himself. Not content with spoiling me in-doors, he spoilt me out. How well I remember his carrying me round the orchard on his shoulder, holding fast my little three-year-old feet, whilst the little hands hung on to his pig-tail, which I called my bridle (those were days of pig-tails), hung so fast, and tugged so heartily that sometimes the ribbon would come off between my fingers, and send his hair floating, and the powder flying dowu his back. That climax of mischief was the crowning joy of all. I can hear our shouts of laughter now.
Nor were these my only rides. This dear papa of mine, whose gay aud careless temper all the professional etiquette of the world could never tame into the staid gravity proper to a doctor of medicine, happened to be a capital horseman; and, abandoning the close carriage, which, at that time, was the regulation conveyance of a physician, almost wholly to my mother, used to pay his country visits on a favourite bloodmare, whose extreme docility and gentleness tempted him, after certain short trials round our old course, the orchard, into having a pad constructed, perched upon which I might occasionally accompany him, when the weather was favourable,
and the distance not too great. A groom, who had been bred up in my grandfather's family, always attended us; and I do think that both Brown Bess and George liked to have me with them almost as well as my father did. The old servant, proud, as grooms always are, of a fleet and beautiful horse, was almost as proud of my horsemanship; for I, cowardly enough, Heaven knows, in after-years, was then too young and too ignorant for fear-if it could have been possible to have had any sense of danger when strapped so tightly to my father's saddle, and inclosed so fondly by his strong and loving arm. Very delightful were those rides across the breezy Hampshire downs on a sunny summer morning; and grieved was I when a change of residence from a small town to a large one, and going among strange people, who did not know our ways, put an end to this perfectly harmless, if somewhat unusual pleasure.
But the dear papa was not my only spoiler. His example was followed, as had examples are pretty sure to be, by the rest of the household. My maid Nancy, for instance, before we left Hampshire, married a young farmer; and nothing would serve her but I must be bridesmaid! And so it was settled.
She was married from her own home, about four miles from our house, and was to go to her husband's after the ceremony. I remember the whole scene as if it were yesterday! how my father took me himself to the churchyard-gate, where the procession was formed, and how I walked next to the young couple hand-in-hand with the bridegroom's man, no other than the village blacksmith, a giant of six feet three, who might have served as a model for Hercules. Much trouble had he to stoop low enough to reach down to my
hand; and many were the rustic jokes passed upon the disproportioned pair, who might fitly have represented Brobdignag and Lilliput. My tall colleague proved, however, as well-natured as giants commonly are everywhere but in fairy tales, and took as good care of his little partner as if she had been a proper match for him in age and size.
In this order, followed by the parents on both sides, and a due number of uncles, aunts, and cousins, we entered the church, where I held the glove with all the gravity and importance proper to my office; and so contagious is emotion, and so accustomed was I to sympathise with Nancy, that when the bride cried, I could not help crying for company. But it was a love-match, and between smiles and blushes Nancy's tears soon disappeared, and so by the same contagion did mine. The happy husband helped his pretty wife into her own chaise-cart, my friend the blacksmith lifted me in after her, and we drove gaily to the large comfortable farmhouse where her future life was to be spent.
It was a bright morning in May, and I still remember, when we drove up to the low wall which parted the front garden from the winding village road, the mixture of affection and honest pride which lighted up the face of the owner. The square, substantial brick house, covered with a vine, the brick porch garlanded with honeysuckles and sweetbriar, the espalier apple-trees on either side the path in full flower, the double row of thrift with its dull pink bloom, the stocks and wallflowers under the window, the huge barns full of corn, the stacks of all shapes and sizes in the rick-yard, cows and sheep and pigs and poultry, told a pleasant tale of rural comfort and rural affluence.
The bride was taken to survey her new dominions by her proud bridegroom; and the blacksmith, finding me, I suppose, easier to carry than to lead, followed close upon their steps, with me in his arms.
Nothing could exceed the good-nature of my country beau; he pointed out bantams and pea-fowls, and took me to see a tame lamb and a tall, staggering calf, born that morning ; but for all that, I do not think I should have submitted so quietly to the indignity of being carried,-1, who had ridden thither on Brown Bess, and was at that instant filling the ostensible place of bridesmaid,if it had not been for the chastening influence of a little touch of fear. Entering the poultry-yard, I had caught sight of a certain turkey-cock, who erected that circular tail of his, and swelled out his deep-red comb and gills after a fashion familiar to that truculent bird, but which up to the present hour I am far from admiring. A turkey at Christmas, well roasted, with bread-sauce, may have his merits; but if I meet him alive in his feathers, especially when he swells them out and sticks up his tail, I commonly get out of his way even now, much more sixty years ago. So I let the blacksmith carry me.
Then we went to the dairy, so fresh and cool and clean